Category Archives: Imaginary Mexican Cinema

#231 – Sobek: City of Death

(1978, GB/Mex, 91 min) Dir René Cardona Jr. Cast Hugo Stiglitz, Susan George, Fiona Lewis, Robert Guzman.

On the Nile, southwest of Memphis in Egypt, there once was the city Shedet, established in 4,000 BC by the worshipers of the crocodile god Sobek (and later renamed Crocodilopolis by the Greeks). This city and it’s worshippers have long faded into history but, to fast forward about 6,000 years and swing about 6,500 miles west, it is found being re-established by a death-cult of crocodile worshippers southwest of the modern-day city of Memphis, Tennessee. It’s discoverer is Michael Chad, a rough and tumble swamp explorer played by Hugo Stiglitz, who takes it upon himself to stop these reptile revering maniacs, rescue the local virgins they have kidnapped to sacrifice and kill the monstrous beast that they worship as the living incarnation of the foul Sobek. Stiglitz, an old hand at nonsense such as this, takes it all in his stride, as equally unfazed by the beasts he must battle (and the effects by which they are rendered) as he is by the women flinging themselves at him.

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#189 – Puta Enojada (Angry Bitch)

(1993, Mex, 88 min) Dir Antxón Arango. Cast Sally del Toro, Hector Mendez, Gabriel Quinn.

An Almodóvarian comedy drama. Sally del Toro is Lucia, a downtrodden housewife who dreams of her youth before she married her boorish husband Windsor (Hector Mendez, his huge moustache still present) while she maintains their spotless household. One evening, while Lucia is ironing his shirt for work, Windsor announces that he is leaving her – now that their children have moved out, he says, there is no need for him to continue to live the lie. There is someone else and has been for some time. Lucia, in a fit of fury twenty years in the making, beats Windsor to death with her iron and thus the film comes over all Ms. 45 with Lucia taking to the street with her Windsor’s revolver on a misandrist rampage. How many men will fall to her bullets before the night is out? Will Gabriel Quinn’s dashing detective Alejandro stop her? What will her brat children think? Accusations of chauvanism are steadily avoided with a film very much on Lucia’s side, cheering as she guns down the worst examples of masculinity she can find. Good fun for those with a darker sense of humour.

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#141 – Dinamita Joe (Dynamite Joe)

(1970, Mex, 128 min) Dir Jose Samson Tio. Cast Lee Huerta, Franco Nero, Esmeralda.

With the flowering of the Spaghetti Western international variations sprouted up around the world like the sauerkraut Western out of Germany and, from Mexico, the politicised Zapata Western. The wannabe king of this genre, it’s aspirant Sergio Leone, was the expert self-publicist Jose Samson Tio and what was to be his Once Upon a Time in the West was Dinamita Joe. Local hero Lee Huerta (a singer songwriter in his only film role) is simple sheep farmer Joe in Northern Mexico in the 1880’s who takes in the half dead mercenary Jean-Luc (Nero) when he turns up on his farm. Jean-Luc, it turns out, is a French mercenary and before you can say “violent posse” all of Joe’s sheep are dead and his house is a smoking ruin. It’s only a matter of time before Tay gets himself politicised, becoming the legendary dynamite slinging revolutionary Dynamite Joe. It can’t last of course – by the end of the film he’s a bullet riddled martyr to the cause of an independent Mexico, his corpse slung over the cannon that he defended to the death. It’s epic stuff and Tio has his idols eye for a character, a sense of place and a bard-storming set piece.

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#129 – Mentiroso (Liar)

(2000, Mex, 100 min) Dir Ramon Vélez. Cast Diego Luna, Ana Álvarez, Demián Bichir.

The last film of Ramon Vélez and one of the first of Diego Luna’s. Luna plays nineteen year old Bruno who still lives at home with his mother in a leafy street in Mexico City. His desire to move out is curbed by the arrival of a new next door neighbour in the shapely shape of Ana Álvarez and suddenly the sole purpose of the summer months is to steal glances of her whenever he can. Then, when returning from an errand one afternoon, he runs into her in the hall of their building and lies, telling her that he lives on his own in his apartment. The problem is when he gets back to his apartment he finds that his lie has come true – his mother is nowhere to be found. More than that, every subsequent lie he tells her comes true as well, from the new Lamborghini he’s claimed to have bought to the award he’s receiving from the mayor. Of course he gets in over his head real quick and before long he’s being chased all over town by Bichir’s drug kingpin while pining for the return of his mother and the sleepy normality he’s lied away. A slight bit of adolescent wish-fulfillment from the previously magisterial Vélez. It’s diverting enough but I can’t help but think that he would have been at least a little embarrassed that this turned out to be his swan song.

