The Border (1982)

R | 107 mins | Drama | 12 February 1982

Director:

Tony Richardson

Cinematographer:

Ric Waite

Production Designer:

Toby Carr Rafelson

Production Companies:

Universal Pictures , RKO Pictures
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HISTORY

End credits include the following note: “Opening scenes filmed in Antigua and Guatemala City, Republic of Guatemala.”
       On 11 May 1977, Sagittarius Entertainment published a full-page advertisement in DV announcing their “simultaneous preparation” of a novel written by A. E. Maxwell and a screenplay by Robert Dillon and Laurie Dillon, both titled The Border. Another poster in the 28 Feb 1978 HR stated that Robert Blake would star in the motion picture. According to the 25 Jul 1978 DV, Caribou Films and James William Guercio were also involved as producers, partnering again with Blake after Second Hand Hearts (1981, see entry), which was then titled Hamster of Happiness. Universal Pictures was set to release The Border. Production notes in AMPAS library files and a 1 Apr 1982 Rolling Stone story stated that the project was conceived when producer Edgar Bronfman, Jr. and director Tony Richardson concurrently took an interest in a series of LAT articles about U.S.—Mexico border immigration.
       The next year, Guercio had dropped out and been replaced by Neil Hartley as executive producer and Edgar Bronfman, Jr. as producer, according to the 18 Apr 1979 Var. Although the article claimed Universal intended the film as a “loose remake” of Orson Welles’s A Touch of Evil (1958, see entry), Bronfman denied the direct connection. Principal photography was scheduled to begin Jun 1979 in El Paso, TX. However, the 12 Nov 1979 DV announced that Jack Nicholson had taken over the lead role from Robert Blake. In the 1 Apr 1982 Rolling Stone ... More Less

