Thursday, September 28, 2023

Vadillo's Savage Summer.

During the 1960’s, Enrique Gomez Vadillo began his career in the theater through some relatives of his and he immediately became enamored with acting. Later on, he got into directing the very same plays he was also acting in—further enhancing his talents. Vadillo later on entered the television & film industry and was recruiting young talents from all over Mexico and this made way for Vadillo to get involved in bigger productions on stage & on film. His first break came with helping produce the Mexican/Spanish co-production Navajeros. After the success of Navajeros, Vadillo had gotten the opportunity to direct his very own film & from an idea all of his own.

Verano Salvaje (aka "Savage Summer") tells the story of Cecilia (Ana Martin); a young woman who has decided to stay at her family’s beach house to get away from the pending marriage of her elderly father & his very young fiancé. Cecilia brings her boyfriend & a friend of hers along to the beach house, but it all goes bad when Cecilia catches her boyfriend sleeping with her friend. Rather than be depressed about the whole ordeal, Cecilia decides to reunite with her 2 childhood friends “Pepe” & “Andres” and strike a much closer bond with them both. Cecilia begins to have sex with both her friends and this leads to both men wanting her and ignoring their significant others. Cecilia also begins seeing other men and one in particular “Eduardo”, a wealthy man close to Pepe & Andres. Cecilia solely desires psychical contact as a way to escape from the emotional baggage she once carried around with her, but will she find true happiness in life this way? 

Verano Salvaje is a film that is 90 minutes long, but so much happens during this average runtime to the point where it feels like it’s much longer. While the film focuses on Cecilia & her many flings, we are also given a glimpse of the people around her & her men—particularly the 2 women that Andres & Pepe are in relationships with. Pepe hangs out with a wealthy older woman named "Kitty" who likes to party all the time & Andres dates a timid nurse at the hospital where he has pediatrician practice at. The film also focuses on Pepe’s conflict with the local cop “Juaco”, whom has an obvious sexual attraction towards him. Then when Kitty is murdered at the beach, much more heavy drama ensues.

As you can tell, Verano Salvaje offers a lot of drama in 90 minutes and is all of that even remotely interesting? Does it even matter or connect? Quite simply, yes. The many dramas in Verano Salvaje are all very intriguing and it all goes into the kind of topics that director Enrique Gomez Vadillo was fascinated with in regards to storytelling & those topics were of eroticism, murder, emotional detachment & homosexuality. Verano Salvaje isn’t a gay film per se, but it does have a lot of familiar things we see in Vadillo’s later films and that mostly consisted of having men portrayed as sexual objects and always having them fully nude in scenes. Vadillo wasted no time here getting all of his male actors to undress. He always had to have that in his films & in stage plays, too. It's what he liked.

Enrique Gomez Vadillo was enamored with the beach and Verano Salvaje was of course set in & near the beach, in particular South Padre Island, TX—a familiar hub to shoot Mexican films in those days. With the beach setting, the scenery in Verano Salvaje is beautiful to look at and many of the best shots of the film are in the beach itself. Especially the final scene. 

Aside from beautiful beach scenery & an intriguing story, Verano Salvaje has a stunning-looking cast and leading lady Ana Martin really stands out, especially with her very obvious androgynous appearance. The 3 leading men Fernando Allende, Orlando Urdaneta & Jorge Rivero are also stand-outs and mostly because all 3 men bare it all out on the screen and that alone is rare to see, especially with Mexican male actors. Legendary Mexican actress Ariadne Welter is another standout and mainly because she plays such an oddball character, a total out of the norm for Ariadne whom through-out her career has always played serious, innocent characters.

Verano Salvaje is an intriguing erotic drama with a wonderful cast & great direction. While there are perhaps “better” erotic dramas just like it, Verano Salvaje still remains a standout that is to be seen. The same can be said of other Vadillo’s films as well. 

 Buy Verano Salvaje on Blu-Ray from Vinegar Syndrome

Sunday, August 20, 2023

City Rats.

We gain our interests at a very young age and these experiences & exposures to our interests are the things taught in a classroom, the sports we are treated to see & take part in, the music we hear in our surroundings, the food we are given to eat, and for people like myself—the films that we watch with our elders. Sometimes these films can be of very lighthearted topics and make us feel good about the world we live in. Then there are other kinds of films that make us feel fear & true terror, but the adrenaline we get from it feels so damn good and the aesthetics from those films are so eye-captivating as well. 

