The movie famously starts with the Hitchcockian device of having a bomb planted in a car unbeknownst to its owner. The car then moves through a small Mexican town to the U.S.-Mexican border. A Mexican drug enforcement agent named Miguel Vargas (played by Charleton Heston, of all people) passes the car now and then with his new bride, Susie (Janet Leigh), as it crawls toward the border. Then, as it crosses the border, the car explodes on U.S. soil. And all this happens in one long shot.
Naturally, Vargas (Heston as a faux Mexican) takes an interest. He and his partner, Pete Menzies (played by Joseph Calleia, who was Maltese, but passed for Mexican) work the case with Police Chief Pete Gould (Harry Shannon), District Attorney Adair (Ray Collins), and Police Captain Hank Quinlan (played by the incredibly obese Orson Welles). While in the area, Quinlan stops by his favorite old brothel, where the madam Tanya (the awesome Marlene Dietrich) barely recognizes the fat man.
The cops quiz the prime suspect, a Mexican secretly married to the victim’s daughter, and while they do so, Vargas goes to the bathroom and knocks over an empty shoebox. Well, later Menzies claims there was dynamite in the same shoebox. And Vargas is like … what the f …. well, you get the idea. He accuses Quinlan of setting the suspect up.
Meanwhile, poor Susie is hit on by the suspect’s brother, Joe Grandi. (Did I mention this film has a lot of players?) So Susie decides to take a powder in a Mexican motel in the middle of nowhere. Unfortunately, the motel was not recommended by AAA, but by Mendies, and is owned by Grandi. When Susie arrives, no one else is there, except an oddball manager. But then she gets a raft of unexpected visitors – the whole male Grandi clan, who proceed to terrorize her in various horrible ways.
The plot eventually leads up a big confrontation between Vargas and Quinlan. A scene of edge-of-the-seat tension and suspense.
I won’t say more, but trust me, you should see this movie. It’s widely regarded now as one of Orson Welles’ finest films.
This movie’s a true classic that richly deserves two thumbs up!