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Zoot Suit

By Robert Horton

This is a filmed play, rather than a stage piece reimagined for the movies, which is probably why the general audience never cozied up to this intense picture. But Zoot Suit has a couple of significant attractions. First, it's a landmark Latino work from the pre-indie period, directed by Luis Valdez, an important figure in Chicano theater. Valdez based his acclaimed play on the zoot-suit riots of 1940s Los Angeles, when a group of young Chicano men were railroaded into jail on a murder charge. The director later found a mainstream audience with his juicy rock & roll bio La Bamba, and perhaps a bigger budget might have garnered Zoot Suit the same kind of acceptance. Daniel Valdez, the director's brother, plays the hero and also composed the flavorful songs; but the big draw here is the sensational performance of Edward James Olmos. A brooding actor just beginning his screen career, Olmos plays a flamboyant, hectoring, all-seeing figure called El Pachuco--a Greek chorus with attitude to burn. The wild contours of the zoot suit fit Olmos as snugly as his white shirt and black tie from Miami Vice.


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Buy this VHS movie from! (Click here!)Buy this DVD from! (Click here!)Soundtrack unavailable at - try eBay (see links below)Rated RNot on an American Film Institute 100 list

Director: Luis Valdez

Stars: Daniel Valdez, Edward James Olmos, Charles Aidman, Tyne Daly, John Anderson

Released: December 29, 1981

Availability: DVD VHS

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