The political and the bestial brought together by Luis Buñuel in a burlesque of Victorian melodrama, very radicalized, very funny -- "La ley es la ley," the rich oppressor (Andrés Soler) tells the tenants about to be tossed out of their homes, a pan from an ornate Virgin Mary shrine to the slaughterhouse below finds the titular troglodyte (Pedro Armendáriz) dragging a carcass across the floor. The plot opens on a note of communal insurrection: the tenants refuse to leave their building, Soler consults his wife (Katy Jurado) about ways to quell their revolt, she responds by scissoring off the heads of her flowers. Armendáriz is the boss's Caliban, shanghaied from his leeching family to do Soler's bidding, a bovine hothead who cracks walnuts with the flex of his biceps and grins like a kid at the sight of Jurado sprawled provocatively in his bed; the animal thickness is used as a tool by the bourgeoisie to betray his own struggling class, and Roberto Meyer, the most vocal of slum troublemakers, is accidentally killed with a single punch. Armendáriz and Jurado entertain Soler's father (Paco Martínez), who is pacified by licking tequila off his daughter-in-law's finger and snacking on caramels, and, when the master is away, the couple engages in illicit off-screen torridness -- the dolly toward a plate of burned meat is a joke on censorship, later modulated by dissolving from the brute falling in love with Meyer's virginal daughter (Rosa Arenas) to a gutting candle. Arenas hides him from a vengeful mob, Armendáriz brings her a chicken to replace the one he strangled; the film traces his awakening to the less basic, more insidious economics around him, the man who "opens his eyes, little by little." The violence within Armendáriz is no match for Jurado's own passion, however; climactic revelations make the revolution an Oedipal matter, the hysteria escalates subversively until it boils over, leaving exposed nerves and Buñuel's superb final jest, human melodrama reflected in the accusatory eye of the rooster perched on a staircase. With Beatriz Ramos, and Gloria Mestre. In black and white.
--- Fernando F. Croce