Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Savage Innocents (1960, Nicholas Ray)

Hot tip: Nicholas Ray's excellent The Savage Innocents (1960) is currently available for streaming on Netflix...

It's not the best way to see it, as it was originally in the 2.35 aspect ratio, shot in Technirama,
and the Netflix is panned-and-scanned 1.33 (although it's mostly frame-locked, no jarring video pans). That sucks, but as far as supreme classic films buried in the Netflix instant watch service, it's a keeper for me. The brilliance of the performances and Ray's intense interest in the most primitive nature of man blazes through the presentation limitations.

This treasure is hardly buried as there are numerous reviews, but I wanted to give a heads-up to the discerning cinephiles out there. Ray's portrayal of the Eskimos is pilloried in the Netflix reviews, but I think he's roughly used the setting, however inaccurately, to spur a philosophical study of the nature of man and society/civilization, and as such the film is immensely satisfying.

There was this bizarre Peter O'Toole lookalike in it towards the end, and I wondered how dissatisfying it must have been to make a career as a backup actor for productions unable to cast O'Toole himself-- until I found out it really was Peter O'Toole...! He is overdubbed with a bad American accent.

As a sometime actor I have had my voice slightly altered once (pitched higher). I was horrified, and it sowed seeds of doubt, but if someone as great as Peter O'Toole can bounce back...!

Here is the cover art of the UK-released Masters of Cinema DVD (out of print), which I wish I had looked into and rented from Cinefile or Videotheque to watch in proper widescreen.

However, I think there is something to be said for breaking free of slavishness to exact correct presentation and delving into pan&scan land in the interest of watching, say, more films by an interesting director, instead of having your choices driven by what's new from Fox et al in pristine widescreen. Sometimes your explorations of the actual content may be far more satisfying and lead you down different paths....

Searching about the movie also led me to this recently released book on Nicholas Ray which looks interesting:

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