End credits include the following note: “Opening scenes filmed in Antigua and Guatemala City, Republic of Guatemala.”
       On 11 May 1977, Sagittarius Entertainment published a full-page advertisement in DV announcing their “simultaneous preparation” of a novel written by A. E. Maxwell and a screenplay by Robert Dillon and Laurie Dillon, both titled The Border. Another poster in the 28 Feb 1978 HR stated that Robert Blake would star in the motion picture. According to the 25 Jul 1978 DV, Caribou Films and James William Guercio were also involved as producers, partnering again with Blake after Second Hand Hearts (1981, see entry), which was then titled Hamster of Happiness. Universal Pictures was set to release The Border. Production notes in AMPAS library files and a 1 Apr 1982 Rolling Stone story stated that the project was conceived when producer Edgar Bronfman, Jr. and director Tony Richardson concurrently took an interest in a series of LAT articles about U.S.—Mexico border immigration.
       The next year, Guercio had dropped out and been replaced by Neil Hartley as executive producer and Edgar Bronfman, Jr. as producer, according to the 18 Apr 1979 Var. Although the article claimed Universal intended the film as a “loose remake” of Orson Welles’s A Touch of Evil (1958, see entry), Bronfman denied the direct connection. Principal photography was scheduled to begin Jun 1979 in El Paso, TX. However, the 12 Nov 1979 DV announced that Jack Nicholson had taken over the lead role from Robert Blake. In the 1 Apr 1982 Rolling Stone interview, director Tony Richardson explained that Universal had rejected the project with Blake involved, but when Richardson took the script to Lorimar Productions, Blake dropped out. Universal became interested again as soon as Nicholson agreed to star, and the budget was raised from the original $4.5 million to $14.5 million. An article in the 5 Dec 1979 DV, however, estimated a more modest budget in the $8-$9 million range, with a projected start date in May or Jun 1980, depending on Nicholson’s availability. The 18 Jun 1980 Var stated that The Border would be the first film produced under Universal’s joint agreement with RKO Pictures. At that time, the budget had been increased to $11.5-$12 million.
       Production notes confirmed that principal photography began 7 Jul 1980 in El Paso, TX, but the 18 Jul 1980 DV stated that the filming schedule had to be adjusted to accommodate a back injury Nicholson sustained while filming The Shining (1980, see entry). Just weeks into filming, the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) strike forced production to shut down on 21 Jul 1980. According to an article in the 9 Aug 1980 LAT, most of the 130-person crew moved back to Los Angeles, CA, while Richardson stayed in El Paso to edit footage and make changes to the script. Despite his concerns that a $200,000 set built in an Anapra, NM, elementary school would need to be torn down before classes resumed in Aug 1981, production notes and a 18 Sep 1980 LAHExam article indicated that four satellite classrooms had been installed so the set could remain intact. However, filming at this location occurred only on weekends.
       Production notes indicated that photography resumed on 11 Oct 1980, but a brief in the 23 Oct 1980 DV stated that filming had not begun until that day, and was projected to continue for another twelve weeks. LAHExam noted that the delay had forced director of photography Vilmos Zsigmond to leave the project due to an overlapping commitment. Ric Waite assumed duties as director of photography, and Zsigmond received onscreen credit for “Additional Photography.” In addition, Tony Richardson’s daughter, Natasha Richardson, who had been working on the film as an extras casting production assistant before the strike, was required to return home to London, England, in order to attend drama school. She receives no credit on the final film.
       Production notes also stated that due to the drastic seasonal changes in weather conditions, the crew struggled to match footage for continuity, and the location of the Rio Grande crossing scene was changed to Laredo, TX, where filming took place for one week. These many alterations to the schedule delayed production by eight days. One week of the shooting schedule was also spent in Guatemala. While on a tour of the U.S., representatives of the Cinema Delegation of The People’s Republic of China made a special visit to the El Paso set to watch Richardson work. Production concluded 16 Dec 1980 in Los Angeles.
       In a 20 May 1981 article, DV reported the final cost at $13.5 million, with Universal expecting to release the picture later that year on 11 Sep 1981. However, a 23 Oct 1981 New York item announced that re-shoots had occurred in El Paso and cost an additional $2 million. The 12 Jan 1982 LAT confirmed that Richardson had created a new ending for the movie, which would be filmed with Vilmos Zsigmond behind the camera. In the 1 Apr 1982 Rolling Stone interview, Richardson revealed that the original conclusion featured Nicholson’s character, “Charlie,” getting arrested for bombing the border patrol headquarters. Tepid test audience feedback prompted Richardson to change the ending, and he spent a week filming re-shoots after securing Universal’s permission.
       The 29 Jan 1982 Entertainment Today stated that The Border would open in Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago, IL, and San Francisco, CA, that day before expanding for national release on 12 Feb 1982. On 2 Feb 1982, LAHExam reported that the film had grossed an “unremarkable” $516,104 in eighty-five theaters, and the 10 Feb 1982 HR listed a total of $355,378 in box-office earnings following the second weekend on eighty screens.
       The film marked the motion picture debut of Elpidia Carrillo.
       A news story in the 18 Sep 1985 HR announced that on 17 Sep 1985, RKO filed suit against Universal, claiming a breach of contract for the partnership deal made in 1980 to produce five films, including The Border. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
11 May 1977
p. 9.
Daily Variety
25 Jul 1978.
---
Daily Variety
12 Nov 1979.
---
Daily Variety
5 Dec 1979.
---
Daily Variety
18 Jul 1980.
---
Daily Variety
23 Oct 1980.
---
Daily Variety
20 May 1981
p. 1.
Entertainment Today
29 Jan 1982.
---
Hollywood Reporter
28 Feb 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
27 Jan 1982
p. 3, 12.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Feb 1982.
---
Hollywood Reporter
18 Sep 1985.
---
LAHExam
18 Sep 1980.
---
LAHExam
2 Feb 1982.
---
Los Angeles Times
9 Aug 1980
p. 5, 7.
Los Angeles Times
12 Jan 1982
Part VI, p. 2.
Los Angeles Times
29 Jan 1982
p. 1.
New York
23 Oct 1981.
---
New York Times
29 Jan 1982
p. 10.
Rolling Stone
1 Apr 1982.
---
Variety
18 Apr 1979.
---
Variety
18 Jun 1980.
---
Variety
27 Jan 1982
p. 16.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Universal Pictures And RKO Pictures Present
An Efer Production
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
Asst dir
2d asst dir
2d unit dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Addl photog
Cam op
Cam op
Asst cam
Asst cam
Key grip
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Negative cutter
Asst film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
Prop master
Prop master
COSTUMES
Cost supv
Cost supv
MUSIC
Mus
Mus consultant
Mus consultant
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Earthquake opt eff
Titles & opt eff
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Tech adv
Unit pub
Asst to prods
Asst to Tony Richardson
Scr supv
Spanish dial coach
DGA trainee
Transportation capt
Helicopter pilot
Helicopter pilot
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col by
Col timer
SOURCES
SONGS
"Across The Borderline," written by Jim Dickinson, John Hiatt, Ry Cooder, performed by Freddie Fender, courtesy of Starlight/Epic Records
"Too Late," written by Jim Dickinson, John Hiatt, Ry Cooder, performed by John Hiatt
"Skin Game," written by Jim Dickinson, John Hiatt, Ry Cooder, performed by John Hiatt
+
SONGS
"Across The Borderline," written by Jim Dickinson, John Hiatt, Ry Cooder, performed by Freddie Fender, courtesy of Starlight/Epic Records
"Too Late," written by Jim Dickinson, John Hiatt, Ry Cooder, performed by John Hiatt
"Skin Game," written by Jim Dickinson, John Hiatt, Ry Cooder, performed by John Hiatt
"Palomito," written and performed by Sam Samudio
"No Quiero," written and performed by Sam Samudio
"Texas Bop," written and performed by Jim Dickinson
"Building Fires," written by Jim Dickinson, Dan Penn, Johnny Christopher, performed by Brenda Patterson.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
12 February 1982
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 29 January 1982
Production Date:
7 July--21 July 1980 in El Paso, TX
23 October--16 December 1980
reshoots lasted one week in fall 1981
Copyright Claimant:
Universal City Studios, Inc.
Copyright Date:
2 April 1982
Copyright Number:
PA132910
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Filmed in Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
107
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
26262
SYNOPSIS

