Mataron a Elena [Elena Has Been Killed] (J.A. Torres Prods., copyright 1972) Prod-Dir-Scr: José Antonio Torres; Photo: José Luis Colón; Music: Tomás Valentino; Prod Chief-Asst Dir-Continuity: Wilfredo Rosa; Final Edit: José Antonio Torres; Film Ed: José Luis Colón; Second Editor: Alfred Bahri; Recording-Dubbing-Mix-Music Ed:Lazslo Haverland; Chief of Technical Team-Asst Cam-Prerec Sound: Tony Montalvo Reuter; Screenplay Assistant: Ray Wells; Synchronization-Dialog-Music-FX" Marta Viana; Negative Cutter: Louis Sommerstein

 

Cast: Eppy Dueño (Pedro), Angelo Ramírez (Matías Torres), Olga de Carlo (doña Marta), Linda Monteiro (Laura), Olga Agostini (Elena), José Antonio Torres (police chief), Rubén R. Caro (Lorenzo), Frank Rodríguez, Wilfredo Rosa, Tony Montalvo Reuter, María Tai (Pedro's mother), Roberto de Jesús, Vicente Colón, Felipe Vélez, Rhadames López (Juan, driver), Olga García, Mildred García, Norma Rivera, Carmelo Ramos, Jimmy Del Río, José C. Rentas, Vitín Medina, Joe de Oro, Juan Muradian, Joseph E. Caro, Joaquín Del Río, Jaime Félix, Ángela Pizzini, Aida L. Negrón, Ramonita Burgos, Cristobal Torres, Carmen Robles, Isabel E. Cheverría, Luis A. Norat, Chuitín el de Bayomón (band)

 

Notes: although numerous performers who had worked in New York films (Ramírez, Agostini, María Tai, and Rhadames López were all in El Callao, for example, and Eppy Dueño acted in several Nuyorican productions including Soñar no cuesta nada, "joven") participated in Mataron a Elena, it appears most if not all of the movie was actually shot in Puerto Rico.  Post-production still seems to have been carried out in New York, with the ubiquitous Lazslo Haverland receiving credit (as well as Ray Wells from Tigresa and the well-known Guffanti Lab--I also wonder if "Tomás Valentino" is really the NYC library music purveyor Thomas J. Valentino). 

 

Despite the presence in the credit of three film editors, apparently none of these felt like removing any footage, and Mataron a Elena is overlong (at 92 minutes) and deadly slow in spots.  Scenes go on for much too long, as the characters seem determined to discuss everything in excruciating detail and repeat themselves constantly.  Trimming about 15 minutes would have greatly improved this movie.  On the positive side, the picture is filled with eccentric characters and events (like a hunchback who bludgeons people with a wooden cross), has a real flavor of rural Puerto Rico, and includes some nudity and even an homage to the shower scene in Psycho! 

 

The film begins with a printed title: "I dedicate this film to all the mothers who suffer for their children."  We are quickly introduced to the main players:

            a) long-suffering mother doña Marta

            b) her bitter, alcoholic son Matías

            c) mentally-challenged mute hunchback Pedro

            d) Elena, the estranged wife of Matías, who runs the local bordello

            e) bar owner Lorenzo, who covets Elena

 

Doña Marta goes to Lorenzo's bar to bring Matías home.  His father's untimely death and Elena's betrayal have left him bitter.  As they leave, they are confronted by Pedro, swinging his cross.  Matías smashes a liquor bottle over the hunchback's head; for this, he is sentenced to one month in jail.  Matías protests, saying he holds Pedro responsible for his father's death, but Pedro's mother defends her son: "My son isn't crazy!  You are all crazy!"

 

Elena visits Lorenzo to inform him that "new material" has arrived in her brothel from San Juan, but Lorenzo says he prefers her.  Pedro wanders in--he's been following Elena around town, playing his violin.  She tells Lorenzo she wouldn't sleep with the hunchback "for a million," but takes him to her house and lets the whores taunt the frustrated man, then locks him out.

