Los de abajo (1940)

 

 

 

Director:     Chano Urueta.

Starring:     Eduardo Arozamena (Venancis?),  Alfonso Bedolla ("El Manlara"),  Antonio Bravo (Sr. Solis),  Guillermo Calles,  Isabela Corona ("La Pintada"),  Ernesto Cortázar (Teniente Federal),  Raúl de Anda (General Panfilo Natura),  Alfredo del Diestro ("El Guero Margarito"),  Carmen Delgado,  Adria Delhort,  Manuel Dondé,  Emilio Fernández (Paneracio),  Esther Fernández (Camila),  Miguel Ángel Ferriz (Demetrio Macias),  Pedro Galindo (segundo Indio),  Raúl Guerrero ("La codorniz"),  Miguel Inclán ("El Kano" ?),   Max Langler (primero Indio),  Carlos López Moctezuma ("El Curro"),  Beatriz Ramos (Mujer de Demetrio),  Emma Roldán (Mama de Camila),  Consuelo Segarra,  Domingo Soler (Anastacio Montanig).

Spanish with no subtitles at all. 

farm worker and his compatriots join forces connected with Pancho Villa; fight in takeover of Zacatecas; surprise ending 

 

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

The wife of the brave soldier Demetrio Macias is making supper when she hears the dog barking his head off.  The two have a young baby boy together.  They figure the Federales are outside, so they get Demetrio armed and put a hat on him and he leaves home.  The Federales shoot the dog, killing him. 

The lieutenant and his sergeant burst through the door of the cabin.  They don't find anyone except the baby at home.  Demetrio's wife has discovered her dead dog and is pretty mad.  She confronts the two Federales saying they are bad men for killing her dog.  The lieutenant likes what he sees and starts to get fresh with the wife.  She pushes him away from her and runs over to a corner of the room.  The sergeant asks her the name of the place and the wife says it is called Limon.  The lieutenant sends the sergeant out to get some tequila because he says he is going to pass the night with this woman.  The woman is not happy about it.  He pushes forward and she quickly steps backward.  He starts to ball her out for this, when Demetrio pushes the door open.  He has his rifle pointed right at the lieutenant.  His wife rushes over to him.  She says:  "Matalo"  (kill him). 

The lieutenant tries to butter up Demetrio saying that he is glad to see the man so well-known for his bravery.  He even wants to shake hands with the rebel.  Demetrio just glares at the lieutenant.  The lieutenant now tells his sergeant that they are going and leaving this brave man alone in peace.  They walk out, get on their horses and leave. 

Demetrio is mad and he is going to get together with the other farmers/farm workers in the area and go fight the Federales.  His wife pleads with him not to go for she will be left all alone with the baby.  He is determined and won't be swayed.  He runs up the path leaving his wife and baby behind.

The lieutenant tells one of the big land owners, Almonico or Del Monico, that he took care of the house of Demetrio.  It is burning now.  The landowner thanks the lieutenant and gives him extra money to reward him for a job well done. 

Demetrio sees his house burning in the distance.  He goes into the bushes to lie down.  In the morning, he awakens, walks to a more isolated area and blows a horn to tell the other men to gather together.  When they are all together, Demetrio tells him the injustices inflictied on him and his wife by the Federales and how he wants to pay them back in kind.   The men give a big cheer for their leader Demetrio. 

The men set up an ambush for the federal troops coming through a narrow valley.  The peasants are on the top of a ridge and open fire on the troopers below.  The troops get off their horses and start returning fire.  Demetrio shoots the officer in charge.  The small, unarmed peasant known as Cordoniz stands up on a rock and taunts the troops to shoot him.  Demetrio forces the man off the rock, but in the process receives a leg wound.  Almost all the federal troops are wounded or killed.  Two men help Demetrio walk to his horse. 

The men ride to a site where two peasants have been hung by the Federales.  This makes them very mad. 

At the camp of the Federales, a survivor of the ambush is slapped by his superior officer for having left the battlefield.  This upsets the soldier and he starts thinking about what he should do. 

Demetrio is now patched up.  He is brought to a nearby village.  He cries out for water and a young, pretty girl brings him some water and helps him get it down his throat.  And now they take Demetrio into a local house so he can start healing. 

At night the federal soldier deserts.  He doesn't know the password and gets wounded by a Demetrio sentry.  The deserter says he wants to join with the revolutionaries.  The men start roughing him up until this disturbs the sleep of Demetrio and he demands to know what's going on.  They bring the deserter into see Demetrio.  The man says that he is Luis Cervantes and he was a medical student and a journalist in real life.  Demetrio talks with him and seems to think the fellow is okay.  He tells his men it's okay and then he just goes back to sleep. 

