Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Alfredo del Diestro, Luis G. Barreiro, Adela Sequeyro, Arturo Campoamor, Adela Jaloma
Director: Fernando de Fuentes
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Military & War
The original film in what has come to be known as the Mexican Revolution Trilogy (with EL COMPADRE MENDOZA, 1934, and VAMONOS CON PANCHO VILLA, 1936), all written and directed by Fernando de Fuentes, perhaps the greatest f... more »
Satisfying Early Mexican Talkie from Fernando de Fuentes
Curtis Allan | Seattle, WA | 10/27/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Fernando de Fuentes' El Prisionero 13 (1933, Mexico) was another remarkable little surprise for me. Expectations mean a lot, and given the lack of attention this has received from Mexico's "film elite" (snubbed altogether from the Somos magazine list of 100 greatest Mexican films, while the director's other two films in this series were first and third, respectively) I didn't expect much from this early Mexican talkie.
Prisoner 13 deals with a corrupt Porfiriato government official, played by Chilean immigrant Alfredo del Diestro. The performances are all pretty reasonable for this early vintage, and the scenes of the soldiers in the bunker with their army music look and feel so real they could have been archive footage. The settings are of course limited, the audio and video creaky, and sometimes the story looks like it is coming on a bit too obvious, but the film managed to keep my attention throughout and turns out much more interesting than it's vintage might have originally made you suspect (ironically, as those changes were reportedly ordered by the sensors!).
Perhaps Prisoner 13 received less accolades than the other films if the Revolution Trilogy because it dealt with the comparatively safe topic of criticizing the Porfiriato. Yet message can't be delivered effectively without accompanying entertainment and production values, and Prisoner 13 is probably as close to the mark for its year of production in this regard as any of the three films. Even today, there is much relevance in Prisoner 13 for modern Mexicans to contemplate. It certainly deserves to be watched and reevaluated for its cinematic significance.
The DVD has yellow English subtitles (no Spanish; would have been welcome given the old audio track) and they are done well for the dialogue. The print has considerable wear and tear but never impeded my enjoyment of the film. The audio is creaky like all old talkies but I was able to understand the Spanish dialogue without undue difficulty.
If you are interested in Mexican cinema or early talkies, this should certainly be on your list. This film was previously unavailable, not even on Mexican bootleg copies, so it's release by TCM is greatly welcomed.