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  • Jim Benson(Lloyd Bridges) is an ex-coast guardsman who runs a charter boat and finds himself down on his luck when he can't make payments on his boat. After taking an obnoxious fisherman named Shanks (Barton MacLane) and his girlfriend Sally(Nancy Gates)fishing off the waters of Mexico, Shanks runs off without paying him and leaves him and Sally stranded in a Mexican port with no money or gas. Benson then is tricked in helping a gangster named Bodine (John Hoyt) into using his boat to smuggle illegal aliens into the United States.

    This film looks to have been filmed very quickly on a very small budget. The low budget shows. Watching this film I couldn't help but get the feeling most of the scenes were done in one take. In one scene a Mexican boy named Pedro who is a friend of our hero, is roughed up by some gangsters who are looking for Benson. We see the gangsters beating up the kid and Benson running to his rescue and carrying the kid away safely. This whole scene is shown entirely in one single far shot. Then there is the car chase scene where Benson sets a trap sending the bad guys car off into a ditch. We never see the car swerve off the road into the ditch, we only see it after its in the ditch and then the bad guys get out.

    WETBACKS has fairly exciting final confrontation with the bad guys. Yet, despite a pretty Nancy Gates, the presence of John Hoyt and Lloyd Bridges, WETBACKS is pretty a trivial film. Its another one of those films that I don't think anyone would call good or recall with any fondness, but where nothing is really done bad enough to make anyone strongly dis-like it either.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    On a DVD double bill with a John Bromfield 1956 adventure "Man Fish", Lloyd Bridges jumps in to be the hero in the equally low budget but even more exciting "Wetbacks", a drama about the illegal transport of Mexicans across the border into the United States. The very likable Bridges is basically forced at gunpoint into breaking the law, being the owner of a fishing vessel which he takes passengers out on. Having been cheated out of the fare by the nasty Barton MacClane, Bridges is in no place to turn down a potential client, but when he realizes what the motives are, he tries to do right. However without a gun he's no match for these criminals led by John Hoyt and through cunning of his own, the involvement of MacLanes's abandoned girlfriend Nancy Gates and the American coast guard, Bridges stands up to these international criminals and prevents them from destroying any more innocent lives.

    Long before he picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue, Lloyd Bridges was a very serious actor, starring in adventures of this sort. Many of them showed his love for the open seas, and this would lead him to his ultimately hugely successful syndicated TV series "Sea Hunt". Still controversial almost 60 years later, the subject of human trafficking and illegal entry in the United States is a serious issue, and while certain elements of what the Mexican border appears to have been like in 1956 seems quite dated, it is serious enough to be an important look at an earlier variation of the problem. What the film has to say is that the Mexicans who here feel they are being led by Moses like heroes into a promised land are simply facing a sea-faring journey to nowhere that they have no idea of where they are going, and their hopes and dreams seen in the one moment when they prepare to board Bridges' ship is quite depressing.

    Of course, there are some plot surprises along the way, and a scene at the end gives a delightful surprise. This is one of those little B movies that has a lot of good moments, tries to rise above its lack of a major studio behind it. Bridges truly saves the day with his likability, and while he would be a regular presence in action films and westerns, it is ironic that he would ultimately be remembered for the fun silly comedies that he would star in from 1980's "Airplane" until his death 20 years later. But as an actor with hundreds of credits to his name, it is delightful to find him playing these different types of roles and unlike Peter Graves and Leslie Nielsen in their dramatic roles of the 1950's, you never have the urge to laugh when Bridges appears.