Later the young, pretty girl returns, bringing him something like a soup.  Demetrio asks her name and she says she is Camila.  He tries to take her hand to thank her properly, but she immediately pulls away from Demetrio and leaves. 

The small, unarmed fellow is ordered to dress like a priest.  So the fellow goes to a local church and puts on the cloak and hat of a priest. 

The men start calling Luis Cervantes "El Curro" because of his medical background.  He goes to Camila's place and asks her for some water so he can wash his foot wound.  Camila gives him some very hot water.  Curro has some alcohol with him and he tells Camila that he will use it as a disinfectant to fight the microbes.  Camila seems to enjoy his visit. 

Demetrio has his leg wound washed and re-bandaged.  Later Curro examines the leg and fixes it up so well that Demetrio can now walk (but with a limp for now). 

Camila comes out to see Curro.  She seems to be in love with Curro, but she also likes Demetrio. 

Demetrio says that they will be heading out tomorrow to join forces with  the Villista General Natura.

Camila comes to see Curro again.  He advises her to stick with Demetrio because he will be a general.  He will be very rich with many horses, elegant houses and a lot of money to spend.  This upsets Camila who wasn't expecting Curro to push the cause of Demetrio with her.  She tells him to leave.  He goes. 

The soldiers leave as the women watch.  A neighbor tells Camila's mother that her daughter Camila likes this man Curro.  Mom spanks her with a piece of wood on her behind. 

The peasant troopers meet a man along the way.  He tells them that there are quite a few Federales holding the local town.  So the men go into the town at night.  As they turn a corner they are fired upon by the soldiers.  The peasants quickly turn their horses around and get out of the line of fire.  A local tells the peasants a place from which to put up a good fight against the soldiers.  The federal commander doesn't personally want to take on the peasants in combat, so he sends another officer to deal with them.  He says not to leave any of them alive. 

In place up on a roof, Demetrio throws a bomb at a key location of the soldiers.  Others also throw bombs.  The men then charge the soldiers.  Demetrio kills a spy with his knife.  The victory goes to the peasant troops.  And very soon the peasant band is headed off again.  The men join with Gen. Natura's army and participate in a large battle.  The men go up to see the general, who then makes Demetrio a colonel.  Curro speaks to a man he knows, Mr. Solis. 

The next battle the men fight in is at Zacatecas.  The peasant army advances toward the line of  the federal troops.  The Federales have the advantage because they have both artillery and machine guns.  The foot soldiers are turned back.  Now the  peasant army mounts a cavalry charge.  Curro gets knocked off his horse.  He stands over against a wall where he sees Mr. Solis.  Among other things, they talks about the great courage of Demetrio.  The cavalry overruns the artillery.  Cavalrymen throw lassos over the machine guns and run off on their horses dragging the machine guns behind them.  As Solis talks and gets more and more excited, he is suddenly shot in the gut and goes down. 

The peasant army celebrates in the bars and taverns of Zacatecas.  Demetrio is introduced to El Guero Margarito and the two men shake hands.  (Margito looks like a very heavy Harpo Marx of the Marx brothers.)  An older, female fighter nicknamed La Pintada eyes Demetrio.  She sidles over to Demetrio to talk with him.   At this time it is revealed that Demetrio now carries the rank of general.  She and Demetrio later go for a walk.  She opens up a house by firing at the lock and they both laugh and go inside. 

In the morning the older woman and Demetrio are awakened.  They soon come out of the bedroom.  Later the lady and a soldier force open a locked part of a desk and they find some valuables inside. 

At a dinner with the men Curro shows up with an attractive blonde woman who attracts a lot of attention.  The men get drunk.  Demetrio gets quite drunk and soon he is fighting with Curro to take his girl from him.  The other guys jump on Demetrio to stop him, but Demetrio gets one arm free and he starts knocking down man after man.  Curro is knocked out cold.  Later Curro awakens and finds himself alone in the dining room.  He goes to find the other troopers.  He tells Pintada that the blonde is his novia (girlfriend or fiancée).  Pintada tells him to wizen up because the blonde girlfriend is sleeping with El Guero Margarito. 

