In the early 1800's, a group of fur trappers and Indian traders are returning with their goods to civilisation and are making a desperate attempt to beat the oncoming winter. When guide Zachary Bass is injured in a bear attack, they decide he's a goner and leave him behind to die. When he recovers instead, he swears revenge on them and tracks them and their paranoiac expedition leader down.Written by
Based on the same true story that inspired the much more recent "The Revenant", "Man in the Wilderness" is a truly impressive survival drama. It stars Richard Harris as Zachary Bass, one of a group of fur traders in the Northwest Territories in 1820. They've spent two years collecting their wares, and are now making their way South to a particular river that will take them to trading posts. However, as the film opens, Bass is very badly maimed by a bear. His companions believe he's a goner, and leave him behind. But Bass has an incredible will to live. His struggles to exist in the wilderness - and possible desire for revenge - form the balance of the film.
"Man in the Wilderness" is exquisitely shot in scope by the talented Gerry Fisher, written with heart by Jack DeWitt, and directed extremely well by Richard C. Sarafian of "Vanishing Point" fame. Bass' resolve is simply amazing, and Harris does a very fine job of creating a vivid and engaging character, a man who lived his life not particularly caring for what others consider "Gods' will". This man earns his sympathies honestly, and his situation is compelling every step of the way. There are some beautifully poignant moments throughout, both in the past (we see flashbacks to earlier parts of Bass' life) and present.
At the head of the supporting cast is a typically commanding John Huston as Captain Henry, the leader of the trappers who insists that everything be done his way. Henry demands that their ship continue to be transported along with men, mules, and supplies, despite the fact that it really slows them down. Henry Wilcoxon, Percy Herbert, Dennis Waterman, Prunella Ransome, Norman Rossington, and James "Scotty" Doohan are all fine as well.
There are some scenes that may be upsetting to some in the audience, but things remain convincing and believable for the duration of this well executed production.
Eight out of 10.
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