Dir. Miguel M. Delgado; writ. Mario Moreno Reyes, Isaac Diaz Araiza; feat. Mario Moreno 'Cantinflas,' Ana Bertha Lepe, Wolf Ruvinskis, Ofelia Guilmain (NR)
Time was when any film by master comic Cantinflas was an instant box office smash. And certainly, El Patrullero (Patrolman) 777 was a hit. But by 1977, Don Mario's comic style was in its decline as Mexican political corruption was on the rise.
Earlier in his career, Cantinflas created his most loved character, the penniless little tramp, el peladito, whose pants hanged lower than today's hip-hop standards might allow. In Patrullero, Cantinflas is no longer the peladito whom Charlie Chaplin dubbed "the world's greatest comic." When his commanding officer asks why he no longer wears his pants low, the comic retorts: "todo a subido/everything's gone up."
The film's best moment occurs when the patrolman is given a medal for bravery and uses the occasion to lament the loss of dignity and trust in public officials. He delivers his social message in front of a building named after disgraced Mexican president Gustavo Diaz Ordaz. It was under Ordaz' orders that more than 100 university students were killed during a protest in 1968, the same year the Olympics were held in Mexico City.
Amazingly, the populist comic gives us, in an otherwise average film, one of the strongest indictments against the repressive PRI ruling party. He ends by lifting his hand in a salute that echoes a moment during the 1968 Olympics when African-American winners raised their clenched fists to symbolize black power. Bravo, Cantinflas! — Gregg Barrios
El Patrullero 777 screens at the Insituto de México, 600 HemisFair Park, at 4pm on Sunday, August 17. Info: 227.0130.
Dir. and writ. Mel Brooks; feat. Zero Mostel, Gene Wilder, Kenneth Mars, Estelle Winwood, Renée Taylor, Christopher Hewett (PG)
It's hard to believe Broadway took so long to get around to making a play out of The Producers. Maybe the Great White Way took offense to the plot, which isn't exactly complimentary to the folks behind the curtain: Sleazy financier Max Bialystock and his skittish accountant Leo Bloom (Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder, playing off each other perfectly) decide to defraud investors by soliciting far more money than their production will cost, then creating a play so horrible that it will certainly flop, meaning that none of those investors will expect their dough back. The movie isn't too kind to the people in front of the curtain either: Lame-brained audiences embrace Bialystock's horrendous Springtime for Hitler as the next big thing, making him a fortune and wreaking havok on his and Bloom's lives.
Relatively few of us were lucky enough to see the record-smashing NYC production of the recent musical while stars Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick played the leads, and it's hard to imagine how any replacements could come close to the chemistry of Mostel and Wilder - instead of shelling out for airfare and overpriced play tickets to see the latest B'way cast, why not stay in town and catch the originals? — John DeFore
The Producers screens Tuesday, August 19 as part of Texas Public Radio's "Cinema Tuesdays" series. 7:30pm at AMC Huebner Oaks, admission $10 members/$12 non-members, 614-8977 or tpr.org for reservations. The Producers is also available on DVD from MGM. •