Despite its moralizing title, Victims of Sin is a magnificent, canonical Mexican melodrama (with several Cuban imports) of the ‘cabaretera’ subgenre, a daring, realistic and even cruelly dramatic tear-jerker thumbing its way through a series of disasters and injustices to what appears to be a really welcome happy ending, only to go on with further catastrophes until arriving, years later, at a (muted) happy conclusion. It is certainly not the most prestigious of Emilio Fernández’ films, and never will be, precisely because it is an unashamed melodrama, but it is arguably among the very best in his quite remarkable career.
A heroic and even saintly rhumba dancer at the Changoo, turned street prostitute for having adopted an abandoned (in the garbage can!) new-born child, the character of Violeta (Ninón Sevilla) is not a passive and powerless victim, but a real, outspoken, rebellious fighter, capable of furiously defending herself and hitting the despicable pimp-gangster mercilessly, played (with relish) by Rodolfo Acosta, deservedly sending him to jail and finally killing him. Which sends her to jail and separation from her adopted kid.
In the standard ninety minutes of a feature film, Fernández presents a series of events which could fill several seasons of any current Tv series, with an economy which at the time seemed quite normal, but today seems to be an outstanding feat, even a miracle. And he manages to integrate, functionally, several fantastic dance numbers, a song by the great Pedro Vargas (sitting at a table with an arm in a sling), and some mambo music by Pérez Prado and orchestra.
Neither cynical nor a simple commercial women’s picture, but a tale, like Mizoguchi’s work, the film has a sincere compassion and sympathy for the prostitutes, whom Fernández probably knew well and liked, as his other prostitution/brothel films suggest (from Las abandonadas, The Abandoned, 1945, to Zona Roja, 1975-1976).
Cast and Credits
Scen.: Emilio Fernández, Mauricio Magdaleno. F.: Gabriel Figueroa. M.: Gloria Schoemann. Mus.: Antonio Díaz Conde. Int.: Ninón Sevilla (Violeta), Tito Junco (Santiago), Rodolfo Acosta (Rodolfo), Ismael Pérez Poncianito (Juanito), Rita Montaner (Rita), Margarita Ceballos (Rosa), Francisco Reiguera (don Gonzalo). Prod.: Pedro Calderón, Guillermo Calderón per Producciones Calderón S.A.. DCP. D.: 90’. Bn.
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