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Wetbacks (1956)

About to lose his sole possession, his boat, for lack of payments, ex- Coast Guardsman Jim Benson takes a gamble on a fishing charter and removes the boat from the dock despite a sheriff's ... See full summary »



(as Pete LaRoche)

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Jim Benson
Sally Parker
Karl Shanks
Steve Bodine
Juan Ortega
Robert Keys ...
David Colmans ...
Salvador Baguez ...
Mexican Policeman
Jose Gonzales-Gonzales ...
Wetback (as Jose Gonzales Gonzales)
Joe Dominguez
Coast Guard Comdr. Randall
Roy Gordon ...
Scott Douglas ...
Immigration Officer


About to lose his sole possession, his boat, for lack of payments, ex- Coast Guardsman Jim Benson takes a gamble on a fishing charter and removes the boat from the dock despite a sheriff's seizure order. But Jim finds himself with a loudmouthed drunk, Shanks, and his companion, Sally. To avoid paying for the fishing excursion, Shanks stages a fight with Jim and, when Jim puts him ashore at a small Mexican port, Shanks takes off, stranding both Jim (who is out of gas as well as cash) and Sally. The two begin to become "friends in need" and are put up by Alfonso, local innkeeper who is a friend of Jim's. But the town is the base of operations for a gang, led by Bodine and Ortega, who smuggle illegal aliens into California for a profit. Learning of Jim's plight, they offer him money to run 'just one' shipment of these 'wetbacks' across the border - then blackmail Jim to continue working for them. Sally tries to persuade him to tell the police, but he is too afraid and plans to run away, ... Written by Rich Wannen <RichWannen@worldnet.att.net>

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BORDER TRAFFIC IN HUMAN LIVES! (original print ad - all caps) See more »


Crime | Drama





Release Date:

4 May 1956 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Menschenjagd im Pazifik  »

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Production Co:

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Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Version of To Have and Have Not (1944) See more »

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User Reviews

Lloyd Bridges is coerced into transporting illegals by boat
12 September 2016 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

"Wetbacks" (1956) may partly be the work of Ed Wood, Jr. That case is made in detail in one of the critic (not user) reviews. I found that analysis convincing, and so does IMDb which gives Wood the writing credit entirely. The basic idea has Lloyd Bridges placed into a situation in which he becomes the pawn of traffickers in Mexican illegal workers. These smugglers, led by John Hoyt, at first get a "yes" from the desperate Lloyd Bridges to use his boat. After he changes his mind to a "no", they force him at gunpoint. Bridges, who looks guilty, has to make many efforts to extricate himself from this situation.

The plot has been largely done before as "To Have and Have Not" (1944) and "The Breaking Point" (1950). It would later come back as "The Gun Runners" (1958). These are all well done films, as is a French variation "L'arme à gauche" (1965).

Barton MacLane and Nancy Gates have the role of the couple who initially hire the boat of Bridges but have no intention of paying him. He's in desperate need of cash to avoid a sheriff's sale of his boat. This version adds novel twists. They are not entirely plausible, but they do drive the story along a different path than the other versions.

This movie is noir, according to critic Andrew Spicer. It's the story that probably is the reason for his judgment. The photography is not noir. The movie plays more as a thriller involving escape from the clutches of criminals than it does as a noir.

The story does not focus on the wetbacks of the title, although there is some dialog about their situation and they are shown at times around the boat. Mostly the story is about the situation of Bridges. The execution of the movie makes it a 4 or a 5 in my estimation. It's not a bomb and not unentertaining. It's simply not all that smoothly put together or written; some scenes are inept too. But, in addition to the capable acting of Hoyt, Bridges, Gates and MacLane, it has one final exciting sea chase sequence that I haven't seen before on film. That involves a freighter and two speedy boats.

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