Brooklyn Dodger: The Return of a Forgotten Indie


An underseen indie-film landmark and an invaluable artifact of local history to boot, the 1953 Little Fugitive (back for matinee-only engagements at the Museum of the Moving Image and the Pioneer as a tribute to co-director Morris Engel, who died last month at the age of 86) takes off from the slimmest of stories: Tricked into thinking he’s killed his older brother, a seven-year-old boy goes on the lam, spending the better part of two days and a night wandering the beaches and boardwalks of Coney Island as his (very much alive) brother struggles to find him before their mother returns home. Seldom effective as storytelling, Little Fugitive shines as a beautifully shot document of a bygone Brooklyn—any drama here resides in the grainy black-and-white cinematography, with its careful attention to the changes in light brought on by the inexorably advancing sun. Both Truffaut and Cassavetes were fans of the film, and its influence is obvious—moments of blissed-out carnival-ride fun find echoes in The 400 Blows, and the pervasive loose framing, found angles, and jumpy editing suggest Shadows. Filled with “Aw, fellas!” period ambience and the mythic imagery of cowboys and horses, comics and baseball, it’s a key proto-vérité slice of urban Americana.