Toño Bicicleta [Bicycle Tony] (Prods. Internacionales Chaar Cacho, (c) 1975) Exec Prod: Lic. Jorge Luis Chaar Cacho; Assoc Prod: Angelo Malina, Rafael Ducos; Prod-Dir-Scr: Glauco del Mar; Dialog: Eduardo Davidson; Photo: Al Nieves; Music Dir: Héctor Granados; Theme Song: Zulma Angélica; "Tito's Odyssey": Tito Puente; Prod Chief: Raffy Ducos; Film Ed: Al Nieves; Makeup-Choreog-Costumes: Kali Karlos


Cast: Tommy Vargas (detective who arrests Toño), Alida Arizmendi (?Luz), Pola Mary (Gloria), Gladys Núñez, Amalia Cruz, Chucho Nessy, Colón Riozama (Antonio García López aka Toño Bicicleta), doña Antonia López Vargas (mother of Toño), José Sánchez, Zulma Angélica, Carmen Montijo, Kuky Rohena, Angelo (hair stylist), Félix (the judge), Alex (the man with the beard), Rafael Ducos, Mike Ramos, San Son Batalla, Pachito, Elvía Córdova, Ernesto Concepción, Manuel Rivera Colón "El Mamito," Silvia de Grasse Vedettes (dancers), Los Alegres Tres, Emilio Soto, Felipe Pérez Valentino, Ramón Varlela "Papo," Luis Alberto Font "El Pitirre," Ismael Ruiz Javier "Kissinger," Edgardo Delgado (Pucho), José Luis Pérez (Fidel), Criminalda Rodríguez (Tita), Blanca de Vargas, Zahika Chaar Urbiñas, Jorgito Chaar de la Cruz, Julie Edna Ducos, Carlitos Ducos, Rafaelito Ducos, Michelle del Valle, Carlos Cruz del Valle, Robert Lee Spreng, Jenny Medina, Víctor Hugo Soto, Lizzy Acevedo


Notes: "Toño Bicicleta" was a real-life Puerto Rican criminal arrested for murder in 1968, who subsequently escaped from prison several times and led a life of crime until his death at the hands of the police in 1995. At least three movies have been produced about his activities, including two in 1975--Glauco del Mar's Toño Bicicleta and Toño Bicicleta: El fugitivo de Puerto Rico (dir. José Donate). Del Mar's version of the events is a very long (114 minutes) and at times frustrating cinematic experience, stylistically nearly 180-degrees away from his realistic and taut crime thriller El Callao.


Toño Bicicleta consists of some "traditional" narrative sequences that alternate with fantasy scenes, flowery passages of philosophical voiceover narration and extremely long montage sequences with musical accompaniment. Del Mar also uses attention-grabbing devices such as radio broadcasts, quick-cut montage and freeze-frame sequences, and printed titles (probably meant to represent newspaper headlines) superimposed over live-action footage. Clearly, using these techniques was a deliberate attempt at a non-traditional narrative picture. The result is cinematically interesting but hardly entertaining for the casual spectator.


After a "teaser" sequence in which Toño abducts a man's wife, the film's first "fantasy" sequence unreels, a musical production number which concludes with Toño and his bride arriving at some seaside ruins. A more traditional sequence follows: a barbecue, cockfight, and party--attended by Toño and Alfredo (as yet unidentified)--concludes with a third man toasting the buxom blonde Gloria. Toño, although a married father of three, falls in love with Gloria. Gloria takes her young child to New York City but promises to return someday. Meanwhile, Alfredo courts Toño's wife Alicia, leading to a long fight between the two men. [This is the film's first extended montage sequence, beginning with a machete duel in a barn, then a fist fight across the countryside, and concluding when the men fall into a river or lake. This goes on so long that it becomes rather silly--I guess it could be compared to the epic battle in John Ford's The Quiet Man, which is also somewhat parodic.] Gloria returns to Puerto Rico and Alfredo gleefully tells Toño she now has a husband. Visiting his former lover at her mother's house, Toño suddenly takes his machete and slashes her to death! [A shocking scene with several split-second "gore" closeups, this is slightly marred by the husband's off-screen voice saying, in English, "Why did you do that?" in a petulant tone more appropriate for chastizing a small child who has misbehaved.]


