Steve Hastings (Mystery in Mexico)

Created by Muriel Roy Bolton

STEVE HASTINGS (William Lundigan) is a Los Angeles insurance dick, dispatched by his boss to look for a stolen necklace- and a missing colleague who may have double-crossed the company–in the Robert Wise-directed Mystery in Mexico (1948, RKO).

Steve’s pursuit leads him to the man’s sister Victoria (Jacqueline White), whom he follows south of the border, where he discovers an extensive jewel-smuggling operation working out of Mexico City.

It’s a pleasant enough diversion (Robert Wise, after all, knew how to put films together) but what makes this flick interesting for film buffs is that the whole thing was filmed in the studios in Mexico City, with a largely native cast as extras and in bit parts. Also along for the ride were Austrian Ricardo Cortez (who played Sam Spade in the original The Maltese Falcon) and American Tony Barrett as Carlos, a Mexican cabbie who comes to Steve’s rescue more than once.

The decision to film in Mexico was an experiment on RKO’s part to see if movies could be made for less dough than in the States–an early example of runaway production, perhaps). There was also a sincere, if not always successful, attempt to portray Mexico as more than a mere collection of stereotypes, which makes for a refreshing change. Wise spent four months working with an almost exclusively Mexican crew, shooting exteriors in and around Mexico City and Cuernavaca, and interiors in RKO’s Mexico City studios, but came to the conclusion that it wasn’t cheaper to make on foreign soil (we’ve come a long way, huh?)

Another interesting note: although RKO made a fuss about the film being a “bi-lingual” release, there’s no evidence a Spanish-language version was ever produced. And those of you with a fear of other languages might want to take a pass–the Spanish dialogue plays without subtitles, which actually adds to the sense of unease and mystery, if you ask me.

Not the best of director Wise’s films–I might opt for Born To Kill or Odds Against Tomorrow — but it’s a good solid B-flick, nonetheless, and I found it a whole hell of a lot more entertaining than The Sound of Music.


    (1948, RKO)
    66 minutes, black and white
    Tagline: TROPIC NIGHT… Steeped In Terror!
    Based on a story by Muriel Roy Bolton
    Screenplay by Lawrence Kimble
    Directed by Robert Wise
    Produced by Sid Rogell
    Associate producer: Joseph Noriega
    Starring William Lundigan as STEVE HASTINGS
    Also starring Jacqueline White, Ricardo Cortez, Tony Barrett, Jacqueline Dalya, Walter Reed, José Torvay, Jaime Jiménez Pons, Antonio R. Frausto, Dolores Camerillo , Eduardo Casado, Thalia Draper
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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