Film (1972). Ivory-Merchant Productions in association with Angelika Films, US. Directed by James Ivory. Produced by Ismail Merchant. Written by George Swift Trow and Michael O'Donohue from an idea by Ivory. Cast includes Susan Blakely, Thayer David, Anne Francine, Salome Jens, Asha Puthli, Lewis J Stadlen (credited as Lewis Stadlen), Russ Thacker and Ultra Violet. 106 minutes. Black and white/sepia-toned/colour.
A primitive tribe of "Mud People" led by the Hostess (Francine) and the Fallen Woman (Jens) discovers a "mystical orb" (a croquet ball) which has rolled into their forest, which is apparently somewhere on Long Island, New York. Tracing its path back, they discover an abandoned colonial-era estate and mansion where they shortly begin to play at dressing up, adopting 1920s socialite roles – Hostess, Fallen Woman, Song Writer (Stadlen), Capitalist (David), Decadent (Ultra Violet) and so on – and becoming "civilized". This goes well until a croquet game gets out of hand, leading to a murder and the reversion of the tribe to its previous state. Finally they return to their primitive way of life in the forest.
A rather sharp Absurdist Satire on how thin our veneer of civilization actually is, Savages is perhaps the most bizarre of several such Parodies of twentieth-century life to appear in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The presentation shifts from "primitive" black and white with title cards, through sepia tones to the full colour of supposed civilization. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, it was a huge box office failure despite a strong cast and script; audiences may have been bewildered by the surreal presentation of its allegory. [GSt/DRL]
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