I’m a lover of films and Mexican genre films in particular. What started all this? It began with Ratas De La Ciudad (aka "City Rats") when I first watched it on tv at 7 years old. This was a film my parents were fairly excited to watch and they really wanted me to see it. This film unexpectedly set me up for something I never expected to get into & much deeper later on. Ratas brought fear, lots of excitement & sadness. Ratas also opened my eyes on the world we live in—a big, sad, messy & fucked up world. Ratas was responsible for 13 years of obsession, research, & plenty of devotion to Mexican genre films that have faded away with time. Ratas De La Ciudad is what started this whole thing I call Trash-Mex

 Pedro Macias (Valentin Trujillo) & his little boy Pedrito head out to Mexico City for a better life. Pedro manages to get a decent job and all seems to be going well up until an accident occurs. Pedrito is hit by a policeman’s car and the cop doesn’t take any responsibility for it, thus causing Pedro to harm him. This unfairly lands Pedro in jail for 5 years. While recovering in the hospital, Pedrito is to be sent out to an orphanage, but he manages to runaway and begins a life out in the streets with an older boy (Victor Lozoya). The older boy teaches him how to survive which consists of mugging & stabbing people at night. Of course though, these 2 aren’t the only kids committing such atrocities—there are hundreds & thousands of them alike and the public call them “Ratas” (rats)

Pedro struggles in jail and even more so when he finds out Pedrito has ran away and not been found—luckily though, he befriends an incarcerated cop named Zuñiga (Rodolfo de Anda) who helps him out when they both are released. Zúñiga gets Pedro a job as a cop and this way he can search for Pedrito out in the streets. The city is so big and full of danger, can Pedro find his son safely? Does his son even want to be saved after so long? 

Ratas De La Ciudad (aka "City Rats") was filmed in 1984 & released in 1986 and this was during the time when Mexican films were beginning to “decline” and “lacking quality”. The reason for this apparently was because almost every single film coming out was just pure exploitation. Nothing but violence & sex coming out, but people still went out to see them. And it wasn’t just because that’s all that was being offered, but because that is what the people wanted to see. This is something that “critics” & “historians” fail to mention (all the time). Ratas De La Ciudad is a violent & sleazy film and it was marketed this way with its very violent & appealing poster art, but the film is more than just violence & sleaze—it is also a very serious film that shows the realities of what was going in the big cities in Mexico. What was going in Mexican cities then? There was police corruption all-around & young kids in poverty losing themselves in drugs & committing very serious crimes and no help was ever given to them. These were the things that were heard of all over the news and of course stuff like this would make intriguing films and Valentin Trujillo just had to take a shot at it just after his directorial debut: Un Hombre Violento. Valentin’s family members were of course involved in the film with his cousin Gilberto de Anda writing the screenplay with him & his other cousin Rodolfo de Anda starring alongside him.

Ratas De La Ciudad is a violent film and a very emotional one as well. Ratas portrays its topics of murder, corruption & poverty the way it was talked about in the news. The news was always talking about corruption in the police force and always talking about the violence & drug use in the cities and all consisting of street people—children mostly. In Ratas, we see nothing but young children brutally stabbing people and robbing them of their goods. And while we don't actually see it, the kids in Ratas partake in drug use as a way to cope from boredom & hunger. Once again, this was something that was very much talked about then.

Ratas De La Ciudad is a one of a kind film and while its topics have been portrayed in other films before, Ratas remains its own kind of film and one that could never be emulated. Valentin’s direction here is so personal & different and the characters he & Gilberto de Anda came up with are so very human & real and all portrayed by a wonderful cast consisting of: Valentin Trujillo (directed the film, co-wrote it & starred as the lead!), Rodolfo de Anda, Humberto Elizondo, Angelica Chain, Roberto “Flaco” Guzman and a very young Victor Lozoya. Mexican vedette Lyn May makes a small appearance in Ratas and in one of the most brutal scenes of the film as well. To add another layer of stardom, famous Mexican composer Armando Manzanero provides the film’s gentle & haunting theme song “La Niñez” ("Childhood"). The song is about watching your children growing up happily & free—quite ironic since the film is the completely opposite of that. The song plays in the happy opening credits & it plays again after a very tragic, gruesome ending. Mexican regional group Los Caminantes also provide some music in Ratas and in a very memorable bar fight scene where they perform their smash hit "Supe Perder" ("I Learned To Lose").

Ratas De La Ciudad is a film that will get emotions running & leave you with a feeling of sadness & excitement. This is how I felt when I first saw this film at 7 years old and even today at the age of 32. I would like to consider Ratas to be one of the most realest Mexican films ever made. It's also in some ways quite exploitative, but it exploits the realities of what was really going on then. It did not sugarcoat anything whatsoever. This is a Mexican film that has to be seen and never ignored or looked down upon.