USA, 1953 (MIFF 1955, Programme 2)
Director: Morris Engel, Ray Ashley, Ruth Orkin
This film was made by a semi-professional unit and although directed by newcomers to the film world has a simple charm and directness of observation that is refreshing in these days of highly polished large-scale film making.
Beautifully photographed and cleverly observed it is mainly the story of the adventures of a solemn, freckled and toothless seven year old among the adults at Coney Island. Tiny Joey is completely unselfconscious and endlessly curious about all he sees.
The story of the film follows a simple pattern. Lennie and Joey are two young boys living with their widowed mother in a poor district of New York. They have been promised a birthday visit to Coney Island, but their mother is suddenly called away from town. Left alone, Lennie becomes bored with his younger brother and together with some friends of his own age, tricks the little boy into believing he has committed a murder.
Joey, terrified, takes some money from the apartment and makes off for Coney Island. He soon forgets his troubles and spends a wild day among the sideshows and roundabouts. He eats ice cream and hot dogs: he runs short of money and makes some more by collecting empty bottles. After being forced to spend a night alone on the beach his brother finds him and lakes him home.
Made independently, the film is now being distributed commercially by United Artists. and is proof that an exceptional film of artistic merit and universal appeal can still be made without elaborate resources and an astronomical budget.