Saturday, July 18, 2015

Savage Season: I'll Have a Little Salt of Platinum to Spice Things Up

The handsome and affable Ron Harper was one of the busiest actors in 1960s television, starring in four television series. Yet, like many of his peers, his big screen career was sadly limited to a few films. He had a rare leading role in 1971's Savage Season (aka The Wild Season), playing a cynical south-of-the-border adventurer involved with shady folks, a pretty metallurgist, and stolen platinum.

The film gets off to a fine start when Steve Blane (Harper) finds the aforementioned metallurgist (Diane McBain) wearing nothing but sunglasses and a towel on his hotel room floor. Instead of taking advantage of the situation, the weary Blane quips: "If I cut myself shaving, I'd be too tired to bleed." After some lively banter between the two, it turns out that Steve is less tired than he thought--after all, that's a blonde-haired Diane McBain in that towel!

Diane McBain as a blonde.
She wants to recover a ton of stolen platinum from the nefarious criminal that murdered Steve's little brother. Steve agrees to help, of course, and goes to see big-time smuggler Jason Fatt ("That's Fatt with two T's," he tells Steve). Fatt (Victor Buono...channeling Sydney Greenstreet) tells Steve that his brother's killer is dead and buried.

With his dubious partner Tony, Steve keeps poking around and finds the stolen platinum--which has been dissolved into powder called "salt of platinum." The plan is to transport it and reconstitute it into valuable metal. (Yes, platinum can be dissolved with chemicals, but I have no idea whether it can be reconstituted into its original state--still, it's an interesting premise). There are the expected shootouts, double-crosses, and plot twists before the poorly-titled Savage Season reaches its conclusion. Heck, even Slim Pickens pops up unexpectedly in a cameo.

Ron Harper.
Ron Harper holds it all together with just the right amount of toughness, cynicism, and humor. Charles Bronson revived his career in the 1970s, playing similar roles in European films like Red Sun and You Can't Win 'Em All. Harper certainly had the potential to replicate that kind of success. Indeed, he had already proven as much on the small screen in the underrated 1967-68 TV series Garrison's Gorillas (which was inspired by The Dirty Dozen). He teams up nicely with Diane McBain,who brings a welcome light touch to the typical tough girl role.

It's pretty hard to see Savage Season these days. I think there's a DVD with Spanish dialogue, though it's hard to find. I was fortunate enough to see the original version (with the American actors speaking English!) in 16mm at the Western Film Fair and Nostalgia Convention. Ron Harper, who still looks good at 79, sat in the chair next to me.

2 comments:

  1. I have never seen this! It is a fascinating plot and I can imagine that Diane McBain was quite fun opposite Ron Harper.

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  2. Never heard of this one, Rick, but it sounds like just my cup o' joe. Nice review! I don't know if I agree that SAVAGE SEASON is a bad title always, though - it fits well for the first novel in Joe R. Lansdale's first Hap and Leonard series.

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