Richard C. Sarafian’s film, Man In The Wilderness is a moving survival movie that was released in 1971. Starring Richard Harris, this 104-minute-long film is a part of the revisionist Western movies from that time.
The storyline of Man In The Wilderness centers on Zachary Bass, a scout & man of few words who is a part of the mountain men group heading to the Missouri River in 1820. After a fatal bear attack, Bass is left to die in the wild without any resources.
Despite his major wounds, Zachary Bass manages to survive in the wild, and this not only helps him realize his true strength but also restores his faith in his religion. Among the thorny bushes and unforgiving winds, Bass finds the true meaning of faith and God.
Aside from Richard Harris in the role of Zachary, the cast of Man In The Wilderness consists of John Huston as Captain Henry, Henry Wilcoxon plays Indian Chief, Percy Herbert plays Fogarty, and Dennis Waterman stars in the role of Lowrie.
Man In The Wilderness: What Happens In The Film?
Zachary Bass is a scout who’s extremely skilled in hunting and was able to develop these skills after training by himself all these years. He goes hunting with Lowrie but is suddenly attacked by a giant bear. The bear attack leaves Zach with broken ribs, legs, and countless abrasions.
The captain of this 1820 Expedition, Captain Henry, is called to see Bass’s condition. The expedition Bass was a part of involved the group traveling with a boat to the Missouri River from the Northern Territories. These mountain men hoped to sell their cargo once they arrived at the location.
Seeing Bass all bloodied, Henry decides to leave him to die, as death seems inevitable. He asks Lowrie and Fogarty to stay back to bury him when he dies. When asked what will happen if Bass stays alive, Henry tells them to kill and bury him regardless.
Zachary manages to stay alive through the night, so Lowrie and Fogarty leave him alone. Zach is approached by Indians, who say some prayers for him. Bass’s injuries are way too severe to heal quickly, but when he is attacked by wolves, he manages to scare them off and moves towards river water.
From here on, Zach continues to improve his health by eating whatever’s near and drinking the river water. Many days pass, and his health seems to be improving, albeit slowly. Throughout this time, we see Bass recalling his past, where he struggled with religion as it was forced upon him.
He was beaten up by his teacher and became an orphan at a young age. After he witnesses an Indian woman give birth to a child, Zach recalls his own family that he had left behind. Bass had left his pregnant wife alone due to work, and when he returned, his son had already been born.
As he lies in dry leaves and harsh sunlight, Zach realizes what truly matters in his life. Meanwhile, Captain Henry and the others continue their expedition as they don’t want to waste two years of hard work. Henry is constantly anxious that Bass could show up with a revengeful heart at any moment.
Man In The Wilderness: Ending Explained
When Henry and his crew finally arrive at the location, they see that the Missouri River has already dried up. They are soon attacked by Indians, so Henry calls everyone to assume their battle positions.
Zachary shows up right in between the battle and is cornered by Indians. The leader of the group realized who Zach was since he had previously prayed for him. He leaves Zach to deal with his group alone.
Henry, Fogarty, and the others are astonished to see Zach alive. They nervously back off as Zachary approaches them. The ending of Man In The Wilderness shows that instead of using his gun or spear on them, Bass informs Captain Henry that he now wants to leave the group and go back to his son. The captain silently nods and lets him go.
Man In The Wilderness may have a simple title, but the feelings it creates in the audience are something far more complex. Bass’s group mates could have stayed with him and helped him heal, but they chose not to do the right thing, and he had to desperately struggle to stay alive.
However, when he was finally awake and powerful, Zachary chose not to be vengeful. Life was always better with forgiveness, and being in the wild for so long made him strong enough to finally realize that. All Bass wanted now was to be grateful and go back to his lonely son, as that was what mattered to him the most.
Life has its many unique ways of teaching us things, and this Richard Harris film is a great example of that. At present, Man In The Wilderness is available to stream on Prime Video.