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 »
Here is some spectacular film noir photography by the same team (Director Anthony Mann and cinematographer John Alton) that brought you He Walked By Night, Ray Deal and T-Man. The photography is as good as anything in those movies, if not better. This is good stuff; great direction, with interesting closeups, wide-angle lenses, low-angle shots, tons of shadows and light. Instead of a big city, we had the desert as the main area. The DVD transfer is terrific, too.
All of this, to me, was more fun to watch than the actual story, although the second half of this movie is extremely tense and well done. It makes up for the first half which is a bit on the sordid side at times and a bit slow at times, but definitely film noir material meaning a feeling of dread just around each corner. The suspense gets really thick in the last 20 minutes when George Murphy is discovered by th sadistic criminals to be an undercover lawman. What happens to Murphy is memorable.
Howard da Silva and Charles MacGraw are effective as the main villains. MacGraw's distinctive voice alone makes him a film noir Hall of Famer. Murphy - known more for his light-hearted hoofer films - does a credible in here and it was interesting to see Ricardo Montalban (of TV's "Love Boat" fame) as such a young man. Those two play the good guys.
This is a tough, all-male cast with no romances or soft stuff. In a way, the atmosphere reminded me a bit of another tough noir, "The Big Combo," although the subject matter here is entirely different than any other noir I know about: immigrants crossing the border. However, unlike the real-life situation that is a major story today, this involves Mexicans crossing the border to do migrant farm work, and then getting robbed and killed by bandits on the way home. Still, the subject of "illegals" is a big part of this story and ironic to watch today in light of what's happening now.
Anyway, if you enjoy literally-dark stories, and am a fan of film noir, check this movie out.
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