Sunday, October 2, 2011

Vagabundo en la lluvia (1968)

... aka: Drifter in the Rain
... aka: Vagabond in the Rain
... aka: Wanderer in the Rain

Directed by:
Carlos Enrique Taboada

Although not well-known here in America, director Carlos Enrique Taboada (who passed away in 1997) was fairly well-regarded in his home country. His reputation there as a horror master seemed to lie primarily on his two best-known works; 1968's HASTA EL VIENTO TIENE MIEDO ("Even the Wind is Afraid") and 1969's EL LIBRO DE PIEDA ("The Book of Stone"), though he'd also make BLACKER THAN THE NIGHT (1975), POISON FOR THE FAIRIES (1984) and other genre films. While both Hasta and Libro dealt with ghosts / the supernatural and were popular enough to eventually prompt remakes (in 2007 and 2009, respectively), Vagabundo ("Drifter in the Rain" or "Wanderer in the Rain") is a low-key psycho-drama / thriller that may be the least-watched of all the director's genre films. It's a small-scale effort centering around just a few principal characters and set primarily in just one location; very much like something that has been adapted from the stage to the screen. The good news is that the film does a reasonable job fleshing out its characters and, while not really overtly horrifying, contains several effectively creepy moments and some suspense. The bad news is that it's not particularly original and it's difficult to find.

Things begin on an amusing note as we see two Nazi's step out of their car and demand to enter a home only to realize the men are just dressed up for a wild costume party. Angela Ayala (Christa Linder) has to cut the festivities short because she's expecting to meet her husband, who's away on business in New York, at their secondary lakeside home (located several miles from the nearest residence) the following day and claims she needs to straighten the place up. Upon arriving, Angela puts on a record, lights the fire, makes herself a drink and then calls up her husband to check in. Something's clearly bothering her and things are only going to get worse after she starts noticing signs that someone has been in her house; food's been eaten, there's a lit cigarette on the floor, a door lock is busted...) She grabs a rifle, heads down into the basement and discovers a bearded vagrant (Rodolfo de Anda) hiding out. Though he claims he just broke in for some food and seems harmless enough, she forces him leave, despite a raging thunderstorm going on outside.

Upon retrieving her luggage out of her car, Angela discovers that a drunken woman named Monica (Ana Luisa Peluffo) had climbed into her car and passed out in the backseat before she'd left the party. The vagrant pops by long enough to help carry her inside. Angela gives him a little money and asks that he be on his way. When Monica awakens, the two women start to get to know each other. Monica is an older, embittered, hard-drinker trapped in a loveless marriage to a wealthy man; possibly the type of woman Angela may become one day if she doesn't watch it. Monica senses that Angela is uneasy because she's having an affair and is awaiting her lover, and she's only partially right. Angela is indeed having an affair, but she's actually awaiting Raquel (Norma Lazareno). Raquel eventually shows up with incriminating photos of Angela's affair demanding money. Meanwhile, the vagrant snaps, kills a cat, trashes the boat house in a rage, flattens Angela's tires, starts lurking around the home, peeks in windows and such.

Despite having some competent moments of terror and suspense, the film is really at its best during character-driven scenes between Angela and Monica, where we get a cautionary 'don't become like me' moral delivered to the younger, more idealistic Angela by the older, experienced and more cynical Monica. The difference between the two women is one of years. Having her marriage threatened by both her own actions and by Raquel only strengthens Angela's feelings of love for her spouse, while in Monica's case (Raquel had already tried to blackmail her for her own affair) it was basically too late.

Star Linder (a real knockout that I'm surprised isn't more famous than she actually is) was born in Germany and went on to represent Austria in the Miss Universe pageant (which she almost won) before embarking on her acting career. She appeared in a couple of American films and TV shows, but worked primarily in Europe and Mexico on such films as the German krimni STRANGLER OF THE TOWER (1963), the sleazy Mexican film NIGHT OF A THOUSAND CATS (1972) and the horror-western HOT SNAKE (1976). She also appeared alongside Boris Karloff in his final films; THE SINISTER INVASION (1968), and was in the Italian vampire sex comedy YOUNG DRACULA (1975) for director Lucio Fulci. The other actors; Peluffo (THE LIVING HEAD), Lazareno (NIGHT OF THE BLOODY APES) and de Anda (FURIOUS ENCOUNTER) were all veterans of the Mexican film industry with a good number of genre films to their credit.

Like most of Taboada's other films, this was never released in America. It's on DVD, though (Spanish-language only) on the Cinema Inc. label.



J Luis Rivera said...

It was a real surprise for me when I watched it the first time. It's easily Taboada's lesser known horror film.

The Bloody Pit of Horror said...

It was pretty good and I liked it a bit more than 'Blacker Then the Night.'

From what I've read, 'Hasta' and 'Libro' are both better films, but they're tough to find here in the U.S.! I don't think any of them aside from 'Poison for the Fairies' were released to DVD with English subs. I was lucky to find copies of 'Blacker' and this one with fan-made subs, so hopefully I'll come across copies of 'Hasta' and 'Libro' with the same.

My Spanish isn't the best!

CavedogRob said...

I'm not familiar with Taboada but I'll be on the look out for him!

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