Victimas del Pecado
Rudolpho Acosta carved out quite a career both in the US and his native Mexico playing bad seeds. He gave James Mason a pretty hard time in One Way Street & bothered Brando in One-Eyed Jacks but nothing, and I mean nothing compares with the lowlife scumbag he portrays in Victimas del Pecado. The film opens on him in a barber’s shop, finishing his shave and dressing in a criminally sharp zoot suit. At the local night club it soon becomes clear he is the neighbourhood pimp, fought over by his girls, fawned over by the owners and abetted by the local police. He’s the big man around town (and a musical number on the dance floor demonstrates he’s got some pretty decent moves too) but all too soon his kryptonite is revealed.
His former top girl returns from the maternity ward, pestering Rudolpho with the new arrival. Rather than take responsibility he recoils in disgust, runs scared and then, demonstrating some serious commitment issues, gets the cops to throw her out of the club. It gets worse: when the girl promises to do anything to be with him again he agrees to take her back on these conditions – she dump the baby into a trash can and goes back on the game. Rather incredibly she agrees and the bawling baby is soon abandoned, awaiting an approaching garbage truck.
Thankfully the scriptwriters are familiar with the Greek classics because like Oedipus, Jason and Perseus the very act of abandonment saves the child. Violeta, a Cuban dancer from the nightclub arrives and scoops him up just in time. She is the star of the show but her insistence on keeping the the infant backstage and raising him as her own angers her boss, interferes with the smooth running of the club and eventually leads, in a round about way to the establishment closing permanently.
Director and co-screenwriter Emilio Fernández always displayed a tendency for melodrama & fatalism and he does not disappoint here. Because of her selflessness Violeta loses both her job and house and soon finds herself forced into prostitution to survive. In this role she is the archetypal Fernández heroine: never self-pitying (or at least not for very long) resourceful, resilient and open-hearted to a fault. She is eventually rewarded for her kindness but as ever with Mexican melodrama of the ’50s redemption comes at a price.
There is something a little off about Victimas del Pecado and while I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as some of Fernández’s other work the weighty themes are dealt with very maturely and unlike most American films of the same era out-of-wedlock births and pre-marital sex are not swept out of view nor is there (film title aside) much judgement cast against the choices the characters make. If you’re prepared for a few tears and a lot of – perhaps over indulgent – dance numbers you’ll enjoy this a great deal.
Victimas del Pecado aka Victims of Sin – directed by Emilio Fernández (1951)
A young nightclub dancer tries to do the right thing but finds that kindness does not pay and sees her life spiral downward with each act of selflessness.
Film clip here