In the Land of the Head Hunters


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In the Land of the Head-Hunters was produced and directed by Edward Curtis, hailed by film historian Kevin Brownlow as "the most gifted photographer of Indians." In 1914, Curtis took his cameras to the North Pacific, where he filmed the classic four-reel documentary In the Land of the Headhunters. To add some "pep" to his narrative, the director fabricated a continuity concerning the efforts of Motana, son of headhunter chieftain Kenada, to prove his worthiness to the tribe. Some of the plot sequences were filmed in the suburbs of Los Angeles, with teepees and totem poles obscuring the more modern aspects of the landscape. These scenes were seamlessly blended in with the "actuality" shots of the tribesmen at work and play. Particularly impressive was a panoramic shot of the headhunters embarking on a brief river voyage in their ancient but sturdy sailing vessels. Long believed lost, In the Land of the Head-Hunters was rediscovered in the form of a single nitrate print in 1947; this print was donated to the Chicago Field Museum, where it was preserved on 16 mm safety stock and made available for public showings with a newly recorded soundtrack. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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  • Dolby Digital Stereo
  • English
Video Features
  • In the land of the head hunters (restoration of the 1914 version with original musical score, 66 mins, tinted)
  • In the land of the war canoes (1973 version by Bill Holm & George Quimby, 44 mins, B&W)
  • The image maker and the indians. making-of documentary by Holm and Quimby (1979. color, 16 mins)
  • Turning point ensemble and the score (2013. color, 3 mins)
  • Documents of encounter: the head hunters reconstruction project. (2014. color, 38 mins)
  • Commentary track featuring Bill Holm, Andy Everson, and Aaron Glass, edited by Keith Sanborn
  • Stills gallery, courtesy of the University of Washington Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture and Mick Gidley
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