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Luis Aceves Castañeda
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A bizarre black comedy about a man whose overwhelming ambition in life is to be a renowned serial killer of women, and will stop at nothing to achieve it - but not everything goes according to plan... Written by
Michael Brooke <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The movie was shot in the middle of a big economic crisis for the Mexican cinema. Production was about to be shot down a few times and the famous scene with the mannequin being cremated was filmed only once because they couldn't afford another mannequin. See more »
EL (1952)/THE CRIMINAL LIFE OF ARCHIBALDO DE LA CRUZ (1955) - Films Sans Frontieres DVD Review
Following your advice, I recently `relented' to buying from Alapage the two Luis Bunuel Double-Feature discs released in France by Film Sans Frontieres. After watching them in their entirety, I cannot believe that I, who consider Bunuel my all-time favorite director and one of the true masters of the medium, have waited this long to acquire these DVDs. Actually while Alapage listed these DVDs at EUR25.73 on their site, they only cost me EUR21.51 each (excluding EUR12 shipping charges). So, if there is still anybody who has not purchased them yet, now may be the time to do so!
Since I had never watched EL (1952) before, it was the first one to go through my DVD player. It was a chilling parable of an insanely jealous middle-aged man played with acute intensity by Arturo De Cordova. It afforded Bunuel ample opportunity to make practical use of overt Freudian symbolism without lending the film a heavy-handed air of pretentiousness. While there are some critics who consider it as merely `an engaging, minor work', I regard it as being among Bunuel's finest; arguably, with this film, Bunuel reached the culmination of his work in Mexico, but it also looks forward to similar sequences and themes he would tackle later on in his career, especially TRISTANA (1970) and, his last film, THAT OBSCURE OBJECT OF DESIRE (1977).
EL was beautifully abetted by another of his low-budget Mexican films, the great black comedy THE CRIMINAL LIFE OF ARCHIBALDO DE LA CRUZ (1955). Again, critical reception was a bit muted in some circles, dismissing it as `just a throwaway oddity' typical of Bunuel's films of the period. However, it is much more than that: it is certainly very funny if you can accept its macabre sense of humor. It allowed Bunuel to create some of the most memorable images in all of his films, especially the celebrated dummy incineration scene, which could have been "inspired" by a similar scene in Michael Curtiz's marvelous MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM (1933) which Bunuel must have seen while working at Warner Bros. in the Thirties. A similar instance of this eclectic approach on Bunuel's part can be found in the "walking hand" sequence in his THE EXTERMINATING ANGEL (1962) - one of my favorite Bunuels - which harks back to an identical premise in Robert Florey's THE BEAST WITH FIVE FINGERS (1946), another Warner Bros. horror melodrama. For me, one of the enduring assets of THE CRIMINAL LIFE OF ARCHIBALDO DE LA CRUZ is the charm and great beauty that was Miroslava Stern (who played the part of Lavinia and was the model for the ill-fated dummy). Tragically, she would take her own life a mere two weeks after the film's release with her body, ironically enough, ending up cremated!
Both the print utilized and the transfer for both films were adequate enough, and perfectly acceptable under the circumstances. However, EL's overall visual and aural qualities where distinctly superior to those of ARCHIBALDO which suffered from excessive specks and slight audio dropouts at times, but were never so alarming as to dispel from one's viewing pleasure of the film.
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