fAt a christening ceremony in a Mexican church, the walls shake and the building collapses. While men clear the rubble, one of the survivors, a nineteen-year-old Mexican girl named Maria, carries her baby and follows her younger brother, Juan, through the wreckage. Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, California, immigration Officer Charlie Smith arbitrarily arrests two Mexican workers from a factory. Later, Charlie returns to his run-down trailer home and wife, Marcy, tells him that she wishes to buy a duplex in El Paso, Texas, next door to her friend, Savannah. Charlie muses over the idea of changing careers and working with park services, but Marcy believes it would be a mistake. As Charlie and Marcy move to El Paso, Maria, Juan, and the baby reach the U.S.—Mexico border. Charlie and Marcy meet Savannah, her husband, Cat, and their young son Timmy at the house. Inside, Savannah and Marcy laugh remembering their days as high school cheerleaders. After Cat has Charlie outfitted for his uniform as a border patrolman, Charlie’s new partner, Hawker, drives him around the three-mile-long “Tortilla Curtain” border fence, where they encounter a group of young Mexicans sneaking across. Because Hawker identifies them as day workers sneaking into the U.S. for the workday before returning to Mexico at night, he lets them get away. That night, Hawker and Charlie respond to an urgent call, and Hawker is shot and killed by an immigrant. The next day at border patrol headquarters, Charlie meets Red, the patrol supervisor, and attends Hawker’s funeral. Later, Charlie walks along the Rio Grande River and becomes transfixed when he spots Maria holding her baby. Charlie returns home to find that, to his annoyance, Marcy ... +


