Border Incident (1949) is a gripping noir about the illegal smuggling of braceros (Mexican workers) into the US. Ricardo Montalban stars as Pablo Rodriguez, a Mexican undercover agent who is posing as a paisano/bracero in order to infiltrate a band of devious smugglers. Pablo befriends bracero Juan Garcia (James Mitchell) and the two form a close bond. As Pablo and Juan get smuggled across the border, American agent Jack Bearnes (George Murphy) who is posing as a dealer in forged immigration papers. However, the network of bandits are violent and determined to get their way and things get to get complicated and ugly really quickly.
I have to say, this was a very uncomfortable film to watch. It's very violent, not in terms of gore but with torture and murder. Plus there is also a pit of death where the illegal braceros are thrown in to die once they are no longer needed (yikes!). Some folks don't think it's technically a noir but it's got all the elements of a noir just in an atypical setting. This films merits I think lie in the performances of Ricardo Montalban and James Mitchell. They are our heroes and we root for them all the way.
You mean, you can make a film about Latinos with Latino actors?! No!!! The Mexican characters in this film are mostly played by Latinos, which makes a welcome change from Caucasian actors with olive complexions (or extra make-up). The only exception is James Mitchell, who I don't think is actually Hispanic but I could be wrong. The theme of illegal immigration and the exploitation of Mexican workers makes this film incredibly relevant today. The situations in the story are disturbingly real and I think this is a good movie for sparking some political discussions.
Level of Brown Face: 1 out of 5 Shades.
TCM Latino Images in Film Line-Up for Tuesday May 7th
Border Incident (1949)
Right Cross (1950)
Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962)
Revenue Agent (1950)