Man in the Wilderness


1h 45m 1971
Man in the Wilderness

Brief Synopsis

A Northwest frontiersman, in 1820, after being badly mauled by a bear is left for dead. He survives with a rare determination and comes to be looked upon as a God by the Indians.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Drama
Adventure
Release Date
Nov 1971
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: 24 Nov 1971
Production Company
Sanford-Limbridge Productions; Wilderness Film Productions, Ltd.
Distribution Company
Warner Bros., Inc.
Country
Spain and United States
Location
Madrid, Spain

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 45m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Synopsis

In 1820, Capt. Filmore Henry leads an expedition of trappers through the unexplored Northwest territories. With an unwieldy amphibious boat, filled with furs and dragged by mules, the few dozen men struggle to reach the Missouri River before winter so they can sail south and trade their goods. One day, young trapper Lowerie kills a deer in the brush. Despite the animal's precarious location, scout Zachary Bass is obliged to retrieve it, and in doing so is viciously attacked by a bear. As Zach is mauled, Lowerie, too scared to shoot, runs for the rest of the men, who manage finally to kill the bear. Upon examining Zach, they are dismayed to discover that he is severely wounded. Henry orders the party's doctor, Ferris, to sew up Zach's wounds, but soon announces that the expedition must go on. Sure Zach could not survive the trip, Henry orders two men to stay behind with Zach and bury him when he dies. With no other volunteers, Lowerie and Fogarty, a grizzled hunter who hopes to have Zach's gun, finally agree to stay. Before leaving, Henry tells Fogarty to kill Zach if he is not dead by morning, then instructs Lowerie to say a short eulogy over the body. Unaware that Zach is conscious and listening, Henry intones, "He fought against life all his life; now his fight's against you, God." Delirious, Zach recalls being orphaned as a young boy, then revives in time to see the party leaving. As they move forward, the other scout, an Indian, stops to say a prayer over Zach and drape an amulet around his neck. That night, after digging Zach's grave, Fogarty scares Lowerie with tales of Indians, annoyed that Zach continues to hang on to life. In the morning, Fogarty and Lowerie spot some Arikara Indians nearby, and eager to run, Fogarty aims his pistol at Zach. When Zach attempts to speak, Lowerie stops Fogarty from shooting, but after apologizing to Zach, flees with Fogarty, leaving behind his Bible. Seeing it, Zach remembers being abused by an orphanage priest for refusing to agree that God created the world. The Indians pass by without incident, but later draw Henry's vehicle on a teepee wall. Soon after, a wild wolf approaches Zach, who finds the strength to roll out of the way. Landing near the riverbed, he struggles to bring water to his mouth. When the Indians return, Zach hurls himself into the grave to hide. Although the chief finds him, upon spotting the amulet, he says a brief prayer and leaves him. Feverish and near death, Zach drifts in and out of consciousness. He remembers his pregnant wife, Grace, urging him to believe that God is in him and all things, but he insists that he has never felt God's presence. She puts his hand on her belly to feel the baby kick, after which he whispers to his unborn child that although he will not be there for the birth, and despite his belief that life is hell, he loves his wife and child. In the present, Zach, still unable to sit up, covers himself with leaves to protect against the rising wind. Meanwhile, Fogarty and Lowerie reach Henry's boat and report that they left Zach alive. Declaring they cannot turn back, Henry tells his men that although Zach was like a son to him, he would be proud of Henry's decision to go on with the endeavor to settle the wilderness. Later, Zach digs out, and with renewed but still limited energy, crawls to the water, grabs a crab and eats it, then spots berries and crawls to them. He then covers