The Savage Is Loose (1974)

R | 114-115 mins | Drama | 30 October 1974

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HISTORY

The film begins with animated still images of a shipwreck accompanied by the sounds of a storm, people shouting, and a baby’s cries.
       Opening credits include the following acknowledgement: “Appreciation for the location site is expressed to Trust Fideicomiso “Bahia de Banderas” lo de Marcos, and Punta Raza, Navarit, Mexico.” Only cast credits appear at the end of the film.
       On 23 Oct 1970, DV announced that United Artists Corp. had purchased Frank De Felitta and Max Ehrlich’s screenplay for The Savage Is Loose. Joseph Sargent was attached to direct, with principal photography set to take place Nov 1972 in Jamaica, as stated in a 3 Sep 1971 DV brief. The following year, an 8 Nov 1972 Var brief announced that United Artists vice-president Herb Jaffe was planning to leave the studio and begin his own production company, with The Savage Is Loose and High Rise as his first two projects. Producer/director/actor George C. Scott later purchased the rights to the screenplay independently, as reported in a 14 Dec 1973 HR item. An 8 Apr 1974 HR item noted that Scott’s production company, Campbell Devon Productions, Inc., was financing the entire production budget “in association with private investors.” As stated in a 1 Oct 1974 HR article, the film’s below-the-line budget was $1.8 million.
       Filming began 22 Apr 1974 in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, as announced in an 8 Apr 1974 DV news item. Twelve days of location shooting in Puerto Vallarta was followed by eight days on sets built in a natural cove, located a one-hour ... More Less

