To penetrate a gang exploiting illegal Mexican farmworkers smuggled into California (and leaving no live witnesses), Mexican federal agent Pablo Rodriguez poses as an ignorant bracero, while his American counterpart Jack Bearnes works from outside. Soon, both are in deadly danger from the ringleader, sinister rancher Owen Parkson, and find night on the farm to be full of shadowy film-noir menace... Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Near movie's end, Pablo Rodriguez (Montalban) is almost fully submerged in quicksand. However, immediately upon being pulled out, he looks like he's had a shower; the quicksand that had been on his face and hair is completely gone. See more »
First off, that look! This is a major John Alton achievement, one of the most atmospheric noirs: brooding overcast Mexican skies dominate many scenes, and several others are shrouded in threatening obscurity. All to the effect of heightening the drama of this taut film. Occasionally, it recalls the dark Mexican ambience of "Ride The Pink Horse", another great South-of-the-border Film Noir.
As for drama, this is an action-packed noir from beginning to end (once past the stentorian narrator we all love to hate--though he keeps it brief). Terrific chase scenes and fights, all done with conviction. The quicksand episodes are downright disturbing.
The cast--where to begin? Ricardo Montalban is just plain great in this one, conveying all the humanity and determination his character requires. And George Murphy does just fine as his counterpart. Some favorite noir villains are on hand and in fine form: Howard Da Silva--subtle and smouldering, Charles McGraw--intimidating and scary.
James Mitchell--a fine, lithe performer. He and Montalban make a great pair. Is it my imagination that there is a very slight touch of homoeroticism between them? Montalban (Pablo Rodriguez), a looker himself, attaches to the handsome Mitchell (Juan Garcia) and in no time they are calling each other "Pablito" and "Juanito" (terms of endearment, no?). Alton and Mann shoot them in tight, intimate closeups at several points. Mitchell's last line is memorable "Now one knows the meaning of the 'soft hands'", referring to the lack of 'bracero' calluses on Montalban's palms.
The horrors of illegal immigration from Mexico have not gone away 50+ years later, they are depicted in this film with honesty and humanity.
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