An allegory about humankind progresses from a savage state to a civilized form, that is only a cover for it's innate barbarism.

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(screenplay) (as George Swift Trow), (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Lewis J. Stadlen ...
Julian Branch, a Song Writer (as Lewis Stadlen)
Anne Francine ...
Carlotta, a Hostess
...
Otto Nurder, a Capitalist
...
Cecily, a Debutante
Russ Thacker ...
Andrew, an Eligible Young Man
...
Emily Penning, a Woman in Disgrace
Margaret Brewster ...
Lady Cora
Neil Fitzgerald ...
Sir Harry
Eva Saleh ...
Zia, the Child
...
Iliona, a Decadent
...
Asha, The Forest Girl
...
Archie, a Bully
Kathleen Widdoes ...
Leslie
...
Hester
...
James, the Limping Man
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Storyline

A tribe of primitive "mudpeople" encounter a croquet ball, rolling through their forest. Following it, they find themselves on a vast, deserted Long Island estate. Entering, they begin to become civilized and assume the stereotypical roles and dress of people at a weekend party. There follows an allegory of upper-class behavior. At last, they begin to devolve toward their original status, and after a battle at croquet, they disappear into the woods. Written by Frank Eggleston

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Fantasy | Comedy

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »
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Details

Official Sites:

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Release Date:

21 June 1973 (France)  »

Also Known As:

Sauvages  »

Box Office

Budget:

$300,000 (estimated)
 »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The principal photography period on this picture ran for about six weeks. See more »

Connections

Featured in The Wandering Company (1984) See more »

Soundtracks

Savages
Sung by Bobby Short
Music by Joe Raposo
Lyrics by George W.S. Trow (as George Swift Trow) and Michael O'Donoghue
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User Reviews

Merchant-Ivory's Best - And Most Atypical?
13 October 2004 | by (Edinburgh, Scotland) – See all my reviews

Was it de Tocqueville who wrote that America passed from barbarism to decadence with no civilization in between? If so, then he (or whoever else) deserves at least partial screen credit for Savages. A bizarre and blackly comic fable, this is Merchant-Ivory's most atypical film. It was also, probably, their biggest flop. Yet fans of the duo will find much recognise and admire. Non-fans may enjoy it even more!

Savages opens in dazzling sepia-toned black-and-white. A tribe of primitive forest-dwellers called the 'Mud People' find a mystical round orb that's fallen from an alien world. (In other words, a croquet ball.) They trace its path to an elegantly dilapidated Colonial-style mansion. As they explore the house, the prehistoric intruders start to play dress-up. Soon enough, the screen shifts into colour. The 'savages' transform into the denizens of a grandly decadent 1920s house party...

Chief among them are a formidable Auntie Mame-style hostess (Anne Francine), a toothy and spirited debutante (Susan Blakely), an elegantly faded 'fallen woman' (Salome Jens) and an exotic, eyelash-fluttering vamp (legendary Andy Warhol icon Ultra Violet). As usual in a Merchant-Ivory film, the women's roles are stronger than the men's. But a young Sam Waterston is on hand, rehearsing his 'detached and disenchanted observer' role for The Great Gatsby.

While that later film is little more than a parade of gorgeous costumes and opulent sets, Savages is considerably more. Ivory's eye for social nuance and period detail is as sharp here as in later masterworks like Quartet, Heat and Dust and A Room with a View. Yes, it may perhaps be possible to dismiss Ivory as a bland director - but only if you dismiss Jean Rhys, E.M. Forster or Henry James as bland authors. Or is it a crime to be a discreet and faithful adaptor of other people's work?

Savages is one of the rare films based on Ivory's own imagination. And what a perverse and mordant imagination it turns out to be! What little 'civilisation' the 'savages' acquire in the guise of Jazz Age socialites is, of course, a flimsy and feeble veneer. We can't be surprised when they revert to full-fledged barbarism. In fact, the honesty of that primal state comes as something of a relief.

Savages is impeccably acted, smoothly directed, wittily written, richly designed - and photographed with jaw-dropping splendor by Walter Lassally! It may be something of an aberration in the Merchant-Ivory canon. It is also, possibly, their best film.


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