himself in mulch and once again recalls Grace. By morning, he spots two wolves nearby eating a still-live buffalo. Crawling to them, Zach beats the animals off with a stick, grabs a hunk of bloody flesh and crawls away to eat. Soon after, the trapping party, continuing over the now-snowy ground, spot the Arikara Indians and arm themselves. Although the chief raises his hand in peace, Henry orders the cannons fired. Once the Indians retreat, Henry alarms his men by ordering them to turn and shoot behind themselves, as well, for no discernible reason. As the Indian chief returns to his tribe and prays for guidance, Zach laboriously attempts to build himself a crutch. After breaking open an old bone to eat its marrow, he watches as nearby the Arikara kill a small party of trappers who have taken on Indian wives. Zach, who has been hiding, shakes off his horror in order to salvage knives, wire, a blanket and a razor from the carnage. By stropping the razor on the knife blade and using pages from his Bible as tinder, he is able to start a fire. After killing a rabbit, he uses the hide to form an armpit cushion for a crutch, then creates a small shelter and makes a poultice for his wrecked leg. Over the next few days, Zach recovers more fully. He fashions a spear out of the knife edge and a stick, then uses it to catch fish, vengefully picturing Henry's face on his prey as he hurls the spear into it. Meanwhile, the trappers, reduced to eating sick mules, discuss Henry's strange, paranoid behavior, and wonder if he expects Zach's ghost to appear. Zach soon traps and kills a cougar, then cures and sews the hide to form a coat. Finally ready, he sets out to seek revenge against the men who left him to die. One day, as he is hiding from an Indian band out foraging, Zach witnesses an Indian woman give birth in the woods, alone and silent. This vision engenders the memory of Grace's death during childbirth, an occurrence that further damaged his belief in God and prompted him to leave his son in the care of Grace's mother. Soon after, Fogarty informs Henry that the men want to burn the boat in order to move on more quickly, but Henry refuses, stating that it is all that is left of his last command. When Fogarty asks why Henry seems unable to let go of Zach, the captain replies that Zach stole onboard his ship as a child, running away from the orphanage, and while Henry often thought of him as his son, Zach never allowed him to get close. Henry names Zach as the only man he ever respected or feared, and declares his certainty that Zach is alive. The next night, while Fogarty is on watch, he thinks he spots Zach in the woods and shoots him, only to discover that he has just killed Lowerie. In the morning they reach the river, but realize they are too late, as it has already frozen. Forced to continue on foot, they push the boat laboriously. Meanwhile, Zach finds a wounded rabbit and prepares a splint for its leg, then reads it passages from the Bible. As the days pass, his experiences living off the land and his memories awaken in him a more spiritual bent. One day, the Indians and Zach simultaneously catch up with Henry's expedition. A gunfight erupts, and although Henry's men have the cannon, the Indians outnumber them. Zach hobbles to help his comrades, and as he is fighting off several Arikara, the chief recognizes his amulet and orders his men to leave Zach alone. Approaching the bewildered Zach, the chief, who considers Zach blessed, returns his homemade spear to him and indicates that he should kill Henry. Zach approaches Henry, asking for the return of his gun. Although Henry fears he will be shot, Zach merely states, "I've got a son out there, and I'm going to find him." As he walks off, Henry's men leave their captain to follow Zach.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Drama
Adventure
Release Date
Nov 1971
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: 24 Nov 1971
Production Company
Sanford-Limbridge Productions; Wilderness Film Productions, Ltd.
Distribution Company
Warner Bros., Inc.
Country
Spain and United States
Location
Madrid, Spain

