Agente "O" en Nueva York [Agent Zero in New York] (Pakira Films Productions/Columbia, 1966) Exec Prod: José Raúl Ramírez; Prod: Paquito Cordero; Assoc Prod: José E. Pedreira; Dir: Fernando Cortés; Scr: Fernando Galiana; Photo: Pedro Juan López; Music Dir: Sergio Guerrero; Prod Mgr: Arturo Correa; Film Ed: Carlos Savage Jr.; Makeup-Hair: Nivea Solano; Dialog Rec: José Raúl Ramírez; Music/Re-rec: Enrique Rodríguez; Lighting Tech: Leslie Colombani; Camera Asst: Francisco Miró

 

 

     Cast: Adalberto Rodríguez "Machuchal" (Machuchal), Gina Romand (Margot), Arturo Correa (Mister X), Felipe Rodríguez (himself), Camilo Delgado, Luis Alberto Martínez (Óscar), Ita Medina (?Lolita), Luis Lucio, Charlie Gibbs, Nelson Banks (Peter Hoss), Mildred Díaz, Delia Esther Quiñones, Teresita Ruiz, José Hernández Zamora, Vicente Vázquez, Francisco Molina, Fredy Báez, Lucecita Benítez (herself), El Gran Combo, Paquito Cordero (Puerto Rico Theater emcee), Trío Los Antares, Roberto Maurano, Raúl Méndez Jr., Roberto Villeyas, Combo Les Cavaliers, Roque Navarro y su Conjunto Típico; wrestlers: Huracán Castillo, Efraín Morales, Alfredo Pérez, Santos Osvaldo Olmos, Miguel Cruz, Enrique A. Sampayo, José Lozada, Raúl Colón, Carlos Astacio García, Luis A. Olivieri, Lucas Morales, La Pantera Negra

 

     Notes: in the mid-1960s, Columbia Pictures helped finance a series of 4 Pakira Films comedies starring Puerto Rican comedian Adalberto Rodríguez "Machuchal"--El alcalde Machuchal (1964), El jíbaro millonario (1965), Agente "0" en Nueva York (1966), and El curandero del pueblo (1967). [Rodriguez also appeared in other movies in this era, including Rosa la tequilera--in which he plays a different character but has a ventriloquist's dummy named "Machuchal"!--but the aforementioned quartet are considered the "official" Machuchal series.]  Columbia had been active in distribution of Latin American movies since at least the 1950s, but the details of their involvement in production are unclear (in any event, it appears Columbia merely fronted the money).  Agente "O" en Nueva York is a mild comedy which rather surprisingly includes footage shot in New York, Puerto Rico, and Washington D.C. (and not stock footage, either).  Many Pakira Films movies are credited as Mexican-Puerto Rican co-productions: in this instance, the Mexican contribution includes the script, music direction, editing, and post-production sound, as well as Gina Romand (who was Cuban but worked chiefly in Mexico).   Fernando Cortés was of course Puerto Rican, but directed most of his movies in Mexico as well.

 

     As the film opens, an offscreen narrator talks about the modern city of San Juan, Puerto Rico, and the nearby small town of Machuchal, which is celebrating its annual festival.  In Machuchal, the character Machuchal is earning money working for various vendors (a cafe, a photo booth, etc.).  He tells the local priest he's saving money for his fondest wish.  The priest assumes Machuchal is referring to marriage, and informs Machuchal's girlfriend Lolita.  However, Machuchal tells Lolita his great dream is to visit New York City, which irritates her.  Singer Felipe Rodríguez says New York is a wonderful place: there are five women for every man, money is easy to come by, there are machines which provide food, cigarettes, etc. 

 

      The scene switches to an aerial view of New York, and the narrator says "Of the 8 million inhabitants of New York, it is calculated that there are three thousand New Yorkers, and 7,997,000 Puerto Ricans."  Arriving at the airport, Machuchal buys a soda from a vending machine, shouting thanks to the enano (midget) he believes is inside. 

     A blonde woman approaches Machuchal when she sees him stamping his feet beside the soda machine, and speaks the first part of a nonsense rhyme (the Spanish equivalent of "eeney meany miney moe"), which Machuchal completes.  She tells him to come to 229 Brook Avenue in the Bronx that afternoon.  Machuchal, remembering Felipe's comment about "five women for every man" in New York, says "If the other four fillies are like you, I think I'll like New York."  After they both leave, a man in dark glasses purchases a soda from the machine and stamps his foot--when no one approaches him, he calls his boss in Chicago and says the deal must be off.

 

      Machuchal arrives in the Bronx after various mishaps, made more difficult by his nonexistent English.  [He asks a white-bearded man sitting on a park bench, "Santa Claus, where's the Bronx?" but gets a mumbled "I dunno" in response.]  A Spanish-speaking newsstand operator finally directs the tourist to his destination, which turns out to be a gym featuring sword-fighting Bedouins, a snake charmer, karate experts, a weight lifter, and a Viking!  In the main office, the masked "Mister X" is waiting with the blonde, Margot.  Machuchal has been mistaken for a hired killer from Chicago.  The multi-national mob in the gym is to "train" him in various means of assassination for a murder to be performed in one week.  Playing along, Machuchal agrees to return the next day, but instead runs to the nearest police station.  He's passed along to detective Martínez, who advises Machuchal to continue working with Mr. X's "Perfect Crime Syndicate" until the FBI can take over the case.

