Little Fugitive

1953

Action / Drama / Family

4
IMDb Rating 7.6 10 2005

Synopsis


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1080p.BLU
1.24 GB
1920*1080
English
NR
23.976 fps
1hr 20 min
P/S 2 / 2

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by gavin6942 7 / 10

One of a Kind

A young boy (Richie Andrusco) fears that he shot his older brother, who is only faking. He then runs away to Coney Island, a crowded beach area, and gets money by returning soda bottles for their deposits.

The movie was filmed on location at Coney Island and Brooklyn using a unique, concealed strap-on camera, which made it possible for director Morris Engel to work without a tripod and large crew. It allowed him to have thousands of beach-going New Yorkers as extras without their knowing it. The device could be seen as a prototype for the Steadicam and was designed by him and the inventor Charlie Woodruff, a friend and fellow combat photographer he met during World War II, whom Engel called a "mechanical and engineering genius."

The film is fun in how it follows this small boy through terrain both fun and frightening, but it works almost better as a documentary. I have never been to Coney Island, but I bet that the scenes shot then (1953) could not be done today. It just wouldn't be the same. I can see why the style (especially the cinematography) was so influential on the French New Wave.

Reviewed by kckidjoseph-1 9 / 10

The Little Masterpiece that Could _ and Did

I discovered "The Little Fugitive" quite by accident in the mid-1970s while surfing Los Angeles television channels (yup, before cable) on a rainy afternoon when I should have been at work. I have no idea why I wasn't working, but I'm glad I played hooky. This film is the kind of rare life-affirming experience that changes one's perspective, which is what cinema in its purest form and at its foundation is intended to do.

"The Little Fugitive" is a 1953 American film written and directed by Raymond Abrashkin (as "Ray Ashley"), Morris Engel and Ruth Orkin, that tells the story of a child, seven-year-old Joey Norton (Richie Andrusco), alone in Coney Island.

Joey resides with his older brother Lennie (Richard Brewster) in a lower- to middle-class Brooklyn neighborhood. Too young and small to be totally accepted by Lennie and his friends, Joey knows he's loved at root but suffers from little-brother syndrome. He longs to play with the older kids, but that usually comes at the price of teasing and ultimately being left behind anyway.

One day when their mother is away visiting her sick mother, Lennie and his pals play a joke on Joey. Using catsup and a toy gun, they convince Joey that he has shot and killed his big brother. Mean, sure. But that's kids _ and what a wonderful story premise.

The kids tell Joe he'll go to prison for the rest of his life (which is quite a stretch indeed when you're seven years old), so he does what many children in Brooklyn at that time would do: he runs away to Coney Island. If you're going to be guilty, nothing like arcades, pony rides and the beach to put things back in perspective.

The movie focuses on Joey's day by himself as he goes unnoticed by everyone (still the way of things, sadly) except for the fellow who operates the pony ride, which Joey continues to patronize again and again thanks to his cashing in deposit bottles (if this movie were done today, Joey would grow up to be the founder of Denny's, let's face it).

To say much more would obviously ruin the plot, but suffice it to say this film is Exhibit A that an inexpensive film with a sweet, original story can delve just as deeply into the human psyche, and successfully and movingly, as anything with big stars, a huge budget and scatological references heaped in the dialog.

This film, which influenced the French New Wave, is looked upon as a landmark, not the least of which because of its groundbreaking naturalistic style and use of nonprofessional actors. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Writing (Motion Picture Story) and won the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival, as well as earning an award from the National Board of Review as one of the top 10 films of 1953 and the Silver Ribbon as Best Foreign Film from the Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists. In 1997, it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

It was first of Morris Engel's three films (it was followed by "Lovers and Lollipops" in 1956 and "Weddings and Babies," which was shot in 1957 and released in 1960). All three were similar stylistically, using hand-held 35mm cameras. In the first two, the cameras didn't record the sound; later dubbing was used. "Weddings and Babies" was the first fiction feature made with a portable camera that allowed synchronized sound.

The impact of this film is still being felt, even if today's filmmakers are unaware of it. A little (80-minute), cheap and totally threadbare independent masterpiece made with heart that doesn't follow trends, but sets one. Let's hope that some newbie filmmaker somewhere discovers this picture and that it serves as inspiration to lay off the zombies already and take the leap into the risky world of originality.

Reviewed by MartinHafer 7 / 10

Impressive considering its budget.

A single mother is called out of town and leaves her 12 year-old in charge of the apartment and his little brother. However, the older brother and his friends play a really nasty trick on the brother--convincing him he's accidentally killed one of them!! The little boy runs off to Coney Island and the camera follows.

"Little Fugitive" is a film you need to put in context to appreciate. On a superficial level, the film looks a bit cheap--almost like a home movie. And, the actors are just ordinary kids. And, the film is made in various locales around New York--so nothing was spent on sets or props. But, on the other hand, considering that the budget was next to nothing, you can't help but admire the results. It also compares well to the Italian Neo-Realist films--films which used pretty much the same sorts of settings and non-professional actors but still had bigger budgets and fancy directors like De Sica and Rossellini. Here Ray Ashley, Morris Engel and Ruth Orkin (hardly household names) manage to make an American Neo-Realist film which stacks up well all considered. And, frankly, it's a LOT better than the other two films Engel and Orkin made after "Little Fugitive".

There's a lot to like and a lot to dislike about the film. The kids gave good natural performances and the story idea was clever. On the negative, however, is that the film sure could have used an editing. All too often, you see the protagonist just doing one ordinary thing after another after another--all set to the same harmonica music (which, after a while, gets on your nerves). Seeing the little boy wander off to Coney Island wasn't bad, but did we need to see him do EVERYTHING there? No. In addition, he didn't seem to be trying to forget his problems or hiding--just having an outing like any other kid--and this really hurts the narrative. Still, it's a nice little experiment and a cute film in many ways. It's the sort of film the average person probably would not enjoy but for cinemaphiles it's a nice diversion and shows what you can do with incredibly limited resources. Just think--the budget for "Little Fugitive" was nearly the same as "Plan 9 From Outer Space"--and two films couldn't be any more different!

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