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The Savage Innocents (1960)

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An Eskimo who has had little contact with white men goes to a trading post where he accidentally kills a missionary and finds himself being pursued by the police.



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Title: The Savage Innocents (1960)

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Yôko Tani ...
Carlo Giustini ...
Marie Yang ...
Marco Guglielmi ...
Kaida Horiuchi ...
Lee Montague ...
Andy Ho ...
Yvonne Shima ...
Anthony Chinn ...
Francis De Wolff ...
Trading Post Proprietor
Michael Chow ...
Ed Devereaux ...
Nicholas Stuart ...


An Eskimo who has had little contact with white men goes to a trading post where he accidentally kills a missionary and finds himself being pursued by the police.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Life So Primitive It Will Make You Gasp! See more »


Adventure | Crime | Drama


See all certifications »



| |


Release Date:

15 February 1961 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Top of the World  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)



Aspect Ratio:

2.20 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


It was seeing this film, as an upcoming singer/songwriter, that inspired the young Bob Dylan to write the song "The Mighty Quinn (Quinn the Eskimo)." See more »


Asiak: [Showing Inuk their newborn baby] It came to pass that a woman brought forth a child.
Inuk: [Not comprehending at first] How so?
[Holds up baby]
Inuk: Someone has seen bear cubs that were better looking
Asiak: He will improve as he grows, but he has everything he needs.Even a name. His name is Papik.
Inuk: How do you know his name is Papik?
Asiak: Because this useless woman likes that name.
Inuk: [laughs and plays with infant and touches its mouth, then suddenly freezes mid-air] Asiak, he has no teeth, You must have broken some taboo!
Asiak: ...
See more »


Referenced in Mystery Science Theater 3000: Gamera (1991) See more »


Written and Performed by The Four Saints
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User Reviews

Highly inaccurate film
24 August 2009 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This film is not without its merits. The second unit shot some really quite beautiful location footage in the Arctic, and the cinematography throughout is impressive. Anthony Quinn brings tremendous verve to the role, and there are several memorable turns by the supporting cast, particularly Peter O'Toole.

But it's depressing to see how many people regard this as an accurate portrayal of Inuit culture. One hardly knows where to begin! The Inuit customs regarding "wife-sharing" are distorted (the idea that it would be a terrible insult not to accept such an offer is groundless), and the use of "laughter" as a euphemism for sex is merely an old Hollywood notion. Inuit mothers are not left until their mother's death to be told of common matters such as the importance of cutting a child's umbilical cord, and a grandmother, however infirm, would never be left out in the open to be eaten by a polar bear (a special igloo would instead be prepared, with important personal items, and then sealed up, after which the village would be moved). Most insulting of all is the notion that somehow Inuit would be unaware that babies are born without visible teeth!

The inaccuracies are not merely cultural, but historical as well. There is simply no period of time when the Inuit (or other Arctic groups such as the Inighuit, Inupiat, or Yupik) would have been unfamiliar with firearms and yet exposed to 1960s-style rock music -- these events are anywhere from 75 to 100 years apart, depending on the region. Inuit who went to trading posts would never be mocked by other Inuit, or by traders, at a trading post -- trading was serious business -- and would never be sold a gun with zero ammunition. This is not to say that traders were always totally fair; the guns were often of inferior quality, and the addiction to a source of powder and shot, along with the switch to fur-bearing animals as a sort of cash crop, were indeed problems.

The saddest thing of all is that, 27 years before "Savage Innocents," a far more accurate account of the disparities, tensions, and injustices between Inuit and traders and police was released by a major Hollywood studio -- this was 1933's "Eskimo," starring Ray Mala, a half- Inupiat Alaskan actor.

Having nearly no Inuit in the cast at all is, despite comments to the contrary, a problem as well. Hollywood had cast Inuit as Inuit as early as 1911, and "Eskimo" enjoyed an almost all- Inuit cast. The fact that all of the principal photography was done on a sound stage decorated by people with no knowledge whatever of either Inuit or northern homes is a further issue.

There's no question that "Savage Innocents" works hard to elicit sympathy with an "alien" culture -- the only problem is that this culture is almost entirely a fantasy.

18 of 21 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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