 

Matías is released from jail and receives a letter telling him of his wife's unfaithful nature. [As if he didn't know?]  In a flashback, Matías remembers meeting her in a bar, where he defended her from another man.  They were married but argued and separated violently.  [Coincidentally, when Matías hits Elena he is wearing a "wife-beater" t-shirt.]  Lorenzo tries to convince Matías to "forget that woman.  She isn't yours any more," and if Matías carries out his plan to avenge himself, "you'll go back to jail."

 

That night, a party is in progress at Elena's bordello.  Lorenzo and the police chief are in attendance, along with Pedro.  Elena says the hunchback runs errands for the girls.  A drunken Matías comes in and tells Elena, "I'm not here for you, I'm here for one of them."  Elena sends Matías upstairs with a whore, but later switches places with her employee.  Matías is apparently too drunk to notice he's having sex with his wife, but Pedro (outside the room) and Lorenzo (peeping in through the window) are both agitated.  The next morning (?), Pedro and Lorenzo watch Matías depart.  Someone (shown from the waist down only) enters the house and kills Elena in the shower, using a wooden cross such as Pedro carries around town.  [Elena manages to cover her loins using a small towel as she dies, but otherwise Olga Agostini has considerable nude footage in this sequence.]   Matías is arrested for the crime.

 

Laura, the former girlfriend of Matías, visits a small cemetary adjacent to Pedro's house and convinces the hunchback to admit her to the yard.  She trades him jewelry and medallions for things he digs up from the graves, including a purse and a photograph belonging to Elena, as well as a blood-stained wooden cross.  Pedro seems to confirm Matías is the murderer.  However, when Laura and doña Marta visit Matías in jail, he says Pedro must be guilty. The next night, Matías--out on bail--searches the cemetary but is knocked unconscious by Pedro.  However, the hunchback is scared off by a passing car and Matías is rescued and taken to the hospital. 

 

Several days later, Matías awakens from his coma and tells Laura he found his father's wallet in the cemetary.  He rushes out of the hospital (in his robe and pajamas), fearing for his mother's safety (she's a midwife and is out late at night).  Laura and a policeman catch up with Matías but they are too late to stop Pedro, who has slain doña Marta with his cross.  The policeman is knocked out but Matías grabs his gun and shoots Pedro to death.

 

The next day, the authorities search the graveyard and determine that Pedro killed doña Marta, her husband, and another man who had disappeared some time before.  However, it was Lorenzo who murdered Elena (shown in flashback), and the jealous barkeep is arrested.  Matías reconciles with Laura.

 

Mataron a Elena features the titular song as well as a number of other Puerto Rican tunes on the soundtrack, although a fair amount of nondescript "library" music (as well as "The Wedding March") can also be heard.  The film isn't badly directed (despite the slow pace of many dialogue scenes), with a variety of high- and low-angle shots and some effective transitions (in both Mataron a Elena and Sangre en Nueva York Torres uses some swish-pans to bridge scenes, for example).  The shower sequence is not exactly a shot-for-shot remake of Hitchcock, but the connection to Psycho is clear enough.

 

The production values are minimal: the movie was clearly shot on location and some of the sequences are fine, but the low budget is visible in things such as hand-lettered signs and cramped interiors.  The Miracle Pictures DVD  compounds the problem with several extended "dead" spots (reel changes?), bad sync sound in other places, and at least one stretch where the vertical alignment is skewed, putting part of the top of the image on the bottom of the screen. 

 

The performances are generally good in a melodramatic sort of way.   Eppy Dueño and Angelo Ramírez have "actor's dream" roles, one playing a mentally-challenged character and the other a bitter drunk, both opportunities for scenery-chewing.  Olga de Carlo--a Cuban expatriate rather than a Puerto Rican actress--is satisfactory as Pedro's mother, although her gray hair looks rather fake. Olga Agostini lays it on a little thick at times as the brassy Elena, but in other spots effectively suggests a character who puts up a bold front to hide her inner pain. 

 

Slow in spots, but still reasonably entertaining.

UPDATE 2 January 2013:

Thanks to Edwin Latalladi, who informs me that this film "was totally filmed in Patillas, a little town located at the southeast coast of Puerto Rico." He also points out that Wilfredo Rosa is currently living in the Bronx, NY, and José A. Torres is a resident of Miami, FL.


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