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Man in the Wilderness

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Man in the Wilderness
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRichard C. Sarafian
Written byJack DeWitt
Produced bySandy Howard
StarringRichard Harris
John Huston
Prunella Ransome
Percy Herbert
Henry Wilcoxon
Norman Rossington
Dennis Waterman
CinematographyGerry Fisher
Edited byGeoffrey Foot
Music byJohnny Harris
Wilderness Films
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • November 24, 1971 (1971-11-24)
Running time
104 minutes
CountryUnited States
BudgetLess than $2 million[1]

Man in the Wilderness is a 1971 American revisionist Western film about a scout for a group of mountain men who are traversing the Northwestern United States during the 1820s. The scout is mauled by a bear and left to die by his companions. He survives and recuperates sufficiently to track his former comrades, forcing a confrontation over his abandonment. The story is loosely based on the life of Hugh Glass. It stars Richard Harris as Zachary Bass and John Huston as Captain Henry.[2]

The expedition in the movie is notable for bringing a large boat with it, borne on wheels.


A classic survival story, told partly through flashbacks to Zachary Bass's past. After being left for dead by his fellow trappers, he undergoes a series of trials and adventures as he slowly heals and equips himself while he tracks the expedition, apparently intent on retribution for his abandonment, while earning the respect of the American Indians he encounters. However, when he finally confronts his fellow trappers and Captain Henry, he chooses not to seek revenge, but instead to focus on returning to his infant son.



Man in the Wilderness is based loosely on the 1818–20 Missouri Expedition and "Capt. Henry" is likely a fictionalized Major Andrew Henry of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company. It was based on an original script by Jack De Witt, and bought by producer Sandy Howard. In December 1970 Howard announced that the film would star Richard Harris, who had made A Man Called Horse for Howard.[3] Elliot Silverstein directed Horse but clashed with Harris so Richard Sarafian was bought in to direct this film. Howard said he was "convinced" that Sarafian "is going to be one of the most important directors in America very soon."[1]

Filming took three months from April to June 1971. The film was shot near Covaleda, Province of Soria, Spain, with the terrain looking more like the Adirondack wilderness and less like the Absaroka Range country of the Yellowstone River.[citation needed] Not technically a "Spaghetti Western",[further explanation needed]

Man was filmed in the rugged highlands where David Lean had shot some of the scenes for Doctor Zhivago in 1964.[4]

John Huston joined the production a few days after quitting as director of the film The Last Run due to on-set fights with George C. Scott.[1]

The bear who attacks Harris' character was called Peg. The attack sequence was filmed using a dummy.[1]

"This movie is Genesis to me," said Harris. "It's my apocalypse. It's a very special and very personal statement about a man struggling for personal identity, looking for God and discovering Him in the wilderness, in leaves and trees. It's all the things that the young people, and we, are missing today."[5]

Harris only had nine lines of dialogue.[6]


Though survival and revenge are the main themes, Christianity and religion play a significant role in the evolution of the main character, who is shown through flashbacks to be at odds with religion and God in general due to his lonely and abusive childhood involving indoctrination into Christianity.


The film was theatrically released in the United States on November 24, 1971, including New York City, New York, and Los Angeles, California.

The film was the first feature to be shown in years at the newly refurbished Princess Theatre (renamed the Klondike Theatre, at the time) in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, on December 25, 1971.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d 'Wilderness' Captures Ecology Mood Johnson, Patricia. Los Angeles Times May 16, 1971: r16.
  2. ^ Howard Thompson (November 25, 1971). "Movie Review: Man in the Wilderness (1971)". Film: The Pioneer Spirit:' Man in the Wilderness' Is at Loew's State 1. The New York Times. Retrieved January 12, 2016.
  3. ^ MOVIE CALL SHEET: Palomar Sets Two Films Martin, Betty. Los Angeles Times December 25, 1970: e28.
  4. ^ Anthony Quinn to Star, Coproduce 'Huelga!' Martin, Betty. Los Angeles Times (Mar 2, 1971: f9.
  5. ^ Richard Harris London's No. 1 Bobby Outfoxer Los Angeles Times November 28, 1971: w21
  6. ^ Returns of a Man Called Howard Los Angeles Times January 18, 1976: m1.
  7. ^ "MAN IN THE WILDERNESS (1971)". Motion State Review. motionstatereview.com. March 7, 2015. Retrieved January 19, 2016.

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