Man in the Wilderness (1971)



He was left for dead. He would not forget. See »

In the early 1800\’s, a group of fur trappers and Indian traders are returning with their goods to civilisation and are making a desperate attempt to beat the oncoming winter. When guide Zachary Bass is injured in a bear attack, they decide he\’s a goner and leave him behind to die. When he recovers instead, he swears revenge on them and tracks them and their paranoiac expedition leader down.

Written by
Alfred Jingle

Genre: Adventure,Western

Man in the Wilderness (1971)
Release Date: 19 December 1971 (Sweden)
Country: USA
Director: Richard C. Sarafian
  • Richard Harris
  • John Huston
  • Prunella Ransome
  • Percy Herbert
  • Dennis Waterman
  • Henry Wilcoxon
  • Sheila Raynor
  • Norman Rossington
  • James Doohan
  • Bryan Marshall
  • Ben Carruthers
  • Robert Russell
  • John Bindon
  • Bruce M. Fischer
  • Dean Selmier

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20 Responses to Man in the Wilderness (1971)

  1. jeffyoung1
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    One of the most unique aspects of MAN IN THE WILDERNESS was its most important prop, Captain Henry’s boat, lashed to a stout, wagon frame, and pulled by a large number of mules. Good choice using mules. Mules are stronger than horses, have greater endurance, can eat a wider variation of plants, less prone to diseases and injuries.

    Captain Henry showed us his early 19th century version of a "amphibious boat", a concept that would resurface in the mid-twentieth century around World War II. This was such a neat, terrific, imaginative image to see a large wooden vessel traveling hundreds of miles inland on huge wheels, pulled by mules in lieu of the not-yet-invented combustion engine. The boat was even armed by sizeable cannon (not puny ones), one at the bow and one at the stern. Perhaps those cannon were too large as it greatly increased the boat’s weight and made it top heavy and unstable on the wagon base. Captain Henry used the cannon only for anti-personnel defense. He could have gotten by using a lighter cannonade, maybe as little as one third the size of each cannon actually used on the boat. Then crew members could load musket balls down the barrel instead of a cannon ball.

    The boat’s sail looked as it were simple, just for single direction and not able to tack into the wind. There should have been provision for oars as a back-up or complementary means of propulsion. If you ask me, Captain Henry would have been better off with a modified Viking long boat, with its wider, shallower keel enabling a shallow draft. The men could also use oars. There would have been room to stash their bales of beaver pelts. A light cannonade on the bow and stern should be sufficient to repel indian attacks.

  2. jeffyoung1
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    In spite of my affection for this movie, I want to add another GOOF to the list.

    There’s the scene that takes place where, after looking over the injured Zachary Bass, the Rickaree indians re-mount their horses and ride away, splashing through the shallow, ankle-deep stream. You see about three or four, domesticated ducks in the water. Wild ducks would have flown away long before the indians came that close. In fact, wild ducks would not have strayed that close to humans. Obviously, some outdoor scene props manager felt the need to add some, ‘wildlife’ to the scene. He or she must have hired a few, domesticated ducks from a local farmer to sprinkle around the stream for wildlife effect.

  3. kpocala
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    Great, haunting, underrated movie. Amazingly, the story is based on a real man, Hugh Glass. Even more amazing is that the movie actually understates how Glass survives, I’m not sure that I could stomach it! Google him, you’ll understand what I mean…

  4. jeffyoung1
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    I shall always remember MAN IN THE WILDERNESS, among other things, it’s final, ending scene overlaid with the beautiful music. Captain Henry and the surviving fur trappers are stunned to see Zachary Bass stumbling in out of the distance, holding a spear, while the attacking Rickaree indians stand back awaiting to see what transpires.

    Captain Henry and the white men aren’t sure of Zachary Bass’ intentions. They assume he must be enraged at having been abandoned months back after he was severely mauled by a bear.

