Catherine the Free, Catherine the Undernourished,

and Catherine the Insane

     Catalina of Luia Buńuel's 1954 Los Abismos de Pasion, based on Emily Brontė's 1847 Wuthering Heights, and Catherine of Wyler's 1939 Wuthering Heights are completely unlike each other in almost every way. In Emily Brontė's 1939 book, Catherine was a wild and free person who did not limit herself to obeying boundaries set by others. Her heart was her only advisor, which she obeyed dutifully. I do not think either of the two (Merle Oberon, as Catherine, or Irasema Dilian, as Catalina) quite nailed what Buńuel was looking for.

     In the opening scene of Los Abismos Catherine is shooting at buzzards. Now whether you consider this behavior taking care of business, or just plain killing things, I cannot imagine the Wyler/Oberon Catherine being able to gather her strength in that petite little bag of bones, to pick up the gun. The Spanish Catalina, on the other hand, could have spit nails as she lay there on her deathbed. Brontė's Catherine was neither the Charles Bronson or the Olive Oil type, although she was tough and sensitive.

     Catalina was a cruel person. No not just wild and spunky and free spirited, I mean evil. The way she treated poor Isabel (Lilia Prado) was shameful. First, Catalina chased her around, taunting her in every way she could think to do, only because she was so entirely unhappy in her marriage. Then, like her Brontė counterpart, she humiliated her in front of her lover, named Alexandro (Jorge Mistral) and told him Isabel loved him. Her treatment of Eduardo (Ernesto Alonzo) was not any better. When Alejandro came back from the dead, she flung herself at him (in Eduardo's presence, no less). At least Merle Oberon's Catherine had the dignity to try to hide her feelings for Heathcliff from her own husband (David Niven) and deny them to herself. I think that even Brontė's Cathy probably did not like Isabelle too awfully much, only because they were such different kinds of people; different species, almost, who could not possibly relate.

     Overall I think Luis Buńuel's girl had a better idea of what Catherine's girl was meant to be because she depicted the most outstanding characteristics of Catherine. I enjoyed Los Abismos de Pasion for its oddities mostly. The acting and story were more entertaining and true to the book in more ways than was the William Wyler version.

Gabrielle Deaton

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