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Little Fugitive

Little Fugitive(1953)


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One of the pioneering films of American independent film in the fifties, Little Fugitive - now available on DVD from Kino International - is both an incredibly vivid time machine ride through the arcades and amusements of Coney Island circa 1953 and a poetic demonstration of why shooting in real locations with non-professional actors is often more compelling than any studio-produced entertainment. The storyline is simple but true to its working class milieu; a working mother leaves her two sons at home without supervision for a day. The older boy, anxious to ditch his annoying seven-year-old brother so he can hang out with his companions, entices the youngster into a shooting game with a toy gun and then pretends he's been shot. The seven-year-old panics and flees to Coney Island where he temporarily forgets his dilemma amid the wonders of the boardwalk.

Francois Truffaut once wrote that "our New Wave would never have come into being if it hadn't been for the young Morris Engel..with his fine Little Fugitive" and it's easy to see the influence of Engel's film on Truffaut's directorial debut feature, The 400 Blows (1959), particularily in the sequence where Antoine Doinel runs away from home. Engel was a former still photographer who became a forerunner of the New York independent filmmaking movement with Little Fugitive. The film's remarkably fresh and improvisational style was unique for its time and won international acclaim, eventually winning the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival. It also was nominated for an Oscar for Best Motion Picture Story and in 1997 was inducted to the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress and the National Film Preservation Board. Its success on the theatrical circuit allowed Engel to make two more highly original, offbeat films - Lovers and Lollipops (1955) and Weddings and Babies (1958); the latter film was particularly significant since it was shot on location in New York City using a portable synchronous sound camera.

One of the real surprises of Little Fugitive is little Richie Andrusco whose pugnacious manner and wide-eyed response to the overstimulation of Coney Island is a joy to behold. Where are you now, Richie? For those who purchase the DVD, you'll get an audio commentary by director Engel who fills you in on the genesis of the film and various production details. The other extra feature is the original theatrical trailer which should bring a smile to your face. For more information about Little Fugitive, visit Kino International. To purchase a copy of Little Fugitive, visit Movies Unlimited.