Las fieras [The Beasts]

(Nacional Cinematográfica, 1968) Prod: Mario A. Zacarías; Dir: René Cardona Jr.; Scr: Mario A. Marzac, René Cardona Jr.; Photo: Jorge Sthal Jr.; Music: Sergio Guerrero; Prod Mgr: Saíd Slim; Prod Chief: Fidel Pizarro; Asst Dir: Américo Fernández; Supv: José Luis Zacarías; Film Ed: Alfredo Rosas Priego; Art Dir: Alberto Ladrón de Guevara; Decor: Raúl Serrano; Camera Op: Andrés Torres; Lighting: Luis Medina; Makeup: Rosa Guerrero (Bertha Chiu is credit on-screen); Sound Supv: James L. Fields; Dialog: José B. Carles; Re-rec: Galdino Samperio; Union: STPC; Eastmancolor

Amedee and Raúl Astor.

CAST: Mauricio Garcés (Maurice aka Sebastián), Enrique Rambal (Marcelo de Stéfano aka Marcos), Lucy Gallardo (Lucía de Sevigny aka Carlota), Luis Manuel Pelayo (Federico), Raúl Astor (don Lorenzo del Valle), Amedee Chabot (Romina del Valle), Lisa Castro (Lisa), Guillermo Rivas (Carlo, antique shop owner), Carlos Nieto (Renault), Marcela Daviland (Poupée), Guillermo Alvarez Bianchi (Jacques Peugeot), Alfredo Varela Jr. (Arthur, furrier), Armando Silvestre (Dino Ferrari), Christa von Humboldt (Mrs. Davis), John Kelly (Mr. Davis), Bárbara Angely (Romina's rival), Hugo Stiglitz (Tony), Ramiro Orci (Paul, pilot), Jorge "Che" Reyes (man in photo of "next victim")

NOTES: most of René Cardona Jr.'s late-'60s films are surprisingly consistent in style and tone. Mostly sophisticated "adult" comedies with Mauricio Garcés, Silvia Pinal, Enrique Rambal, and other talented performers, these pictures were often shot on location in Acapulco and other "high-class" locales, and they are by and large glossy pieces of pleasant entertainment.

Marcelo, the mastermind of an international gang of swindlers, calls his companions and asks them to meet him in Mexico. Maurice is in France: in order to obtain "working capital" for the new scheme, he tricks the rich Renault and Peugeot into buying a yacht and a private jet, respectively, failing to mention that he doesn't own either vehicle! (In fact, Renault buys Peugeot's yacht and Peugeot buys Renault's jet) Lucía obtains her share of the money with a scam involving a fur coat. Marcelo poses as a rich art buyer, and Federico impersonates an effeminate artist, and between them they trick a greedy antiques dealer out of a large sum of money.

Marcelo says their target is the fabulously wealthy Lorenzo del Valle, whose only weaknesses are his wild daughter Romina and a love of gambling. Posing as wealthy jet-setters (except for Federico, who pretends to represent a chic London magazine), the gang makes Lorenzo's acquaintance in Acapulco. They build up his confidence with a series of poker games in which Lorenzo always wins. Finally, Marcelo decides that the time has come for the final game with even higher stakes.

However, the scheme has been discovered by Lisa, an old friend of Maurice, who just happens to be visiting Acapulco. She brings in her partner Dino Ferrari, who pretends to be romantically interested in Romina del Valle. On the night of the big poker game, Romina accidentally runs into Maurice while riding her motorcycle, breaking his hand. Since Maurice was the best card sharp of the gang, their plans are ruined. To top it off, Dino offers to sit in on the game and he wins $300,000 from Lorenzo.

Dino and Lisa leave the country, but Marcelo, Maurice, and Lucía manage to switch briefcases in the airport. On the plane, Dino and Lisa are stunned to discover that their case contains only an IOU for $300,000! However, the money briefcase is accidentally switched once more, and winds up in the possession of a group of visiting nuns, who give it to a needy orphanage. As the film ends, the gang is preparing their next project...

Las fieras isn't really a Mauricio Garcés vehicle, although he is the most prominent member of the gang and--especially in the French sequence--gets to demonstrate some of his usual screen mannerisms. However, the picture is more of an ensemble work, with the focus being shared among the major players. The film isn't that funny as a result, since it concentrates more on plot and character than slapstick or verbal humor.

The scenes featuring Amedee Chabot and her friends almost seem to be from another movie altogether. They are shown on the beach several times (including an evening beach party), and in the "Le Club" disco. In one scene, Tony (Hugo Stiglitz, in one of his earliest roles) kisses Romina (Chabot): she slaps him and says, "You know I don't like to be kissed." However, in subsequent sequences, when Tony is sitting next to and dancing with Bárbara Angely's character (who has no dialogue), Romina makes it a point to walk over and take him away from her erstwhile rival.

Chabot is first seen arriving at her father's office on a motorcycle, dressed all in black. She props her bare feet up on his desk, chews gum, and talks to him in a very surly fashion (Chabot is dubbed throughout, and not too expertly since it seems she may have been speaking her lines in English for some reason). This characterization is maintained to some extent in the next few scenes she appears in--mentioned above--but towards the end of the movie Romina loses her edge and turns into a blandly sweet young woman (and her wild friends disappear as well).

For the record, Amedee Chabot wears four different bikinis (leopard-print, orange, red/white, and green) in this picture. In the disco sequence she displays a lot of cleavage while wearing a silver pantsuit (complete with cap, at least in some shots).

A few additional random observations: (1) Sergio Guerrero's theme music is very catchy and is repeated in several sequences. (2) there is a lot of smoking in this movie, ironic concerning the subsequent death of Mauricio Garcés due to emphysema. (3) For some reason, three of the supporting characters are named after cars (Peugeot, Ferrari, Renault). (4) Enrique Rambal and Lucy Gallardo were married in real-life, but they do not have a romantic relationship in the film. In fact, there is little "love interest" in the movie at all, unless one counts Lisa and Dino Ferrari, who might actually just be friends and partners. The only other romantic and/or sexual connections are fleeting and/or feigned.

A final trivia note. Early in the picture, when Maurice is consummating his yacht/jet scam, there is a long-take scene in which he talks to Renault and Peugeot in a bank. Midway through the scene, Maurice tells Renault that he will make arrangements for someone to "show you the airplane (avión)" when he is actually trying to sell Renault a yacht. Apparently, Mauricio Garcés slipped up and either no one noticed (he is speaking very quickly) or they didn't want to re-shoot the entire take because of one wrong word. And yes, it is a "real" mistake, not a scripted one.

Generally a slick and entertaining movie, although not a classic Garcés vehicle.

Back to the Amedee Chabot Filmography.

Review posted 30 April 2000 by D. Wilt (dw45@umail.umd.edu), updated 25 August 2000.