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 45m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Articles

Man in the Wilderness


In a remote part of the American Northwest in the 1820s, a scout traveling with an expedition is mauled by a bear and left to die by his companions. He survives and, although badly injured, he manages to track the men down, bent on revenge. Sound familiar?

It should. This Western is loosely based on the life and legend of fur trapper and explorer Hugh Glass (c. 1783-1833), the same source for the more recent film The Revenant (2015), winner of Academy Awards for Best Actor (Leonardo DiCaprio), Director (Alejandro González Iñárritu), and Cinematography (Emmanuel Lubezki).

Man in the Wilderness did not win any awards or even nominations, and reviews were mixed at best (with The New York Times calling it a "flat, pretentious bore"). Some people, however, prefer this earlier version of the story (even with such low-budget production values as a man in a bear suit) to the 2015 film. According to actor Walton Goggins, who appeared in Quentin Tarantino's Western The Hateful Eight (2015), this was one of the films Tarantino showed his cast prior to production on that movie.

A good part of the reason is the volatile performance of actor Richard Harris who, although he barely speaks for most of the film, carries the weight of the grueling survival story. This was something of a follow-up, in spirit if not in details, to his hit A Man Called Horse (1970), another Western that subjected the star to horrific physical and mental torments. That film was written by Jack DeWitt, who also wrote Man in the Wilderness and the Harris-starred sequel The Return of a Man Called Horse (1976).

In The Revenant the lead character is called Hugh Glass, but here the character Harris plays is named Zach Bass, apparently so producers could avoid paying screen rights for Frederick Manfred's 1954 National Book Award-nominated account of the Glass legend, Lord Grizzly. Manfred did not care for the filmmakers' take on the story and threatened to sue the producers for using his material without rights. The conflict was settled out of court.

The real-life Hugh Glass was born in Pennsylvania but became an explorer of the Upper Missouri River watershed in what is now part of Montana, Nebraska, and the Dakotas. According to historical accounts, after the bear mauling and subsequent abandonment by General William Ashley's 1823 expedition, Glass managed to make his way under grueling physical and environmental conditions to South Dakota. His story was first put in writing in a Philadelphia publication in 1825 and picked up by various newspapers. Its accuracy has been disputed, and with no corroboration from Glass himself, it is believed to have been heavily embellished.

Ashley was a well-known trader, speculator, and later a politician in the 19th century. The character who represents him in the movie, Captain Henry, is an amalgam of William Henry Ashley and Andrew Henry, his partner in the very successful Rocky Mountain Fur Company, and not "Captain Fillmore Henry" as erroneously claimed to be a "historically true" figure in an opening title card.

The character is played in this movie by John Huston, who joined the production two days after quitting as director of The Last Run (1971) after run-ins with lead George C. Scott.

Third billed in the cast as "Indian Chief" was the veteran actor Henry Wilcoxon, who appeared in eight Cecil B. DeMille pictures, including Cleopatra (1934), and The Ten Commandments (1956).

The film was shot over a period of two to three months on a budget of about $2 million. Most of it was filmed in Spain on some of the same terrain David Lean used for Doctor Zhivago (1965). The picture was the first in years to be screened in the old Princess Theatre in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The cinema had been refurbished and renamed the Klondike Theatre in time for the film's Christmas Day 1971 showing.

One other detail in this story may give viewers a vague sense of déjà vu. (Is it déjà vu if the picture it reminds you of came later?) On its way through the wilderness, the expedition laboriously drags along a boat on wheels, calling to mind the much larger boat - and much dafter journey - hauled over the South American mountains by the title character of Werner Herzog's Fitzcarraldo (1982).

Director: Richard C. Sarafian
Producer: Sanford Howard
Screenplay: Jack DeWitt
Cinematography: Gerry Fisher
Editing: Geoffrey Foot
Art Direction: Gumersindo Andrés
Music: Johnny Harris
Cast: Richard Harris (Zach Bass), John Huston (Captain Henry), Henry Wilcoxon (Indian Chief), Percy Herbert (Fogarty), Dennis Waterman (Lowrie), Prunella Ransome (Grace)