[Another long sequence follows. This one is so protracted that my notes read THIS GOES ON FOREVER. It actually runs around nine minutes.] A detective trails Toño's wife Alicia as she changes into a variety of disguises and performs various evasive maneuvers before arriving at his hideout. Toño is arrested and pleads guilty and is sentenced to 10-15 years at hard labor for second-degree murder. [The "trial" is held in a park, with a few spectators seated on benches or strolling by. Since I know they have courthouses in Puerto Rico, this is clearly a "fantasy" type sequence but it's really puzzling.] In the prison shower, Toño is surrounded by men and (presumably) assaulted. Alicia visits him and says she is going to have Alfredo's baby: "I know you can kill me if you wish, you could cut off my head like you did to Gloria."


Toño escapes. [Another long (6 minutes) montage sequence, scored to Tito Puente's "Tito's Odyssey," as Toño crosses the countryside to get home.] He is reunited with his mother [played by the real-life mother of the actual Toño Bicicleta] then leaves for the big city. [Six more minutes are expended on scenes of carnival-type celebrations and Toño out on the town with some pals.] His friends set him up with a new identity and he flees to the USA, but soon returns home. [We never see Toño in New York, voiceover narration merely mentions it.]


Toño abducts a former girlfriend, Luz, and takes her to a ruined villa by the sea, where she falls in love with him once more. Then (for some reason), he kidnaps another former girlfriend Auria and takes her back to the ruins, where he begins an idyllic menage-a-trois with the women. [6 more minutes of lyrical scenes, music, voiceover poetry.] Various narrow escapes follow [one lasts nearly 7 minutes], and eventually Toño is separated from both Luz and Auria.


Toño's mother makes public appeals for him to surrender. A $15,000 reward is offered for his capture. This leads to a nation-wide manhunt and some tragic mistakes: "Police Wound Youth Confused With Fugitive Toño Bicicleta," and "Police Investigated for the Death of Toño's Grandfather.", and eventually he's caught by a mob of people (who argue about the money even as they are subduing him). "The Arrest of Toño Bicicleta Ends a Tremendous Nightmare for PR Police," a superimposed title reads. The film concludes with more philosophical voiceover narration.


Toño Bicicleta is rather confusing in its intent. If the film had some specific political or social intent, I was unable to discern it (although, not being Puerto Rican, I don't have the cultural background to pick up on certain nuances). Although generally a sympathetic figure, Toño is not depicted as an innocent man, a "Robin Hood," or a political prisoner, despite the suggestion toward the end of the movie that his crime spree is embarassing to the police. His murder of Gloria can be attributed to a moment of blind jealousy and he pleads guilty to the crime, but is unable to endure prison. However, he doesn't merely escape from jail and try to resume a normal life, he becomes a serial kidnaper and rapist (admittedly, one whose victims later willingly stay with him), in addition to committing lesser crimes (such as robbery). [A superimposed title says he was found guilty in 28 cases.] Sent to "freedom" in New York City, Toño deliberately (and foolishly, one might think) returns to Puerto Rico, although in the context of the movie it's explained that Toño couldn't live away from his beloved homeland. It's interesting to note that Toño is finally caught by a mob of normal, working-class people--not the police--and not protected by them as one might expect.


Filmed mostly on location in Puerto Rico--except for a few scenes of Gloria and her son window-shopping in New York City--Toño Bicicleta bears little resemblance to Glauco del Mar's other directorial efforts, although some traces of his style can still be discerned (giant closeups, scenes of showgirls, etc.) and the prodigious amount of philosophical voiceover narration amplifies a similar sequence at the end of Tigresa. While both Al Nieves and Eduardo Davidson had worked with del Mar before, none of del Mar's stock company of performers appear. Colón Riozama can be seen in Santo en Oro Negro (1974), a Mexican-Puerto Rican coproduction, and Pola Mary (or Mari) has a brief role in Ye Yo, while Tommy Vargas and Alida Arizmendi were fairly well-known actors in Puerto Rico.

I am not sure, but the producer of this movie--Licenciado Jorge Luis Chaar Cacho--is probably the same individual who in 1975 was convicted of murdering a wealthy client and sent to prison for 12 years. Chaar Cacho wrote a best-selling book about his ordeal (he maintained his innocence and indicated he was framed for the crime) entitled "Maldita sea la justicia" (1992). Added note: at least one source indicates Chaar Cacho was the lawyer of "Toño Bicicleta" in real-life, so this might explain his involvement with the movie.

UPDATE 22 Feb 2021:

Toño Bicicleta was shown theatrically in Bayshore, NY in December 1975.

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