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Wuthering Heights (1953)
"Abismos de pasión" (original title)

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Ratings: 7.0/10 from 750 users  
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A partial retelling of Wuthering Heights in 19th century Mexico.

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(novel), (story), 4 more credits »
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Title: Wuthering Heights (1953)

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Irasema Dilián ...
Catalina (as Irasema Dilian)
Jorge Mistral ...
Alejandro
Lilia Prado ...
Isabel
Ernesto Alonso ...
Eduardo
Francisco Reiguera ...
José
Hortensia Santoveña ...
María
Jaime González Quiñones ...
Jorge (as Jaime González)
Luis Aceves Castañeda ...
Ricardo
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Storyline

Gone several years, the brooding Alejandro returns to the hacienda of his foster sister, Catalina, whom he loves, to find her married to the wealthy and effete Eduardo. Alejandro hates Eduardo and Catalina's brother Ricardo; he's rich now and has a lien on the drunken Ricardo's ranch. He also wants Catalina to run away with him. She loves him as if he was her soul, but she also loves Eduardo and is pregnant, so she won't leave. She wants Alejandro to stay nearby, a soul mate, but he, ruled by instinct and passion, stays only to hurt her. He woos Isabel, Eduardo's impressionable young sister. The passions of impossible love and corrosive hate play out against Mexico's barren high chaparral. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama | Romance

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Details

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Release Date:

30 June 1953 (Mexico)  »

Also Known As:

Wuthering Heights  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

(RCA High Fidelity)
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Luis Buñuel, in collaboration with Pierre Unik, wrote the first draft of a screenplay based on Emily Brontë's "Wuthering Heights" in 1931. See more »

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Version of Dil Diya Dard Liya (1966) See more »

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User Reviews

 
WUTHERING HEIGHTS (Luis Bunuel, 1954) ***
15 October 2010 | by (Naxxar, Malta) – See all my reviews

Emily Bronte's immortal Gothic romance has always had a place in my home: an illustrated comic-book abridgment for children that, unwisely, my Dad once took to school with him met with the misplaced ire of his Headmaster, tearing it in half and claiming that reading comics was a waste of time! – my Dad diligently taped the thing back together again and still owns that sutured copy to this very day; thanks to recurring screenings on a now-defunct Sicilian TV channel, the classic 1939 film version (to the undersigned, still multi-Oscar-winning director William Wyler's finest achievement) was one of the very first examples that got me acquainted with 'the golden age of Hollywood'; and I even had to study the original text when sitting for my English "A" level exams!

According to the IMDb, there are in all 35 adaptations of WUTHERING HEIGHTS for film or TV and another one should be hitting theaters next year! Apart from the aforementioned Wyler, at least three other notable film-makers tried their hands at transposing Bronte's tale of doomed love onto the screen: Luis Bunuel (in Mexico in 1954), Robert Fuest (in England in 1970, which I should be watching presently) and Jacques Rivette (in France in 1985). Although it might seem surprising that an iconoclast like Bunuel came to be involved in making a film out of such a popular 'women's novel', it becomes possible once one realizes how much its all-enveloping theme of "l'amour fou" made it a favorite of the Surrealist movement.

Indeed, Bunuel had already adapted it into a screenplay back in 1931 but only after his career was getting back on its feet, trudging in the generic Mexican film industry, was he able to obtain the necessary finance to shoot it. Not that he did not have to make compromises in realizing his long-gestating vision: in fact, Bunuel was displeased with his two leads (who were unceremoniously foisted upon him by his producer when a proposed musical comedy project fell through!). Revisiting the film again after three years, while I concede that they did not exactly rise up to the demands of their roles, they were adequate enough under the circumstances – with Irasema Dilian making for a compulsively impulsive Catalina and Jorge Mistral (the spitting image of Victor Mature!) a feral Alejandro forever smashing through windows. Perhaps as a consequence of this, the film takes care to give ample screen-time to the other characters apart from the central couple; in fact, the cast is rounded up by Bunuel regulars Ernesto Alonso (as Catalina's fey butterfly-collecting husband Eduardo) and Lilia Prado (as Alejandro's long-suffering wife Isabel), as well as Luis Aceva Castaneda (as Catalina's brutish brother Ricardo). The latter, perennially drunk and penniless, treats his own son as badly as he had treated Alejandro as a kid, or as Alejandro does now to his own wife. Besides, in true Bunuel style, Ricardo's two-faced servant (played by Francisco Reiguera, the Don Quixote of Orson Welles' infamously aborted venture!) is heard constantly reciting passages from the Holy Bible!

To counter any shortcomings in the acting department, Bunuel turns the film into one of his most visually striking works – never more so than in the literally explosive graveyard finale (an invention of the film-makers, by the way) that is the literal embodiment of the Surrealist ethos of sex and death: Alejandro, sobbing inconsolably on his beloved's tomb, imagines the gun-toting silhouette of Ricardo to be a wedding-dress-clad Catalina beckoning him and proceeds to get half his face blown off by the vengeful foster-brother! It is such a powerful image that it has haunted me ever since I first saw it projected at the National Film Theatre in London in January 2007 – following that which remains the most memorable theatrical screening I have ever attended, where a double dose of UN CHIEN ANDALOU (1929) and L'AGE D'OR (1930) left the 700-strong audience literally stunned in their seats for minutes on end…long after the lights came on again and almost until WUTHERING HEIGHTS itself was about to start!

Bunuel's adaptation, retitled "Depths of Passion", is effectively transposed to Mexico and opens on a shot of buzzards lying in wait upon barren trees. The narrative also starts half-way through Bronte's novel – with Alejandro returning as a wealthy man and the entire depiction of his mistreatment as a child at the hands of Ricardo discarded. The recurring Wagner music, previously used in L'AGE D'OR, was intended only for the finale but, absenting himself to Cannes during post-production, the director was shocked to discover that the composer had utilized it all through the film! Unlike a Bunuel scholar like Francisco Aranda – who, in 1975, wrote that "it is a masterwork from start to finish" – I do not consider WUTHERING HEIGHTS to be as successful an adaptation of a famous literary piece as ROBINSON CRUSOE (1952; the other Children's Classic Bunuel filmed in Mexico) but I can hardly disagree that it is "a film that is entirely worthy of its director" as film critic Claude Beylie opined. Indeed, the incestuous, irrational 'from-beyond-the-grave' love of Alejandro and Catalina links this film with the Julien Bertheau segment in the much later Bunuel classic THE PHANTOM OF LIBERTY (1974). It is no wonder, then, that the director considered Henry Hathaway's similarly ethereal romance PETER IBBETSON (1935) as being "one of the ten best films ever made"!

Despite the popularity of the source novel and the legendary reputation of its director, this Mexican version of WUTHERING HEIGHTS is largely unknown today. It was shown only once in the distant past in my neck of the woods but, lately, it has become a staple of Saturday nights on one particular Italian TV channel. Incidentally, I had previously acquired a copy of it where the English subtitles refused to work but, thankfully, that was eventually replaced!


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