By Rob Nixon
Man In The Wilderness

Man in the Wilderness

In a remote part of the American Northwest in the 1820s, a scout traveling with an expedition is mauled by a bear and left to die by his companions. He survives and, although badly injured, he manages to track the men down, bent on revenge. Sound familiar? It should. This Western is loosely based on the life and legend of fur trapper and explorer Hugh Glass (c. 1783-1833), the same source for the more recent film The Revenant (2015), winner of Academy Awards for Best Actor (Leonardo DiCaprio), Director (Alejandro González Iñárritu), and Cinematography (Emmanuel Lubezki). Man in the Wilderness did not win any awards or even nominations, and reviews were mixed at best (with The New York Times calling it a "flat, pretentious bore"). Some people, however, prefer this earlier version of the story (even with such low-budget production values as a man in a bear suit) to the 2015 film. According to actor Walton Goggins, who appeared in Quentin Tarantino's Western The Hateful Eight (2015), this was one of the films Tarantino showed his cast prior to production on that movie. A good part of the reason is the volatile performance of actor Richard Harris who, although he barely speaks for most of the film, carries the weight of the grueling survival story. This was something of a follow-up, in spirit if not in details, to his hit A Man Called Horse (1970), another Western that subjected the star to horrific physical and mental torments. That film was written by Jack DeWitt, who also wrote Man in the Wilderness and the Harris-starred sequel The Return of a Man Called Horse (1976). In The Revenant the lead character is called Hugh Glass, but here the character Harris plays is named Zach Bass, apparently so producers could avoid paying screen rights for Frederick Manfred's 1954 National Book Award-nominated account of the Glass legend, Lord Grizzly. Manfred did not care for the filmmakers' take on the story and threatened to sue the producers for using his material without rights. The conflict was settled out of court. The real-life Hugh Glass was born in Pennsylvania but became an explorer of the Upper Missouri River watershed in what is now part of Montana, Nebraska, and the Dakotas. According to historical accounts, after the bear mauling and subsequent abandonment by General William Ashley's 1823 expedition, Glass managed to make his way under grueling physical and environmental conditions to South Dakota. His story was first put in writing in a Philadelphia publication in 1825 and picked up by various newspapers. Its accuracy has been disputed, and with no corroboration from Glass himself, it is believed to have been heavily embellished. Ashley was a well-known trader, speculator, and later a politician in the 19th century. The character who represents him in the movie, Captain Henry, is an amalgam of William Henry Ashley and Andrew Henry, his partner in the very successful Rocky Mountain Fur Company, and not "Captain Fillmore Henry" as erroneously claimed to be a "historically true" figure in an opening title card. The character is played in this movie by John Huston, who joined the production two days after quitting as director of The Last Run (1971) after run-ins with lead George C. Scott. Third billed in the cast as "Indian Chief" was the veteran actor Henry Wilcoxon, who appeared in eight Cecil B. DeMille pictures, including Cleopatra (1934), and The Ten Commandments (1956). The film was shot over a period of two to three months on a budget of about $2 million. Most of it was filmed in Spain on some of the same terrain David Lean used for Doctor Zhivago (1965). The picture was the first in years to be screened in the old Princess Theatre in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The cinema had been refurbished and renamed the Klondike Theatre in time for the film's Christmas Day 1971 showing. One other detail in this story may give viewers a vague sense of déjà vu. (Is it déjà vu if the picture it reminds you of came later?) On its way through the wilderness, the expedition laboriously drags along a boat on wheels, calling to mind the much larger boat - and much dafter journey - hauled over the South American mountains by the title character of Werner Herzog's Fitzcarraldo (1982). Director: Richard C. Sarafian Producer: Sanford Howard Screenplay: Jack DeWitt Cinematography: Gerry Fisher Editing: Geoffrey Foot Art Direction: Gumersindo Andrés Music: Johnny Harris Cast: Richard Harris (Zach Bass), John Huston (Captain Henry), Henry Wilcoxon (Indian Chief), Percy Herbert (Fogarty), Dennis Waterman (Lowrie), Prunella Ransome (Grace) By Rob Nixon

Richard Harris, 1930-2002 - TCM Remembers Richard Harris


Two-time Best Actor nominee Richard Harris, who was also famous for his feisty, off-screen exploits, was once characterized along with Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole as one of Britain's most charismatic and unpredictable leading men during the heyday of their popularity in the '60s and '70s. He died at the University College of London Hospital on Friday, Oct. 25. He had been suffering from Hodgkin's disease, a form of lymphatic cancer, and was 72 years old.

Harris was born October 1, 1930, in Limerick, Ireland, one of nine children born to farmer Ivan Harris and his wife, Mildred Harty. He was a noted rugby player as a youth, but shortly after his move to London in the mid-50s, Harris studied classical acting at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. After a few years of stage experience, he made his screen debut in Alive and Kicking (1958) and quickly developed a reputation as a talented young actor. His film career became increasingly impressive with such strong supporting turns in Shake Hands with the Devil (1959), The Guns of Navarone (1961) and Mutiny on the Bounty (1962).

