Sunday, March 17, 2013

Peligro!... Mujeres en Accion, aka Danger Girls (Mexico, 1969)

We’ve seen time and again in Mexican genre movies that when a bunch of women get together they’re usually up to no good. And I’m not just talking sangria benders and serial viewings of Magic Mike. More typically it’s world domination that’s on the agenda, whether these femmes are terrestrial, as in Las Sicodelicas or Blue Demon contra las Diabolicas, or extraterrestrial, as in Blue Demon contra las Invasoras or Planeta de las Mujeres Invasoras. Treachery, your name is woman!

As Peligro!... Mujeres en Accion amply demonstrates, these visions of Amazonian apocalypse also guaranty the appearance of a lot of familiar faces. The film reads as a sort of Mexican “Follies of 1967”, providing little more than a thin pretext for parading the country’s pantheon of B movie starlets before the camera in an assortment of scanty swimsuits and lingerie. So top loaded is the female cast, in fact, that some fairly big names get only a bare minimum of screen time. American born Amedee Chabot -- she of Las Sicodelicas and Agente 00 Sexy -- has a role as an Ecuadorian hit woman that amounts to little more than a cameo, and frequent Santo (and one time Elvis) co-star Elsa Cardenas is on screen for only one brief scene before being unceremoniously picked off.

It’s another American actress, Elizabeth Campbell, who fares somewhat better, landing the meaty role of the picture’s lead villain. Both imposing and lovely, Campbell was probably the girl most likely to feature in mid century Latin men’s worst nightmares of female enslavement, having also appeared in the aforementioned Las Sicodelicas and Planeta de las Mujeres Invasoras, as well as the first four Las Luchadoras movies. Here she plays Sora, head of the international terrorist organization S.O.S. The organization seems to have a bit of a glass ceiling where men are concerned, but is nonetheless not exclusively female. For instance, there is the legion of anonymous, black turtleneck wearing commandos who collapse like fainting goats whenever a grenade goes off within fifty feet of them. And then there’s Jack (Cesar del Campo), an assassin with a solid gold left hand that he lovingly sharpens on a grinding wheel.

You almost wouldn’t know it, but Peligro!... Mujeres en Accion is actually the second of two movies featuring Mexican super secret agent Alex Dinamo, the first being the previously reviewed S.O.S. Conspiracion Bikini. That film’s star, Julio Aleman, returns to his role here, as does S.O.S. writer/director Rene Cardona Jr. and, perhaps most importantly, the swimwear of Oleg Cassini. This time around, Dinamo and two female cohorts, Barbara (Barbara Angely of the wonderful Tigresas films) and Maura (Doctor Satan’s Alma Delia Fuentes), foil a plot by S.O.S. to destroy an Ecuadorian refinery, only to uncover a larger plot by the gang to poison South America’s water supply with a deadly manmade virus.

As with S.O.S. before it, Peligro takes the tack of exploiting whatever production value it can muster to patience testing extremes. Fortunately, there seems to have been a bit more of a cash outlay this time around, so, in addition to the light plane that we see over and over again, there are also a mini sub and a helicopter for the camera to linger on at uncomfortable lengths. The buildup that the helicopter gets is actually quite comical, as if Peligro were providing humanity at large with its first glimpse of the contraption. (I imagine audience members leaping behind their seats and shouting “witchcraft!” at the screen.) There are also several conveyances and structures that get blowed up real good.

Probably the most conspicuous evidence of expense, however, is in Peligro’s assortment of locations. The movie was shot in Ecuador, Puerto Rico, and Miami, with each providing a suitably glitzy backdrop for the film’s otherwise prosaic spy movie action. Miami, in particular, affords the film the opportunity to walk in Goldfinger’s footsteps by including a scene shot at the Fontainebleau Hotel. Florida also provides the setting for one of the movie’s most exciting action sequences, during which Sora and her crew hunt Dinamo and his partners through the Everglades like well dressed animals.

All that moving back and forth between countries adds a dynamism to Dinamo’s actions that might otherwise be lacking, given that his progress involves a lot more luck than detective work. You see, the various operatives of S.O.S. may be cruel and cunning, but they are also women, while Dinamo, he is a man. As such, these ladies are practically lining up to turn traitor for him; helpfully pointing him toward the next plot point in return for some coyly implied canoodling. It’s merely a matter of him making sure he’s in the right port of call to receive the advances of the next whistle blower.

My favorite of these many turncoats is Cristal, a nightclub singer played by Nadia Milton. Cristal makes her biggest impression by performing a Nancy Sinatra style musical number that’s seemingly comprised mostly of improvised ESL whooping and punctuated by jerky go-go dancing moves. The overall effect is more that of a psychotic break than of any kind of choreographed entertainment. It’s by far the strangest moment in Peligro, and indicative of a type of strangeness that the movie overall could have benefited from a lot more of. Like S.O.S. Conspiracion Bikini , it’s a mildly likeable film that -- in a sea of Mexican spy films rife with femmebots, masked wrestlers and invisibility rays -- fails to distinguish itself above the competition. Fortunately, if one so chooses, he can just turn the sound down and treat it like a vaguely diverting fashion show of vintage bikinis.


Anonymous said...

Hmmmm...why have I come across so few Mexican spy films,(aside from Santo films)...or more to the point, why have I not wondered more about whether there ought to be some out there? The genre is such a perfect fit for Mexican cinema. Much like their plentiful rock and roll pictures.

Todd said...

And I definitely need to delve further into the rock and roll films -- though sometimes the spy and rock and roll genres overlap. See, for instance, Cazadores de Espias.