The film begins with animated still images of a shipwreck accompanied by the sounds of a storm, people shouting, and a baby’s cries.
       Opening credits include the following acknowledgement: “Appreciation for the location site is expressed to Trust Fideicomiso “Bahia de Banderas” lo de Marcos, and Punta Raza, Navarit, Mexico.” Only cast credits appear at the end of the film.
       On 23 Oct 1970, DV announced that United Artists Corp. had purchased Frank De Felitta and Max Ehrlich’s screenplay for The Savage Is Loose. Joseph Sargent was attached to direct, with principal photography set to take place Nov 1972 in Jamaica, as stated in a 3 Sep 1971 DV brief. The following year, an 8 Nov 1972 Var brief announced that United Artists vice-president Herb Jaffe was planning to leave the studio and begin his own production company, with The Savage Is Loose and High Rise as his first two projects. Producer/director/actor George C. Scott later purchased the rights to the screenplay independently, as reported in a 14 Dec 1973 HR item. An 8 Apr 1974 HR item noted that Scott’s production company, Campbell Devon Productions, Inc., was financing the entire production budget “in association with private investors.” As stated in a 1 Oct 1974 HR article, the film’s below-the-line budget was $1.8 million.
       Filming began 22 Apr 1974 in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, as announced in an 8 Apr 1974 DV news item. Twelve days of location shooting in Puerto Vallarta was followed by eight days on sets built in a natural cove, located a one-hour drive outside of Puerto Vallarta, with interiors set to follow. Although post-production was scheduled to begin 10 Jun 1974 at Goldwyn Studios, a 14 Jun 1974 HR brief noted that filming went one day over schedule, and post-production would commence 17 Jun 1974. In his 24 Jun 1974 “Rambling Reporter” HR column, Hank Grant stated that the “first completed workprint” of the film was shown in Los Angeles, CA, the week of 17 Jun 1974.
       According to production notes from AMPAS library files, Scott went on a rigid diet, quit alcohol, and adopted a physical training regimen, including running and gym workouts, for two months to prepare for the role of “John.” Scott and his wife and co-star, Trish Van Devere, were paid no salaries; according to Scott, their profit would come only “from the sale of the film to distributors.”
       In a model that recalled early Hollywood distribution, Scott dealt directly with theatre owners on the distribution of The Savage Is Loose. The 1 Oct 1974 HR article reported that Scott had plans to repay his investors before the film was released, having earned $3 million in the U.S. and $1.5 million in foreign territories from the sale of the film to exhibitors, including United Artists theaters in New York, Redstone Theatres in New England, and the Henry Plitt theater chain. According to a 17 Jun 1974 Box article, film prints were sold “in perpetuity” with “unlimited runs,” and the theaters were set to receive one hundred percent of the box-office profits.
       After the film received an ‘R’ rating from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) due to its theme of incest, a 9 Dec 1974 article in Box reported that Scott appealed the rating, hoping to get a ‘PG,’ to no avail. Scott also took out advertisements in numerous newspapers around the U.S., asking viewers to give their opinion of what the film’s rating should be, and roughly 4,750 of 5,000 respondents agreed with Scott that the film should be PG. As noted in a 4 Oct 1974 HR article, Scott believed the R rating would result in a loss of $1 million in domestic ticket sales and had already prompted certain theater owners to waiver on their decision to exhibit it. A 3 Apr 1975 LAHExam brief stated that Scott promised a refund to viewers who agreed with the film’s R rating, and had thus far returned more than $8,000 to ticket buyers. According to items in the 9 Oct 1974 LAT and DV, Scott requested that theater owners run trailers for his film sans the R rating, inciting protests from the MPAA’s Jack Valenti and Samuel Z. Arkoff, president and chairman of American International Pictures.
       A 21 Mar 1975 DV article announced that Scott’s Campbell Devon Productions filed a lawsuit against United Artists Theatre Circuit (UATC) for $20 million in damages, claiming that the chain of exhibitors had not paid $278,500 of “final monies owed” and therefore had been infringing copyright laws by screening the film. According to a 13 May 1975 DV article, UATC filed a countersuit with claims totaling $16 million, stating that the finished film did not match the screenplay shown to UATC, thus misleading the distributor to assume the picture would receive a PG rating. In addition, the countersuit alleged that Scott failed to make promised publicity appearances, provided “inappropriate” advertising materials, and allowed Henry Plitt Theaters to back out of their distribution deal two weeks after the film’s release, showing an unfair deference toward Plitt and hurting box-office prospects for UATC.
       Critical reception was largely negative. Several reviews, including those in the 31 Oct 1974 LAHExam and LAT, and 16 Nov 1974 NYT, deemed the film boring. In his 10 Oct 1974 HR review, John H. Dorr squarely blamed Scott for the film’s failure, calling it “a totally humorless power trip of a movie.” In a more positive review, the 16 Oct 1974 Var lauded Scott’s performance and direction and sided with him on the ratings controversy, stating, “It is certainly a film which any genuinely mature parent might approve for attendance by their under legal age offspring.”
       The Savage Is Loose marked Scott’s only feature film producing credit.
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BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
17 Jun 1974.
---
Box Office
18 Nov 1974
p. 4735.
Box Office
9 Dec 1974.
---
Daily Variety
23 Oct 1970.
---
Daily Variety
3 Sep 1971.
---
Daily Variety
8 Apr 1974.
---
Daily Variety
9 Oct 1974
p. 1, 12.
Daily Variety
10 Oct 1974.
---
Daily Variety
16 Oct 1974.
---
Daily Variety
21 Mar 1975
p. 1, 37.
Daily Variety
13 May 1975
p. 1, 12.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Dec 1973.
---
Hollywood Reporter
8 Apr 1974.
---
Hollywood Reporter
26 Apr 1974
p. 19.
Hollywood Reporter
13 May 1974.
---
Hollywood Reporter
14 Jun 1974
p. 19.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Jun 1974.
---
Hollywood Reporter
1 Oct 1974
p. 1, 10.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Oct 1974
p. 1, 20.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Oct 1974.
---
LAHExam
31 Oct 1974.
---
LAHExam
3 Apr 1975.
---
Los Angeles Times
9 Oct 1974.
---
Los Angeles Times
31 Oct 1974
Section IV, pp. 15-16.
New York Times
16 Nov 1974
p. 21.
Variety
8 Nov 1972.
---
Variety
16 Oct 1974
p. 14.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Title painting by
FILM EDITORS
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
COSTUMES
Cost des
MUSIC
Mus comp and cond
VISUAL EFFECTS
Titles by
MAKEUP
Makeup
Wigs des by
PRODUCTION MISC
Comptroller
Asst to the prod
Asst to the exec prod
Scr supv
Animal supv
Animal supv
DETAILS
Release Date:
30 October 1974
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 30 October 1974 at Plitt's Century Plaza Theatre II
New York opening: 15 November 1974
Production Date:
22 April--mid June 1974 in Mexico
Copyright Claimant:
The Savage Is Loose Company
Copyright Date:
8 October 1974
Copyright Number:
LP44065
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Color by Technicolor
Lenses/Prints
Filmed in Panavision
Duration(in mins):
114-115
MPAA Rating:
R
Countries:
Mexico, United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

