18 Tuesday Apr 2017
Anthony Mann was a prolific director (42 credits) of Hollywood movies from the early ’40s to the late ’60s. Many might remember El Cid (1961) or Cimarron (1960). God’s Little Acre, based on the Erskine Caldwell potboiler, appeared (to high scandal) in 1958. The Glenn Miller Story (1954) still shows up on Old Movie channels. I had never heard of his 1949 Border Incident, however, until it showed up under his name on FilmStruck, a curated movie site I much enjoy.
Filmed by John Alton in contrasting black and white with ominous shadows, radical camera angles and sneering mugs of the bad-guys of American film-noir, it is a pretty good combination of detective story, social commentary and good old fashioned fist-fighting. André Previn contributes a score aimed at signaling exactly what it does: danger, danger, danger!
For a 1949 movie, it does a credible job of portraying the lives and fears of Mexican workers, picked out at shape-ups in Mexicali, provided with counterfeit work permits and bused across the border. Bribes are paid. The men are kept under-guard, and the promised pay — 25¢ an hour– is docked for food, bunk space and the trip across.