DVD Verdict
Home About News Blu-ray DVD Reviews Upcoming DVD Releases Contest Podcasts Forums Judges Contact  

Case Number 21330: Small Claims Court

The Mexican Spitfire Collection

The Girl From Mexico
1939 // 71 Minutes // Not Rated
Mexican Spitfire
1940 // 67 Minutes // Not Rated
Mexican Spitfire Out West
1940 // 76 Minutes // Not Rated
Mexican Spitfire's Baby
1941 // 69 Minutes // Not Rated
Mexican Spitfire At Sea
1942 // 73 Minutes // Not Rated
Mexican Spitfire Sees A Ghost
1942 // 70 Minutes // Not Rated
Mexican Spitfire's Elephant
1942 // 64 Minutes // Not Rated
Mexican Spitfire's Blessed Event
1943 // 63 Minutes // Not Rated
Released by Warner Bros.
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // May 12th, 2011

• View Judge Douglas's Dossier
• E-mail Judge Douglas
• Printer Friendly Review


Every purchase you make through these Amazon links supports DVD Verdict's reviewing efforts. Thank you!

 

All Rise...

Judge Clark Douglas carries a monocle and fake mustache with him at all times.

The Charge

You'll be fired up with laughter!

The Case

During the early years of her career, Mexican actress Lupe Velez came to be regarded as one of the more compelling silent actresses of the era. Velez collaborated with such directors as Cecil B. DeMille, D.W. Griffith, Tod Browning and Victor Fleming during the 1920s. With the arrival of sound, Velez transformed from silent leading lady to comedic supporting player; the odds of her attaining considerable stardom seemed less and less likely as time passed. Fortunately, Velez would be rescued by 1939's The Girl from Mexico, the film which kicked off the popular "Mexican Spitfire" franchise. This new collection from Warner Archive spotlights all eight of Velez's outings in her most memorable, popular role.

The Girl from Mexico begins by introducing us to Dennis Lindsay (Donald Woods, True Grit), who works for a New York advertising agency. His mission: travel to Mexico and find a talented local singer for a commercial the agency is working on. Dennis quickly comes across Carmelita Fuentes (Lupe Velez), a woman with a beautiful singing voice, a considerable temper and a generous supply of bold playfulness. Dennis is engaged to the prim and proper Elizabeth Price (Linda Hayes), but quickly begins to develop feelings for Carmelita. After her arrival in New York, Carmelita coaxes Dennis' uncle Matthew (Leon Errol, The Invisible Man's Revenge) into giving her a whirlwind tour of the city. Alas, Carmelita does so much shouting over the course of her adventure that she temporarily loses her singing voice. As you might expect, much chaos ensues.

mexican spitfire collection

The first film is a clichéd little comedy, but it more or less works due to the combined charms of Velez and Errol. To be sure, there are some cultural stereotypes built into the character of Carmelita Fuentes (as you might expect from a character nicknamed "Mexican Spitfire"), but Velez's performance is frequently a delight to behold. To give you an idea of what Carmelita is like, think of her as a manic fusion of Lucy Ricardo, Sofia Vergara's character from Modern Family and Amelia Bedelia. Though her screeching can grow a little wearisome after a while, it's hard not to admire her pristine timing and her raw energy. She's the one genuinely unpredictable element in a series of increasingly predictable films. Meanwhile, Errol delivers a somewhat more low-key brand of comedy, giving Carmelita an enjoyably prickly foil/conspirator to scheme and plot with.

The Girl from Mexico is arguably the best film of the series, but it's something of a false start. The second film in the series, Mexican Spitfire, establishes the conventions which will define the remainder of the franchise. It begins just after Carmelita and Dennis have returned from their honeymoon; ready to begin their happy new life together. For some absurd reason, Elizabeth regards this marriage as a small hurdle to overcome in her mission to win Dennis' heart. As soon as the happy couple returns, she begins hatching a plan to tear the two lovers apart. Though Elizabeth only appears in this film and the next one (Mexican Spitfire Out West), the series continues to put Carmelita and Dennis's marriage through a series of hurdles for the remainder of its run. Either one party is threatening to divorce the other or one party is going through some silly charade in an effort to make the other party jealous.

The other key element introduced by Mexican Spitfire is Lord Epping, a stuffy British businessman played by Errol. Not only does Errol continue to play both Uncle Matthew and Lord Epping in each film for the remainder of the series, but he also plays Uncle Matthew playing Lord Epping. It just so happens that Matthew does an excellent Epping impression, and each film provides some contrived reason for Matthew to disguise himself as Epping. Meanwhile, the fake Epping and the real Epping manage to narrowly avoid bumping into each other and jointly cause a massive amount of confusion for the rest of the characters. This particular idea is amusing enough the first time around, but it quickly begins to define, overwhelm and sink the series. After a very short period of time, Velez begins to feel like a supporting player in her own franchise, and the Matthew, Epping and Matthew/Epping escapades start to dominate most of the plotting.

