The great Spanish director Luis Buñuel directed some 20 films whilst living in Mexico between 1946 and 1965, the most enduring of which is Los Olvidados, a stunning portrait of slum kids in post-World War II Mexico City. Succinctly described by the critic J Hoberman as the "original Third World horror movie", it's a powerfully unsentimental and morally ambiguous work, which focusses on the intertwined destinies of two particular juvenile delinquents, the swaggering Jaibo (Roberto Cobo) and his younger, weaker compatriot Pedro (Alfonso Mejía).
Bunuel once said that, "I should like to make even the most ordinary spectator feel that he is not living in the best of all possible worlds", and the filmmaker swiftly establishes the living nightmare inhabited by the characters in Los Olvidados. Having tormented blind musician Don Carmelo (Miguel Inclan), the gang leader Jaibo batters to death the teenage informant whose testimony sent him to reform school. Pedro, who witnesses the murder, attempts to keep out of trouble, but Jaibo follows him to work and to his home, where he seduces the boy's mother. And even in his dreams, Pedro can't escape the killer.
The monochrome Los Olvidados, whose title translates as "the forgotten ones", is crammed with Buñuelian motifs and obsessions - the sightless, the crippled, roosters and chickens. Crucially, it's devoid of sentimentality: the poor do not suffer nobly, the disabled are not saints, and human beings are reduced to the level of animals. Victims find somebody else beneath them on the food-chain to bully. It's a hugely influential film, foreshadowing the likes of A Clockwork Orange and Kids, and its matter-of-fact brilliance continues to astonish.
Los Olvidados is released in UK cinemas on Friday 16th February 2007.