From Hollywood Legends to “Savages”
Alambristais a 1977 Independent film by Robert M. Young, that is sadly more relevant today that when it was first produced. The documentary like dramatic film follows the struggles of a young undocumented Mexican, Roberto, who crosses into the U.S. to find work to support his family back in Mexico. Though things are tough in Mexico, he finds the going in the US has its own pitfalls. The film is in Spanish and English with subtitles when necessary and unfolds from Roberto’s point of view. Domingo Ambriz plays Roberto, the young undocumented worker who is befriended by the diminutive and spunky Joe, played by the late Trinidad Silva, who shows him how to survive among the gringos. The Criterion Collection has lots of extras including commentaries by and interviews with Robert M. Young. Edward James Olmos also offers perspective on Young’s work since he started his on-screen career in the minor role of a street drunk in a brief scene in the movie. For Olmos, the making of Alambrista began a fruitful artistic and personal relationship with Young that led to Olmos starring in Young’s The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez among other projects.
In 1978 Alambrista won the Camera’d’Or prize at Cannes and the Best Film award at San Sebastian Film Festival. It was first broadcast on PBS to critical accolades and never had a theatrical release. In the decades following it almost became a lost film, but Young and the Criterion people have restored and remastered the original film elements and soundtrack. This is one film that you must have in your permanent DVD Collection.
Savages stars two Latino Oscar nominees and one Oscar winner in this violent tale of southern California marijuana dealers being threatened with takeover by a Mexican Cartel. Oscar nominee (Frida) Salma Hayek stars as the head of the Pacific Cartel and Oscar winner Benicio Del Toro (Traffic) is her henchman. Demian Bichir (A Better Life) plays their stateside Lawyer. Though everyone resorts to savage means in this film to protect their interests, it is clearly the Gringos against the Mexicans in this one and the Gringos come off as the good guys. Available everywhere from Universal Home Video.
The Cisco Kid, a 1994 retelling of the classic fictional Western movie and television hero stars Jimmy Smits as Cisco and Cheech Marin as his sidekick Pancho. There is non –stop action, comedy and romance in this western tale which is the last film to date directed by Luis Valdez (La Bamba). This handsome production was filmed on location in Mexico. The classic song “The Cisco Kid, was a friend of Mine” by the group War, is featured on the film’s soundtrack with additional vocals by Marin. (Available on demand from the Warner Archive collection)
And while on the subject of the Cisco Kid, years before their teaming as 50s era Television’s Pancho and the Cisco Kid, Leo Carrillo and Duncan Renaldo co- starred in a murder mystery film set at the newly constructed Hollywood Bowl in Moonlight Murder(1938).
Cheyenne starring Clint Walker was one of the most popular Western TV series of the late 50s and 60s, as the latest edition of season 4 demonstrates, many Latino actors of the period found work in episodic television in guest staring or supporting roles in many episodes including Rudolfo Acosta, Carlos Romero and Yvette Dugay. Also available from the Warner Archive Collection.
Legendary Mexican born, El Paso raised Gilbert Roland shares the screen with Kirk Douglas and Lana Turner in Vicente Minnelli’s classic MGM drama The Bad and The Beautiful. (Available from the Warner Archive Collection) Roland’s screen career began in the silent movies and encompassed more than sixty years in films and television. His last screen appearance was in the western, Barbarosa in 1981 opposite Willie Nelson, Danny De La Paz and Alma Martinez. Sinbad The Sailor, (1948) a Technicolor adventure features a young Anthony Quinn (Mexican born, East LA raised) in a strong co-starring role as an Emir opposite Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Maureen O’Hara. (Available from the Warner Archive Collection). Lust for Life, the story of 19th century artist Vincent Van Gough starring Kirk Douglas is highlighted by Anthony Quinn’s Academy Award winning performance as Best Supporting Actor of 1957 for his powerful portrayal of artist Paul Gauguin in this much acclaimed classic film.