Rabu, 16 Maret 2011

Dime with a Halo (1963) - Boris Sagal

As Griffin Mill might pitch it, it’s LOS OLVIDADOS meets THE LITTLE RASCALS. Five kids in Tijuana spend spend all their time out of school and on the streets hustling, ignored by the local cops. Each has an angle, whether it’s watching cars, shining shoes, selling ‘French perfume’ or ‘Genuine stolen Swiss watches’. Their parents are never seen, written off as untrustworthy, abusive, or in jail. Their only aim is to make two bucks each week to bet on a six-horse spread with the help of a regular weekend visitor from LA known to them only as ‘Mr Jones’. After hearing a sermon about how Jesus should be your ‘partner’, the leader of the gang (a world-wise 13 year old who remarks ‘Sex is when you want every girl, love is when you want one’) decides to cut The Saviour in on the action by stealing a dime from the poorbox.

Left in the hands of Capra-corny directors, this movie would have been a big serving of tortilla-wrapped schmaltz. Without making it ‘heavy’, director Boris Sagal balances the tone right enough for us to be genuinely uncertain whether there will be a happy ending or a tragic one. He also pays attention to atmosphere – no plywood-looking sets, but worn-out/lived-in interiors, sun-baked streets, littered alleys, dusty junkyards, racetracks, parking lots, and strip clubs.

It goes without saying that this film is unavailable on DVD. MGM just didn’t know what to do with it in 1963. There were no Hollywood names (the stars are five unknown Mexican kids) and they didn’t know how to market it (apparently no-one told Sagal he was supposed to be making a comedy). Sagal, aside from the odd aberration like the Elvis vehicle GIRL HAPPY, was a director who primarily worked in crime drama…and DIME works all the better for it.

no pass

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