Tijuana is a den of sex and drugs as Tijuana Story begins. That terror of the ‘50s – Mexican marijuana. It’s so bad, an American kid looking for a good time smokes one joint, smashes up four cars, and doesn’t remember any of it. Then he’s killed by cops, because marijuana.
The anti-drug stuff goes the distance in Tijuana Story. It’s comical, even, unintentionally. That’s a shame as the story centers on a true life reporter who risked everything to take down a local mob, ending in tragedy. He fends off “The Syndicate,” his publisher (“The public doesn’t care!”), and advertisers who abandon the paper when mob men turn violent.
Inspiring speeches and tough guy dialog fill time in this, a 73-minute cheapie that feels like twice as long. It’s plodding, frequently repetitive too given the low-budget interiors shown with no real energy in the stiff cinematography. TV shows of the time offered more.
At its core, Tijuana Story finds something worth telling, produced on the quick to take advantage of the news cycle. Manuel Acosta Mesa was murdered the year prior in real life; that’s fast turn-around. Seeing people break from their cushy, mob-supported routine to do the right thing brings a sense of heroism to even the little guys in this tale. Post-war, come-together-as-one messaging. And, in this case, helping one another across borders as California newspapers pick up on these happenings, keeping drugs away from America.
Mesa is played by Rodolfo Acosta, the bright spot in a cast of routine bit players, although Mesa comes off as no less an archetype. He hugs his kids, stands up for right, and resists pressure. There’s no arc – he begins a hero and ends as much. So it goes for the gangsters too, while a bit part from James Darren (Rumble on the Docks)) serves no purpose other than to stuff a US citizen into the fray. If anything drags Tijuana Story’s pace, it’s Darren’s minimal romance.
If nothing else, at least Mesa’s sacrifice earned deserving screen time.
Moderate, routine video captures a bright print with peak contrast. While black levels linger without full depth, passable dimension enters this image. Source material endures a handful of heavy scratches, but others stays clean.
It’s unlikely the master comes from a recent scan. Low resolution and minimal detail draw marginal definition. Intact grain succumbs to compression in spots, if otherwise maintaining a film-like appearance against a three-film disc inside the Noir Archive. At the worst, blame stock footage and the flimsy, softened, low-grade imagery it produces.
DTS-HD mono suffices, clean and organic with sharp treble. The score’s horns exhibit pure fidelity for the time, with dialog resolved. No static, popping, or other imperfection is noted. For a vintage offering at this budget tier, Tijuana Story sounds better than expected.
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An admirable story of journalistic ethics, but The Tijuana Story uses real world events as a base to tell a routine story.
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