Despite a series of titles which suggest the films contains a great deal of diversity (Mexican Spitfire's Elephant, Mexican Spitfire Sees a Ghost), I was surprised to discover just how similar most of these movies really are. For instance, you might expect that Mexican Spitfire's Baby would push things in a new direction, as the film begins by informing us that Dennis and Carmelita would like to adopt a child. Alas, they end up receiving a 20-something French blonde instead of a two-year-old baby (just go with it, I guess), causing another series of marital complications and quickly segueing into another complicated mess involving Lord Epping. In Mexican Spitfire Out West, you get a series of marital complications and Lord Epping-related business problems in a western setting. In Mexican Spitfire at Sea, you get the exact same thing on a cruise ship. In Mexican Spitfire Sees a Ghost, you get the exact same thing along with a very small subplot in which Carmelita thinks she sees a ghost. You get the idea. By the time the final installment arrives (Mexican Spitfire's Blessed Event, the second film which promises and then refuses to deliver a baby), we feel as if we know the film by heart before we see a frame of it.

Given that I actually do enjoy watching the Carmelita, Matthew and Lord Epping characters, I was disappointed to note that watching the series quickly begins to feel like watching a series of increasingly less successful remakes. These are good characters, but they're forced to go through the same routine over and over again. If the writing were good enough, they might have been able to sustain this repetition (consider the fun but extremely repetitious Jeeves and Wooster series), but the moments of genuine wit are often overwhelmed by mundane plotting. It's also worth noting that the Dennis character is one of the most boring movie characters of all time; he's such a waste of space that we barely notice when Donald Woods stops playing him and the role is handed to Buddy Rogers (or, for that matter, when Rogers departs and the role is given to Walter Reed).

Given the age of these movies, they actually look decent on DVD, with a minimal amount of scratches and flecks and a modest amount of natural grain present throughout. Detail is solid despite scenes which look pretty soft, and blacks are acceptably rich. Audio is okay, though things get a little murky in the midst of all the shouting from time to time. There are no extras included on the set.

Fans of this series will be tickled to have The Mexican Spitfire Collection on DVD, but curious newcomers should certainly proceed with caution. There's some fun stuff in this set, but that stuff would be a lot more fun if it weren't repeated quite so often.

The Verdict

This collection is guilty, but Velez and Errol are free to go.

Give us your feedback!

Did we give The Mexican Spitfire Collection a fair trial? yes / no

Share This Review


Follow DVD Verdict


Other Reviews You Might Enjoy

• Wayne's World 2
• Big Shot's Funeral
• Weekend At Bernie's
• Half A Sixpence

DVD Reviews Quick Index

• DVD Releases
• Recent DVD Reviews
• Search for a DVD review...

Scales of Justice, The Girl From Mexico

Judgment: 83

Perp Profile, The Girl From Mexico

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 71 Minutes
Release Year: 1939
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, The Girl From Mexico

• None

Scales of Justice, Mexican Spitfire

Judgment: 80

Perp Profile, Mexican Spitfire

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 67 Minutes
Release Year: 1940
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Mexican Spitfire

• None

Scales of Justice, Mexican Spitfire Out West

Judgment: 75

Perp Profile, Mexican Spitfire Out West

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 76 Minutes
Release Year: 1940
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Mexican Spitfire Out West

• None

Scales of Justice, Mexican Spitfire's Baby

Judgment: 73

Perp Profile, Mexican Spitfire's Baby

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 69 Minutes
Release Year: 1941
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Mexican Spitfire's Baby

• None

Scales of Justice, Mexican Spitfire At Sea

Judgment: 70

Perp Profile, Mexican Spitfire At Sea

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 73 Minutes
Release Year: 1942
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Mexican Spitfire At Sea

• None

Scales of Justice, Mexican Spitfire Sees A Ghost

Judgment: 65

Perp Profile, Mexican Spitfire Sees A Ghost

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 70 Minutes
Release Year: 1942
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Mexican Spitfire Sees A Ghost

• None

Scales of Justice, Mexican Spitfire's Elephant

Judgment: 70

Perp Profile, Mexican Spitfire's Elephant

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 64 Minutes
Release Year: 1942
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Mexican Spitfire's Elephant

• None

Scales of Justice, Mexican Spitfire's Blessed Event

Judgment: 68

Perp Profile, Mexican Spitfire's Blessed Event

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• None
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 63 Minutes
Release Year: 1943
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Mexican Spitfire's Blessed Event

• None








DVD | Blu-ray | Upcoming DVD Releases | About | Staff | Jobs | Contact | Subscribe | Find us on Google+ | Privacy Policy

Review content copyright © 2011 Clark Douglas; Site design and review layout copyright © 2014 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.