LITTLE BOY BLUE
(1963), Color/Scope, 80 minutes
Distributed by Trans-International Films
Released by K. Gordon Murray Productions
Presented by K. Gordon Murray Productions
Produced by K. Gordon Murray
Directed by Manuel San Fernando
Edited by J.R. Remy
Dubbing Director: Ivan Kivitt
Sound: Frank Linales
(1958/1962), Mexico, Color/Scope, 86 minutes
produced by Alianza Cinematografica, S.A.
Directed by Raphael J. Sevilla, Mauricio de la Serna
Produced by Alfonso Sanchez T., Roberto Figueroa
Screenplay: Luis Osorno Barona
Cinematography: Luis Osorno Barona (as “Louis Osorno Baron”)
Art Directors: Jesus Bracho (as “J. Bracho”),
Ramon Rodriguez Granada (as “Ramon Rodriguez”)
Music: Don Muller
Cast: Luis Osorno Barona, Jr. (“Blue”), Maria Elena Marques (Mariana, “Blue’s” mother), Jorge Martinez de Hoyos (Don Lorenzo, “Blue’s” father)
LITTLE BOY BLUE AND PANCHO is a strange and affecting little film. Whereas most of the Mexican fairy tales were filmed either on fanciful and brightly-colored studio sets, or in attractive outdoor surroundings, LBB is filmed outdoors, entirely on location in the dense, creepy forests of Yucatan, giving the film a murky, eerie tropical flavor.
Though the production is Mexican, the actors seem to be speaking (overdubbed) English, implying the film was targeted for an international market. Why such a grim and lackluster tale would be mounted as an international showcase for Mexican kiddie cinema one can only wonder, when much more attractive and accessible fairy tales, like the Santa Claus and Little red Riding Hood films, were spoken in Spanish and had to be completely re-dubbed for foreign markets.
LITTLE BOY BLUE AND PANCHO is not a fairy tale by any stretch of the imagination, but more of a minor wildlife adventure with a coming-of-age premise (and nary a fantasy element in sight), sort of a Mexican “Tom Sawyer” (a comparison Murray was quick to make in his advertising for the picture).
The opening credits roll over spooky, stock-footage shots of Aztec temple ruins at sunset(!), images more akin to the opening of a horror film than to a frothy holiday confection for the wee ones.
And this is likely the only children’s film ever made in which the main title is superimposed over a scene of a decaying human skull!
The virtually apologetic narrator is quick to make a very shaky fairy tale connection, by claiming that the hero of the film (called “Blue”, “Boy”, and even “Little Boy”, but NEVER “Little Boy Blue”!), is like every little boy in the world, that is, both lazy and adventurous, preferring to sleep in the hay rather than do his chores, in essence a “Little Boy Blue” like the nursery rhyme of old. Spurious logic, to say the least.
As in much Murray product, we have a fascinating look at the life of really poor people, the total antithesis of the sterile, overfed WASP reality of Disney. This is a largely realistic, almost grim, look at circa-1958 life in the grungy and depressed Yucatan peninsula.
We also have an amazing nude swimming scene that’s almost as provocative as one in the notorious exploitation film CHILD BRIDE, and very similar to one that would come much later in THE BLUE LAGOON. Even Pancho freaks out at seeing Blue and his chick in the buff.
Speaking of Pancho, Blue’s pet monkey was stricken by the modesty censors; he wears red underpants throughout the film, to avoid showing us his pee-pee.
A strange English (hand-lettered) sign hangs over the doorway to Blue’s schoolhouse: “Please remove your hats in the classroom.”
There is some pretty amazing photography, and some incredible wildlife footage here, especially of the hordes of great white (and pink) flamingoes.
There’s a majestic, though somewhat inappropriate, score by Don Muller.
Yet the film has its grisly moments, with lots of hunting and killing and shooting going on. In one key example, a game warden pulls a disgusting deer’s head out of a basket.
Later, for no other apparent reason than to make this a bonafde case of “kiddie exploitation”, Blue visits a spooky old ruins in which he finds swarms of bats and an open grave filled with decomposing human remains! A human skull walks towards Blue, but it’s only being propelled by a giant rat!
Even later, the poachers kidnap Pancho, kick and beat him up and leave him for dead, traumatizing Blue and the audience, but Jesus’ father sends a miracle rain that brings the godlike primate back to life.
All in all, LITTLE BOY BLUE AND PANCHO is a real odd duck, a grungy, harrowing, bewitching thrill-ride for lower-middle class youngsters, an excellent illustration of Murray’s unique cultural role as child-frightener.
* (effective 05-01-03) After a very brief window of availability, this long-sought K. Gordon Murray title is once again out of print, due to international copyright issues. Used video tapes of this title may be found on online video dealers and auction sites. Stay tuned for further developments!
* I always thought I was nuts for finding this film visually (and in some ways even subtextually) similar to Luis Bunuel’s notorious LA JOVEN, (aka THE YOUNG ONE, ISLAND OF SHAME), about a poor pre-teen orphan who is seduced and violated by a local tyrant. However, the general look of rural poverty is quite similar, and curiously enough, the art director (Jesus Bracho) was the same for both films! In addition, Blue’s girlfriend Martha Lou bears some physical resemblance to Evelyn, the coveted youth in the brutal and obscure Bunuel film! Thus, LBB and TYO have always been weird parallel universe cousins, for me at least.
* According to Mexican film historian David Wilt, the source film, PARAISO ESCONDIDO, was finished in 1958, but was not released in Mexico City until 1962, four years later. Thanks to Mr. Wilt for locating the source film for this obscure Murray release.
* Luis Osorno Barona, who wrote and filmed this woodsian adventure, also cast his son, Luis Jr., in the role of “Blue”.
* According to AFI, LITTLE BOY BLUE AND PANCHO premiered in the US on October 12, 1963, in des Moines, Iowa.
color, widescreen VHS transfer, mono, runs 79 minutes. DVD-R comes packaged as shown in color DVD case wrapped in plastic!