22 August 2006 | bsmith5552
Film Noire Sans Femme Fatale
Director Anthony Mann is probably best remembered for the series of gritty westerns he made with James Stewart in the 1950s. However prior to this he directed some memorable film noire classics of which "Border Incident" is one of the best. Devoid of the usual film noire "femme fatale", it is nonetheless a dark and unusually (for the time) violent film.
The plot concerns the efforts of the Mexican and American Immigration Services to stem the flow of illegal farm workers crossing the border into the US illegally. To this end the Mexicans assign Pablo Rodrgues (Ricardo Montalban) and the Americans, Jack Bearnes (George Murphy) to work under cover to find the sources of both the illegal traffic and the grizzly murders of workers crossing back into Mexico with their earnings.
They discover that the head of the operation is Owen Parkson (Howard DaSilva). His cohorts include Arnold Moss and Alfonso Bedoya as a couple of ruthless murders, Charles McGraw and Arthur Hunnicutt as his foreman and assistant and Sig Ruman as his Mexican "recruiter".
The film is both dark (most of the film takes place at night) and violent. At the beginning we see the brutal stabbings of several helpless workers returning home by Moss, Bedoya and company and the unceremonious dumping of the bodies into a pool of quicksand. Later, one of the characters meets a particularly gruesome end under a large farm cultivator.
Montalbon and Murphy in particular, turn in excellent performances. Both live on life's edges in their efforts to bring the criminals to justice. Sig Ruman is very good as the brutal Mexican contact. McGraw walks away with the villain's honors as the devious foreman. In fact the whole cast is excellent.
As this film was produced by MGM, Mann was given a larger budget than usual. The scenes are well constructed and lit to give one that classic black and white feeling of impending doom. It will keep you glued to the screen from start to finish.