La devoradora (Fernando de Fuentes, Mexico, 1946)

María Felix is Diana de Arellano, a man-eater, an adventuress, a bad woman, voracious for sex, jewels and money; and without feeling. She’s going to marry Don Adolfo Gil (Julio Villarreal) because he’s rich. It’s a plus that he’s old and with a heart condition: he won’t last long. Whilst she’s stringing the old guy along, she can’t quite get rid of the young kid she’s also seeing, Pablo (Felipe de Alba).

When her maid asks her to choose, she tells her she won’t let go of either; she wants the young one, and the old one is convenient. She’s so untroubled by her plan that, on the eve of her wedding she remains blissfully asleep, surrounded by silk and satin. Her maid has trouble waking her up but is so devoted, she takes the grapes and lovingly feeds her as she dreams, an opportunity to photograph Felix looking glamorous and sensuous (see clip below), and a camp moment to rival Mae West’s ‘Eulah, peel me a grape.’

 

It’s only when the maid informs her all her new wedding purchases have arrived that she gets excited and out of bed.  But just as she’s about to look at her wedding dress, Pablo comes and threatens her with a gun. She dares him to kill her and he ends up shooting himself. If he’d been a man rather than a kid, she’d have killed her instead of himself, she later says. She calls her fiancée and asks him to bring a doctor, Miguel de Uribe (Luis Aldás), who turns out to be his nephew. She’s so bad that even as they wait for help, and with the corpse next to her not yet cold, she can’t help imagining how beautiful she’s going to look once she puts on all her lovely new things.

They’ve got to get the body out of his flat without anyone seeing them but first they go to a nightclub to show themselves in public. The song they hear is Agustin Lara’s great ‘Aventurera,’ sung by Salvador García

‘Vende caro tú amor, 
aventurera 
Da el precio del dolor, 
a tú pasado 
aquel, que de tus labios, 
la miel quiera 
Que pague con diamantes su pecado 
Que pague con diamantes su pecado 

Sell expensively your love,

Adventuress

Give the price of your pain

To your past

He who wants the honey of your lips

Must pay your sin with diamonds

Must pay your sin with diamonds.

Miguel keeps looking at Diana, telling us and her, that he knows the truth about her and that truth is being sung to us now. She sees him looking at her massive diamond engagement ring and knows exactly what he’s thinking of her (see clip above). When they return, Maria and the nephew get rid of the corpse in the outskirts of town but he’s lost his hat. Whilst he goes out to search for it, she drives off, leaving him to walk alone through the city where he might be seen. When he returns, she tells him the reason for leaving him was she couldn’t trust herself with him. They make love and she offers to keep on seeing him on the side whilst she marries his uncle. She needs luxury, comfort, lots of money (see clip below).

The nephew’s aghast at what a bad woman she is and goes to confess to his uncle. In the meantime, she calls her fiancée and tells him that the nephew made a pass, is drunk, and besotted with her. The fiancée confronts the nephew but his heart begins to act up in the middle of the confrontation and the nephew decides to lie in order to save the uncle’s life.  Miguel also tries to give himself up but the police, rightly thinking he’s trying to impede the wedding, tell him they’ll follow up on the investigation in due time. Miguel thus goes to kill Diana, who, beautiful and already in her wedding gown, dares him to. But Miguel is not a kid like Pablo. He shoots and kills just as the police arrive to question Diana. The film ends with a pan across Diana’s luxurious apartment which rests on her face as the notes to ‘Aventurera’, previously heard in the nightclub scene, play over the last shot

A poorly made film, a male fantasy, a representation of female power in which the protagonist uses all the stupid clichés believed of women by a certain type of man to trick them into doing her bidding. Heartless, selfish, using men only to further her true love, the finer and more expensive things in life, María Félix is beautiful and magnetic. The whole film is so excessive it’s camp. Yet, one can also easily understand from this trashy, lurid film why Félix was an object of veneration; why hers is such a powerful star persona; in fact it’s one of the key films that cemented  it. She’s a beautiful woman who dares what others won’t: living out the audience’s fantasies in silk sheets and satin pillows. Why can’t one have sex AND money. Why should she have to pay with her life over a young fool that shot himself for love?  For the rest of her career, the man-eating femme fatale would be the first thing one thought of  when her name was brought up. This was one of the key films that, for better and worse, cemented that view. Very bad and hugely entertaining.

José Arroyo

 

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