The Savage Innocents

The Savage Innocents is a 1960 adventure film directed and co-written by Nicholas Ray. Anthony Quinn and Yoko Tani star, with Lee Montague, Marco Guglielmi, Carlo Giustini, Anthony Chinn, and Michael Chow in supporting roles, alongside Peter O' Toole in his film debut. It was adapted from the novel Top of the World by Swiss writer Hans Rüesch.

The Savage Innocents
Directed byNicholas Ray
Produced byMaleno Malenotti
Written byNicholas Ray
Franco Solinas
Based onTop of the World
by Hans Rüesch
StarringAnthony Quinn
Yoko Tani
Music byAngelo Francesco Lavagnino
CinematographyPeter Hennessy
Aldo Tonti
Edited byEraldo Da Roma
Ralph Kemplen
Jolanda Benvenuti
Distributed byPathé (Europe), Paramount Pictures (USA)
Release date
  • May 1960 (1960-05)
Running time
110 minutes
United Kingdom

The film was an international co-production, with British, Italian and French interests involved; in the United States it was released by Paramount Pictures. The film was shot on-location in the Canadian Arctic, with interiors shot in Britain's Pinewood Studios and in Rome's Cinecittà studios. It was entered in the 1960 Cannes Film Festival.[1]

Plot summary

An Inuk hunter kills a Christian missionary who rejects his traditional offer of food and his wife's company. Pursued by white policemen, the Inuk saves the life of one of them, resulting in a final confrontation in which the surviving cop must decide between his commitment to law enforcement and his gratitude to the Inuk.

The film's themes include Inuit survival in the extreme arctic wilderness, as well as their raw existence and struggle to maintain their lifestyle against encroaching civilization.



Eugene Archer gave the film a mixed review in The New York Times upon its 1961 release: "Most of the qualities that have made Nicholas Ray one of America's most highly praised directors abroad while leaving him relatively unpopular and unknown at home are clearly apparent in 'The Savage Innocents.'" Describing the movie as "badly cut" and "a bitter drama," Archer nonetheless found that "Mr. Ray's highly individualistic preoccupation with moral tensions expresses itself in a series of unusually provocative scenes" and concluded that this "strange, disturbing drama will leave most of its viewers dissatisfied and some outraged, but few will remain indifferent."[2]

The Mighty Quinn

Bob Dylan is widely believed to have written the song "Quinn the Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn)" in tribute to Quinn's performance.[3]


  1. "Festival de Cannes: The Savage Innocents". Retrieved 18 February 2009.
  2. Eugene Archer, "Savage Innocents", 'The New York Times', 25 May 1961
  3. Oliver Trager, Keys to the rain: the definitive Bob Dylan encyclopedia, Billboard Books, 2004, pp. 505–6.
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