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Movie Review

The Savage Innocents

Reviewed by: Brett Willis

Very Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Mature Teen to Adult
Cultural Drama
1 hr. 50 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
Featuring: Anthony Quinn, Yoko Tani, Francis de Wolff, Peter O’Toole
Director: Nicholas Ray, Baccio Bandini
Producer: _____
Distributor: Paramount

This film about Eskimo/Inuit life features Anthony Quinn (a man of many faces) as the central character Inuk but uses real Eskimos or other Asians in several supporting roles. Considering the time it was made, it takes a very frank look at an “alternate lifestyle.” In fact, the story is more a cultural-display vehicle than a plot. Its production was co-sponsored by several countries.

One normally-accurate Web site says this film is OK for children. But for us who believe in Biblical absolutes, that’s not necessarily so. We see Inuk’s mother-in-law voluntarily feed herself to the polar bears when she gets so old that she’s a “useless eater” (that’s a Nazi term, not an Eskimo one; but the concept is the same). Before leaving, she reinforces to her daughter and son-in-law that if their firstborn child is a girl, they must put it out on the ice (the Eskimo way of compensating for the men who are killed while hunting, and keeping the numbers of males and females equal). Their child turns out to be a boy; but because both Inuk and his wife are only or lastborn children and they live by themselves, they think the baby is defective because he has no teeth and almost put him out on the ice anyway. They finally decide to wait and see if he grows some later. When a Christian minister with a kind manner visits the couple, Inuk offers to let him “laugh” (have sex) with his wife; the minister is offended, and in an ensuing struggle Inuk bashes in the minister’s head against the door. After being caught by the Mounties, Inuk’s quick and “heartless” thinking during a severe-weather crisis seems more appropriate to the situation than that of his captors; I won’t give away the details of this finale, but it’s a plot device inserted to make the point that we pampered folks who have never lived under Eskimo conditions should not “judge” their cultural practices. In the 1970s, a study of Eskimo culture within a curriculum used in U.S. public schools had the same apparent intent as this film: break down our adherence to absolutes by portraying all beliefs and practices as equally valid.

If you know right from wrong and want to see how badly the Gospel is needed all over the world, this is a good film. But if you have no idea what you believe in or why, then watching this could be very dangerous.

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