Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Jason goes to Noir City--Day 2

On Saturday, the worldwide tour of Noir stopped off in Mexico for a triple bill.

BORDER INCIDENT (1949): First up was the one Hollywood production (the other two being 100% Mexican.) It's a story of a Mexican cop (Ricardo Montalban) and his American colleague (George Murphy) going undercover to expose and prosecute the human trafficking and exploitation of undocumented braceros (Mexican farm workers.) Given the current attitudes towards immigration (which can be summed up with the paradoxical 'lazy free-loading foreigners are taking all our jobs!') it's quaint, refreshing, and important to hear the opening voice-over about how most braceros are law-abiding and wait for legal permits to enter and work, and how the ones who cross illegally are being exploited--first by the human traffickers who charge them high prices to smuggle them over the border, then by the corrupt farm owners who pay them less than legal wages, and again by the traffickers who lead them back to Mexico through a trap where most of them get murdered and robbed. Anyway, Ricardo Montalban (who was a proud Mexican but rarely got to play one) does a fantastic job as the cop going undercover as a bracero. George Murphy takes a pounding as his American counterpart going undercover as a crook with some stolen work permits to sell. There are many heavies at play, but Charles McGraw is definitely the heaviest of them (and I don't mean his weight, I mean his viciousness.) Cool story, with some great performances and a refreshingly sympathetic look at the undocumented workers just trying to support their families.

IN THE PALM OF YOUR HAND (EN LA PALMA DE TU MANO) (1951): Next up was an oddity about fortune-telling, chicanery, blackmail, lust, and murder (hey, that sounds pretty good!) Jaime Karin (Arturo de Córdova) is the fortune teller. His wife Clara (Carmen Montejo) works in a salon and gleans the secrets from the patrons, which she passes on to him so he can fleece them out of their money. One bit of information gleaned is that millionaire Vittorio Romano is dead, and his wife Ada (Leticia Palma) was cheating on him with his nephew Leon (Ramón Gay.) And so begins the entanglement of Karin's and Ada's lives, where blackmail becomes seduction and everyone may be playing two or more angles. A story that is both funny and suspenseful, and almost the perfect crime before the twist ending (oh yeah, spoiler alert, there's a twist to the ending.)

VICTIMS OF SIN (VICTIMAS DEL PECADO) (1951): And then I had my first exposure to cabaretera films. These are films that revolve around action in a nightclub, always a female entertainer torn between the good guy and the handsome but bad guy. The girl is Violeta (Ninón Sevilla) a nightclub "dancer" (i.e., a whore who was pretty enough to be given a shot on the main stage) who adopts the abandoned baby of another whore and her abusive pimp. That pimp is, of course, the bad guy, and gets her kicked out of the nightclub for refusing to abandon the baby. The good guy is a competing pimp nightclub owner who sees her selling herself on the street and decides to help her out. But when her pimp comes looking for her to take her back, violence ensues. A wild ride with some hot, hot, hot action.

Then instead of sticking around for the evening shows I went off to a Primitive Screwheads reunion party. But that's a different story, and I was back again Sunday.

Total Running Time: 274
My Total Minutes: 348,141

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