In turn-of-the-century Florida, an idealistic new Audubon warden (Christopher Plummer) tries to arrest a legendary bird poacher known as “Cottonmouth” (Burl Ives), who lives deep in the Everglades with his band of unruly henchmen.
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Two communities evasively illustrated. For a brief time, Ray constructs each as an opposition to the other, but that clearly becomes less & less of a real concern as the film progresses. What it becomes is a kind of testament to the mysteries & dissonances of man's freedom. Plummer & Ives give two of the most bizarre, fatalistic performances in cinema. Unwieldy, beguiling, WATE felt at times to be wholly beyond me.
At last, I can throw away my bootleg with washed-out colors because you can find now a zone 2 DVD in France I urge you to buy! As though I like a lot the first part of Nicholas Ray's career, I must admit that the trilogy PARTY GIRL - WIND ACROSS THE EVERGLADES - THE SAVAGE INNOCENTS will always have my preference because, in the description of the heroes of these films, Nicholas Ray put a lot of himself. Masterpiece.
Playing like a demented cross between Fellini & Lil' Abner, Bud Schulberg's & Nicholas Ray's film features Christopher Plummer in one of his first roles. He plays an ornithologist working in the Everglades and attempting to stop swamp gangster Burl Ives & his goons from pouching the bird population. The actors are all perfect (among Ives's posse is a young Peter Falk and a make-up-less Emmett Kelley).
It's a choppy film but Ray's touches are undeniable. His handling of locations, where the Everglades are portrayed like another planet. His sympathy for outsiders where Burl Ives gang initially seems sub human but become in fact increasingly human climaxing in an unconventional standoff with Plummer, who's also an outsider. The feeling of folklore the film has is also testament to Ray's storytelling. Must see.
Film écologique avant l'heure, qui manie avec dextérité les séquences quasi-documentaires (fort remarquables) et les scènes de fiction, d'action (prenantes et mouvementées). Un film de Nicolas Ray d'un excellent cru, d'une actualité brûlante et cruellement bien réelle... www.cinefiches.com