Thursday, August 07, 2014


In El Paramo, a "sleepy oasis" in the middle of the Mexican badlands, a charming bandit known as El Capitan Thunder (Victor Varconi, pictured) is upset at the small reward being offered for his arrest, so he makes a promise to rob the next stagecoach—and the one thing everyone knows about Captain Thunder is that he always keeps his promises. Commandante Ruiz (Charles Judels) insists he is prepared and will stop Thunder, but when the stagecoach arrives, it has indeed been burglarized and all its passengers, including the lovely young Ynez (Fay Wray), are clad only in their underwear, having had their clothes stolen. Thunder, quite taken by Ynez, gallantly returns her clothes and discovers that she is in love with the handsome but poor Juan, although her father wants her to marry the older, nasty American rancher Morgan. Thunder winds up in a spot because of his ethics: he promises to help Ynez marry Juan—which he does by letting Juan capture him and get the reward money (which has gone up considerably since the beginning of the movie), but he has also promised Morgan a favor, and that favor winds up being to stop Ynez's marriage to Juan. Thunder's solution is ingenious (and could never have happened if this had been made a few years later under the strictures of the Production Code)—SPOILER! Immediately after Morgan and Ynez are married, while all the guests are still present, Thunder takes Morgan offscreen and shoots him dead. Now Ynez inherits his land AND gets the cute Juan. And Thunder gets away scot free.

Most critical commentary on this movie focuses on the bad sound and the performance of Varconi, a Hungarian actor who played a wide range of exotic roles. The dialogue is indeed difficult to follow at times, between the dicey recording and the exaggerated accents of several of the actors. And Varconi is not the ideal hero: at almost 40, he's a smidge old for the adventurous lead, showing signs of going to seed, and at times he seems like he's playing a supporting role. But he's game and his light touch is just right for the tone of the film—which makes the climax all the more surprising. Wray, the year before KING KONG, doesn't really stand out, thought Judels is good as the buffoonish Ruiz. Don Alverado, as Juan, was kind of a B-movie Valentino, though he never got past supporting parts. [TCM]

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