Most Americans for which the name Hugo Fregonese is familiar remember the Argentine director for his Hollywood work, that began with One Way Street in 1950 and included some biggies such as Blowing Wild (1953), with Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck. Fregonese started in Argentina, and Pampa Bárbara is the first first film he directed (he is listed as co- director with Lucas Demare). He had done his apprenticeship with Demare as assistant director in two previous films.
Pampa Bárbara narrates the gradual rolling back of the native Indians of Argentina from their ancestral lands by the Europeans and their descendants, some of which were half Indians themselves and occasionally lived among the Indians. The boundary between Indians and Europeans was marked by "fortines" (little forts) manned by conscripted soldiers, and the movie centers on the forced transportation of a group of women, convicted of crimes (real or not) in Buenos Aires and banished to the fortines to alleviate the loneliness of the soldiers.
The script is at times a little bit stilted and over-dramatic, but does a good job of capturing the way Spanish was spoken in Argentina at the time. Good acting all around, especially from the women (that included some of the best actresses of the period like Luisa Vehil). Excellent production design by Germán Gelpi (Gelpi was an unfailingly good production designer in more than 80 Argentine movies over 30 years). Moody, dramatic cinematography by José María Beltrán, Humberto Peruzzi and Bob Roberts. Direction by Demare/Fregonese maintains a steady pace and is as good in interiors as in outdoor action scenes.
Fregonese himself remade this movie as Savage Pampas (1966) in Hollywood, with English dialog, exteriors in Spain and Robert Taylor as the lead. Savage Pampas is glossy and sleek, but somehow doesn't manage to rise to the quality of the original; too much is lost in translation in spite of efforts towards authenticity.
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