Man in the Wilderness

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Man in the Wilderness
Man in the wilderness.jpg
Promotional poster for the film
Directed by Richard C. Sarafian
Produced by Sandy Howard
Written by Jack DeWitt
Starring Richard Harris
John Huston
Prunella Ransome
Percy Herbert
Henry Wilcoxon
Norman Rossington
Dennis Waterman
Music by Johnny Harris
Cinematography Gerry Fisher
Edited by Geoffrey Foot
Release dates
  • 1971 (1971)
Running time 104 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Man in the Wilderness is a 1971 American action 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.

The expedition is notable in the movie for bringing a large boat with them, borne on wheels. Captain Henry's aim of using the boat to traverse the rivers (possibly the Missouri or the Platte) comes to naught in the final scene, when the expedition comes across the drained riverbed.


The fundamental theme of the story is the spiritual redemption of an emotionally damaged man, Zachary Bass. By using flashbacks to his childhood, the director provides to the viewer the basis for Bass's emotional damage brought about by abandonment by his father and abuse by his schoolmaster.

After being abandoned by his fellow trappers, his motive for survival is revealed to be driven by many things, including revenge against Captain Henry, and the desire to see his young son, whom he left to be raised by his mother-in-law after his wife's death in childbirth. As it turns out, one of his comrades left a pocket Bible with Bass. It is this Bible that transforms and redeems Bass so that when he finally confronts his fellow trappers and Captain Henry, it is no longer the same hardened man that they meet. Rather, Bass has become transformed into a rational and forgiving man with no anger left in his heart.

Production background[edit]

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. The film was shot in Andalusia, Spain, with the terrain looking more like the Adirondack wilderness and less like the Absaroka country of the Yellowstone River. Not technically a "Spaghetti Western", Man was filmed in the rugged highlands near the desert-like Spanish terrain seen in many of Sergio Leone's Italo westerns.

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