This Nino Martini mesquiter is a fairly diverting Mexican western. Leo Birinski’s original story is one of those things. Wallace Smith’s screen treatment, fortified by Rouben Mamoulian’s direction, has achieved a certain tempo of insouciance which does much to offset the plot structure.
Leo Carrillo is the bad Mexican hombre who’s been influenced by US gangster pix. But he’s a pushover for a top tenor apparently and, despite his bloodthirsty celluloid education, this small time Villa seems to take plenty from the singer (Martini).
Plot is complicated by a snatch – another educational throwback at the door of the Hollywood influence on the mesa mayhemmers – and an attempt by a US hoodlum to hijack a snatch. In this consequence there are exaggerated burlesques of the Edward G. Robinson, Cagney and Raft type of sinisterness, cast as henchman to the head hoodlum.
In between all this, Martini tenors in his topnotch Metopera style, featuring ‘The World Is Mine’ (a corking thematic ballad by Holt Marvell and George Posford, English songsmiths) and an original Mexican serenade, ‘Adios Mi Tierra’ (by Miguel Sandoval). There are also snatches of the aria from Aida, ‘Cielito Lindo.’
Carrillo and Harold Huber, his aide-de-banditry, almost take the picture away from Martini, although his light-mannered, comedy style of trouping, coupled with the telling tenoring, make him highly acceptable. Ida Lupino is the ingenue – just an ingenue.
Photography by Lucien Andriot is eye-arresting in spots, particularly the against-the-sky shots, getting some extraordinary camera portraiture into the action.
This is a better entry for the briefly careered Mary Pickford-Jesse Lasky combo than was its first, One Rainy Afternoon. Desperado is the second and swan song, so the company exits from the production scene as a unit in high gear.