Pirates of Monterey (1947)
Director: Alfred L. Werker.
Starring: Maria Montez (Marguerita Novarro), Rod Cameron (Captain Phillip Kent), Mikhail Rasumny (Sergeant Pio), Phillip Reed (Lt. Carlo Ortega), Gilbert Roland (Major de Roja), Gale Sondergaard (Se˝orita de Sola), Tamara Shayne (Filomena), Robert Warwick (Governor de Sola), Michael Raffetto (Sgt. Gomara), Neyle Morrow (Manuel de Roja), Victor Varconi (Capt. Cordova), Charles Wagenheim (Juan).
a woman is going to California to marry a Spanish officer, but instead falls in love with an American
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film.
"Throughout history men have struggled for possession of new instruments of destruction, for they have often meant the difference between extinction and survival. So it was in the early part of the last century, when the young Republic of Mexico fought valiantly against ravaging hordes of royalist pirates to safeguard her richest jewel -- California."
A group of men travel to California on a secret mission. They stop in Los Angeles. Sgt. Pio wants immediately to start chasing women. There is a lot of commotion in the town because a stage coach is departing for Santa Barbara. While the leader Captain Philip Kent and Sgt. Pio start to go down the large hill, they see an out-of-control horse pulling a carriage containing two ladies. A wheel drops off and the carriage crashes. Philip Kent pulls a pretty red-head named Marguerita Novarro out of the carriage. Marguerita's maid, Philomena, has to fend off Sgt. Pio who holds her a little too tightly.
The red-head says they have to catch the stage coach going north. Kent says that she has already missed that stage coach. The next stage coach leaving for the north will be in a month. Pio says the women perhaps may go with them. Kent shouts at Pio, indicating this would compromise the secret mission. So Pio says he meant to say go with them to the plaza to have a nice dinner. Captain Kent says it's not possible for they are heading out in a different direction.
The Captain pulls Pio to the side and reminds him that they are not to trust anyone. There are many that are disloyal to the Republic, so they must be on guard for possible traitors all the time.
The guys go into town for some supplies. Pio tries to get a man to sell him his cart, but the price is 30 pesos. So Pio tries to talk the man into selling the cart for less. But no matter what he says, Pio cannot bring the stubborn vendor to lower his price. Two Mexican gentlemen are watching what's going on. They look a little too interested in what Philip and Pio are doing.
Pio is looking forward to going to Los Angeles tonight, but the boss says everyone is staying in camp tonight. They will leave at dawn.
Those two Mexican fellows sneak into camp. The horses wake the guard. One of the intruders throws a knife into the guard, but he is able to fire his rifle. The two Mexicans run away. Captain Kent tells Pio: "Someone knows too much about us, Pio." They are going to have to start their trip now. Kent closely examines the insignia on the knife.
Hidden away in one of the carts are Marguerita and Philomena. At the next encampment they come out of hiding to get some dinner. Kent is none too happy and he accuses them of being spies. Marguerita is a bit insulted and denies that they are spies. After a bit of thinking, Kent decides Maguerita is telling the truth and now he tells Pio that they should have a nice trip with the two women along.
Santa Barbara. The Fiesta of the Harvest. The town is located between the Santa Ynes Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. Mission Santa Barbara was dedicated December 4, 1786, the feast day of Saint Barbara. The Indian women are busy preparing food. The kids have races and the horsemen have their own competitions. Captain Kent and his convoy arrive. He tells Marguerita that tonight they will stay here, but in the morning they have to get back on the road. The women thank Kent for the ride. Kent asks Maguerita for the first dance with her tonight at the fiesta.
Now it's Pio's turn. He asks Philomena if she will save one dance for him? Yes.
At the fiesta Pio and Kent get their dances. LOutside the Captain walks with Marguerita for a ways. He calls her "Maggie" and she doesn't like it. He kisses her.
The next morning the Captain heads over for breakfast with Marguerita. A pretty servant comes to the door to tell Kent that Marquerita and Philomena left during the night. And, no, she doesn't know where they are going. But Marguerita left him a note: "In the night -- a kiss; in the daylight -- farewell. You too must forget. Since you imagine things so well, it should be easy for you to imagine it never happened." He's disappointed but concerned also. He doesn't know why Marguerita had to sneak out during the night. He tells Pio that they are leaving now.
As they ride through a narrow passage in the mountains, the little convoy is ambushed. A huge tree is set on fire and dropped onto the roadway. Then one of the men in the convoy is shot. The convoy now races through the fire to get on the other side of it.
The convoy reaches the compound of Monterey. (Founded in 1770, Monterey is located on Monterey Bay along the Pacific coast in central California, 112 miles south of San Francisco and 321 miles north of Los Angeles. It was the capital of Alta California, under both Spain and Mexico, from 1777 to 1846, when America claimed California, and included the modern American states of California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, w. Colorado and sw Wyoming.)
