Reviewed by Glenn Erickson
Arturo Ripstein's Mexican remake of
The Honeymoon Killers
transposes the true story neatly to a new country, but besides returning the events
to their 1940s timeframe adds little but unpleasant detail. Regina Orozco and Daniel
Giménez Cacho are excellent as two thoroughly repulsive human beings, but
standoffish writing and direction restrict our involvement with the horrible happenings.
Miserable and overweight, incompetent nurse and mother Coral Fabre (Regina
Orozco) responds to a lonely hearts add hoping to find a mate like Charles Boyer. Instead
she gets Nicolás Estrella (Daniel Giménez Cacho), a slick gigolo who
steals from women and keeps a file of hot prospects. Coral ditches her crying children
at a convent orphanage and forces herself on Nicolás, and when he discovers that
Coral is willing to back him up in his crooked life he returns her love. Even though
Coral pretends to be Nicolás' sister to keep up business, it doesn't work
out. Coral's insatiable jealousy brings the truth out into the open again and again,
leading to horrible murders and a sorry end.
Deep Crimson is a close remake of the 1970 Leonard Kastle film and not a return
to the original criminal case. Story alterations are mostly superficial. The gigolo
hero pretends to be Castilian Spanish to impress his female victims, and in place of a
more detailed character he's given a fevered fixation over his toupée.
The film puts the lion's share of the blame on the Regina Orozco's character Coral.
Looking like a malignant Anna Magnani, Coral is much more repulsive than the woman
in the first movie. This overweight nymphomaniac is a terrible nurse with bad breath
and body odor ("It's from working with cadavers!") who also abuses her adorable
young children. From a Latin point of view her last motherly offense is a damning
one. When Nicolás uses her kids as an excuse to break off their relationship,
Coral abandons them without a second thought.
The unholy pair criss-cross the desert in an old sedan, responding to inquiries
from lonely widows. There are again three women who become their prey. Nicolás is
more concerned about losing his hairpiece and while Coral finishes off their victims
cowers in the corner. One is a shameless hussy and the next a clueless beata hiding
her impure thoughts behind religious sentiments. Neither are necessarily bad people
but in this sleazy context they're entirely unappetizing.
Ripstein does take a moment to show his anti-clerical viewpoint by introducing another
woman, an ex-Anarchist from Spain who distrusts church talk and immediately sees through
the couple. She's given the door, but not before we remember Ripstein's 1974 The Holy
Office, a harrowing tale of Mexican Jews rounded up and tortured by the witch hunters
in the name of the church.
In a conservative Latin context, man-crazy floozies and religious zealots aren't given
much respect. The only victim we're meant to side with is the last, a hard-working beauty
with an adorable daughter. She�s unfortunately just as trusting as the others, and
Coral's jealousy is more out of control than ever.
Ripstein's choice of filming in unbroken masters distances us from his victims, a
gambit that tends to mute the drama. The film is realistic and consistent in its
outlook, but can't match the rich characters of The Honeymoon Killers.
For its bleak finish, Deep Crimson offers a sobering look at rural
Mexican justice circa 1940. The local police chief looks at what Nicolás and
Coral have done, hears their confessions and unceremoniously shoots them without a trial.
Nicolás' main concern at the end is to worry whether the cop will let him wear
his toupée, a belated attempt at black humor.
The director and his stars have busy careers. Daniel Giménez Cacho was in
Cronos and played a priest in Pedro Almodóvar's Bad Education.
Regina Orozco had high visibility in the cult movies Perdita Durango and
Santitos. Victim Marisa Paredes went on to star in Almodóvar's
All About My Mother.
Home Vision Entertainment's DVD of Deep Crimson has a brilliant enhanced transfer
that makes the most of the film's colorful photography. The package art looks like a
classic pulp paperback cover. A French trailer and a helpful liner essay from Jorge
Ruffinelli are provided as extras.
On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
Deep Crimson rates:
Movie: Good -
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: March 6, 2005
Republished by permission of Turner Classic Movies.
DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson