The Savages is an early example of the work of the acclaimed independent British filmmakers Ishmail Merchant and Jame Ivory and their Merchant Ivory Productions company. The film acts as a counterpoint to The Exterminating Angel by Luis Brunel that detailed the slide into barbarism by a group of upper class guests at a dinner party in a large country estate; in The Savages the reverse happens as a group of savage forest dwelling people quickly assume the roles of an upper class group of guests at a dinner party. Filmed on location in Tarrytown, New York The Savages was inspired by Director James Ivory's discovery of a deserted country estate in which only a few of the descendants of the original owners were camping outside the large house.
It opens with a documentary style black and white footage of a group of forest dwelling people who have yet to be touched by civilization. From nowhere a croquet ball rolls into their ritual sacrifice and prompts the group to follow the route of the ball to a recently deserted country estate. During the 106 minute film the group of savages slowly take on the stereotypical roles of servants and family members during a 24 hour period in the large country house. Reaching a peak with a dinner party sequence when the guests discuss culture and indulge in inane general chit chat the group slowly returns to its savage ways. This slide back to savagery ends in a brutal game of croquet that is followed by the group deciding to return to the forest and their earlier lives.
The Savages was intended to be a satire on the behavior and working of the upper classes of both North America and Europe. James Ivory attempts to explain how the upper class of society have yet to stray too far from their history as savages foraging in the forests of the world.