(director/writer: Roberto Rodriquez; screenwriter: Rafael García Travesi; cinematographer: Gabriel Figueroa; editor: Jose W. Bustos; music: Jose Alfredo Jimenez/Raul Lavista; cast: Maria Felix (Maria Mendoza/La Bandida), Emilio Fernandez (Epigmenio Gomez), Pedro Armendariz (Roberto Herrera), Katy Jurado (Jarochita), Ignacio Lopez Tarso (Anselmo); Runtime: 110; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Ismael Rodriguez; TCM; 1963-Mexico-in Spanish with English subtitles)
“Too bad the stars were just too old to make their melodramatic romances that believable.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Roberto Rodriquez (“Spring in the Heart”/”Smile of the Virgin”/”The Happy Musketeers”)directs and co-writes withRafael García Travesithis overwrought melodrama with aging stars, whichrepresents the declining last days of Mexico’s Golden Age of Cinema.It tells of a passionate love story of two rivals from the Mexican Revolution of 1912 courting the same hot-blooded woman.The stylized epic-like musical romance picture looked beautiful in lush Technicolor, with stunning landscape visuals by the great cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa. But there was little action, it was much too talky with lame dialogue, and the soap opera romance story was dull and corny. Yet it was a crowd-pleaser in Mexico because it had star appeal. Mexico’s superstar actress, Maria Felix, who was 48 at the time, was described by critics as “a strong-willed woman with a man’s heart,”gives a fiery performance as the vulnerabletoughie.The popularand colorful 60-year-old Emilio Fernandezgives a colorful performance, as does the 50-year-old Pedro Armendariz. Too bad the stars were just too old to make their melodramatic romances that believable.
In 1912, during the Mexican Revolution,Madero becomes President and attempts to execute land reforms. Revolutionary rival fightersEpigmenio Gomez (Emilio Fernandez) and Roberto Herrera (Pedro Armendariz) are forced by the government troops to put down their arms and return to civilian life. When Herrera returns to his ranch, he discovers his beautiful woman Maria Mendoza (Maria Felix) was not faithful and he kicks her out and shoots her lover. Maria, dubbed “La Bandida” because she steals the hearts of all the men who fall for her, returns to being a prostitute at a bordello where the madam is an ignorant and abusive American. The hot-tempered Maria gives the madam a beat down and gets all the prostitutes and bordello staff to go with her as she opens her own bordello in San Miguel, which is where Herrera dwells. When the peasant Gomez arrives in San Miguel to engage in cock fights, Maria seduces him and the men not only engage in cock fights but compete to win the heart of Maria. In the background, the Mexican Revolution is re-ignited.
REVIEWED ON 8/1/2012 GRADE: C