In the early 1900s, a shipwreck leaves John stranded on a desert island with his wife, Maida, and their infant son, David. John becomes adept at survival, and after seven years of living there, the family thrives, though the wrecked ship looms at the far end of the beach where they dwell. One day, John catches a wild boar and spears it to death while David watches. Later, when smoke on the horizon suggests the presence of a ship, John calls out from a post and Maida and David set a tower of sticks on fire, but to no avail. One evening, after Maida cooks dinner, John gives David a lesson in spelling. Worried that they will never be found, Maida tells John she wonders if he is happy being stranded on the island. He admits that the island is an ideal setting for a scientist like himself. At night, when a leopard threatens the family’s goat, David wanders out to investigate the commotion. Just in time, John drives the cat away with a torch. Maida panics, yelling at David that he must never wander outside alone at night. She cries and yells at John to get them off the island. Soon after, John becomes upset with Maida when he overhears her teaching David how to tell time, insisting that David must learn how to thrive in the jungle and information about the real world is of no use to him. Throwing the sticks that David uses to spell words into the fire, John insists that from now on, David’s studies will focus only on survival skills. One night, John and David bring one of their goats into the ... +


In the early 1900s, a shipwreck leaves John stranded on a desert island with his wife, Maida, and their infant son, David. John becomes adept at survival, and after seven years of living there, the family thrives, though the wrecked ship looms at the far end of the beach where they dwell. One day, John catches a wild boar and spears it to death while David watches. Later, when smoke on the horizon suggests the presence of a ship, John calls out from a post and Maida and David set a tower of sticks on fire, but to no avail. One evening, after Maida cooks dinner, John gives David a lesson in spelling. Worried that they will never be found, Maida tells John she wonders if he is happy being stranded on the island. He admits that the island is an ideal setting for a scientist like himself. At night, when a leopard threatens the family’s goat, David wanders out to investigate the commotion. Just in time, John drives the cat away with a torch. Maida panics, yelling at David that he must never wander outside alone at night. She cries and yells at John to get them off the island. Soon after, John becomes upset with Maida when he overhears her teaching David how to tell time, insisting that David must learn how to thrive in the jungle and information about the real world is of no use to him. Throwing the sticks that David uses to spell words into the fire, John insists that from now on, David’s studies will focus only on survival skills. One night, John and David bring one of their goats into the jungle to lure a panther. As the panther attacks the goat, John and David throw spears down from their perch in a tree, killing it. Nearby, they discover the panther’s cubs and David asks to take them home. John says they will become his enemy when they grow up, so he must kill them now. The next day, Maida reprimands John for encouraging David to kill the cubs, but John argues that he was teaching David that life is cruel. One day, when he observes animals copulating, David asks John what they are doing, and John explains procreation. Later, David tells Maida that he saw she and John in bed together “doing what the animals do to make babies,” and Maida tells him not to look anymore. He continues by asking if he can marry Maida when he grows up, but she laughs off his question. As David continues to grow, Maida expresses her concern that he will soon become “nothing more than a savage.” Several years later, teenaged David brings a present inside for his mother and eyes her lustfully at the dinner table. David leaves, and John irks Maida with a lecture on different tribal customs around the world in which boys are taught to be more distanced from their mothers as they grow older. One day, David tells Maida that he wishes she never told him stories about what life is like in the rest of the world, referring to anecdotes she used to tell about parties and dances she attended as a young woman. David explores the ship’s wreckage and finds a sealed tube containing a drawing of a naked young woman by the artist Jean Renoir. At night, David spies on his mother and touches the picture. Maida tells John that they should no longer sleep together because it torments David, and he agrees to stay in his laboratory hut. When Maida follows David into the jungle one day, she discovers that he has set up a trap designed to kill his father. She rushes to warn John but does not find him. That night, David arrives outside the door and asks to come in, but Maida refuses. David breaks down the door and presents Maida with a copy of the Holy Bible that she gave him. He reads a passage aloud about Adam and Eve’s son Cain, who had a wife and a son, and menacingly asks who Cain’s wife was, stating that there were no other women besides Eve. Maida cannot answer him, and David finally leaves. John builds a raft so the family can escape the island, while acknowledging to Maida that their chances of survival at sea are low. When John is asleep, however, David destroys the raft. Wielding a spear, John goes after David in the jungle, as Maida sets fire to all of their huts. David catches John and ties him up, but when John begs his son to kill him, David says nature will do it. Finding Maida standing on a precipice, David puts down his spears and approaches her, bursting into tears. Hiding a knife behind her back, Maida watches her son cry, then softens and walks over to console him. Although the fire reaches John, he escapes. Badly burned, John finds Maida and David in an embrace. Maida holds her hand up, hoping to dissuade John from killing David with a spear, and John takes her hand. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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