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In the opening credits, cast and character names appear under footage of each character. As noted in the May 11, 1972 Daily Variety review, the film is an "offbeat" satire of humanity and civility that shows a primitive tribe becoming civilized and then reverting to previous behavior. The forest scenes shown early in the film are black and white, but change to color when the tribe find and inhabit the mansion. Several times throughout the film, an untranslated German voice-over is spoken in a tone implying some authoritative explanation of The Mudpeople's transformative behavior. The poem that the character "Zia" recites after dinner is a children's verse entitled "My Shadow" by Robert Louis Stevenson.
A June 20, 1971 New York Times news item noted that director James Ivory and producer Ismail Merchant decided to produce a film at the Beechwood House in Scarborough, New York, after Ivory's visit to the stately home inspired the Savages script. Although a June 16, 1971 Variety stated that DIA Films was to produce the picture, the company was not listed onscreen and the extent of its involvement in the production remains undetermined. Savages marked the first time the filmmaking team of Ivory and Merchant, who had worked primarily in India, produced an American feature-length film. The film also marked the motion picture debut for actress and former model Susan Blakely, who was billed onscreen as Susie Blakely.