The Savage Eye is a 1959 "dramatized documentary" film that superposes a dramatic narration of the life of a divorced woman with documentary camera footage of an unspecified 1950s city. In a 1960 review, A. H. Weiler characterized the film:
... it is from the photographic and sound-track concentration on the Hogarthian faces of Los Angeles that The Savage Eye derives most of its ferocity. The rabid wrestling-match audiences; the middle-aged and elderly ladies seeking improvement of gross bodies in beauty parlors; the sensuous writhings of Jean (Venus the Body) Hidey as she strips and teases in a burlesque joint, and, most effectively, the matter-of-fact faith healer who doles out wholesale blessings on the afflicted (done with a direct voice and sound track) are the most striking glints in The Savage Eye.
The film was written, produced, directed, and edited by Ben Maddow, Sidney Meyers, and Joseph Strick, who did the work over several years on their weekends. Benjamin Jackson has noted that Irving Lerner, Strick's collaborator on the earlier documentary Muscle Beach (1948), "was part of the original group, but left in the middle of production." The camera footage for the film was done over these years by the principal cinemaphotographers Haskell Wexler, Helen Levitt, and Jack Couffer; the sound editing for the film was one of Verna Fields' early credits. The film won the 1960 BAFTA Flaherty Documentary Award as well as several film festival prizes. Reviewing its debut at the 1959 Edinburgh Film Festival, the art critic David Sylvester called its imagery "sharp, intense, spectacular, and imaginative".
The Savage Eye is often considered to be part of the cinema vérité movement of the 1950s and 1960s; John Hagan has written further of the film's influence that: "One can see how, in its study of a woman whose marital problems have estranged her from the world, it anticipated, if not influenced, such films as The Misfits, Red Desert, and Juliet of the Spirits."
La caméra suit Judith dans les rues de Los Angeles. Récemment divorcée, elle tente de refaire sa vie. Au cours de ses pérégrinations, elle va faire d'étranges rencontres dans le milieu des fanatiques religieux, des laissés-pour-compte du monde urbain, de toutes sortes de gens qui, bien qu'à l'image de son propre échec personnel, lui donneront la volonté de refaire sa vie.