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

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 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 issue-focussed film is loosely based on a story by Peter Matthiessen and scripted by Hugo Butler under the pseudonym H.B.Addis.

Set in South Carolina it tells the story of Traver (Bernie Hamilton, brother to jazz drummer Chico Hamilton, something which no doubt explains his “cool” talk and clarinet playing) 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 an educated Northerner but a black man, the other a white Southern redneck  - as the former challenges the latter’s unthinking prejudices with some success, a scenario with recalls Stanley Kramer’s The Defiant Ones (1958). Cutting across this predominating theme is the matter of Miller’s burgeoning desire for his Lolita-like young charge (Gabriel Figuero’s camera lingers on her lithe form and angelic face). When local ferryman Jackson (Crahan Denton), a hard core bigot 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 hunting for Traver, who however finds a friend in Fleetwood who has learnt that Miller has slept with the girl, an act which even by  his own  estimation places him in a morally-compromised position

The film is a multi-layered story with Buñuel and Butler, a blacklisted writer, astutely exploring the underbelly of moral certainty. Whilst 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 direct simplicity of the film is effective with Scott and Hamilton working well together. The Young One is an overlooked film from one of cinema’s great directors.




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