Little Fugitive

"Extraordinary"

Little Fugitive Review


A forgotten minor classic that is perhaps the most influential independent film of the '50s, Little Fugitive looks like nothing that came before it, but its DNA can be seen in many films that came after it, including much of the oeuvre of Francois Truffaut. Not bad for an unknown husband and wife team and their buddy from Brooklyn.

Richard Engel, a D-Day veteran whose films from that day are often included in the D-Day documentaries we've all seen, his wife Ruth Orkin, and Ray Ashley wrote, directed, and produced this small-scale gem with a homemade handheld camera, a few thousand bucks, and a cast of non-actors. Set on the streets of 1953 Brooklyn and at Coney Island, its value as a cinematic style setter is equaled by its value as a historical record of a city long gone.

When seven-year-old Joey (Richie Andrusco) is left in the care of his older brother Lennie (Richard Brewster), there's bound to be trouble. Hoping to have a little fun and tease Joey, Lennie lets Joey think he has shot and killed him with a gun. Terrified by what he thinks he's done and urged by Lennie's mean friends to go on the run, Joey takes off with only a few dollars in his pocket and rides to the end of the line.

Once on the beach at Coney Island, Joey's fears fade as he's captivated by the many attractions of the boardwalk and the carnivals. He runs through his money eating hot dogs and watermelon, trying the batting cage and the pony rides, and riding the carousel, while all the while, Engel's camera simply follows him around, letting the kid be a kid, and capturing whatever happens. Every scene is full of lively background action of real people doing real things, action that wouldn't be possible to capture in today's world of permits and legalistic consent forms. The trailer, which somewhat strangely spins the movie as a comedy, gives you a two-minute taste of what you'll see. It's delightful.

Joey spends a total of two days and one night on the boardwalk, turning to the strenuous work of collecting bottles for deposit when his money runs out. Throughout it all there is almost no dialogue -- even so, the movie picked up an Oscar nomination for best screenplay -- so you can simply sit back and feast your eyes on the innovative black-and-white photography while appreciating all the techniques someone like Truffaut would copy liberally as he got his career rolling. (The film made a splash in Europe, where it picked up the Venice Film Festival's Silver Lion award.) Watch this and The 400 Blows and looks for the similarities.

Sadly, other than a couple of shorts, Little Fugitive is the only project that this talented and innovate team produced. They brought the ball to the playground, but it was the French New Wave that would pick it up and play with it. So yes, Little Fugitive is a film-school essential, but it's much more than that. You'll enjoy it from whatever angle you approach it, and you'll want to hand Joey a nickel so he can ride the pony one more time.

DVD Note: The Kino DVD includes auto commentary by Engel plus two short documentaries produced by his daughter.

Buy the kid a malted, will ya?



Little Fugitive

Facts and Figures

Run time: 80 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 16th December 1953

Box Office USA: $21.5k

Budget: $500 thousand

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
Fresh: 14 Rotten: 1

IMDB: 7.7 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Ray Ashley, Morris Engel, Ruth Orkin

Producer: Ray Ashley, Morris Engel

Starring: Nicolas Martí Salgado as Lenny, as Natalia, as Sam Norton, as Elizabeth, as Destiny

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Wind River Movie Review

Wind River Movie Review

After writing the superb Sicario and Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan moves back into...

The Vault Movie Review

The Vault Movie Review

Filmmakers Dan Bush and Conal Byrne attempt a mash-up of a frantic heist movie with...

Goon: Last of the Enforcers Movie Review

Goon: Last of the Enforcers Movie Review

The 2012 Canadian comedy Goon was one of those surprising little films that snuck up...

Detroit Movie Review

Detroit Movie Review

After The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal reteam to...

Logan Lucky Movie Review

Logan Lucky Movie Review

Good news: Steven Soderbergh's well-publicised retirement from directing only lasted about four years. He's back...

American Made Movie Review

American Made Movie Review

An enjoyably freewheeling tone and Tom Cruise's star wattage combine to make this an entertaining...

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power Movie Review

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power Movie Review

It's been a decade since Al Gore's wake-up-call documentary won the Oscar. And here he...

Advertisement
The Hitman's Bodyguard Movie Review

The Hitman's Bodyguard Movie Review

It really doesn't matter that this movie is utterly ridiculous, because the central pairing of...

Final Portrait Movie Review

Final Portrait Movie Review

A relaxed, amusing true story about noted Swiss painter and sculptor Alberto Giacometti, this sharply...

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Finnish artist Tuoko Laaksonen used the name "Tom of Finland" as he drew explicit illustrations...

A Ghost Story Movie Review

A Ghost Story Movie Review

Filmmaker David Lowery reunites the stars from his offbeat Western Ain't Them Bodies Saints for...

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

From the co-director of John Wick, this similarly styled action romp puts Charlize Theron front...

Girls Trip Movie Review

Girls Trip Movie Review

This movie's premise basically sounds like The Hangover with added black girl power. But it's...

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

There's so much manic energy in this animated action comedy that it can't help but...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.