Las sicodélicas [The Psychedelic Girls]

(Filmadora Peruana-Prods. Rodríguez*, 1968) Exec Prod: Luis Quintanilla R.; Prod: Roberto Rodríguez; Dir: Gilberto Martínez Solares; Scr: Ramón Obón, Luis Quintanilla R., Federico Curiel; Photo: Minervino Rojas; Songs: Armando Manzanero; Prod Chief: G. Augusto Huerta; Asst Dir: Raúl Portillo; Film Ed: J. Juan Munguía; Camera Asst: Manuel Jiménez; Makeup: Elvira Oropeza; Sound Supv/Dialog Rec: Enrique Rodríguez; Division Color

*[Prods. Rodríguez is not credited on-screen]

Cast: Maura Monti (Mireyra), Amedee Chabot (Adriana), Isela Vega (Dalilah), Elizabeth Campbell (Patricia), Rogelio Guerra (Arsenio Junker Tres Alas**), Jack Gilbert (?Ringo Peniche), Rosa María Kessel (Betty), Nancy Vidalón (Nancy), Tamara Garina (Aunt Ermentrudis), Nerón Rojas, Edwin Mayer, Hugo Muñoz de Baratta, Felipe Sanguinetti, Antonio Salim, Ana María Vargas, Olinda Caballero, Hitarina Hidalgo, Ingerborg de la Torre, Miguel Todorovich, Raúl de Zela, Fernando Solo, José García Miro, Julio Tijero, César Augusto Huerta, Oscar Alvarado, Raúl Rivas, Los Shains (band)

**[the publicity material says his name is "Arsenio Focker Tres Alas"]

NOTES: this is an interesting and entertaining film, albeit not a perfect one by any stretch. It has that "co-production look" common to Mexican films shot overseas in the 1960s and 1970s: something about the film stock, processing, the sound, even the supporting (non-Mexican) players is distinctive and a bit off-putting. Additionally, although this is a black comedy with a fair number of murders in the course of the picture, the conclusion is disappointingly downbeat. And then there is Rogelio Guerra, whose bumbling character is practically insufferable (compare him to Fernando Luján in Agente 00 Sexy, for instance).

On the positive side the plot is reasonably coherent (although, more than 30 minutes into the film, there is a long expository scene which explains what's been going on, in case the viewer hasn't figured it out yet!) and the viewer gets to see four of Mexican cinema's most attractive players of the decade in Maura Monti, Isela Vega, Amedee Chabot, and Elizabeth Campbell (apparently her last film). Since there are four female protagonists, they have to share screen time, and Monti and Campbell get a little less characterization than Chabot and Vega, but all are showcased in various costumes and all look pretty darn good. Campbell--who for some reason in the first half of the movie almost always wears a hat or scarf--displays a "hard body" years before the term was invented (in one scene she exercises and does yoga on a beach while wearing a white bikini); Monti has a topless scene, which is discreet but enough is revealed to prove that the actor playing opposite her really got an eyefull.

Even film historian Emilio García Riera begrudgingly gives Las sicodélicas its due: "If I had to choose among the various Mexican movies filmed in other Latin American countries and afflicted by the James Bond syndrome, I would discard them all; but, forced to choose with a pistol at my head, I would pick Las sicodélicas, which is at least agile and at the same time doesn't deny that its basic intention is to show the most possible epidermis of its four principal players..." (Historia documental del cine mexicano).

The production values of Las sicodélicas are adequate, and there is only one rather brief sequence which contains tourist-style shots of Lima, Peru. At this point in his career, Gilberto Martínez Solares was capable of making decent films and pictures where he apparently yelled "Action!" and then took a nap (cf, most of his Capulina vehicles). Although afflicted with the "co-production look" mentioned earlier, this film is still fairly well-made and doesn't cheat the viewer (for instance, when someone is dropped out of a light plane, this is actually shown; a man is gored by a bull, on-screen; a boat really blows up, etc.).

There are a few oddities worth mentioning, such as the two wrestling matches shown--and in both bouts, the wrestlers are barefoot! "Los Shains" (led in the film by "Ringo Peniche") perform Armando Manzanero ballads, but in an up-tempo, mild-rock style (the soundtrack also includes some typical '60s movie music, and some surf-type instrumentals). Speaking of surfing, one fairly long sequence (which includes the aforementioned Elizabeth Campbell yoga scene) shows surfers riding the Peruvian waves (Rogelio Guerra, wearing a Tarzan-style loincloth, paddles in on a board, but the actual surfers are all shown in long-shot only). Another bizarre touch is the pet llama kept in the house by Aunt Ermentrudis, which is at first only shown in odd, intercut closeups! Only later do we see the animal sitting on the floor of the living room.

