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Mexican Bus Ride (1952)

Subida al cielo (original title)
A young man and woman's honeymoon is cut short when the man learns that his mother has fallen ill back at home. The newlywed couple rush there to discover the other sons neglecting their ... See full summary »



(story and adaptation), (adaptation) | 3 more credits »
6 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Esteban Márquez ...
Oliverio Grajales
Luis Aceves Castañeda ...
Manuel Dondé ...
Eladio González
Juan Grajales
Beatriz Ramos ...
Manuel Noriega ...
Licenciado Figueroa (as Manolo Noriega)
Roberto Meyer ...
Don Nemesio Álvarez y Villalbazo
Pedro Elviro ...
El cojo (as Pitouto)
Pedro Ibarra ...
Felipe Grajales
Leonor Gómez ...
Doña Linda
Chel López ...
Compadre Chema
Paz Villegas ...
Doña Ester - Mamá de Oliverio (as Paz Villegas de Orellana)
Silvia Castro
Paula Rendón


A young man and woman's honeymoon is cut short when the man learns that his mother has fallen ill back at home. The newlywed couple rush there to discover the other sons neglecting their mom in order to plot their squandering of the inheritance. The newlywed son takes quite an adventurous bus-ride to a distant city to get his mother's will notarized to the contrary, and is faced with multiple temptations along the way. Written by Mark Toscano <fiddybop@uclink4.berkeley.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis







Release Date:

26 June 1952 (Mexico)  »

Also Known As:

Mexican Bus Ride  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


In his autobiography, _My Last Sigh_, Luis Buñuel said the screenplay was based on adventures that actually happened to his friend and producer of the film, Spanish poet Manuel Altolaguirre, while on a bus trip. See more »


Featured in Anoche soñé contigo (1992) See more »


La Sanmarqueña
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User Reviews

ASCENT TO HEAVEN (Luis Bunuel, 1952) ***
17 October 2010 | by (Naxxar, Malta) – See all my reviews

This is a slight but highly enjoyable Bunuel film that makes for a fine companion piece to the later ILLUSION TRAVELS BY STREETCAR (1954) – with which it shares its leading lady (Lilia Prado) and its folksy 'road movie' theme While the IMDb gives its running time as being 85 minutes, the copy I acquired runs for just 74 (as does the R2 Yume DVD and the NFT print I caught back in January 2007); even so, the film somehow manages to lose steam in its latter stages and proceeds to end rather lamely!

Having said that, there is still much to savor here: Prado burns up the screen as a bombshell nymph who, sporting the skimpiest of outfits, teases the life out of the just-married protagonist (Esteban Marquez) and is herself pursued by a deluded politician (Manuel Donde'). Another performer that stands out is Luis Aceves Castaneda (who would go on to play Ricardo two years later in Bunuel's powerful version of WUTHERING HEIGHTS) as the laid-back bus conductor; in fact, both he and Donde' were singled out for recognition at that year's Ariel awards (as were the film itself, its original story and Bunuel for his direction)! Incredibly enough, such a seemingly simple storyline necessitated the collaboration of five writers(!) including poet Manuel Altolaguirre, an old acquaintance of Bunuel's from his student days, and on whose real-life experiences the film was based. Amusingly enough, the editor on this one, Rafael Portillo, would go on to direct all three "Aztec Mummy" movies!

ASCENT TO HEAVEN (equally well-known under the more prosaic title Mexican BUS RIDE) also competed at that year's Cannes Film Festival (where it surprisingly won the "Avant-Garde" award!) against such worthier contenders as Orson Welles' OTHELLO (the eventual co-winner, with Renato Castellani's TWO PENNYWORTH OF HOPE, of the Grand Prize), Vincente Minnelli's AN American IN Paris (1951), William Wyler's DETECTIVE STORY (1951), Christian-Jaque's FANFAN LA TULIPE, Vittorio De Sica's UMBERTO D, Elia Kazan's VIVA ZAPATA! and three more movies which still lie in my dreaded unwatched pile: Andre' Cayatte's WE ARE ALL MURDERERS, Alberto Lattuada's THE OVERCOAT and Gian Carlo Menotti's THE MEDIUM (1951)!

Eventful bus rides have long been a tradition in Cinema and the vintage British examples Friday THE THIRTEENTH (1933) and THE RUNAWAY BUS (1954) are two more I own but, alas, have yet to check out. In his treatment of this theme, Bunuel includes some pertinent parallel occurrences: a boy's childbirth and a little girl's funeral; a mother's birthday celebration (complete with musical interlude) and another one's lonely death; the missed meeting between Marquez and his mother is made up for in the way he, ironically, adopts treachery – by imprinting his mother's fingerprints on the unsigned legal document after her demise – to ensure that her deathbed wishes are observed!

Indeed, the protagonist's constantly thwarted attempts of reaching a notary in time for his moribund mother to put her will on paper – interrupting his own wedding so that he and his nephew will not be cheated out of their rightful inheritance by his two greedy brothers – looks forward not only to ILLUSION TRAVELS BY STREETCAR itself but also to Bunuel's much later Oscar-winning masterpiece THE DISCREET CHARM OF THE BOURGEOISIE (1972). Similarly, Prado's initially unsuccessful attempts to seduce Marquez recall Fernando Rey's unenviable situation in THAT OBSCURE OBJECT OF DESIRE (1977). Besides, the influx of American tourists into this Mexican everyday scenario predates similar occurrences in both ILLUSION and THE CRIMINAL LIFE OF ARCHIBALDO DE LA CRUZ (1955). Bunuel's indictment of progress is also amusingly brought out here in a sequence where the bus, stuck in the mud-banks of a stream, is eventually pulled out of its predicament by two oxen guided by a little girl (rather than a nearby tractor which is equally ineffective in these aquatic surroundings – despite having its driver held at gunpoint by the irritable politician)!

The deceptively spiritual title – not only is the island setting of San Jeronimito without a church (so that marrying couples need to sail to a neighboring island to consecrate their union) but it specifically refers to a particularly dangerous local mountain pass – could also be referring to the impending death of Marquez's mother; the fate that, according to a drunken Castaneda, awaits his saintly mother for bearing such a godless son; or even a metaphorical allusion to Marquez's ecstasy at the consummation of his lust for Prado (while stranded between two ledges on that very titular spot, no less)! His long-repressed desires had already been externalized in an extraordinary dream sequence where he imagines the bus as, first a field (where his dalliance is disturbed by a horde of stray sheep!) and then a stream (where his wife turns into his lover) and, finally, his mother is propped atop a pillar – 13 years before Bunuel's own SIMON OF THE DESERT! – peeling an apple (like the one that he and Prado had shared moments before) whose skin forms itself into a veritable umbilical cord all the way into her son's mouth! And what should Prado ask him when he wakes up from this reverie if not "Where you thinking of me?" – anticipating the famous opening dream sequence and its aftermath of Bunuel's biggest box office hit BELLE DE JOUR (1967)! Incidentally, another subtly surreal touch is having the bus and another vehicle face each other on a narrow mountain pass where neither of them can possibly reverse to let the other one through...and yet, inexplicably and off-screen, the situation has been resolved by the next shot!

As can be seen from the above, ASCENT TO HEAVEN is no mere populist picaresque comedy; however, I would still single it out as perhaps the ideal 'minor' Bunuel Mexican film to start out with for newcomers and it is unsurprising that the Spanish director himself is said to have been very fond of it.

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