The Torch (1950) Poster


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Independent Quickie in Mexico
guil fisher4 November 1999
THE TORCH was shot entirely in Mexico, originally titled BELOVED and starring, along with Paulette Goddard, was Pedro Armendariz and Gilbert Roland. It is said that Diego Rivera painted Paulette while she was there filming the movie. It was also where she acquired much of her famous jewelry collection.

THE TORCH is a dark comedy/drama with a screenplay by Inigo de Martino Noriega about a notorious Mexican bandit (Armendariz) who ransacks a town and takes it over. He's a sort of South-of-the-border Robin Hood. While he proceeds to bring all the wealthy business men of the town down to their knees, he discovers the daughter of one of them (Goddard) whom he immediately pursues. She, of course, refuses his advances. With the help of the local Padre (Roland) the two are brought together, and in time she discovers his good intentions and qualities. Engaged to another man of the town, she leaves him to join the bandit king. The final picture shows the rich daughter walking bedside the bandit on horseback, as a camp follower, a symbol of devotion in those days and times. A bit corny, but fun to watch the stars hold their own. The scenery of Mexico along with Goddard's still good looks make it worth the watching. It is available on VHS.
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perhaps minor, but necessary classic of commercial film-making
winner5528 June 2010
You have to have like zero sense of Mexican history and culture not to understand the multiple levels of thematic development and narrative going on in this film. And unfortunately some of the reviews on this film evidence just that lack of sense.

The Mexican revolution (roughly 1910-1920) was one of the most confusing - and bloodiest - in the annals of national political developments in the West. Perhaps only the Spanish Cuivil War could equal it for ferocity, and that only lasted less than half as long. An entire generation was shaped by the slaughter but also by the struggle to establish a national identity at last committed to some principle of legitimate democratic governance. The legacy - and the problems -continue.

The leading male, General Reyes (based loosely on Zapata), is a complex character; he is hardly a saint - he passes judgment on a wealthy businessman (who has raise the prices of necessities to prevent their purchase by the poor) and has him executed. Is he authoritarian murderer and thief? Or is he trying to establish and enforce a new law? Can this be determined in a time of revolution, when the very question of what constitutes legitimacy is at issue? Yet we are given to know that he can love individuals - and also the people as a whole, when an influenza epidemic breaks out and he orders his men to help the stricken, even at the risk of their own lives - and his.

The relationship between Reyes and the wealthy landowner's daughter Maria will probably not make much sense unless you understand that Mexican culture is profoundly Romantic in the 19th Century usage of that term. Both Reyes and Maria are fiercely struggling to determine how to maintain their individuality while pursuing a courtship threatening to engulf them both. Their resolution - allowing the revolution to seal their fates together - is pure (Percy) Shellyan. (This is a very tough-minded romance, and only a true Romantic would know what that means. The closest Hollywood came to it is Gone With The Wind which this film resembles, as a rather compressed variant at 80 minutes - and maybe Casablanca.)

As to the film-making - it is glorious - absolutely beautiful cinematography, exquisitely taut direction, brilliant performances by the leading actors. The editing is a bit rugged, but it may have to be. I was at first confused by the influenza epidemic sequence - it is all smoke, darkness, sudden jump cuts and time ellipses - until I realized that this was as intended. Director Fernandez knew that his audience wanted a battle to decide the fates of the characters, but also recognized that this would spoil the romance. So the epidemic displace military engagement; nonetheless, it too is a battle, a battle to survive, and so must be both confusing and threatening, involving the loss of life and the definition of the personalities at risk and how they respond to it.

That is intuitive film-making, and very risky, and brilliant if pulled off well. And I think it is. The ending, for me, was emotionally staggering, but only Reyes' and Maria's collective endeavors to survive the epidemic - and help others during it - could properly prepare me for it.

An absolutely knockdown film. The existing prints - the one at Internet Archive I saw was a Mexican television edit, and I've read of worse - are not great, and maybe lacking episodes. Still what is available makes proper claim that this ought to stand as a (perhaps minor, but necessary) classic of commercial film-making. God knows what was going through RKO's Hollywood brains when they decided to make a Mexican film by a Mexican director (in English, with US actors), but thank god they did.