Las sicodélicas opens with an interesting sequence: a bare-chested young man is chased down a beach by four women riding horses. They corner him, and shoot him dead! Later, a masked wrestler is kidnaped during a match; the women take him up in a light plane and demand that he pay his "quota." When he refuses, they toss him out! The four young women are Mireya (sexy), Adriana (always wearing or carrying flowers), Dalilah (who drinks), and Patricia (stern and efficient). They are the "nieces" of Ermentrudis, who owns a funeral home. But this is only a front for her "protection agency" for millionaires. When the clients get tired of paying, they are killed (and their funerals are handled by Ermentrudis). The young women (who are referred to as "sisters," although this may only be metaphorical), are chewed out by Ermentrudis for being too impulsive. She reminds them that she took them from--"yes, an orphanage," they all say in unison. "No, a reform school!" Ermentrudis snaps. [This is more amusing in Spanish, since the women say "orfanatorio" and Ermentrudis says "no, reformatorio"]

Dalilah is a bit of a rebel, sneaking out of the dorm room the four sisters share to visit a nightclub where Los Shains perform. She is in love with the lead singer, Ringo Peniche.

Their next victim is Máximo Billet (his name is a pun in Spanish, "Big Bucks"), who is killed when he strikes an exploding golf ball. Billet's golfing partner is playboy private detective Arsenio Junker Tres Alas; he begins to take an interest in the case. He is also attracted to Adriana, whom he had seen at the wrestling arena and golf course.

The four sisters rob a bank: Adriana distracts the guards, Dalilah goes into the vault, Patricia gets money from a teller, and Mireya holds the president's interest by removing her fur coat to reveal her naked torso. The young son of another defaulting "client" is taken to the bullring on his ranch and gored by a bull (his wife is also the widow of Máximo Billet, who keeps referring to herself as "so young and yet a widow!"). A politician who wants to be senator makes a deal with the quartet, and two of his opponents are killed.

Arsenio bumps into Adriana on a beach; she invites him to a party on the yacht of Praxedes Linotipo. Praxedes is another "client," and is in love with Patricia. The day after the party (which featured Los Shains again), Praxedes refuses to pay protection unless Patricia marries him. She agrees, but instead puts a bomb in his martini and blows up the yacht! (she swims to safety, and is picked up by Mireya in a speedboat)

The senator has reneged on his deal, so Adriana and Dalilah pay him a visit and poison him. As they leave, they pass Arsenio in the hallway (he's been hired to guard the senator). At the senator's wake, Dalilah comes in drunk and singing "Happy Birthday" (in English). She's upset because Ermentrudis told her to murder Ringo Peniche, whom she loves. That night at the club, Dalilah can't do it, telling Patricia: "You heard him [sing], he's a monument to art!" Patricia forces Dalilah to flip a switch, electrocuting Ringo via his microphone as he sings "Adoro."

Arsenio and Adriana have a date (actually, they are shown reclining on his bed, and Arsenio has his shirt off!); he gives her a small antique alarm clock as a keepsake. What he doesn't know is that his assistant broke his clock and inadvertently replaced it with a powerful time bomb from Arsenio's collection of weapons! Adriana takes the clock home; the four sisters are awakened by a strange sound, and then the bomb explodes.

The film ends with a multiple funeral. Arsenio spots the four coffins, and when he sees one with daisies on it (signifying Adriana), he runs away. [on the print of the film I saw, this sequence is very brief, full of quick cuts, and I had to run it in slow motion to actually figure out what was going on]

Aside from Rogelio Guerra, whose awkwardness is not very amusing, the performances in Las sicodélicas are pretty good, even the Peruvian supporting players. As Ermentrudis, Tamara Garina gets to berate her "nieces" and slap around her (silent) male assistant (and also pet the llama). She complains that she doesn't like to wear black mourning clothes, but has to do it as "advertising" for her funeral parlor. The four leading actresses, in addition to their decorative functionality, turn in competent acting jobs. Amedee Chabot has to exchange bashful, amorous looks with Rogelio Guerra, but instead of being stupid or goofy, these are actually rather endearing. Isela Vega gets to do the most "acting" since she has the flashy drunk scenes, while Maura Monti (wearing a red wig sometimes) does a sexy, almost Marilyn Monroe imitation a couple of times. Elizabeth Campbell, somewhat stereotyped as the stern member of the group, also has a couple of scenes where she shines, particularly on Praxedes' yacht (she's angry when he tries to blackmail her into marriage, and then has an exhilarated look on her face after the yacht explodes and she is speeding away on another boat, the wind blowing her hair).

Las sicodélicas is not a great film, but there are a number of reasons to watch it.

NOTE: this was remade as a shot-on-video feature entitled Adorables criminales in 1987. Luis Quintanilla R. was the director, Ramón Obón was credited with the story. Roberto "Flaco" Guzmán played "Arsenio," Dacia González was cast as "Aunt Susana" (rather than "Ermentrudis") and the 4 main actresses were Zoila Flor, Arlette Pacheco, Luz Ma. Jerez, and Elsa Montes. This is not a very good movie!

Posted 8 June 99, updated 29 June 2005. by [REMOVE NOSPAM to email me]

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