fAt a christening ceremony in a Mexican church, the walls shake and the building collapses. While men clear the rubble, one of the survivors, a nineteen-year-old Mexican girl named Maria, carries her baby and follows her younger brother, Juan, through the wreckage. Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, California, immigration Officer Charlie Smith arbitrarily arrests two Mexican workers from a factory. Later, Charlie returns to his run-down trailer home and wife, Marcy, tells him that she wishes to buy a duplex in El Paso, Texas, next door to her friend, Savannah. Charlie muses over the idea of changing careers and working with park services, but Marcy believes it would be a mistake. As Charlie and Marcy move to El Paso, Maria, Juan, and the baby reach the U.S.—Mexico border. Charlie and Marcy meet Savannah, her husband, Cat, and their young son Timmy at the house. Inside, Savannah and Marcy laugh remembering their days as high school cheerleaders. After Cat has Charlie outfitted for his uniform as a border patrolman, Charlie’s new partner, Hawker, drives him around the three-mile-long “Tortilla Curtain” border fence, where they encounter a group of young Mexicans sneaking across. Because Hawker identifies them as day workers sneaking into the U.S. for the workday before returning to Mexico at night, he lets them get away. That night, Hawker and Charlie respond to an urgent call, and Hawker is shot and killed by an immigrant. The next day at border patrol headquarters, Charlie meets Red, the patrol supervisor, and attends Hawker’s funeral. Later, Charlie walks along the Rio Grande River and becomes transfixed when he spots Maria holding her baby. Charlie returns home to find that, to his annoyance, Marcy purchased a waterbed and opened a charge account at the local mall. In the desert, Cat and Charlie arrest a Mexican man smuggling cocaine and load a group of immigrants into a van to drive them back across the border. Among them, Charlie recognizes Maria, but when he approaches her, she spits in his face. After Charlie locks the drug smuggler in a cell at patrol headquarters, Cat sends the patrol’s Mexican contact, Manuel, to speak with the criminal. Later, Cat suggests that Charlie participate in his and Red’s scheme, smuggling immigrants for extra money, but Charlie refuses. At home, Marcy tells her husband that she wants to work on television and he discovers that she installed a swimming pool. At the Rio Grande, Charlie calls out to a woman he believes to be Maria, but is mistaken. He crosses the water into Mexico and walks through a poor village, where he finds the drug smuggling boy with his throat slit. At Red’s birthday party, Charlie tells Cat and Red about the body, suspecting Manuel of suspicious dealings. Cat dismisses the idea and Red banishes Charlie from crossing the border again. One night, Charlie and Cat attempt to stop a group of Mexicans, including Maria and her brother, from hopping onto a freight train. When Juan falls under the train, Charlie jumps under the train to protect him. While detained in an outdoor holding cell, a woman offers to hold Maria’s child and scuttles off to hand the baby to Manuel. Maria realizes the baby is gone and begins to cry, prompting an uprising from the other detainees, who break out of their cage. The patrolmen use tear gas to control the crowd and load the detainees on a bus to drive them back to Mexico. That night, Cat confronts Manuel about the stolen baby and Manuel reveals that he sold the child to a wealthy Caucasian family. As they talk, they see El Scorcho, a man with a burned face who traffics Mexicans in competition with their own arrangement. Charlie wakes up the next morning to the sounds of Marcy moving more furniture into the house. Fed up with her excessive spending to build him the perfect “dream house,” he slaps her. Charlie and Cat visit J. J., whose house acts as a delivery station for smuggled immigrants. As Charlie waits outside, J. J. hands Cat a stack of money. During a pool party at the Smiths' house, Savannah drunkenly starts a food fight, prompting Marcy to scream. Amidst the chaos, Charlie dumps a grill full of burning meat into the pool. One afternoon, Charlie catches El Scorcho with a truckload of Mexicans. Cat suddenly arrives and takes El Scorcho back toward the station, but Jack hears two gunshots from the direction in which Cat drove away. At the station, Charlie yells at Cat that he does not want to get involved with murder. Marcy gets her hair done at the salon and worriedly tells Savannah that she does not know how to make Charlie happy. Outside a bar one night, Charlie pays Juan $5 to take him to Maria and finds her in a strip club, where she works as a dancer for Manuel. When he tries to lead her away, two men beat Charlie up and throw him outside. The next afternoon, Manuel warns Cat that Charlie will get them into trouble. As Charlie chases a driver through the desert, he fails to notice two Mexicans who are being transported. Cat watches the incident from a distance. When the driver confesses to transporting two men, Charlie returns to the site to check again. Inside the driver’s vehicle, he finds their bloody bodies, which he swears had not been there before. Cat insists he will cover for Charlie and they sink the car in a nearby pond. Charlie again asks Juan to take him to see Maria and informs them that he will help smuggle them across the border the next day. He insists that she does not owe him anything, and that helping them would allow him to feel good about something in his life. The next night, Charlie watches as Maria, Juan, and a group of others safely cross the Rio Grande. Outside J. J.’s house, Maria’s group boards a truck and Charlie and Cat take their payment for the delivery. However, Juan is shot for attempting to smuggle drugs, and he runs away. Two patrolmen notice the truck on the highway and follow in pursuit. Charlie hears the call on his patrol radio and, concerned about Maria, drives to catch up with them. Gaining speed, the truck loses control and crashes on a hillside. Charlie takes Maria home and asks Marcy to tend to the girl while he returns to J. J.’s house to look for Juan. Once there, he overhears Red talking with J. J., explaining how the heist went wrong. Charlie returns home to take Maria back to Mexico, but Marcy believes he is leaving her. Although he and Maria find Juan, bloody and feverish, he dies shortly after. As Maria prays over her brother’s body, Manuel and J. J. prowl outside and Charlie shoots J. J. in the face. Charlie finds Manuel at a bar and demands he return the baby, who has not yet been sold, to Maria. At the house where the baby is hidden, Charlie finds the infant buried in a laundry basket, and Manuel calls the patrolmen. On the road, Cat and a few other officers shoot at Charlie as he drives by. Charlie gets out of his vehicle and fires at the officers, exploding their car, and Cat hides under a bulldozer. Charlie shoots the tire, which deflates and causes the oversize vehicle to crush Cat’s body. Charlie returns to the Rio Grande crossing and delivers the baby to Maria, who thanks him through her tears. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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