(BTW influence: Undoubtedly seen by Sam Peckinpah who hired Fernandez to play Mapache in the Wild Bunch - note certain character similarities. Probably also seen in Europe, where it would have earned more respect than in the US, I suggest Sergio Leone may very well have been a fan, note similarity of certain shots, certain relationships, certain characters, to those in The Good, The Bad, The Ugly.)
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A Film Classic! Excellent direction by famed Emilio Fernandez
sobaok14 June 2005
This absorbingly told story is a real tribute to the award-winning director Emilio Fernandez. Fernandez was awarded top prize at the 1946 Cannes festival for Maria Candelaria -- he also was recognized over the years at festivals in Venice, Berlin, Moscow, San Sebastian and in his native Mexico. The photography and editing are stunning - the film is a visual masterpiece from beginning to end. The story couples Fernandez' own "revolutionary" consciousness with a compelling humanitarian outlook. The acting is on cue by the leads -- and the supporting players have fantastic faces and genuine authenticity. This was no "quickie" as other IMDb users claim, but a Class A production throughout. Buy this film. It is out on DVD and well worth every penny. The only real drawback is Paulette Goddard's looks. At 39, she is simply too old for the part (at times she reminded me of "Baby Jane Hudson"). Otherwise, Goddard gives one of her best performances -- her transformation from a temperamental, spoiled, privileged woman to a real human being is well played. This film needs to be re-discovered!!
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Wonderful photographic effects, neat soundtrack.
sampson-83 December 1999
.I saw the film when I was 14 years old. It was on TV in the mid fifties. I hardly remember the story, but it was about a Pancho Villa type revolutionary who decides to retreat from the town wherin dwells his lady-love. The images from the film have remained crisp and clear in my mind, both sight and sound after all these years, moreso than any film I have seen since. Most well remembered was the opening scene in the glass blowing shop, and the final retreat from the city at the film's end. This is not a very good reviw of the film, just an old fellow's happy remembering. Sadly, I don't know anyone else who has seen it, and I have not been able to find the film on tape.
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Slow but Rewarding Mexican Drama
mstomaso28 June 2008
El Nace del Amor mixes romance and melodrama with historic and military drama set in a late 19th century Mexican town. The story centers on a few very strongly realized characters - Maria Dolores (Paulette Godard) Jose Juan (Pedro Armendariz), Father Sierra (Gilbert Roland) and Dr. Stanley (Walter Reed). Maria Dolores is a headstrong and lovely young upper middle class woman who is engaged to an American doctor (Reed) who has settled in the town. Father Sierra is a community-leading priest and Jose Juan is a revolutionary general who brings unsolicited agrarian reform to the town and falls in love with Maria Dolores.

Jose Juan (who is remarkably well-played by Armendariz) and Maria Dolores are the most dramatic and unpredictable characters of the lot. Father Sierra, who has known the General since they were both young, makes it clear that Jose Juan is a principled man, but his bloody revolution and generally aggressive and angry demeanor do not seem to sit well with this representation. Maria Dolores is intelligent, intuitive, passionate and virtuous, but also inexperienced and a bit naive. Although the revolutionary occupation of the town and the calamities that beset the place at the time comprise most of the threads of the nicely woven plot, the romance between Dr. Stanley, Maria and Jose Juan is the fundamental story in El Nace.

Goddard's performance is not one of her best, but she does an admirable job of playing a woman who was probably about half her age (Godard was 48 when the film was released).

Filmed in Mexico and shot in English with Spanish subtitles, veteran Mexican actor Emilio Fernandez's directing and cinematography are surprisingly superb. Each shot is very nicely composed and the camera usually makes up for occasional weaknesses in the acting and the script. There are a few problems with the editing which do not really detract from the value of the story. The few war scenes, though they do not approach the blood and guts realism of today's military adventures, are startlingly vivid and a bit scary.

Despite my praises, the film has quite a few tedious moments which are important from the perspective of character development, but which do not stand up to the test of time.

Interesting from a cultural and historical perspective, and as a well-made low budget early independent, El Nace del Amor is recommended for film buffs and students of cinematography. While it is hardly a classic, it is a good story well told.
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A ridiculous movie
gloryoaks5 March 2004
I saw The Torch when it came out in 1950. It was Thanksgiving weekend at Missouri U. in Columbia, and almost all the students were gone. Perhaps that's why this film was ever so briefly scheduled at the local theater. My friend (who later became my husband) and I were amazed that a movie this bad could be distributed and shown in the USA. Also, we were surprised that a movie star like Paulette Goddard would appear in such a film. It was so terrible that we have not forgotten it in 54 years and still laugh about it. I can still hear Paulette Goddard screeching. I can still see Armendariz swaggering in his huge sombrero. I remember acting so broad that even a teenager couldn't stand it. A "dark comedy/drama" indeed. What a ridiculous movie.
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David27 November 2006
Someone gave a DVD of this film to a coworker as a "gag" gift, and that coworker took her revenge on the rest of us by showing it on a tour bus en route from a day of wine tasting.

