Joey, a young boy, runs away to Coney Island after he is tricked into believing he has killed his older brother. Joey collects glass bottles and turns them into money, which he used to ride the rides. Written by
Generally credited as one of the pioneers of independent cinema (as far as making your own film your own way and still getting seen in theaters), Morris Engel used his background as a New York City photographer to bring a fresh, down-to-earth feeling to filmmaking. Engel and his wife, photojournalist Ruth Orkin, wrote, directed, produced and edited their own low-budget films, shot by Engel using a hand-held 35mm camera of his own design.
The first of their three films, LITTLE FUGITIVE, is a beautiful, innocent film about a seven-year-old boy who is tricked by his older brother and runs away to Coney Island with six dollars. As the boy interacts with his new world on the boardwalk, Engel really transports the viewer there. The film feels like a documentary: sparse dialogue, realistic acting, hand-held cinematography and real locations. The FUGITIVE actors and atmosphere never come off fake: as the boy is hitting baseball in a batting cage, one hit ball flies towards the camera and you find yourself jumping out of the way!
The actor doesn't stop with this film "mistake", he's having fun and keeps going. All the childhood loves are there: bottles in the sand, hot dogs and cotton candy, ponies and parachute rides. With their films, Engel and Orkin created folklore, paving the way for directors like Truffaut, Godard, Cassavetes and Leigh.
FUGITIVE was successful for a non-studio film in the '50s, playing to over 5,000 theaters.
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