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The Great Madcap More at IMDbPro »El gran calavera (original title)

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8 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Bunuel meets Capra, including a woman with a moustache!

Author: jaibo from England
18 November 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

More reminiscent of the Hollywood comedies of Frank Capra or the plays of Kaufman and Hart than Bunuel, this is a pleasant enough film about an affably drunken business tycoon (shades of Brecht's Puntila) whose family conspire to trick him into believing he's gone broke when his health (and potentially his wealth) begin to fail. He discovers their ruse and turns the tables.

There's very little surrealism on display here, although the scene where the old man wakes to discover himself in a nightmare of poverty row surroundings has a touch of the Master's usual dreaminess; and, for the most part, the social critique is soft-hearted, although a poor man who loves the tycoon's daughter is allowed a speech railing against the rich who think that poverty is a "learning experience".

The best section of the film is probably the opening 20 minutes, as the lazy parasites of in the wealthy family are exposed one by one, almost as condemnatory a picture of upper class fecklessness as The Exterminating Angel. There's some nice Groucho-like comedy between the tycoon and the moustachioed bourgeois mother of a slimy fortune hunter, and the whole thing moves along at a sprightly pace.

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13 out of 20 people found the following review useful:

Mexican period Bu-uel engages viewer gently sans surrealism

Author: mosoul from San Francisco
18 January 2004

This Mexican film from Bu-uel's low profile commercial period is a comedy of manners, Those expecting the more caustic or iconoclastic subtexts of his famous films may be disappointed. I found it well made and quite enjoyable. Part of its value is in its conventionality. Seeing that he was capable of creating well crafted "popular" entertainments is a plus in his favor. Perhaps he was only working to pay the bills, but I think he may have actually enjoyed making this film.

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Great comedy!

Author: Pablo from Houston, USA
23 September 2011

Don Luis Buñuel made some movies because he needed the cash. Maybe this is one of them, because if he didn't like the result, he ignored them and pretended he didn't make them. The movie is very good though, and has several underlines. I like them all. Starting with Don Ramiro, hard worker and bon vivant who hates his relatives, because they live off him without working. He tries to reason with them, but the relatives, realizing they're about to kill the hen with the golden eggs, plot against him, making him believe he is bankrupt. Don Ramiro won't take this easily and tries to commit suicide (better dead than poor) but is rescued by an angel, Pablo, his neighbor, who not knowing what the family has planned, tells Don Ramiro what he knows, and Don Ramiro, now very upset and at the edge of the roof, literally, makes another plot to make his relatives reason, even if he has to kill them while trying! So they say I am bankrupt? I will make them work and pay for everything they eat! Pablo helps bringing food and getting little tasks for them to do, and Don Ramiro pretends he is also working, but he is actually enjoying seeing them work while he enjoys life to the fullest. Of course all this will make Pablo fall for Don Ramiro's daughter (Granados) who is also falling for him. This is one rare occasion to see together the Rojo brothers, Gustavo and Raúl. Andrés Soler also stars along with Maruja Grifell (Doña Prudencia's daughter), and even Luis Alcoriza shows up with a mother that looks more like a father to me!

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

In order to get a man to stop getting drunk every night, his family convinces him that he has been in a coma for a year... but he turns the tables.

Author: michael_chaplan from Japan
24 February 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A completely original film. A man's family tries to stop him from drinking himself to death by pretending that his drinking has driven them to the poorhouse, and that he has been in a coma for a year. When he finds out the ruse, he turns the tables on them. He convinces them that he really is bankrupt, and that they will have to continue with their odd jobs in order to make ends meet. His daughter, the only member of his family who is not a layabout, discovers that a poor but hardworking boy who lives near the hovel the family lives in now is far more worthy of her than the rich fiancée/gold digger she had abandoned. The closest this sort of storyline has come to being made into a movie is "Trading Places," but this story is a lot more original... and more interesting. While it certainly isn't typical Bunuel, any director would be proud to have made it. Surprisingly, all of the loose threads are tied up tight.

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

there is plenty to enjoy here

Author: christopher-underwood from United Kingdom
19 August 2008

Enjoyable knockabout movie that is ultimately more complex than the simple plot outline would suggest. There is not much of the Bunuel we have come to expect but then this is his first effort for almost twenty years and he must have been keen to get back into cinema. Clearly a pragmatic man he must have been aware he could soon enough get back to making what he wanted, once he had satisfied the money men he was bankable. Nevertheless there is plenty to enjoy here as much fun is had with the notion of being rich and lazy making you ill and poor and hardworking the opposite. Then there is the love interest and whether you can marry above/beneath yourself. There is a marvellous line towards the end when the said young lady is justifying going with the rich scoundrel instead of the poor, honest boy. She tells of how one may love her for her money but then the other hates her for it. As would be the case in subsequent Mexican efforts Bunuel paints an affectionate picture of the locals and is clearly happy in his surroundings.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