    Zachary Bass is a changed man by now. He’s no longer filled with anger and retribution. He retrieves his quality flintlock rifle from Captain Henry and smiles, telling the still-astonished Henry that he has a son back home and is going back to find him. Bass tosses his now unneeded homemade spear away and trudges off. The fur trappers, realizing the Rickaree indians are offering to spare their lives if they leave, get the message and walk away, following behind Bass. Captain Henry finally understands the inevitable and follows the surviving trappers as they start their way back home. The beautiful background music stirs the heart as one begins to understand the movie’s final messages of compassion, forgiveness, mercy, and salvation.

  5. johntex9
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    I watched this many years ago when it first came out in the movies. I was a bit impatient then and only cared about the battle scenes. I will never forget the scene where Harris’s character stumbles into the river and eats a crayfish.

    I just watched it again and think that it is a near masterpiece. Harris’s acting is first rate and the lack of dialouge enhances the movie. Huston is great as was the Rickessee chieftan. How many movies do you see that take place in the 1820s ?

    Great,great flick that is very underrated.

    Just my .02

  6. jeffyoung1
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    I can tell that IMDB doesn’t keep viewers’ posts up forever. A year or so ago I read a viewer’s post about the scene where a prostrate bison (buffalo), still breathing heavily and shaking its legs, is being devoured alive by a pair of wolves which actually look like someone’s German shepherds. The temporarily crippled Zachary Bass drives off the wolves by beating the ground with a long stick. (I’m not sure real-life wolves would have been so easily scared off. Wolves are clever enough to know when an adversary is crippled and unable to put up an effective fight) Nonetheless, a starving Zachary Bass then crawls over to the bison and pulls off a huge hunk of raw meat. He crawls away and in a visually memorable scene, the opportunistic wolves scamper right back to the bison even before Bass has crawled more than a few yards away. Bass then starts ravenously chewing on the raw meat. Actor Richard Harris was a real super trooper to agree to munch on the raw meat.

    Now a lot of people claim to have been psychologically scarred by the entire scene I just wrote about. No one knows if there was a real bison drugged and killed for the movie scene. The movie was filmed in 1971, long before animal rights activists and PETA appeared. The U.S. federal government allows a small number of bison to be ‘culled’ from the national herds in Yellowstone and elsewhere each year or so. It might have been possible to have obtained one for the movie. But killing it for the movie seems extreme. All my life I imagined that some veterinarian simply drugged the animal heavily. Then movie special effects crew attached chunks of real, raw cow beef to the undersides of the bison where we couldn’t see. Indeed you really don’t see the wolves actually tearing meat directly from the bison up close. Nor do you actually see Harris ripping the meat off. It only ‘looks’ like he did. If anyone out there knows the truth, let us know.

    As for the screaming mountain cat, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t killed in real-life. The screaming from that cat is very spooky and makes your skin crawl.

    I’ve met people who lived in parts of the U.S. where such mountain cats live. The people who know best are the ones who go hunting and camping out in the woods and hear those cats screaming. One guy told me how easy it is to become freaked out when those cats scream, especially at night. It makes your hair stand on end because from a distance, the mountain cats’ cries actually sound like a terrified human woman. People who are unaccustomed to mountain cats’ natural cries can actually think there is a human woman somewhere in the distance being attacked or hurt. He warned me the last thing you want to do is go closer to the source of those nocturnal cries.

    • Yogi
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      It was filmed in Spain. I’m sure the United States Govt. or any animal rights group or otherwise back then would have any say in a remote location as that was filmed in.

    • Yogi
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      I meant to say the US Govt or American animal rights groups would have “no” say in filming in Spain. But I hope it was cinema special effects, as in illusion, for the bison’s sake. Art should have limits when the possibility of inflicting physical pain on living things, besides the mental pain of bad art, of which I’m sure some will say there is none. All this is purely my humble and often wrong opinion.

  7. biztraumer
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    I always loved this movie and have been waiting for years for the dvd to come out. Anyone know what’s up with that?

  8. brucedgo
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    He just happens to be right on the scene when Indians attack and kill a trapping couple. He watches it happen.

    An Indian woman stops twenty yards away from him to have a baby. Again, he watches.

    He finds a tame, white rabbit. Not really a coincidence, I guess, just real strange.

