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Thursday 28 January 2016

Burl reviews Luis Luis, Folger of Men! (1957)

¡Hoy! ¡Hoy! It’s Burl! Today I’ve got an obscure Mexican picture, though one curiously multinational in its cast and crew, as though Mexico decided to try out every co-production deal it had at the same time! In the blurred and dodgy subtitled version I found, the movie goes by the title Luis Luis, Folger of Men! I was lucky enough to get a scan of the original poster from my pal Alejandro, and I present it here for your delight! Ha ha, I do enjoy presenting odd and obscure artifacts!
Anyway, Luis Luis, Folger of Men appears to have been equally inspired by two other shot-in-Mexico movies, Simon of the Desert and The Sin of Adam and Eve; or at least it would appear so if it didn’t predate both of those pictures! Luis Luis, essayed in one of his only starring roles by perpetual bit player and hairstylist Cosmo “The Errand Boy” Sardo, is a humble, middle-aged clerk who is obsessed with long-dead actress Florita de la Cruz, played in repurposed silent film footage by long-dead actress Cécile Guyon! But, in a fascinating gambit that comes of as a cross between Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid and The Purple Rose of Cairo, a number of other silent-film starlets (or would-be starlets) begin competing for Luis Luis’s attention! (All this old footage alone makes the picture worth a viewing, ha ha!)
An increasingly befuddled Luis Luis finally can’t take it anymore and, at about the midpoint of the film, decides to become a lonely desert anchorite! But this is easier said than done, and poor Luis Luis encounters resistance from his lawyer (played, I think, by a brought-out-of-retirement Bert Roach from Dr. Renault’s Secret) and his ex-wife! Ha ha, to have an ex-wife at all seems oddly progressive in a Mexican film of the 1950s, but there are so many separate influences in this strange brew that almost nothing can truly be out of place! It was all apparently based on an old screenplay by Jules Furthman, who wrote The Big Sleep and Rio Bravo, but I'm not sure how much of his work actually made it into the film!
Things go downhill for poor Luis Luis after that, but of course I don’t want to give away the ending! Suffice to say that it gets a bit racy, a bit horrific, and finally a bit surreal! No, strike that, a lot surreal! Luis Bunuel doesn’t seem to have been involved in any direct way, but from the title on down his spirit hovers over it all! It's a fascinating work, overheated and baroque in some places, remote and ascetic in others! Does Luis Luis ever really become a folger of men? And, perhaps more crucially, what is a folger of men? Ha ha, with the ambiguous ending we get, it’s impossible to say, but endlessly fascinating to speculate upon!
It’s a nice-looking picture, with even the muddy transfer I saw implying some crisp and inventive monochrome photography! Perhaps one day the movie will be remastered and reissued – we can only hope! I found it quite compelling: an exotic curio of the first order, of particular interest to students of cinema, and maybe a head-scratcher for everyone else but at least a highly entertaining one! I’m pleased to give Luis Luis, Folger of Men three life-sized effigies of St. Sebastian!

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