Yet it wasn't until 1963 that Harris became an unlikely star after thrilling movie viewers and critics with his electrifying performance in This Sporting Life. His portrayal of a bitter young coal miner who becomes a professional rugby star marked the arrival of a major international talent and won him the Best Actor award at Cannes and an Oscar nomination.

Strangely enough, Harris' next projects were multimillion dollar epics and he went largely unnoticed amid the all-star casts; he had a small role as Cain in John Huston's production of The Bible (1966) and in Hawaii (1966) he played a sea captain who falls in love with a married woman (Julie Andrews). He also tried his hand at a mod spy comedy opposite Doris Day - Caprice (1967). A much better role for him was playing King Arthur in the film version of the Broadway hit Camelot (1967). The movie was not well received critically, but Harris' singing skills proved to be a surprise; not only did he win a Golden Globe for his performance, but the film's soundtrack album proved to be a bigger commercial hit than the film itself. Even more surprising was his unexpected success the following year with the pop hit "MacArthur Park" - that kitsch cornerstone of lounge karaoke. The song just missed topping the Billboard singles chart in the "Summer of 1968;" It was topped by Herb Albert's "This Guy's In Love with You."

The '70s proved to be a mixed bag for Harris. He scored a huge commercial hit with his best-known film of that decade, A Man Called Horse (1970). It became a cult Western and featured him as an English aristocrat captured, tortured and eventually adopted by Sioux Indians. He also showed some promise behind the camera, co-writing the screenplay for the psychological thriller The Lady in the Car With Glasses and a Gun (1970) and directing (as well as starring) in The Hero (1972), a drama about an aging soccer star. But the quality of films in which Harris appeared declined as the decade progressed: Orca (1977) - a terrible Jaws rip-off, The Wild Geese(1978), and worst of all, Tarzan, the Ape Man (1981), in which he had a thankless role as Bo Derek's explorer father.

Based on those films and his general inactivity in the '80s, Harris' comeback performance in The Field (1990) was a wonderful surprise. In that film he played a man who has nurtured a field into a prized piece of real estate only to lose his sanity as the property is taken from him; the role earned him a deserved Oscar nomination and showed that he was still a vital screen presence. Harris took full advantage of this new spurt in his career by committing himself to many fine character roles: the cool, refined gunslinger in Unforgiven(1992), his intense portrayal of a father mourning the death of his son in Cry the Beloved Country (1995), the resident villain of Smilla's Sense of Snow (1997), and as the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius in the epic Gladiator (2000).

Yet Harris will probably be best remembered by current audiences for his portrayal of Dumbledore, the benevolent and wily head of Hogwarts School in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001) and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002) which will be released nationwide in just three weeks. Harris is survived by his three sons, Jared, Jamie (both actors) and the director Damian Harris.

