Saturday, November 12, 2011

Tonight's Movie: Mystery in Mexico (1948)

MYSTERY IN MEXICO is a most enjoyable little 66-minute "B" movie starring the underrated William Lundigan, an actor for whom I have increasing appreciation.

This RKO film has a bit of the vibe of Lundigan's well-regarded 1949 film noir FOLLOW ME QUIETLY, as in both films he plays a detective accompanied on a search by a beautiful blonde. However, MYSTERY IN MEXICO has a style all its own; despite being a programmer, it was filmed entirely on location in Mexico City and Cuernavaca.

FOLLOW ME QUIETLY was recently released on DVD by Warner Archive, and it would be wonderful if the Archive would also release MYSTERY IN MEXICO, which was produced by the same studio.

When insurance agency detective Glenn Ames (Walter Reed of SEVEN MEN FROM NOW) goes missing in Mexico City, agency detective Steve Hastings (Lundigan) is sent to Mexico to investigate. Ames's sister Victoria (Jacqueline White of THE NARROW MARGIN), a singer, is also on the hunt for her brother.

Pre-code heartthrob/villain Ricardo Cortez (MIDNIGHT MARY) plays a Mexico City nightclub owner who hires Victoria and might be connected to her brother's disappearance.

MYSTERY IN MEXICO was directed by Robert Wise in the midst of a run of excellent, better-known movies, including BORN TO KILL (1947), BLOOD ON THE MOON (1948), and THE SET-UP (1949). An article I found online quoted Wise as saying that RKO had sent him to Mexico for a few months to see if the studio could make movies south of the border less expensively; the answer was no.

Wise, who would later direct Lundigan in the excellent film noir THE HOUSE ON TELEGRAPH HILL (1951), keeps the action moving along in MYSTERY IN MEXICO.  Lundigan fans will enjoy his portrayal of the charming, resourceful detective who falls head over heels for Victoria from the moment he sees her photograph. White makes a spunky foil for Lundigan; I particularly enjoyed a scene where she surprises him at the Mexico City airport.

The film was photographed in black and white by Jack Draper, a U.S.-born cinematographer who had a long career in the Mexican film industry. He would occasionally film U.S. productions made in Mexico, including PLUNDER OF THE SUN (1953) and DANIEL BOONE, TRAILBLAZER (1956).

MYSTERY IN MEXICO has a bit of mystery, a bit of local color, and a bit of romance, adding up to a nice way to spend an hour or so.

My great thanks to one of this blog's longtime regular readers, Mel, for enabling me to watch this film at long last!

January 2014 Update: Great news, this movie is being released on DVD-R by the Warner Archive!

June 2014 Update: Here's a review of the Warner Archive DVD.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glad you did a piece on this one Laura. It's coming out on DVD in France in September (along with Anthony Mann's Two O'Clock Courage and John Farrow's Five Came Back) and I was curious about it. Sounds fun - I think I'll probably pick it up.


1:47 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I enjoyed all three of those films, Colin -- sure wish they'd come out on DVD here! Hope you find this one as enjoyable as I did. I do like my "B" movies! :)

Best wishes,

1:56 PM  

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