Thunder Among the Leaves  

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"Movie audiences have discovered that a dip in the nude can be extremely refreshing. ... Bathing sequences in Isabel's first movie, The Thunder Among the Leaves, made the film an instantaneous box-office smash and Isabel a star. In pointed contrast to the Bardot school of scenery, it is interesting to note that there is virtually nothing childish about Isabel's charms." -- Playboy Magazine, April 1960

"The 1957 production of El trueno entre las hojas/Thunder among the Leaves, featuring the first full frontal nude scene in Argentina, became an instantaneous box-office hit that would unveil a new star sensation: Isabel Sarli. Director Bo's adaptation of a socially motivated story, written by critically acclaimed author Augusto Roa Bastos, about the abuse of indigenous groups and workers in the Paraguayan jungle was not the basis for the ensuing controversy surrounding the film. Rather, it was the one scene where the soon-to-be cleanest woman on Argentine celluloid disrobes and dips into the high Paraná River, astounding a mostly Catholic nation. What was meant to be a supporting role for Sarli became the beginning of a scandalous career and the creation of a national sex symbol. Audience response to the film and huge lineups at the theaters caused Bó to bump Sarli from third place in the credits to star billing, and so the Bó-Sarli partnership that would eventually make twenty-seven films and span almost three decades began." --"Temptations: Isabel Sarli exposedVictoria Ruétalo. Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies. Volume 13, 2004 - Issue 1.

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Thunder Among the Leaves (El trueno entre las hojas) is a 1958 Argentine drama film directed by Armando Bó, starring himself, Isabel Sarli, Ernesto Báez and Andrés Laszlo. The screenplay by Paraguayan writer Augusto Roa Bastos was based on his short story "La hija del ministro". Set in Paraguay, the story is about a strike at a sawmill.

The first film to feature full frontal nudity in Argentine cinema, Thunder Among the Leaves scandalized audiences and became a major box office success on the continent. It rocketed Sarli to stardom and is now considered a cult classic.



The arrival of the boss's young wife unearths laborer tensions accumulated after many years of deprivation and maltreatment. The story is a social drama about the exploitation of man.


  • Armando Bó as Julio Guillén
  • Isabel Sarli as Flavia Forkel
  • Andrés Laszlo as Max Forkel
  • Ernesto Báez as Capanga
  • Félix Ribero
  • Luis Leguisamón
  • Eladio Martínez
  • Leandro S. Cacavelos
  • Roque Centurión Miranda
  • Aníbal Romero
  • Matías Ferreira Díaz
  • Javier Franco
  • Alejo Vargas
  • Nieves Esquivel
  • Tabú
  • Adolfo Cuellar
  • Luis Guastalla
  • Kika Da Silva
  • Manuel E. B. Argüello
  • Guillermo Ketterer
  • Rafael Rojas Doria
  • Amador García
  • César Alvarez Blanco


Sarli's inclusion in the film was inspired by Brigitte Bardot's role in And God Created Woman. Initially Bó didn't wanted Sarli for the role because she was not an actress, but producer Nicolas Bó insisted.

The bath scene

During principal photography, Bó convinced Sarli to get naked in a scene in which she bathed in a lake though he had told her earlier that she would wear a flesh-colored bodystocking. Although Bó told Sarli they would shoot from afar, the camera lens had magnification.


Critic Gustavo J. Castagna felt that the aesthetic of Thunder Among the Leaves was reminiscent of the social commentary films by Hugo del Carril and Mario Soffici. Critic Sergio Wolf described Bó's films during this time as serial and each followed the generic pattern described by Arnold Hauser: the exaggerated and sharp, the harsh and exotic. Wolf said that Thunder Among the Leaves exhibits this pattern when Julio, who has nothing to lose, lets his passion boil over and rapes Flavia.

The film was a highly controversial box-office success. Argentine newspaper La Nación wrote in 1969 that the film left an extraordinary international mark and was one of Argentina's biggest blockbusters over recent years. In November 1958, The News and Courier reported that "a saucy Latin lass has smashed South American box office records with the most daring dunking since Hedy Lamarr disrobed to fame in Ecstasy." The movie's premiere in Montevideo, Uruguay, broke box office records, and Sarli's bath scene "rocked some Latin American capitals". In April 1959 Brian Bell of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote, "There was nothing particularly exciting about the movie except Miss Sarli, in a birthday suit swimming scene. It was a box office smash in South America." However, Sarli was panned by fellow filmmakers for the nude scene.

Cultural impact

The film featured Isabel Sarli in her first starring role and made her a sex symbol. It also marked the beginning of her partnership with future husband Armando Bó. The partnership spanned almost three decades and made numerous sexploitation films. Now considered a classic, the bath scene was the first one to feature full frontal nudity in Argentine cinema. The News and Courier wrote "the opening in Buenos Aires was hailed as the start of a new era for Argentina's movie industry" after the end of Juan Perón's service as president and his propaganda techniques. Thunder Among the Leaves was the star vehicle for Sarli and made her and Bó internationally renowned. The nude scene, particularly, is said to have "[sparked] her star phenomena". The scandal caused by it attracted the international press and Sarli soon appeared in publications such as Time and Life. The film made her popular and at the premiere of her second film with Bó, Sabaleros (1959), a crowd of young fans mobbed her as she got to the cinema, ripped her dress and broke through a police cordon, which caused Sarli to faint twice. The Star-Banner reported "Buenos Aires moviegoers could not remember a more surprising and delirious reception for an Argentine movie actress."

See also

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