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Monday, October 19, 2015

The Naked Dawn (1955)

An ex-convict (Arthur Kennedy) who spends his money as soon as he earns or steals it meets up with a conscientious and honest young farmer (Eugene Iglesias) with a pretty wife (Betta St. John). But he soon finds out how easily corruptible this "honest" farmer is. This low budget western directed by Edgar G. Ulmer with a romantic triangle at its center was inexplicably admired by Francois Truffaut. In his review of the film, Truffaut wrote "THE NAKED DAWN is the first film to make me feel that a cinematic JULES AND JIM is feasible". I found it a rather misguided effort. For most of its short running time I wasn't sure if it was a comedy or drama and even at 79 minutes, the pacing felt sluggish. The love triangle is daring for 1955 but I suppose it was inevitable that it would take the hopelessly conventional route rather than what seems like the more honest one. Set in Mexico, it doesn't help that only one of the three protagonists is actually Hispanic (Iglesias is Puerto Rican) while the other two are played by an American (Kennedy) and a Brit (St. John) and not remotely authentic. Indeed, this is the worst performance I've seen by the normally reliable Kennedy. With Roy Engel and Charlita.

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