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In the bordertown of San Pablo, preparing for an annual 'Mexican Fiesta,' arrives Gagin: tough, mysterious and laconic. His mission: to find the equally mysterious Frank Hugo, evidently for revenge; or is it blackmail? FBI agent Retz is also after the elusive Hugo. Everyone in town is enigmatic, especially Pila, a mystical teenager who follows Gagin around and has premonitions of his death. Also involved are a classic femme fatale and an antique carousel with a pink horse... Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
Not quite sure what to make of this one, but definitely interesting. One is never certain if its strangeness is due to inexperience on the part of the film-makers, or if it truly is an unambiguous artistic choice. The director and star, Robert Montgomery, was very much a creature of 1930's pre-war Hollywood and the film seems to be an unconscious attempt to transplant pre-war film-making sensibilities into the decidedly post-war genre of Film-Noir, with all of its fatalism, disillusionment and complications. It's as if Montgomery is an alien from the 30's exploring a strange, post-war Noir world; rejoicing and experimenting in this permissive new environment, but ever aware that he is not a native. (Though it's highly unlikely this idea ever occurred to him in such a concrete way, as this genre was not identified as such until French critics of the 1960's uncovered a new pattern in American films dealing with crime.)
There's much here that I, quite frankly, didn't understand. You never really get a handle on any of the characters or what their true motivations are; they're all tantalizingly enigmatic, opaque, but that is admittedly much of the joy of the picture. Everyone seems to be suffering from some kind of guilt that they just don't seem quite able to articulate, much less expiate, so they keep muddling along hoping that they'll stumble across an answer or justification for their sins. The villain of the piece, Fred Clark, is odd. He doesn't just want to trick Montgomery out of the money he's blackmailing him for, he wants to shame him for not being smart and demanding more. Montgomery is mighty odd as well, with some kind of a stubborn, indecipherable personal code of honor; sort of a dumbed down Sam Spade. He's trying to carve out some little island of corruption just for himself, stiff-arming both sides of the law in the process. Most peculiar is the little peasant girl played by Wanda Hendrix. She is instantly devoted to Montgomery, lovingly helps him out of a couple jams but at the end after they say goodbye, she makes some little speech to her friends in Spanish (w.o. subtitles) that gives the impression she was never as innocent as she let on. But what did she gain? And Art Smith (a good crafty little character actor who keeps turning up and making an impression in a lot of films I've been seeing like "Brute Force", "The Next Voice You Hear" and "In A Lonely Place") is an FBI agent who is more like Montgomery's guardian angel. He is almost God-like in how he can pinpoint the exact motivation behind Montgomery's every move and thought.
All these actors are fine, but Thomas Gomez steals every scene he's in as the deceptively heroic operator of the merry-go-round. He is involved in the film's most brutal and poignant scene, as he is beat up by a couple of Clark's thugs (as the children watch captively on the spinning carousel) for refusing to reveal his friend Montgomery's whereabouts. And I love his great line when Montgomery stumbles back for help after getting stabbed in a fight. He shrugs wearily and says "when you're young everyone sticks knife in you."
I couldn't for the life of me figure out why the movie would be called "Ride the Pink Horse", but I like the other reviewer's theory that it has to do with the arbitrary nature of life itself. A definite cult item.
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