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In the Land of the Head Hunters (1914)

Not Rated | | Drama, History | 7 December 1914 (USA)
In 1911, as part of his massive undertaking, famed Northwest photographer Edward S. Curtis travelled to Vancouver Island, British Columbia, to visit the Kwakwaka'wakw. By the next year, ... See full summary »


Edward S. Curtis


Edward S. Curtis (story)
1 win. See more awards »


Credited cast:
Stanley Hunt Stanley Hunt ... Motana
Sarah Constance Smith Hunt Sarah Constance Smith Hunt ... Naida / A Na'nalalal Dancer
Mrs. George Walkus Mrs. George Walkus ... Naida / Sorceress
Paddy 'Malid Paddy 'Malid ... Kenada
Balutsa Balutsa ... Waket / Yaklus
Kwagwanu Kwagwanu ... Sorcerer
Francine Hunt Francine Hunt ... Clam digger / Captive / Wedding Dancer
Bob Wilson Bob Wilson ... Fisherman who drops a paddle on the rocks
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Awidi Awidi ... Extra
Alfred Charlie Alfred Charlie ... Extra
Learn more

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In 1911, as part of his massive undertaking, famed Northwest photographer Edward S. Curtis travelled to Vancouver Island, British Columbia, to visit the Kwakwaka'wakw. By the next year, needing money for his project and to add to his research and still photography work, Curtis decided that the best way to record the traditional way of life and ceremonies of the Kwakwaka'wakw was to make one of the first feature motion pictures. Curtis had already shot footage in 1906 of the Hopi Snake dance, which he had previously showed during his talks, but this was to be on a grander scale. It took three years of preparation for this one film including the weaving of the costumes; building of the war canoes, housefronts, poles; and the carving of masks. Assisting on the film was George Hunt, a Kwakwaka'wakw who had served as an interpreter for the famous anthropologist Franz Boas nearly twenty years before. Hunt helped contribute substantial portions of the film's story as well. Selected for the ...

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

national film registry | See All (1) »


Drama | History


Not Rated

Did You Know?


Hiawatha (1913) also included a Native American cast a year before in 1913 and shared the same composer--John J. Braham. See more »


Referenced in Dead Man (1995) See more »

User Reviews

Impossible to score, really...
25 October 2010 | by MartinHaferSee all my reviews

I really would not venture to give this silent film a score--it is not a film in the traditional sense and probably has very little value to the average viewer. However, at the same time it IS of tremendous value to anthropologists, ethnographers and the like, as it records a way of life that has long disappeared--even if the manner in which it is presented is less than satisfying.

In 1914, Edward S. Curtis released a documentary film about the Kwakiutl Indians--a tribe living near Vancouver in the Pacific Northwest. However, this film was later cut apart and pieced together in the early 1970s and music, sound effects and native dialog were clumsily added. I was not able to see the original version and I doubt if it is available (another reviewer said this is a restoration work in progress).

Style wise, the film is very old fashioned. Like only the early films, intertitle cards described (at length) what was about to happen in the following scenes instead of telling as or after the events occurred. This made viewing a tad tedious. Also, the story about Indian wars and violence seemed artificial (as it was) and I have no idea if the Kwakiutl ever hunted heads or behaved the way they do in the film--as instead of a true documentary, the end product is a romanticized version of the tribe. This damages the value of the film for professors from the University of Chicago, University of Pennsylvania and the like--all schools that have large and well-respected Ethnographic/Anthropological Studies departments. But, at the same time, as it DOES show native dances, costumes, animal costumes and the like, it is like gold to these same people. To the average non-academic, however, the films are probably of little lasting interest--though I know that this would disappoint many.

To me, this was mildly interesting as I am a true cinemaniac and my daughter studies this sort of stuff in college and has infused some of her enthusiasm in me....a bit. But, I certainly would not like a steady diet of this sort of film. As for me, I prefer later and better presented films like "Nanook of the North".

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USA | Canada



Release Date:

7 December 1914 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

In the Land of the War Canoes See more »

Filming Locations:

British Columbia, Canada

Company Credits

Production Co:

Seattle Film Co. See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs



Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

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