    Finally, he runs into the boat and crew. Even that seemed just chance. There was not a single hint that he was even looking for them. Unless you count the Comcast blurb saying he was. The crew thought maybe he was, but that could be attributed entirely to guilt.

    And further, he and the chief seemed to have a propensity for being in the same place at the same time.

    Pretty strange film. I liked the ending, though.

    By the way, he lost a lot of blood. I wonder how the bleeding stopped.

    "The more you drive, the less intelligent you are"

    — Repo Man

  9. Anonymous
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  10. jglapin
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    It was not all that many years ago I thought that Hollywood film producers and directors hired native language speakers to coach native dialogue in western movies. This was long before Dances With Wolves, which I guess is more or less authentic Lakota dialogue. So, I watched movies like "Man in the Wilderness" and marveled at how well an old Hollywood actor like Henry Wilcoxon mastered the native tongue he spoke to Richard Harris upon there final meeting.

    Then a few years ago I actually had a retired film actor (a minor actor) for a neighbor and I mentioned this. He laughed and said something like, "Oh, you mean speaking "Injun." He had been cast in many westerns as a Native American. Since he was of southern Italian descent he was swarthy. He had learned to speak a gibberish that sounded like a Native American dialect of some kind. This was known as "Speaking Injun". Casting directors would ask potential actors, "Do you speak Injun." Actors and extras would get the part if they could.

    Yes, I was that naive.

  11. Xcalate_1776
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    a good Richard Harris but a forgettable movie


    When there’s no more room in hell, The dead will walk the earth…

  12. jeffyoung1
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    First the interesting goof:

    After the compassionate Rickaree Tribe Indian chieftain expresses a prayer over the mauled body of barely-breathing Zachary Bass, the indians remount their horses and gallop off, splashing through the shallow creek. In the background are several ducks, implausibly ignoring the horses splashing through the water. These are TAME, DOMESTICATED ducks. Wild ducks would have never hung around so close to humans. More, wild ducks would have flown off quacking and squawking at the first splash of the nearest horse. These have to be rented ducks from someone’s nearby farm


    The compassionate and intelligent Rickaree Tribe chieftain is a true leader of his tribe with excellent intuition and real in-born leadership ability. His tribe was lucky to have him as high chief. A tribe might have several lesser chiefs, but only one high chieftain leader.

    The character playing the Indian chieftain is the late, British actor, HENRY WILCOXON.

    1) Henry Wilcoxon (6’4" tall) played the role of a blonde, blue-eyed, Frisian (germanic) chieftain in the excellent medieval sword and romance drama, THE WAR LORD (1965). Excellent acting skill and equally excellent makeup turns Henry Wilcoxon into a totally believable Rickaree indian chieftain in, MAN IN THE WILDERNESS.

    2) Henry Wilcoxon must have been a bear of a man. He was already 60 years old in the 1965 movie, ‘The War Lord’, but still looked like a virile, if matured fighting germanic chieftain warrior. He’s 66 years old in, ‘Man In the Wilderness’ and by now does look more frail and elderly. Henry Wilcoxon passed away in Los Angeles in 1983.

  13. rissaofthesaiyajin
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    Interesting for any fans of Stephen Colbert – according to a 2006 interview (the Harvard one THIS movie is what inspired his fear of bears. He doesn’t mention it by name, but describes it pretty accurately and it came out at about the right time. He was born in 1964, so would have been 7 when Man in the Wilderness came out.

  14. boomerbengals
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    I saw "Man in the Wilderness" for the first time a few years ago I think on AMC. I’m 31 years old and thaught it was a very good film and story. I wanted to know if this is based off a book in High School I read called "Lord Grizzly" because the story seems very similiar. I can’t remember the author off the top of my head.

  15. Anonymous
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  16. Anonymous
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  17. Lone_Wolf_and_Cub
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    Richard Harris and John Huston? Say no more! Say no MORE!

    An excellent flick w/ the leads now "Beyond the Barrier of Sleep"…another missed opportunity. Still, we need the performance on a pristine transfer.


    Go Go Gojira!

  18. Anonymous
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