(director/writer: Luis Bunuel; screenwriter: Luis Alcoriza; cinematographer: Augustin Jimenez; editor: Jorge Bustos; cast: Pedro Armendariz (The Brute), Katy Jurado (Mistress of Landlord), Rosita Arenas (Rosita), Andres Soler (Landlord); Runtime: 83; Internacione Cinematografica; 1953-Mex.)

“One of the excellent early films Buñuel made while in Mexico.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

One of the excellent early films Buñuel made while in Mexico. He tells the story of an impoverished people, living a day to day existence, who are being forced out of their housing because their landlord (Soler) wants to build a new house on that site for himself and his mistress (Jurado). The tenants refuse to leave peacefully, so the landlord upon the urging of Jurado gets an enforcer (Pedro), known as El Bruto, who works for him in his slaughterhouse, to get rid of the tenants’ four ringleaders.

El Bruto hits the father of Rosita, one of the ringleaders, and kills him unintentionally. This precipitates the other tenants to go after El Bruto, which results in someone sticking a nail into his shoulder. El Bruto bursts into one of the landlord’s apartments and has the attractive Rosita remove the nail from him. He falls in love with her, and the focus of the film now becomes on how the stupid El Bruto comes to recognize who his real enemies are. This is tough for him to do because the landlord has always treated him like a son. But El Bruto soon learns that the landlord had an affair with his mother who once worked for him as a maid, and that the landlord is really his father. El Bruto also learns that the landlord does not like his bastard son.

When El Bruto moves into the landlord’s house and begins to work for him as a butcher and enforcer, Jurado falls passionately in love with The Brute. She can’t let go of him. So when she finds out that he is now living with Rosita, she tells Rosita that he killed her father. She also tells the landlord that El Bruto ravaged her, which enrages the jealous Soler into trying to kill El Bruto. This fails, and the landlord is killed. But now the police close in on him. The tenants are happy because they will no longer be evicted. But the focus of the film is on how El Bruto slowly changed his thinking process. The images remain very powerful in this politically savvy film.