 

      That night, Machuchal visits the Puerto Rico Theater (a real-life Bronx landmark since the late 1940s), where he meets his friend Felipe Rodríguez (also performing is Lucecita Benítez, who sings "La Bamba").  Machuchal does a brief stand-up routine with emcee Paquito Cordero, filling in for an absent comedian.  The next morning, Mr. X's henchman Óscar collects Machuchal at his hotel, which leads to some scenic views of New York (including Radio City Music Hall) before they reach the gym in the Bronx.  Machuchal manages to fumble all of his assassin's training (with a pistol, machine gun, chemicals to make a bomb, karate, etc.).  Returning to his hotel, Machuchal is knocked out by intruders and flown to Washington D.C., where Martínez introduces him to Peter Hoss of the C.I.A.   The Puerto Rican tourist is named Special Agent 0 ("You've confused me with James Bond," he says) and given a briefcase full of special gadgets to help him in his mission: learn who is the target of the murder plot.

 

     Back in New York, Mr. X informs Machuchal he must assassinate the ambassador of the nation of Fredonia (?Pironia? It's hard to hear) the next day.  Later, Mr. X instructs Margot to "get close" to Machuchal and make sure he's trustworthy.  That night, Margot "accidentally" meets Machuchal and they go to a nightclub.  A drunk who had earlier accosted Machuchal reappears and dances with Margot (suddenly becoming sober)--he's in on the plot.  However, the waiter is really agent Martínez in disguise, and he helps Machuchal stay sober while a tipsy Margot dances and sings.  The next day, Machuchal is sent to kill the ambassador, with Óscar and Margot along for the ride.  Machuchal refuses to shoot and tries to arrest the two criminals at gunpoint, but they turn the tables and a chase ensues through Central Park, including visits to the zoo (Machuchal imitates a monkey and hides in a cage) and a carousel (Margot stops Óscar from shooting Machuchal and the police finally arrive and arrest them).  Mr. X's gym is raided and Machuchal subdues the mysterious gangleader using judo, then unmasks him as the "drunk" from the nightclub.  As his reward, Machuchal asks for leniency for Margot and a plane ticket back to Puerto Rico.

 

       At the Puerto Rico Theater that night, Machuchal is feted as a hero, and reunited with his sweetheart Lolita.  He makes a speech, admitting New York is grande but he has more modest aspirations, and has decided to go home to Puerto Rico.  The film concludes with the departure of a jet for the island.

 

    Written by veteran Mexican scripter Fernando Galiana (he was actually born in Barcelona but worked in Mexico from the late 1940s on, originally as an actor), Agente "0" en Nueva York is a serviceable comedy with a few good lines of dialogue.  However, the character of the protagonist is not very well developed nor consistent.  Although Machuchal comes from a small Puerto Rican town, he's depicted as being totally clueless about some modern technology, like vending machines, escalators, etc.  And yet he arrived in New York on a jet airplane, has no problem using the telephone, taking the subway (well, he says he got lost but he understood the concept) and so forth. He's also familiar with non-Puerto Rican popular culture, referring to "Santa Claus" and "James Bond," for example.  Sometimes he seems like a visitor from a very backward, rural area, (but he is not--at least in this movie, Machuchal is not a jíbaro character, but rather a small-town jack-of-all-trades) and sometimes he's fairly savvy.  Machuchal's inability to speak English is also used for humorous effect, but this trait is somewhat more believable. 

 

     In Agente "0" en Nueva York, the comedy is almost entirely character-based, rather than being derived from a "funny" plot or physical (slapstick) in nature.  The film is an extremely mild spoof of James Bondish-spy films, complete with a (barely-used) array of gadgets in a (talking) briefcase issued to "Agent 0."  The "Perfect Crime Syndicate" run by Mister X appears to be apolitical--at least there is no mention of any kind of political agenda--and thus the assassination they are planning seems to be a mercenary effort.

 

       I have only seen a few examples of Adalberto Rodríguez's work so I cannot say if his "Machuchal" character is accurately translated to the screen in this film or not.  Although Galiana came from the Mexican film industry, Rodríguez himself and director Cortés would have had input into the picture and so the bland humor on display here is a bit puzzling, given Machuchal's popularity (José Artemio Torres, in the book Idilio tropical, says he was the most popular Puerto Rican comedian of the period, largely due to his TV work).  Machuchal is a satisfactory protagonist, he just isn't that funny (and this is supposed to be a comedy).

 

      The rest of the cast is adequate--everyone plays it straight--and the production values are satisfactory.  As noted above, it is somewhat surprising to see scenes actually shot in Washington D.C. (Machuchal walks in front of the Capitol and visits the Lincoln Memorial).  It's also interesting to note a subtle sub-text reinforcing Puerto Rico's status as part of the United States: this is not only present in the FBI and CIA's use of Machuchal as a (not entirely willing) undercover agent, but also in a number of visual clues, including shots of the Statue of Liberty, the U.S. Capitol, the Lincoln Memorial, and a curious, flag-draped portrait of President Lyndon Baines Johnson in a New York police station (more typical is a painting of George Washington in the same location).

 

      Not without interest, but oddly flat for a comedy.



Page created 10 June 2008 by dwilt@umd.edu. Thanks to José G. Torres for a copy of this movie!

 

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