100 minutes| U.S.A.-Mexico| 1957| Colour| Digital Betacam Video

Co-directed with Rene Cardona

Lewin’s fascination with exotic legends continued in his rarely seen final film, a story of reincarnation set in Mexico. Archaeologist Dr. Stones (James Robertson Justice) believes that Indian maiden Juanita (Liliane Montevecchi) is the reincarnation of an Aztec princess who was sacrificed centuries earlier to appease the jaguar gods. The good doctor becomes convinced that a jaguar from Mexico City Zoo is the modern embodiment of an evil that destroys human souls and must be confronted by Juanita.

The idea of Mexico as a place where the archaic coexists with the modern has fascinated foreigners from Antonin Artaud to William Burroughs. Lewin is in good company and pursuing some familiar concerns here, but the ridiculous premise led critics to dismiss The Living Idol as pure hokum. Still, there are some great locations – including the Yucatan sites of Uxmal and Chichen Itza – and Jack Hildyard’s cinematography adds to the heady exoticism.

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