Viva Zapata 1952


Release date: Not currently released

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Produced by Darryl F. Zanuck and directed by Elia Kazan, this film follows the life of Mexican revolutionary leader Emiliano Zapata (Marlon Brando) from his peasant upbringing, through his rise to power in the early 1900s, to his death. The film presents an interesting but fictionalized picture of Zapata. Zapata, the child of tenant-farmers, was joined by Pancho Villa in his rebellion against tyrannical President Porfirio Diaz. The film romanticizes Zapata and in doing so unfortunately distorts the true nature of the wars he waged. Zapata fought, not to conquer Mexico but to free the land for the peasants of Morelos and other southern provinces. The Oscar-nominated screenplay by John Steinbeck ignores some historical details in order to focus on the corruptive influence of power. Marlon Brando won an Academy Award nomination for his work, as did Anthony Quinn, who took home the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his headstrong, hard-fighting, hard-drinking, intensely romantic character who does not hesitate to die for love. The film also features a beautiful score by Alex North, who also received an Academy Award nomination.~ Linda Rasmussen, All Movie Guide

Joseph Wiseman, Alan Reed
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Product Details

  • Feature parental_guidance
Runtime 1 hour 48 minutes
Starring Joseph Wiseman, Alan Reed, Jean Peters, Harold B. Gordon, Marlon Brando, Lou Gilbert, Arnold Moss, Anthony Quinn
Director Elia Kazan
Rental release Not currently released
Main languages English
Subtitles Spanish, Italian, Dutch, French
Hearing impaired subtitles German, English

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Gordon Weinstein on 25 Feb. 2002
Format: VHS Tape
A great classic film, Viva Zapata! gives us Kazan (the director), Brando (the star), and Steinbeck (who wrote the script) at the height of their powers, with the splendid additions of Jean Peters, Mildred Dunnock , and the young Antony Quinn (who won an Academy Award as Supporting Actor for his portrayal of the Mexican leader's heedlessly macho brother). Brando's nose is flattened and his nostrils are dliated by plastic thimbles to make him look the part, which he does magnificently. He is heroically natural, quite perfect as Steinbecks's version of the passionate Zapata.
Steinbeck's knowledge and love of Mexico by this time in his career was genuine and deep; and his writing throughout the film is enlivening, intelligent, and original: the dialogue of the delightful scene in which Zapata tries to win a wife from a middle-class family, for example, is cast entirely in dichos---proverbs or sayings--- traditional in Hispanic culture. Minor parts are filled brilliantly and range from obscure double agents to such historic figures as Diaz, Huerta, Madero and Pancho Villa.
Kazan's sustained visual and dramatic sense do full justice to the talents of his writer and cast and to the story he has to tell, of a revolutionary leader whose charisma still has enormous power many decades after his death. Two battle-scene set-pieces are tremendous. As in the best of Kazan's other work, though, he shows us in Viva Zapata! the heart-breaking beauty of ordinary, gritty, every-day life among simple people who deserve better than whatever it is they have been offered. A thrilling movie.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By The CinemaScope Cat TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 8 Dec. 2010
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This Elia Kazan directed film is hampered with a flawed screenplay by John Steinbeck that drags out the "we the people" cliches (though their placement here is not near as deadly as in John Ford's film of Steinbeck's GRAPES OF WRATH) but strong direction and excellent performances push the film through. Fittingly, that young rebel and revolutionary (in acting terms) Marlon Brando is Zapata, the Mexican revolutionary and rebel and while he has no big scenes, he has some wonderful moments and touches that only a great actor can bring to a part. The film's biggest mistake is in the obviousness of the character that Joseph Wiseman plays, a cold and calculating Judas Iscariot with no identifiable human feelings. He's such an obvious symbol and cliche that he almost throws the movie out of whack. The fine cast includes Jean Peters (in her best film performance) as Zapata's wife, Anthony Quinn in his Oscar winning performance as Zapata's brother, Margo, Alan Reed, Frank Silvera, Henry Silva and Mildred Dunnock. The beauty of a score is by Alex North.

The British Fox Classics edition is a nice looking B&W appropriately full screen (1.33) print.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By websurfer on 8 Feb. 2004
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
In 1952 Elia Kazan, reunited with Marlon Brando after "A Street Car Named Desire", and begun shoting another powerfull social drama, this time about the Zapatist revolution in Mexico.
With a script by John Steinbeck, author of such brilliant novels as The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men, the film presents a great cast with good performances by Marlon Brando and specially Anthonny Quinn who won the Oscar for best male in suporting role.
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By Bob Salter TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 6 Mar. 2015
Format: DVD
Elia Kazan and Marlon Brando reunite again fresh after their success in “A Streetcar Named Desire”, in a very different kind of beast. This ambitious film portrays the life of the Mexican renegade turned revolutionary hero Emiliano Zapata, and provides us with a valiant if flawed at times end result. The film has always stuck firmly in my mind for its powerful ending. The film was disowned by MGM who handed it over like a hot potato to Fox, after the original script writer Lester Cole was subpoenaed by the House of Un-American Activities. No surprise that the legendary writer John Steinbeck’s script was blunted by the anti-Communist hysteria of the time. Even so it is still stands out as the only Hollywood film to seriously attempt to deal with the ideas and the events of the Mexican Revolution, and the catastrophic effects on the peasant classes.

Kazan seems to have gone to a lot of trouble in making the film. He apparently studied many photos of the period in an effort to give the film the right look, and in this he succeeds, the black and white film helping considerably. Marlon Brando is a charismatic Emiliano Zapata, who avoids corruption because he is man of conscience. A good man in an ocean full of sharks, he stands aloof from the brutal “the president is dead, long live the president” brand of Mexican politics. Like Robin Hood he is the champion of the poor! Now any film that stands up for a good man, like an El Cid of Mexico gets my vote! The rule of right sits firmly at the heart of this film, although it is sorely tested at times.

Like most Hollywood films it plays fast and loose with the facts, but does not shy away from the plight of the Mexican Peons suffering under a succession of inept and corrupt leaders, Madero being the exception.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By The BlackFerret on 2 Aug. 2008
Format: DVD
only if you know a bit about Mexican history.

John Steinbeck might have been a great writer, but of FICTION! The fact is the real Zapata stayed a lot longer in office than this film would have you believe;he liked power, however poor his background.

He was a man of principle, though;he let someone else shoot his opponents, instead of dirtying his own hands or conscience!

And any contemporary photograph of Emiliano will show you a moustache much more reminiscent of a dead water-rat than Brando's. Though Marlon's style did at least live to surface again in hippier times!!

But, who cares? Flaws there are, but it's a superb film. Joseph Wiseman may be a totally spurious agent provocateur/prototype CIA operatve, but he creates one hell of a persausive force for Zapata. Ditto his brother, Anthony Quinn, to illustrate the venal, macho culture as another primrose path Emiliano has to avoid.

Finally, beyond the well-recreated Pancho Villa & Huerta, who would have made a great double act if they'd been on the same side, there's Brando. He takes a long while to even engage you, and you frequently feel Zapata will only be a minor player in historical terms.

But Brando gets you there in the end, wisely illustrating both the agonised choosing Zapata goes through to stay true to his principles and the fact he very much had feet of clay. The humanity and human frailty shine through, and you can guess how this will end, even if history is being radically rewritten.

Thankfully, it doesn't end there, as no-one involved in this could have predicted the rise of the Zapatarist party in Mexican politics in recent years. They aren't responsible for the modern Mexico, but they are an important part in shaping it.

And, from a filmic point of view, this is actually a well-made and acted melodrama. Basically, another of Brando's ones you should not miss.
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