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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Mexican Standoff

Borderline (1950) on IMDb

Plot Overview

US Treasury Dept., Customs Agency Svc., reads the sign on the door. A couple (“Sit down”) is being inter­ro­gated (“Take the cuffs off”), a man & a woman (“She's a tramp.”) The bureau is after one Pete Ritchie (Raymond Burr), seeking info through “a couple of paid Ritchie's tourists” who unfortunately don't know much (“Ritchie ain't much of a talker.”) Taking notes of the meeting is one Madeleine Haley (Claire Trevor) of the LAPD.

They've been unable to infiltrate his organization (“Pete Ritchie can smell an investigator a mile away.”) Miss Haley suggests that, “Ritchie would never expect us to send a woman.” The men concur that, “Ritchie is a sucker for dames.” Female investigators, how­ever (in 1950) are in short supply. They discount the proper Miss Haley, because she's not his type: “Ritchie goes for tawdry, cheap-looking dames.” How­ever, as a last resort they agree to let her try “to pick up some crumbs on Ritchie” as she's going down to Mexico on another errand any­way. She had been with the OSS in the war.

In gauche tourist garb Miss Haley scopes out La Gran Fiesta advertising Elegantes Primorosas. She joins the 6 Señoritas en Cantadoras in a sensual show dance to the tune of Across the Border­line:

Lips that were redder than wine
Are waiting across the borderline.
Even though she said, “I love you”
I knew she never would be mine.

Her play for customer Ritchie doesn't pan out—he's too smart—but she gets enough of an in through Ritchie's gunsel Al (“You stupid fool”) to be scooped up in a drug play via rival boss Harvey Gumbin (Roy Roberts.) They take her for Ritchie's moll and co-opt her into joining rival hood Johnny Mackelin (Fred MacMurray) to make a drug run with him across the border. They're to pose as husband and wife (“It's more respectable.”)


Ritchie whose helpers “can't bring dames up here” to his apartment, in being too slow to “get rid of her,” falls prey to what we're warned about in Eccles­ias­ticus, aka The Wisdom of the Son of Sirach, (Sirach 11:29) “Bring not every man into thine house: for the deceitful man hath many trains.” Deceit is the name of the game for an under­cover agent. Ritchie ended up trailing a heap of trains to the border because of it. They included: Mackelin and the strange dame, of course, along with their armed driver Miguel (Jose Torvay). Also “the police, federal men, Uncle Sam, several assorted hijackers, and Peter Ritchie” him­self; Giros telégrafos, “Harvey Gumbin … tied up with you”, “Mexican motor­cycle gauchos”, a chance drunk, “un hombre muy importante”, a doe-eyed señorita barely out of the cradle, “90,000 cops after us not counting our friends coming up from the south”, little Pablo the pilot, Mexican G-men, narcotics enforcement, customs agents, and the LA Police. And that's not to even mention the “surprises” in store should they ever actually make it across the border. They'll be made monkeys of there. All this comes with one unknown deceitful dame in Ritchie's apartment.

Production Values

“Borderline” was directed by William A. Seiter. It's borderline Crime, Drama, Film-Noir, or thriller , being hard to fit neatly into any category. It was written by Devery Free­man. It stars Fred MacMurray, Claire Trevor and Raymond Burr. MacMurray and Trevor work well together at a 1950 pace. Roy Roberts plays Gumbin the rival crime boss. In later years he would be seen playing the judge to Raymond Burr's “Perry Mason” program. The core cast was good. Claire Trevor gets a good role that lets her play a variety of material. Raymond Burr was well-cast as a brutish villain, and Fred MacMurray does a tough guy convincingly who later would be known as the father of “My Three Sons.” José Torvay played his bit part to a T as henchman Miguel.

The movie was Approved in the US, and it scored a PG video rating in the UK and Canada. It was mostly in English with some (Mexican) Spanish. The credits say it's in stereo where available, but I didn't hear stereo through my headphones. Hans J. Salter's cute music was an adjunct to the movie. It's in the public domain now so should be available cheaply or for free download.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

Miss Haley was looking for a little excitement in her life, so she volunteered for this under­cover assignment. It was consistent with 1950 mores for a woman to go further afield in employment in an emergency, but she was expected to find her fulfillment in her husband and children as we see with the Mexican mama with 12 kids (“Every day she has big wash.”) The only one Haley orders around is Polly the parrot. Mr. Mackelin didn't have a sweet­heart but he was dutiful towards his mother whose advice he some­times wishes he'd have heeded to go “work in my father's broom factory.” He certainly couldn't bring home to mother the kind of woman he was associated with. It is consistent with 1950 mores for a woman to settle a man down some, especially from a dangerous job. These two get a glimpse of some­thing whole­some below each other's exterior as they pretend to be a married couple. There's a real spark between them. It remains to be seen whether it will grow or be extinguished once they pass the border.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Decent action scenes. Suitability for children: Suitable for children with guidance. Special effects: Well, at least you can't see the strings. Video Occasion: Better than watching TV. Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Overall product rating: Four stars out of five.

Works Cited

Apocryphal scripture taken from The Septuagint with Apoc­rypha: Greek and English. U.S.A.: Hendrick­son Pub. Originally published by Samuel Bagster & Sons, Ltd., London, 1851. Print, WEB.