Sgt. Gomara comes out to tell Captain Kent that coming here like this is forbidden. Kent gets off his horse and shows the sergeant a letter he has from the Viceroy of Mexico City to his Excellency the Governor. Before going with the sergeant, Kent tells Pio to grab a rifle, keep it hidden and get it to him. One of the officers recognizes Kent as his old friend. As a joke he throws his sword down from the balcony to land straight up in the ground a few steps ahead of Kent. The Captain quickly pulls out his pistol, but he recognizes that the officer is his friend Carlos. Both men are very happy to see each other.
Kent tells Carlos that he is still running guns. The Governor certainly will want to hear this news. Carlos escorts Kent to the Governor's office. Kent meets the Governor, who is happy about the guns. Nevertheless, he says they have quite a few problems in Monterey. Carlos says they have fewer than 100 men at the Presidio and that's not enough to protect them from the Royalists. And the pirates on the ship San Felipe have been raiding the towns up and down the coast.
Major de Roja knocks on the door and comes into the room. The Governor introduces him to Philip Kent of the St. Louis Armament Company. He has brought the new rifles to them. The Commandant says that there is a fellow outside who desperately wants to come in. Kent figures that's Pio. Pio comes in. Carlos is very happy to see him. Pio gives the requested rifle to Kent, who shows it to the Governor. The Governor is very happy with the breech loading weapon ( instead of the muzzle loaded weapons). The Governor now invites Kent to the fiesta tonight.
Kent arrives at the party in a new suit. The Governor introduces him to his wife Maria. Maria immediately wants to know Kent's marital status. The Governor says that Kent is a bachelor. The wife of the Governor is happy to hear that because she has a few potential matches lined up for the Captain.
The Governor stops the music and the dancing. He now announces the upcoming marriage of Carlos to Marguerita. Kent is once again flabbergasted by Marguerita. He tells Pio not to let on that they know either Maguerita or Philomena. Now Kent goes up to meet the fiancÚ. Carlos introduces Kent to Maguerita. She is shocked, but she recovers quickly. Carlos tells Marguerita to have the first dance with his friend Philip. So the two go off do dance. It's a bit awkward for the both of them. The dance doesn't last very long because Kent says something impertinent to her and she abandons him on the dance floor. As she leaves she drops her handkerchief. Kent picks it up and keeps it.
The two Mexican camp invaders come into the Presidio at night. They knock out one of the guards watching the new rifles. The fellow now grabs the keys to the armory. Carlos comes along and sees the guard on the ground. Very quickly, Carlos finds himself in a sword fight with the second bandit. Carlos stabs the bandit, but now the bandit with the keys shoots Carlos. Kent runs over, grabs Carlos' sword and subdues the surviving bandit. The Commandant comes over and asks what's going on? Kent says that this bandit shot Carlos. The Commandant tells the sergeant to throw the man into the brig. The Presidio doctor now takes over the care of Carlos.
The Commandant now goes into the jail cell to talk with the bad guy. He stands the man up and slaps him around several times. He calls the fellow stupid and says he should have let the soldiers shoot him. He tells Manuel that he should have waited for orders from him. Manuel asks can't his escape be arranged? Not now, says the Commandant. If Manuel escaped, the Commandant himself would get the blame.
Philomena runs into Pio and they both have to act like this is their first meeting. So they introduce themselves and talk about light subjects.
Kent comes in to visit the recuperating Carlos. With him are his fiancÚ and the wife of the Governor. Carlos jokes that the two invaders certainly ruined his engagement announcement party. He thinks he will be up and about very soon, but Maria tells him the doctor says no. Maria, however, suggests that for the actual engagement party, Kent can substitute for Carlos and escort Marguerite to the party. Carlos thinks that's a great idea.
Outside Kent tells Marguerita that he is going to stay on indefinitely, because too many strange things have been happening to his friend Carlos. Marguerite does not look happy.
The Commandant tells the Governor that he can't get any useful information out of the prisoner. So Kent steps up to volunteer to interrogate the fellow. The Governor approves of the idea and the Commandant has to give his approval too.
The Commandant now tells Manuel that Kent will interrogate him. He asks Manuel if he thinks he can withstand an intense interrogation that might include a bit of torture? Manuel says he doesn't really know. So the Commandant gives him his knife. He says the jailer will becoming in soon with his dinner. He is to overpower the jailer. Manuel asks what about the guards? The Commandant says when the guards shoot at him, they will be firing blanks.
The jailer arrives with the dinner. He comes in and is killed by Manuel. Now Manuel starts running. A guard shouts for him to stop and when Manuel doesn't stop he fires a shot into the escapee. A second shot shoots another bullet into Manuel and then a third guard hits him with the third shot. Manuel goes down and stays down.
Kent watches a great show of marksmanship by the Mexican horsemen. The Governor congratulates him on helping to teach the soldiers how to fire the new rifles so well.
When Kent gets back a convoy of party goers heads out. On horses, he escorts Marguerita to the party. They are the last in line. Again Kent is impertinent and Marguerita rides off. When she stops in a secluded place, she tells him that she wanted to talk to him in private. She tells him that what happened in Los Angeles was not a pretend game for her. She says the engagement of she and Carlos was arranged between the parents a long time ago when they were children. She thought she loved Carlos, until she met Kent. Kent is sure not making this easy for Marguerita. So she ends up crying. Therefore, Kent has to start talking a bit.