Perhaps it was a day of wine tasting that contributed to the group's response, but nearly everyone fell asleep during this film. Although I did watch a bit at the beginning before falling asleep myself, I did notice that the film was rife with stereotypes (politically incorrect by today's standards, but probably not for 1950) and overacting (Goddard wants to be Norma Desmond--bulging eyes and intense stares-- but the part was already taken).

Someone joked that this wasn't a "B" movie, but a "B-minus" movie. Like most of my coworkers, I give it an "F."
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crazy film of early Mexico
oscar-3520 September 2012
Warning: Spoilers
*Spoiler/plot- 1950, An emotional young woman promised to wed an American doctor gets a civics lesson from a bandito general and her town's villagers after a Cholera outbreak during Mexico's revolution era.

*Special Stars- Paulette Goddard, Pedro Armendariz, Gilbert Roland,

*Theme- People are people all over the world and love is love.

*Trivia/location/goofs- A strangely cast film with fair haired and blue-eyed Paulette Goddard. Watch for 'Egyptian No. 7' heavy body make-up in scenes on some 'gringo' performers when needed. Film shot in Mexico.

*Emotion- An enjoyable but rather crazy film of early Mexico, banditos, beautiful senoritas, village people, 'The Revolution', and what else? This film is a wonderful character comedy that is well acted. It's worth experiencing, at least once for the emotional acting and fast dialog.
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Florid Melodrama
FightingWesterner6 June 2010
Revolutionaries led by Pedro Armendariz, blow into a Mexican town and turn it upside down. Disregarding the advice of old friend and priest Gilbert Roland, he falls in love with Paulette Goddard, the daughter of a wealthy man slated for execution. He pursues her, despite the fact that the sassy senorita hates his guts.

Armendariz delivers a magnetic performance and his character is an interesting one, with the General showing many sides of his multi-faceted personality.

Armendariz's and Roland, as well as the exciting takeover scenes make the first third of the film quite compelling. However, after the General and the girl meet, it all becomes more conventional and sometimes downright silly, with Goddard overacting her part, before turning a bit morbid, as the whole town is stricken with a deadly outbreak of influenza!

Overall, it's a fairly interesting film, competently directed by frequent actor Emilio Fernandez and atmospherically photographed on some excellent Mexican locations.
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THE TORCH (Emilio Fernandez, 1950) **1/2
MARIO GAUCI18 March 2009
While a distinguished film-maker in his native country, director Fernandez is perhaps best-known today for playing the heinous General Mapache in Sam Peckinpah's seminal THE WILD BUNCH (1969); for the record, later he was also the one to make the titular request in the same director's BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA (1974). This genuinely oddball Western, then, was a Hollywood remake of Fernandez's own previous critical success ENAMORADA (1946) – proving once again that the tradition in Tinseltown of looking for hot properties (when it comes to both subjects and their creators) in foreign lands is indeed a long-standing one; unfortunately, the end result here begins promisingly enough but gradually peters out. Anyway, apart from the director, Pedro Armendariz also reprises his earlier role of the Bandit General (which is how the film was known in the U.K.), while associate producer Paulette Goddard unwisely chose herself for the role of the leading lady. Ostensibly the town beauty, Goddard is far too old for the part but, sporting a completely misconceived schoolgirl look and playing it utterly over-the-top, her performance is forever threatening to bring the whole film crumbling down with it! Luckily, Fernandez gives the whole a remarkably visual texture (straight from the very opening scene in a glass factory) that lends it a presciently "Spaghetti Western" feel and the intermittent, awkward instances of goofy humor (including Goddard sending Armendariz literally flying off his horse into the air with a firecracker!) only serve to reinforce this impression. The third star featured here is Gilbert Roland but his role of the taciturn town priest (and old school friend of Armendariz's) is clearly subservient to the main couple who, inevitably, form a tenuous triangle with Goddard's dullish fiancée. The Mill Creek DVD I watched was a typically substandard edition that failed to do justice to celebrated cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa's (also from the original Mexican production) lyrical shots, and the hiss-laden soundtrack was similarly hard to sit through.
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