by Michael T. Toole

Richard Harris, 1930-2002 - TCM Remembers Richard Harris

Two-time Best Actor nominee Richard Harris, who was also famous for his feisty, off-screen exploits, was once characterized along with Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole as one of Britain's most charismatic and unpredictable leading men during the heyday of their popularity in the '60s and '70s. He died at the University College of London Hospital on Friday, Oct. 25. He had been suffering from Hodgkin's disease, a form of lymphatic cancer, and was 72 years old. Harris was born October 1, 1930, in Limerick, Ireland, one of nine children born to farmer Ivan Harris and his wife, Mildred Harty. He was a noted rugby player as a youth, but shortly after his move to London in the mid-50s, Harris studied classical acting at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. After a few years of stage experience, he made his screen debut in Alive and Kicking (1958) and quickly developed a reputation as a talented young actor. His film career became increasingly impressive with such strong supporting turns in Shake Hands with the Devil (1959), The Guns of Navarone (1961) and Mutiny on the Bounty (1962). Yet it wasn't until 1963 that Harris became an unlikely star after thrilling movie viewers and critics with his electrifying performance in This Sporting Life. His portrayal of a bitter young coal miner who becomes a professional rugby star marked the arrival of a major international talent and won him the Best Actor award at Cannes and an Oscar nomination. Strangely enough, Harris' next projects were multimillion dollar epics and he went largely unnoticed amid the all-star casts; he had a small role as Cain in John Huston's production of The Bible (1966) and in Hawaii (1966) he played a sea captain who falls in love with a married woman (Julie Andrews). He also tried his hand at a mod spy comedy opposite Doris Day - Caprice (1967). A much better role for him was playing King Arthur in the film version of the Broadway hit Camelot (1967). The movie was not well received critically, but Harris' singing skills proved to be a surprise; not only did he win a Golden Globe for his performance, but the film's soundtrack album proved to be a bigger commercial hit than the film itself. Even more surprising was his unexpected success the following year with the pop hit "MacArthur Park" - that kitsch cornerstone of lounge karaoke. The song just missed topping the Billboard singles chart in the "Summer of 1968;" It was topped by Herb Albert's "This Guy's In Love with You." The '70s proved to be a mixed bag for Harris. He scored a huge commercial hit with his best-known film of that decade, A Man Called Horse (1970). It became a cult Western and featured him as an English aristocrat captured, tortured and eventually adopted by Sioux Indians. He also showed some promise behind the camera, co-writing the screenplay for the psychological thriller The Lady in the Car With Glasses and a Gun (1970) and directing (as well as starring) in The Hero (1972), a drama about an aging soccer star. But the quality of films in which Harris appeared declined as the decade progressed: Orca (1977) - a terrible Jaws rip-off, The Wild Geese(1978), and worst of all, Tarzan, the Ape Man (1981), in which he had a thankless role as Bo Derek's explorer father. Based on those films and his general inactivity in the '80s, Harris' comeback performance in The Field (1990) was a wonderful surprise. In that film he played a man who has nurtured a field into a prized piece of real estate only to lose his sanity as the property is taken from him; the role earned him a deserved Oscar nomination and showed that he was still a vital screen presence. Harris took full advantage of this new spurt in his career by committing himself to many fine character roles: the cool, refined gunslinger in Unforgiven(1992), his intense portrayal of a father mourning the death of his son in Cry the Beloved Country (1995), the resident villain of Smilla's Sense of Snow (1997), and as the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius in the epic Gladiator (2000). Yet Harris will probably be best remembered by current audiences for his portrayal of Dumbledore, the benevolent and wily head of Hogwarts School in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001) and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002) which will be released nationwide in just three weeks. Harris is survived by his three sons, Jared, Jamie (both actors) and the director Damian Harris. by Michael T. Toole

Quotes

You'd take the pennies off your dead mother's eyes.
- Ferris
There was nothing you could do. It was God's will.
- Grace's Mother
I never much agreed with God's will.
- Zachary Bass

Trivia

Notes

The film begins with a written statement describing "Capt. Filmore Henry's" expedition and stating that the story is "historically true." Dennis Lynton Clark's credit reads "Production and costume designer." The Indians speak in untranslated dialect throughout the film. Plot summaries in Filmfacts and studio press materials describe the film's ending as one in which Henry begs for mercy from "Zachary Bass," who tells him to "Settle the matter with your God; I've found mine." However, the print viewed ended with Bass briefly approaching Henry and walking away without any threat of violence. It has not been determined at what point the ending was changed.
       As noted in Filmfacts, Man in the Wilderness was based on two real-life occurrences of 1823: trapper Hugh Glass's miraculous survival after being mauled by a bear, and the attack by Arikara Indians on a trapping expedition with an amphibious boat. Producer Sanford Howard, writer Jack DeWitt and actor Richard Harris had previously collaborated on the 1970 hit film A Man Called Horse. Although the filmmakers declared in a preproduction interview that there was no probability "of Man in the Wilderness turning out to be A Man Called Horse Revisted," most reviews cited the many similarities between the two films.
       According to the article, John Huston joined the production two days after quitting as director of the 1971 film The Last Run. The article also quoted the budget of Man in the Wilderness as less than $2 million. The film was shot in Madrid, Spain, with the production headquartered in the city's Moro Studios, as noted in a January 1971 Daily Variety news item. A Hollywood Reporter news items adds Alexis Kanner to the cast, but his appearance in the final film has not been confirmed.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1971

Released in United States on Video June 2, 1993

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1971

Released in United States on Video June 2, 1993