Joseph L. Ponessa | Glendive MT USA | 12/04/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Photographer Edward Sheriff Curtis spent three summer seasons (1912-14) on Vancouver Island filming the Kwakiutl, whose tales had just been published by ethnographer Franz Boas. On December 7th of 1914, the Continental Film Company released the six-reeler IN THE LAND OF THE HEAD HUNTERS in a joint premiere at 1650-seat Moore Theater in Seattle and 1455-seat Casino Theater in New York. The World Film Company distributed only 26 prints of the film. In 1947 collector Hugo Zeiter of Danville IL donated the only known copy, a 35mm nitrate film in poor condition to the Field Museum in Chicago, where the film caught fire during projection. Opening footage introducing the characters was lost; the original was transferred to 16mm safety stock and destroyed. In 1965 George Quimby took copies of the film to The Thomas Burke Memorial Washington State Museum in Seattle, with permission to restore it. Kwakiutl expert Bill Holm showed the film fifteen times to native audiences, inviting recollections and in 1972 David Gerth recorded dialogue with eleven natives (three of whom appeared in the film as children) at Newcombe Auditorium of the British Columbia Provincial Museum in Vancouver. The opening footage was reconstructed from the director's own book of still photos, and the film was renamed IN THE LAND OF THE WAR CANOES. The resulting DVD is a wonderful combination of accidental survival and intelligent restoration. I would like to see a new release with a bonus section from Curtis' vast photographic record of native life, much of which is in print form presently."
Glimps into the stone age
Ulf Myrvold | Norway | 03/07/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This documentary consists of some unique footage of a lifestyle that probably has existed on the earth for hundreds of thousands of years, but now is gone, except from very few groups of people in tropical rainforests. It is important to remember that the people in the film are acting, the "story" is dramatized by Curtis, the editor. Still it indicates a lifestyle of intens and spontanous action, and at times quite violent. It leaves you with a lot of thoughts, and questions, both about the past and our modern lifestyle. Obviously to spend most of our lifetime in front of a computer is not the only way of living for a human being..."
Where the Wild Things Are
ginsu | tv land | 10/27/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"THis film would be your typical love triangle between an sorcerer and a walrus hunter. But the costumes and grizzly bear dancing are EPIC.
wish more of this film survived. The original title of this film was "LAND OF THE HEADHUNTERS" which fits better. this flick is bloody. lots of decapitations."
Better than Nanook in every way
jefferson metcalf | cleveland | 10/11/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you like Nanook of the North, I recommend In the Land of the War Canoes. Unfortunately this is all that survives of the only motion picture made by the "super-photographer of the American Indian", Edward S. Curtis, "In the Land of the Headhunters". This film predates Nanook of the North, and it is known that Robert Flaherty visited Curtis to view this film, before he made Nanook. The film has been retitled for two reasons. A)the previous title is considered sensational and outdated (the kwakiutl had not practiced head hunting for many generations) and B)the film has been significantly altered, (in order for it to be presentable, after much of it was destroyed in a fire). The newer film is an erudite reconstruction that involved visiting the original tribe. There are no known complete prints surviving, so this is what we will have to settle for.
In the interest of being concise I'll skip to some great references made to reviewers of the oringal film, in the text of this book of photographs:
Edward S. Curtis in the Land of the War Canoes: A Pioneer Cinematographer in Pacific NW
W. Stephen Bush 1914 review: ..."It is said that Mr. Curtis is a profound student of Indian Lore. This is evident enouph from the photographs, but it does not at all explain his success with this subject on the screen. The cause of that must me sought in an extraordinary perception of artistic and dramatic values, in an uncommon skill of selection and in a sort of second sight with the camera."..."Mr. Curtis conceived this wonderful story as an epic. It fully deserves the name. Indeed, it seemed to me that there was a most striking resemblance all through the film between the musical epics of Richard Wagner and the theme and treatment of this Indian epic..."
and Vachel Lindsay in 1915: "This work of a lifetime, a supreme art achievment, shows the native as a figure in bronze. Mr Curtis' photoplay The Land of the Headhunters..., a romance of the Indians of the North-West, abounds in whole bronzes."
What is so fascinating about this film, aside from the subject matter, is how cinematic it is, and considering this in respect to this being the only film made by this photographer. He seems to have an absolutely inspired intuition for drama and the play between realism and form. It is unfortunate we will never see it as the author intended, but the process of viewing a "film artifact" is also very exciting. I know no better example of one.
If you have a strange fascination with men in animal costumes, as I do, then this is THE film for you. Their moves are INSANE. This film is equally recommended for cinephiles and Native American enthusiasts."