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Mexico/USA 1960
Directed by
Luis Buñuel
95 minutes
Rated MA


3.5 stars

The Young One

Coming at the end of Buñuel’s Mexican period and one of only two films that the director shot in English (the other being The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe in 1952) this engaging film is loosely based on a story by Peter Matthiessen and written by Hugo Butler under the pseudonym H.B.Addis. The film, set in South Carolina tells the story of Traver (Bernie Hamilton, brother to jazz drummer Chico) who is on the run after falsely being accused of rape by a white woman. He ends up on a game preserve island  run by warden Miller (Zachary Scott). Also on the island is Evalyn (Key Meersman) the tomboyish granddaughter of the elderly handyman, Pee Wee, who has just died. A good deal of the film is concerned with the battle of wills between the two men – one a sophisticated Northerner but a black man, the other a white Southern redneck  - and the latter’s burgeoning desire for his Lolita-like young charge. When local ferryman Jackson (Crahan Denton) turns up on the island with the Reverend Fleetwood (Claudio Brook, who went on to play in many Buñuel films ) and tells Miller the news about the runaway, the two go looking for Traver, who however finds a friend in Fleetwood who has learnt that Miller has slept with the girl.

The film is ahead of its time, addressing the kinds of issues that Hollywood did not confront until later in the decade with films like In The Heat Of The Night (1967). It is a multi-layered story with Buñuel and Butler, a blacklisted writer, astutely exploring the underbelly of moral certainty. Whilst perhaps to some extent hamstrung by a limited budget and the lack of acting skills of Meersman, who only made one more film (L'Isola Di Arturo, 1962), the simplicity of the film is effective but never simplistic. An overlooked film film from one of cinema’s great directors. BH

DVD Extras: Insert Essay by Jonathan Rosenbaum, film critic for The Chicago Reader.

Available from: Madman

 

 

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