Demetrio wants to go after Almonico (or Del Monico) to punish him for burning his house down.  He and his men force their way into the man's house.  Three older women are in the house.  Demetrio asks the leader of the group if they have any weapons in the house and she says no.  Demetrio tells the men to search the house.  The large land owner is found hiding in a closet.  He gets on his knees and begs for his life.  Then his wife says the word "Demetrio" in a plaintiff way and Demetrio changes his mind about shooting the land owner.  He and his men leave the house without any deaths. 

Curro talks with Demetrio alone.  He shows Demetrio all the money he found in one of the houses.  He says after the war the two of them can live very comfortably.  Demetrio doesn't want to hear about it.  He's not interested in being wealthy after the war.  It looks like there is going to be a rift between the men, but Curro uses his charms to get back into the good graces of Demetrio. 

Pintada talks with Camila.  She gives her some advise about her love life or lack thereof. 

Demetrio tells everyone that they are heading for Jalisco  --  "God's earth".  Pintada becomes very jealous of Camila when Demetrio comes over, takes Camila by the hand and then takes her with him.  Now Camila rides up front with the general.  The men stop for the night.  Camila is put up in a nice room.  They are interrupted by a ruckus outside the door.  They go out to see what's going on.  The men have caught an enemy soldier.  Demetrio wants to interrogate the man, but suddenly Margarito just shoots the man dead.  (Unbeknownst to Demetrio, Margarito is a spy and wanted to silence the prisoner of war before he talked.)  Camila and Demetrio are very angry with Margarito.  Camila goes back to her room.  Pintada follows her and starts a fight with Camila concerning her reaction toward Margarito.  The older woman becomes very angry and pushes Camila down, hurting her arm.  She then spits on Camila as she lays on the floor. 

Demetrio comes in to see what's going on.  He helps Camila up and he tells Pintada to get lost. She leaves in a nasty mood.  Demetrio doesn't like this dispute between the women and tells one of his closest friends that the dispute between the women is serious. 

When Demetrio sees Pintada ready to travel with the troops, he tells her that she's not going with them.  She is so mad about this that she seeks revenge.  She goes over to Camila with a knife in her hand.  They fight and Pintada sticks the knife into the mid-section of Camila.  Camila dies.  Demetrio feels like killing Pintada, but decides not to do it.  She comes over to him and tells him to kill her, but he just tells her to get out of here. 

One of Demetrio's men searches for the general's wife and finds her and her little boy.  The woman is very happy to know that her husband is coming into the area.  Demetrio now travels through the same valley where he and his men ambushed and killed so many Federales.  But this time the Federales have set up an ambush to kill Demetrio and his men.  The soldiers open fire on the men below.  And just like the ambush before, the men in the valley are cut down one by one.  Curro is killed and Margito, who yells at the soldiers not to shoot him because he is on their side, along with the others. Demetrio grabs a rifle and starts firing from behind a rock at the enemy. 

The man who came earlier to speak with Demetrio's wife, now comes to tells her that her husband is dead.  He says he has to leave now because the enemy is still pursuing him.  The wife is shocked.  She calls out her husband's name.  Back on the battlefield, Demetrio is dead from a bullet that entered his head through his forehead. 

 

Good movie, especially the ending.  This is the story of the Mexican Revolution which was started because of the great inequalities between the very wealthy and the very poor.  What's most interesting about the film is the ending.  The revolution was betrayed by the liberals who were not liberal enough and, in essence, the ending of the film is appropriate because it represents the sad outcome of the revolution, from which Mexico still suffers.  Esther Fernández (as Camila) is very pretty and she did a good job of acting the role of the innocent one.  Her betrayal by a supposed friend is also symbolic of the sad end of the revolution. 

The film title has two meanings:  those who are very poor and the men being killed at the bottom of a valley.  Hence, Those Below.   

Some commentators have seen the film as an Odysseus-like saga of seeking desperately to return home from war.  I don't like the comparison because it tends to deny the reasons for why the poor took up arms against the government.  The men and women who fought for the war were trying to get a better life for themselves and their families.  The film ending is negative and cynical, but so was the ending of the real Mexican Revolution.  The strong theme of betrayal in the film goes along with the disappointing end to the revolution. 

The Spanish used in the film is frequently of the Chihuahuan dialect, which made it harder for me trying to figure out what was going on in the film.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 


Historical Background:

 

1914 (June 23) – the Battle of Zacatecas was the bloodiest battle in the campaign to overthrow Mexican President Victoriano Huerta. Pancho Villa and his División del Norte (Division of the North) decisively defeated the federal troops of General Luís Medina Barrón defending the town of Zacatecas. The decisive victory demoralized Huerta's supporters.

1914 (July 15) – Huerta resigns on July 15.

 

 

 

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