Marguerita says her family are Royalists, but she is not. She and Philomena were actually running away from her parents. She cries and tells Philip that he must believe her. He says he does believe her. They kiss.
Maria visits Marguerita in her room. Marguerita seems a bit depressed. Maria asks what is bothering her? Marguerita starts mentioning everything but Captain Kent. So Maria mentions el Americano. She says to Marguerita that she has eyes to see with and they see how Marguerita reacts to Philip. Maria gets right to the point. "You cannot marry Carlos. That would make three people unhappy: you and Carlos and Senor Kent." Marguerita says Philip would never do anything to hurt Carlos. Maria asks: "Is that why you sent him away?" Marguerita doesn't know what she's talking about, so Maria tells her that Philip and Pio left a little while ago. Marguerita's heart sinks. Maria tells her that she will deal with Carlos for Marguerita and that now Marguerita must go and catch up with the two men. Marguerita is very grateful to Maria, but she immediately gets dressed and gets on her horse.
Marguerita rides so skillfully and so fast that she easily catches up with Philip and Pio. She explains that Carlos would not marry a woman who does not love him and she loves Philip. Philip says then they will just have to go have a talk with Carlos. That will have to wait says Sgt. Gamara who is accompanied by two tough looking guys. The soldier has a pistol and the two men have rifles. Philip knocks one of the tough guys down and bowls over the sergeant, but the soldier recovers quickly and holds the pistol on Philip again. The Captain has to cease fighting or be killed. Now they take the two prisoners to the hacienda.
Pio trudges slowly along and Philip's horse easily catches up to him. So now he knows his friend is in trouble. He grabs the reins of the Captain's horse and returns to see if he can help his old friend and Marguerita out.
The two prisoners arrive at the hacienda on the Pacific shore. In the distance, a ship can be seen heading toward the hacienda.
When Marguerita and Philip arrive at the hacienda, they find Major de Roja there. He explains to them that he is taking over Alta California. And now they learn that the Manuel who was killed trying to escape was de Roja's brother. The Major tells Philip that with the men from the San Felipe, they will be able to take over the Presidio.
Pio rides back to where he last left Marguerita and the Captain. He gets off his horse and looks around. He finds the button off a soldier's uniform. He gets back on his horse and rides down the road as fast as his horse can go.
Maria explains to Carlos the relationship between Marguerita and Philip. Carlos does not take it well. He condemns not only Philip and Marguerita, but also Maria for helping to put the couple together. Carlos grabs his pistol and heads out to find out for himself what has happened.
On the road Carlos runs into one of the bad guys. He asks the fellow if two people came by here recently? The guy says yes he did and he will take Carlos to where they are. They reach the hacienda and go in, but not before they disarm Carlos. Then they put Carlos in the same room with Marguerita and Philip. Carlos tells them that if he had his pistol, he would kill Kent. Marguerita tells Carlos that she and Philip are in love. Kent says they were on their way to tell Carlos when they were captured by de Roja. Carlos asks what does the Commandant have to do with all this? Kent takes him over to the window and shows him the San Felipe at anchor along with the many row boats filled with pirates headed for the hacienda. De Roja is the traitor. The man plans to attack and take over the Presidio.
De Roja welcomes the ship captain and his men to the hacienda. The captain says he will have his men ready in a short while. Pio has talked with the Governor and now the Governor and Pio inspect the troops. Pio finds that Sgt. Gamara is missing one of his buttons. He takes the sergeant to the interrogation room at the point of a sword.
When Pio comes out of the interrogation room he tells the Governor that they are at the de Roja hacienda. He adds: "But he told me something else."
At the hacienda, Kent and Carlos start overturning everything to make it sound like they are fighting with each other. The guard comes in and yells at the men to stop it immediately. Marguerita bangs the guard on the head with a big candle stick holder. Kent and the gang start to leave but run into de Roja and one of the guards. Kent sword fights de Roja while Carlos struggles to get the pistol from the guard. Carlos and the guard bust through the railing on the second floor and land on the ground. Kent kills de Roja and Carlos survives the fall.
As the sailors start to move up toward the hacienda, here comes the Mexican cavalry and they start killing a lot of the sailors, who try to escape via their boats.
Kent and Marguerita marry. Carlos is the best man. The whole fort waves goodbye to the newlyweds as they drive in a carriage out of the fort.
There's not a great deal of history here, but it is a reminder that most of the southwest of today's USA once belonged to Mexico. The Mexicans appear to be almost exactly like the Americans, except for their clothing. In other words, no insights are given into the early lifestyle of the Mexicans in Alta California. So the film turns out to be mostly an action Western. The love triangle story is good and the plot is good, so it's an okay film to watch. At first I thought the main star was Randolph Scott, so I was surprised when I discovered the actor is Rod Cameron. They sure look alike to me.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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