THE GREAT MADCAP (Luis Bunuel, 1949) **1/2

Author: MARIO GAUCI ( from Naxxar, Malta
19 October 2010

The first film I caught (on the very same night of my arrival in London) from the Luis Bunuel retrospective – held in January 2007 at the National Film Theatre – was this modest but pleasant character comedy, his second film in Mexico and his (official) fifth overall. The humorous opening shot – of a burly man looking for his itching foot among a pile of limbs belonging to a bunch of closely confined sleeping jailbirds – is a memorable one and immediately plunges you into the hedonistic life of the protagonist. Fernando Soler – later also the star of Bunuel's SUSANA and DAIGHTER OF DECEIT (both 1951) – is a wealthy patriarch in constant alcoholic reverie: a state which his loafing, leeching relatives (daughter, son, an older brother and his wife) have no qualms with since it allows them to effortlessly cajole him on a daily basis into financing their every whim. However, the man's younger psychiatrist brother and his attorney decide to drastically put a stop to this shameful lifestyle that is speedily sending the man's business affairs careening towards bankruptcy. To this end, they devise a shrewd charade which, however, works only too well for all concerned…

As a matter of fact, while the original intention was to scare Soler into sobriety by making him believe that his relatives had been driven into abject poverty by his reckless ways (a realization which almost costs the man his life!), subsequently he decides to keep up (or rather down) the appearances so that he teaches them all a lesson in recognizing the worth of having a useful occupation in life. Therefore, the son (reduced to polishing shoes) is gleefully announcing his intention to enroll at the University by the end of the film; the cantankerous older brother – after much grumbling and role-playing – not only takes a real liking to his new job as a carpenter but even goes so far as to ask that his brother finance a furniture factory for him; and his hypochondriac, pill-popping wife becomes a proper cook…besides washing tonnes of dirty laundry! On the other hand, the lovely daughter (played by a blonde Rosario Granados, later of 1952's A WOMAN WITHOUT LOVE), who was always the most decent of the lot to begin with, falls for her handsome 'traveling salesman' of a new neighbor (Ruben Rojo, who was also in DAUGHTER OF DECEIT). But even this one bright spot in their miserable lives is fraught with bumpy rides as her former intended (played by Bunuel's frequent screen writing collaborator on his Mexican films, Luis Alcoriza), seemingly distraught by their unfortunate predicament, comes to reclaim her. But saner minds prevail at the climactic wedding which is, first disturbed by the still hopeful salesman plying his trade on the loudspeaker of his van parked right outside the church and, finally, by the father's outburst inside at the mother-in-law's whiskers (an amusing running gag)!!

While the director's previous movie, GRAN CASINO (1947), was a largely impersonal (and highly atypical) work within the Musical genre, Bunuel still inserted some unheralded and jarringly surreal elements into the mix which did not go do well with audiences and prompted another two year hiatus for him (who was already coming from fifteen years of fruitless exile)! Consequently, in the film under review, he readily submitted to the conventions of Mexican comedy and to the specific expectations of Soler's considerable fan base. Even so, it still emerges as a recognizably Bunuelian effort: the finale, in particular, with the aforementioned church disturbances, the fleeing bride – chronologically, the film falls approximately in between the Oscar-winning Hollywood classics IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT (1934) and THE GRADUATE (1967) – and, in its very last shot of Soler's family walking triumphantly hand-in-hand with their back to the camera, it clear prefigures the virtually identical one that closes Bunuel's own Oscar-winning chef d'oeuvre THE DISCREET CHARM OF THE BOURGEOISIE (1972). Having said that. Bunuel's recurring stylistic staples of foot fetishism and dream states had already been touched upon much earlier: respectively, in the very opening shot and Soler's incredulous awakening into his new impoverished existence; indeed, the latter might well be the most sympathetic bourgeois character the director ever depicted. Ultimately, it seems that we owe Bunuel's increasingly burgeoning career and the future cinematic milestones it spawned to the box office success of THE GREAT MADCAP – which might explain the film's availability on DVD in the U.K.

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5 out of 27 people found the following review useful:

Buñuel masterpiece

Author: taybey666 from Turkey
28 January 2008

this is not an classical Buñuel film he does not use any metaphor. film belong to comedy genre but i thought that it was not funny and it was not a good movie if the director is not Buñuel this film get a point like 3 or 2.sparazitoiler*the story was very basic its about a rich man without desire of living and people surrounding himself that are parasite. one day brother of that man decide to do show how real life is going on and the games begin.* as i said before very basic story and you can add to rich poor love in it. we can think that is 195O but there are a lot of good movies in that time. in conclusion this film is not good.

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