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With: Arthur Kennedy, Betta St. John, Eugene Iglesias, Charlita, Roy Engel, Tony Martinez, Francis McDonald
Written by: Julian Zimet
Directed by: Edgar G. Ulmer
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 82
Date: 11/02/1955

The Naked Dawn (1955)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Fates of Heaven

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The Naked Dawn is Edgar G. Ulmer's only credited Western, and one of his best films. Arthur Kennedy stars as Mexican bandit Santiago, who loses his longtime partner after a routine train robbery goes awry. He stumbles upon the pretty Maria (Betta St. John), homesteading with her new husband Manuel (Eugene Iglesias). Santiago charms them both, rents Manuel's truck, and convinces Manuel to help him sell the stolen goods. After a night of drinking, the two men stumble back home, where Maria has decided that she would rather run off with the exciting Santiago rather than stay with her abusive husband. Shooting in Technicolor, the great "B" movie expert Ulmer makes remarkable use of his frame, notably in the cantina sequence, where the drinking and dancing and decorations begin to swirl together into a dreamlike reverie. (Performer Charlita sings an upbeat song called "Ai Hombre.") In the simple farmer's house, Ulmer films in long takes, with stunning, subtle camera movements to illustrate the physical relationships between the trio. The few action sequences, including the train robbery and a sudden rattlesnake attack, are done with Ulmer's usual economy, swiftness, and brilliance. The result is unexpectedly moving. Upon seeing this, Francois Truffaut was inspired to make Jules and Jim.

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