Savages begins with a Stone Age ritual interrupted by a croquet ball. James Ivory’s first film made in the US is his strangest, and least narrative. George W. S. Trow ( New Yorker) and Michael O”Donoghue (Saturday Night Live) co-wrote the screenplay, based on James Ivory’s idea.
From the Merchant Ivory website:
The genesis of Savages goes back to 1970. Ivory came across a Colonial Revival mansion in Scarborough, forty minutes north of New York City, that had intrigued him. Called Beechwood, it belonged to the Vanderlip family, Midwesterners who derived their wealth from railroads and flourished in the earlier part of the century. But by the time Ivory happened onto it, the elder Vanderlip had died, his children had married and moved away, and only a grandson and great grandson still lived, or camped, there.
“My accidental discovery of Beechwood,” he writes, “led me to the making of Savages, though at the time — November, 1970 — I couldn’t have described what sort of film I wanted to shoot in it. There was something a bit unearthly in the ambiance of Beechwood, something poetic, which made it unlike other houses of the kind I’d seen in America, and this strangeness made me think sometimes of a kind of Hudson River Last Year at Marienbad.”
An influence on the film was Buñvel’s Exterminating Angel, with its trapped party guests gradually reverting to barbarity.