The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz

The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz (Ensayo de un crimen)The_Criminal_Life_of_Archibaldo_de_la_Cruz-318327896-main
Directed by Luis Buñuel
Written by Luis Buñuel and Eduardo Ugarte from a novel by Rudolfo Usigli
Alianza Cinematográfia Española
First viewing/YouTube

Give me two hours a day of activity, and I’ll take the other twenty-two in dreams. — Luis Buñuel

Here is another great satiric take on the theme of frustrated desire by Buñuel.  It appealed immediately to my perverse sense of humor.

As the film begins, Archibaldo de la Cruz is in a police station confessing to the murder of a nun.  The sister had been running in a panic and ended up at the bottom of an empty elevator shaft.  We segue into flashback and to the root of Archibaldo’s problem.

Archie is a bad, bad boy who was pampered by his mother and terrorized his governess. He is given a music box when he objects to his mother leaving for the theater.  His governess tells him the story of how a king used the magic box to slay his enemies.  This appeals to Archie’s criminal mind and he starts daydreaming.  That is when his governess takes a stray bullet from rebels in the streets.


The music box goes missing for a number of years after the home is sacked by the rebel forces.  In adulthood, Archie reunites with it.  Thus begins Archie’s life of crime, wherein he can see his victims die but not take pleasure in the kill.


I just loved this.  There are some great surrealist touches and some delicious pitch black comedy.  Part of the point seems to come from the Catholic teaching that being tempted is tantamount to committing the sinful act.  It sure has messed with a lot of people’s minds over the years.  Recommended to Buñuel fans.


8 thoughts on “The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz

  1. Bunuel is one of my favorites but I’ve never seen this. I’m glad to hear it’s on YouTube!
    Trivia: The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz is the movie being shown on TV in several scenes in Almodovar’s Carne Tremula.

    • And I need to catch up with Carne Tremula! I hope you like The Criminal Life. El is another great early Bunuel but doesn’t seem available currently.

  2. I finally watched The Criminal Life of Archibaldo Cruz yesterday on YouTube. OMG! I loved it! I can hardly express it in mere words.
    Whenever I read what Bunuel’s intent was, for any of his movies, I always think “that’s nice. In hindsight, I can see that.” But I enjoy them for being so whacky and so strange and also very funny.
    I thought of The Criminal Life of Archibaldo Cruz as a parody of American crime thrillers.
    I found some criticism of the ending on the Internet, and I thought it was somewhat wrong-headed. I very much have my doubts that Archibaldo has reformed just because he has drowned the magic music box. We see Archibaldo and Lavinia wander into the sunset but it’s way too soon to know whether he’s reformed. He’ll hear that tune and Lavinia may find her life getting rather hazardous. And what will happen to thwart Archibaldo’s evil intent this time?

    • I’m so glad you liked this. I’m always worried that I am overselling these things. I am quite sure that Buñuel is winking at us with that ending. Surely will Lavinia will be the next to go just as you describe. If you ever get a chance to see El, take it. It’s been years but I loved that one too. The hero sews up his wife to protect her chastity among other things. When I was doing its year, it was not available anywhere unfortunately.

      • I’ve seen quite a few of Bunuel’s movies, even less famous ones like The Young One and The Milky Way. But I have yet to see El.

          • The Milky Way is kind of hard to find. I watched it on YouTube, but it was in French with Spanish sub-titles. I’m fortunate that I can read Spanish passably, so I was able to follow it pretty well. It’s not one of Bunuel’s best but I liked it well enough. (I also watched Tierra sin pan in French with Spanish titles. I’ve watched it several times like that. It’s fun!)
            The Young One is available from Netflix! A very interesting film!

          • I will be looking for both in their years! Tierre sin pan/Las Hurdes always makes me wonder just how far Bunuel has put his tongue in his cheek.

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