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#127 – Hombre Discoteca (Disco Man)‏

(1981, Mex, 89 min) Dir Alfonso Salles. Cast Hector Mendez, Sally del Toro, Eva.

I don’t know whether it’s the ubiquitous soundtrack or the fact that all anyone really remembers of the film is its dance floor scenes but people tend to forget how depressing Saturday Night Fever really is. This isn’t really a problem with Alfonso Salles’ unofficial remake Disco Man which ups the fantasy atmosphere of the nightclub scenes and really digs in with the squalor of the rest of the movie with graphic shotgun assisted suicide and not one but two dogs getting kicked to death particular highlights. Much like the original this isn’t a film about the transformative or restorative powers of dance and escapism and all of that but it makes more of the idea that the leads turning away from reality for the discotheque fantasy of the weekends is in some way a denial of that reality and that at some point it’s going to come back to bite you. Don’t mess with reality, basically. Star Mendez, who displays more grace and swagger than Travolta himself (and has a huge moustache too), also directed the film’s sequel, Disco Man 2, which was of course in turn an unofficial remake of Stayin’ Alive.

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#124 – Delitos Menores (Petty Crimes)

(1948, Mex, ? min, b/w) Dir Luis Buñuel.

Between Gran Casino and The Great Madcap Buñuel made the short Petty Crimes which seems to have lasted all of three weeks as a completed short following the edit before a small fire at the studio spirited it away. Buñuel, it is said, wasn’t entirely pleased with the film they had produced and regarded the incident with no great emotion, moving swiftly on to the next project. Thus the fleeting existence of Delitos Menores remained of no real consequence until the late 1970’s when a copy of the script appeared in a suitcase in the attic of Ramon Valdez, the son of famed Mexican filmmaker Pablo Valdez and future director of Sol Diablo. Valdez Senior, it transpired, had worked on Delitos Menores as script boy and general gofer. Suddenly the film attained the mystique of the irretrievably lost and Buñuel had to fend off questions about it in interviews for the remainder of his life apart, that is, from when he fell back on his deafness to dodge the inquiries. Stills soon appeared in mislaid and mislabelled boxes in an archive in Switzerland and in 2000, as part of the celebrations for the centenary of Buñuel’s birth, a sort of slide show version was produced with the voices of Martin Sheen, Gabriel Byrne and Julianne Moore reading the parts. More recently Guy Maddin included it as one of the subjects of his Seances series with Udo Kier in the lead.

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#78 – Sol Diablo (Sun Devil)

(1982, Mex, 91 min) Dir Ramon Vélez. Cast Anthony Quinn, Gabriel Jurado, Katy Fernandez.

An apartment building in the centre of Mexico City in the middle of the night. Young Jorge (Jurado) wakes and from his bedroom window is the only person to see the new tenant arrive. This is Hector (Quinn), a suave older gentleman with a suitcase full of trinkets to captivate the children and a million stories to tell to the adults but who always seems to change the subject when the conversation turns personal. He’s so charming though that nobody seems to notice and this includes Isabella, Jorge’s mother (Fernandez, in what would turn out tragically to be her last role), who seems very taken with this grey-haired gentleman. Jorge thinks that he can see through the old man’s charm and takes to spying on him, trying to find out what he’s really up to. While doing this he sees Hector standing over the dying Poe in apartment 9a, his hands pressed to the old man’s temples, and realises what’s going on – he’s stealing the life force from the other residents. “He’s a Sun Devil!” he tells his mother as she prepares to go out for the night with him, “He’s stealing the life from us all to feed the sun inside him!” Of course she thinks he objects to him because of the memory of his late father and turns on him angrily: “Jorge!” she says, “There is no such thing! How can you make something like that up?” How can Jorge convince her? Will she be the next victim? An atmospheric production with a pretty shocking conclusion.

Twitter: @MadeUpFilms