29 August 2009 | JohnHowardReid
Norman's Noir, South of the Border
Noir westerns are a rare breed, but they do exist. One of the best is undoubtedly El Ahijado de la muerte (1946) written (in collaboration with actress Raquel Rojas and her husband, actor Luis Alicoriza) by Norman Foster, who also directed. And a very weird film it is too. In fact it's the only movie from Foster's Mexican period at present available on DVD. This one certainly whets our appetite to see more of Foster south of the border. The story of Death's Protegé involves a poor peon, Dionisio (played by Polo Ortín), who takes Death (Lupe Inclán) up on her offer to trade the life of his baby son, Pedro, in exchange for his lovely wife, Madrina (Emma Roldán). Why would Death be interested in such an exchange? When Pedro (Jorge Negrete) grows up, he is hired as a foreman by ruthless Don Enrique del Castillo (Alejandro Ciangherotti), whose son, Julio (the villain's villain Tito Junco at his nastiest), is quick to dislike Pedro's attentions to his sister, Marina (Rita Conde in her movie debut). You can guess the rest. Assisted by Jack Draper's superb photography and Gunther Gerzso's studio-bound but often super-spooky sets, director Foster contrives a fast-moving, moody noir with an often Wellesian flair, including a tilted camera angle that pans into a reverse tilt. Wow!