What could have been a run-of-the-mill revenge story is given an extra frisson in this cheap and violent Mexican western by having the lead character, as played by Jorge Luke, an unlikeable and insane man. He gradually changes from being a respectable citizen into a maniacal killer, as each murder he commits fills him with more and more of the "blood lust" - or the "taste of the savage" as the film calls it. Gradually caught in a downward spiral of murder and despair, Luke's character of Judd ends up killing those he loves and respects most - his former girlfriend, his mentor, his friend - and the film ends with the shocking murder of his mother as he cradles her bloodstained body in his arms, having reached the nadir of his existence.
I do enjoy watching films which genuinely surprise me, as far and far between as they may be. THE TASTE OF THE SAVAGE is one such film which offers a lot more than the standard B-movie action fare you would expect from a no-budget Mexican western. While the same editing problems are still prevalent in this Mexican production (although the production values are very good compared to others I've seen) as many others, the film offers bleak locations and interesting dialogue as opposed to the usual poorly-dubbed inanity.
In typical Mexican fashion, none of the persona are given much depth and we learn of the character of Luke through his actions rather than through his words. The swarthy actors all put in okay performances with nobody really excelling in the cast list, aside from Luke's mother who puts in a fine performance of maternal care and obsession. Bizarrely, Cameron Mitchell is the imported star, playing Huck, a wise old drunk who teaches Luke the ways of the gun and comes to regret his teaching later on in the film. Mitchell is a thoughtful character given to reflecting on the situation in hand, and while the famous actor is far from his prime, his performance is nonetheless a likable and strong one.
The revenge-type plot is boosted by extra lashings of gore as characters are brutally shot in the face, blasting their eyes out and with blood coursing from their mouths and bodies. The blood certainly flows quickly in these exploitational moments. The film also dwells - perhaps too much - on Luke's sadistic activities, as he strips and rapes his former girlfriend and shoots a man in the desert in the arms and legs, thus disabling him and leaving him to die a slow and horrible death. Still, THE TASTE OF THE SAVAGE deserves praise for moving in a different direction from most and exploring a rarely touched-upon aspect of man's taste for violence and the hideous extremes that it can be taken to. A worthwhile oddity.
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