|Robert Montgomery, Wanda Hendrix and Thomas Gomez|
Gagin has arrived during the town's annual fiesta. He's having trouble finding a hotel room until a local girl named Pila helps him locate one. As he hatches his scheme to take down Hugo, he's befriended by Pila and also the ebullient Pancho, who operates the town's carousel. But as often happens in the noir world, things spiral in ways that he doesn't expect. He crosses paths with a Federal agent named Retz, who's also after Hugo, and warns Gagin to stay away from the gangster. Gagin also meets Marjorie, Hugo's girlfriend, who entices him to alter his plan to include her. Gagin then has to contend with both Hugo and Marjorie, who in true femme fatale fashion, isn't all she seems to be. Is Hugo one step ahead of Gagin? Just whose side is Retz on? Is Gagin out to get justice for his friend, or obtain himself a big payday via his blackmail scheme? Will Pilar and Pancho help him escape this web of deceit and double crosses?
The movie features exquisite cinematography by Russell Metty, who worked on two Orson Welles films, The Stranger and Touch of Evil. There's a particularly striking sequence late in the film when a wounded and disoriented Gagin wanders around the fiesta, trying to get his bearings. The performances are strong; Montgomery deftly conveys Gagin's sense of weariness and isolation, and his struggle to understand the different world in which he finds himself after the war. Wanda Hendrix is wonderful as Pila. The character isn't portrayed as the typical "young girl in love with an older man" part found in many stories of this type. She becomes a friend and guardian angel to Gagin. Pila's optimism and faith is nicely contrasted against Gagin's cynicism. Thomas Gomez (who was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar) also moves past stereotype and portrays Pancho as a truly three dimensional character. Fred Clark is appropriately oily as Frank Hugo. Art Smith as Retz and Andrea King as the double-crossing Marjorie are also very good in their roles.
The film was produced by Joan Harrison, who is best known for her work with Alfred Hitchcock, both for the big screen and on television. The screenplay is by Ben Hecht and Charles Lederer, based on a book by Dorothy Hughes. Hughes also wrote the novel which served as the basis for the classic Humphrey Bogart noir, In a Lonely Place, directed by Nicholas Ray. Ride The Pink Horse is often screened on Turner Classic Movies and other cable movie channels. There is also a fantastic Blu-ray edition of the film, which was released in 2015 by the Criterion Collection, which has an insightful audio commentary by noir experts by Alain Silver and James Ursini. Ride The Pink Horse features a compelling story in an unusual setting, great cinematography, and some fine performances, all anchored by excellent direction from star Robert Montgomery. Here's a link to the trailer for the film: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nVcdFIWT6zA.