Agáchate, que disparan (1969, Manuel Esteba)
Directed and co-written by Manuel Esteba
Choreography by Alfredo Alaria
Some come, some leave. Manuel Esteba was starting out at the time he made Agáchate, que disparan, the last Spanish-made vehicle for Pili and Mili, a song-and-dance duo composed of the identical twins Pilar and Emilia Bayona, who had been successfully active in cabarets, TV and the movies since the age of 14. Now in their early 20s, given male interest in their movies and allowed to smoke onscreen, the pair were at the tail end of their popularity in Spain, although they still had a few more films to go in Mexico, where they still retained a following and continued working until the pair split up on account of Mili’s marriage to a Mexican businessman.
Given this context it is unsurprising that the Bayonas, in Agáchate, que disparan, register as simply one attraction among many others. Here they are merely made to dance (which they were rather good at) but not sing (which is something they didn’t like but had been often required to do) and the warbling moments are entrusted to the up-and-coming Jeanette, who was later to obtain a hit with the song ¿Por qué te vas?, which featured prominently in Saura’s Cria cuervos (1976). But the film is billed as a vehicle for the top-billed Pili and Mili (incidentally, the only cast members who dubbed in their own voices in post-prod), although the sisters themselves (who, it must be said, were rather easy to look at) are rather lost and buried amidst of the film’s various strands, none of which seems to dominate over the others. The vague, garbled story could well have stemmed from a previously existing spy spoof script which may have been changed at the very last moment to fit in the dancing girls. Set in and around a Valencian hotel-cum-night club, it has something to do with a super-agent played by Hans von Borsody making away with a secret microfilm, causing the ire of the top villain (José Nieto), who duly sends a thug (Luis Induni) and a seductress (Silvia Solar) against him. It so happens that Pili and Mili are doing their act in the hotel at the same time and will be required to perform outdoors during the Valencian Falla festivities. For the most part, they are very tenuously incorporated onto the mainline of the plot, except that Mili falls in love with the Von Borsody character and, at the end, the two girls are kidnapped by the villains, then rescued by the hero. They are also given the usual business of getting mistaken for each other. Along the way, Von Borsody has a one-night stand with María Mahor (previously, a rather demure actress) and, every now and then, we are treated to the running comic characters of a drunkard (Pedro Barcal) and a bumbling assassin (Fernando Rubio, dubbed by César Ojínaga). When the action finally leaves the hotel, it all temporarily becomes a travelogue of sorts on the Fallas.
In the middle of this farrago, the plot is difficult to make out clearly, either because that’s impossible or simply because the outrageously incompetent direction and editing get in the way. Characters come in and out puzzlingly; the story loses whatever flow and coherence it might otherwise have had due to the need or decision to cut away to the musical numbers, festival coverage and comic supporting characters. The sheer wealth of parallel action, combined with gags and outdoor crowd activity eventually gives this the air of a late Jacques Tati comedy. By accident, not design. You may or may not like Manuel Esteba’s children’s movies, westerns, softcore flicks or even his odd sci-fi number, but the attachment of his name to a comedy rings like a medieval leper’s bell. It's not so much that he was hamstrung but actually diminished by thankless formats, as if he had forgotten what he knew in other movies (The children's flicks he was engaged in at the time were well-enough crafted). It’s funny, however, that his comedies always made the most money in his filmographies, usually on the strength of their stars. It’s also funny that all of his comedies starred sibling duos, either Pili and Mili or the egregious Calatrava Brothers. Pili, for the record, became a working actress following the dissolution of the duo; worked in a Mexican stage production by Jodoroswki and, on her return to Spain, morphed into the respected stage actress and character performer Pilar Bayona. Outgrowing her initial image obviously worked out better for her than for Marisol. In a recent interview, she said she couldn't stand watching the films that had made her famous as a young girl. I wonder what she thought of this one in particular.
A scene from the film: