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The Young One (1960)

 |  Drama  |  18 January 1961 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.6/10 from 1,736 users  
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A jazz musician seeks refuge from a lynch mob on a remote island, where he meets a hostile game warden and the young object of his attentions.



(story), (screenplay), 1 more credit »
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Cast overview:
Zachary Scott ...
Bernie Hamilton ...
Key Meersman ...
Crahan Denton ...
Claudio Brook ...
Rev. Fleetwood


Game warden Miller lives on an isolated island off the Carolina coast. The only other inhabitant is Evvie, an naive young girl to whom Miller is attracted. Traver, a black musician on the run from a lynch mob after falsely being accused of rape, lands on the island. Miller wants to turn him in and remove him from the tryst, but Evvie likes Traver and protects him. A preacher arrives from the mainland to rescue Evvie from her situation, and Traver's presence is discovered. Miller is now forced to decide whether to turn him over to the mob and lose standing in the girl's eyes. Written by Jim Beaver <>

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Release Date:

18 January 1961 (USA)  »

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The Young One  »

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Sound Mix:

(RCA High Fidelity)

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Referenced in Polyester (1981) See more »


Sinner Man
Sung by Leon Bibb
Arrangement . Milton Okun
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User Reviews

THE YOUNG ONE (Luis Bunuel, 1960) ***
14 August 2008 | by (Naxxar, Malta) – See all my reviews

Leonard Maltin's *1/2 review of this bafflingly overlooked Bunuel gem – which, more by accident than design, has become one of my favorite film-maker's most-watched efforts – seems, thankfully, to be a minority opinion nowadays and, in fact, renowned critic Jonathan Rosenbaum (albeit contending elsewhere that this was the Spaniard's biggest critical and commercial disappointment) wrote about it in Steven Jay Schneider's "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"…when Bunuel's much more renowned THE EXTERMINATING ANGEL (1962) is conspicuous by its absence therein! Incidentally, an almost equally obscure fate is shared by the film's immediate predecessor, REPUBLIC OF SIN (1959; which is still pretty hard to come by, though I did catch it once on late-night Italian TV): perhaps, this is because both films were squeezed in between two unexpectedly mature and highly personal works – NAZARIN (1959) and VIRIDIANA (1961)...

Anyway, THE YOUNG ONE is only the director's second English-language film, after ROBINSON CRUSOE (1952), and it also proved to be his last. Plot-wise, it's a hothouse melodrama (which has been considerably altered from the original two-hander short story source) quite typical of his low-budget Mexican output: a bigoted game warden (Zachary Scott) lives on a remote stretch of land – the film was shot in Mexico but the setting is clearly intended to be the American South – with his elderly alcoholic assistant (who has just died when the story opens) and the latter's sensual but naïve teenage grand-daughter (Key Meersman). This situation seems to please Scott, as he suddenly realizes that the girl is no longer a child – but their quiet life is unexpectedly turned upside down with the arrival of a black musician from the mainland (Bernie Hamilton), on the run after an older white woman accused him of rape!

Scott (whose character might very well represent the way his beleaguered but optimistic farmer from Jean Renoir's THE SOUTHERNER [1945] – which, incidentally had been adapted for the screen by the blacklisted co-writer of both ROBINSON CRUSOE and THE YOUNG ONE, Hugo Butler – would turn out under different circumstances!) is absent when Hamilton lands on the island. The latter strikes up a friendship with Meersman, while being embarrassed by her apparent lack of morals (which stacks the sympathy cards in his favor...though, on butting heads with Scott eventually, he loses no opportunity to address him as "white trash")! A battle of wills between the two soon manifests itself: Scott shoots holes in Hamilton's boat and then takes a pot shot at the man himself; the latter turns up enraged at Scott's cabin and manages to disarm him; the warden is thus forced to accept the black man into his house, but still refuses to eat on the same table with him!

Scott, meanwhile, continues to lust after Meersman – and, one night, he forces himself upon her and they sleep together (a potentially controversial sequence that the director handles in an admirably sensitive manner); the very next day, a preacher (Bunuel regular Claudio Brook) from the mainland comes to take the girl away even though Scott had been making such arrangements himself. Meersman is so innocent that she immediately confesses to the priest about her illicit liaison, which obviously shocks him (though, in typical Bunuel fashion, the latter Is himself a hypocrite who casually asks the girl to overturn his mattress because the black man had previously slept on it)! When Brook confronts Scott about the matter, the warden is willing to marry the girl; the priest, however, has in mind another form of compromise – knowing the malicious nature of the woman whom Hamilton is supposed to have assaulted, he believes the musician to be innocent of the crime. So, Brook asks Scott to let the black man go…though they still have to contend with the bigoted boatman (the warden's contact with the mainland) who will not think twice about executing Hamilton on the spot!

The intimate plot and swampy atmosphere are already compelling in themselves – but the whole, then, is elevated by Bunuel's distinctive handling (resulting in any number of irreverent touches along the way, but also a few violent ones, that often have the additional effect of enriching characterization). However, just as integral to the fabric of the film, is the catchy traditional gospel tune "Sinner Man" – even if, typically for Bunuel, it's only heard in the opening and closing moments of the movie; for the record, the charismatic Hamilton also indulges in a couple of jazz solos (to the girl's delight) during his tenure on the island – one of which, however, is (in perhaps the film's comic highlight) abruptly put to a literally explosive end by the jealous Scott! Incidentally, THE YOUNG ONE proved to be the first of just two films to feature the lovely Meersman and while I did get to watch the other one – Damiano Damiani's ARTURO'S ISLAND (1962) – simply because she was in it, the film itself was in no way as rewarding as Bunuel's had been (and continues to be with each successive viewing).

In fact, my previous three viewings of the film came via a slightly fuzzy Italian TV screening in its original English language but embedded with unremovable Italian subtitles. Therefore I'm thoroughly grateful to Lionsgate for releasing THE YOUNG ONE on DVD as part of their modest but very welcome 2-Disc "Luis Bunuel Collection" which also incorporates arguably the director's most inconsequential (if still not unentertaining) film, GRAN CASINO (1947). Incidentally, both titles come accompanied by an Audio Commentary and the one for THE YOUNG ONE is a joint and overly academic effort at analyzing the film's themes and textures. But if this makes for a rather heavy-going listening experience even for an avowed Bunuelian like myself, at least one gets another opportunity to look at celebrated cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa's sublime black-and-white images.

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