The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz (Ensayo de un crimen)(Rehearsal for a Crime) (1955)

The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz (Ensayo de un crimen)(Rehearsal for a Crime)


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Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Movie Info

This Mexican-filmed black comedy (distributed in the U.S. seven years after its initial 1955 release date) is one of the minor but no less characteristic works of director Luis Bu˝uel. The film begins with Archibaldo (Ernesto Alonso) being triggered by a music box into a lengthy reminiscence of his childhood. It was an average, everyday incident, one that undoubtedly has occurred to us all: Archibaldo was caught dressing up in his mother's clothes by his governess, who was then instantly killed … More

Rating: Unrated
Genre: Drama, Art House & International, Comedy
Directed By:
Written By: Raquel Rojas, Luis Alcoriza
In Theaters:
On DVD: Mar 29, 2005
Dan Talbot



as Archibaldo de la Cru...

as Patricia Terrazas

as Alejandro Rivas

as Mother

as Chief of Police

as Cervantes
Show More Cast

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Critic Reviews for The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz (Ensayo de un crimen)(Rehearsal for a Crime)

All Critics (12) | Top Critics (4)

Against a background of revolution and restoration, Catholic mysteries and aristocratic manners, Bu˝uel unfolds, in images akin to Freudian X-rays ...

Full Review… | June 30, 2014
New Yorker
Top Critic

Though it's 22 years late in arriving, The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz is the only new movie in town about which I can say that it mustn't be missed.

Full Review… | May 9, 2005
New York Times
Top Critic

Bu˝uel is still able to put some bizarre -- and very funny -- personal touches on this story of a man obsessed with the idea that the music box he owned as a child has the power to kill.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Full Review… | January 26, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

The central work of Bu˝uel's career, a midpoint between the early savagery and the later urbanity

Full Review… | December 16, 2013

Perhaps the lightest and most purely playful film of Bu˝uel's career. It's an oddly charming black comedy dressed up as a kind of thriller.

Full Review… | September 10, 2008
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

Audience Reviews for The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz (Ensayo de un crimen)(Rehearsal for a Crime)

terrific pitch black comedy about a would be serial killer whose plans always go awry. notable as the last film of miroslava, who was cremated soon after her mannequin was incinerated in the film

Stella Dallas

Super Reviewer


Archibaldo De la Cruz is a disturbed man who spends his time plotting the murders of the women he is attracted to. He has a lot of bad blood and malice, but strangely, destiny always interferes when he's about to carry out his obscure wishes.
Engrossing and caustic study of a frustrated sociopath.

Pierluigi Puccini

Super Reviewer


"The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz" may be Luis Bunuel's most underrated film, and it's certainly among the best of his Mexican period.

Buñuel's early movies always get scoured for hidden flashes of perversity, but no such labor is required with "Archibaldo de la Cruz." In fact, this droll tale fits quite neatly alongside "The Exterminating Angel" (where people can't manage to leave a party) and "The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie" (where people can't manage to eat dinner).

In this case, the elusive goal is murder. As a spoiled child of privilege, young Archibaldo is shown a family music box which allegedly causes an enemy's death when played. He experimentally cranks it while wishing for his nanny's death. A moment later, a revolutionary's stray bullet shatters the window and kills her. The boy is enthralled. This launches a long-time pattern of Archibaldo pursuing murder plans, only to have outside forces intervene first. Still, he assures himself that he is somehow responsible for the deaths. Hence the film's ironic title -- he achieves a "criminal life" in mind only.

Individual scenes also have the classic Bunuel touch. There's a macabre daydream with dripping blood, and a second fantasy with atmospheric smoke, a stabbing and a glass of milk (Archibaldo shuns alcohol). Nattering American tourists are derisively portrayed. And recurrent shots of ominous straight razors can't help but recall what may be cinema's most notorious use of a razor ever: the sliced-eyeball image of "Un Chien Andalou." But the most deliciously warped sequence comes when Archibaldo gets ahold of a mannequin modeled after his gal Lavinia. Bunuel has a ball using both the actress and her double in the same scene (they even share underwear!), confusing both his audience and Archibaldo. The mannequin's eventual fate is just as twisted.

The film's biggest flaws are simply a matter of money. The production values are crummy. The actors are bland, unknown and uncharismatic. And the horrid organ score sounds like stereotypical music from a vintage soap opera. But if Bunuel had tackled this same script 10 years later, we would have one more black-humor masterpiece.

Note: The subtitles in the version I saw were seriously deficient. Not only was the white text occasionally unreadable, but only about 60% of the dialogue was translated!

Eric Broome
Eric Broome

Super Reviewer

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