The Brave One works a slim and simple fable about a boy and a pet bull in Mexico into a lovely and suspenseful film. Director Irving Rappe manages to conceal the obvious contrivances in his plot and setting, which depicts the most opulent peasant life imaginable.
Yet one resents the almost blatant elements of explicit and implied propaganda that Messrs. Franklin and White have sandwiched into the scenario--the glories of Mexico; its glorious revolutionary history, superior view of life, the strong, brave, noble Mexican people, their gallant revolutionary leaders. All this is mixed with a subtle anti-Americanism. But these factors do not intrude on the skill and beauty with which the film is handled. Indeed the propaganda's very painlessness makes it insidious, giving strength to the allegation of Communist influence amidst the script writers.
The subject matter in less skilled hands could become sloppy and sentimental. The Brave One completely escapes these pitfalls, handling the boy-and-animal-against-the-wicked-world theme most touchingly. Michael Ray is completely fetching as the youth and he is supported by a most competent cast. The air and spirit of the bullring is handled freshly and dramatically, as is an absolutely chilling battle between the black bull and a cougar.
The film's color photography is top-notch, with a great feeling for artistic effect, yet sometimes the cloud and storm sequences seem far over-dramatic. The sheer color and magnificence of the scenery is one of the major strengths of the film.
The Brave Ones, then, is a marvelous example of cinema craftsmanship that handles a simple theme extraordinarily well and with a rare artistry, but with few concessions to truth. Co-featured is a nauseous dog-epic with Van Johnson, entitled Kelly and Me.
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