The future of the Sinaloa drug cartel following the capture of leader Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán is quite nebulous. Authorities expect it’s day-to-day operations and influence to remain in place with lieutenants Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada and Juan Jose “El Azul” (The Blue One) Esparragosa still at large, although House Homeland Security chair Michael McCaul states that the cartel’s communication system had been “penetrated,” leading to an expectation of more arrests. However, even if “The Mayo” is soon being held, no one seems sure of what the future itself will hold.
This of course sounds like one of the less ponderous utterances of Harold Ramis’ SCTV character Dr. Bradley Omar, or by ‘Narrator’ Lyle Talbot, Jr. in Ron Ormond’s Mesa Of Lost Women (1953). The classic schlock director Ormond’s negative-budget psy-fi film is available now on Filmon’s VOD service, but 60 years ago, it would turn out to be an obvious influence on Ed Wood, Jr. (Talbot, Jr. would actually appear in Wood’s Jail Bait (1954) and his 1959 ‘masterpiece,’ Plan 9 From Outer Space), and later, David Lynch in his Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks/Fire Walk With Me.
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Though Mesa is not explicitly about drug cartels, but it certainly seems like it was made on drugs and/or perhaps amongst dealers like “El Chap”. Ramis, who once took meth-amphetamines to fail a draft physical and played Seth Rogen’s stoner dad in Knocked Up, would certainly relate. It could even have been one of his early long-form SCTV skits, especially the ‘Cantina’ scene…
Although filmed in Red Rock Canyon, southwest of Death Valley in the Mojave Desert, Mesa is set around the fictional ‘Muerte Desert,’ and the ‘Lorpa Mesa’ hidden within, which could easily be a Sinaloan locale. The involvement of a big oil company (‘Amer-exico’) in the mysterious developments resonates with the present.
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Gabor Szabo fans and beatheads will appreciate Hoyt S. Curtin’s free jazz piano/Segovia-styled gypsy guitar-loop soundtrack, which kicks in under the credits, and rarely lets up (except for the Cantina scene) — Wood, Jr. would also appropriate this loop for Jail Bait, and Curtin would go on to bigger things, composing themes for Hanna Barbera cartoons such as The Flintstones, Yogi Bear, Scooby Doo and Josie and the Pussycats. One of the many treasures SCTV fans will appreciate, along with Jackie Coogan (as Dr. Aranya – guess no one had access to a tilde, so its spelling is just as close to ‘orange’ as ‘spider’ in Spanish) working salt-shaker ‘Dr. Tongue’ glasses and Crispin Martin as ‘poor’ Pepe’s “Aye Caramba!” exclamations. Along with the music and Tandra Quinn as Tarantella’s dance and performance, Lynch fans will appreciate the disturbing, unpredictable flashbacks, the stiff 50’s veneer over the sleaze and the of course, the dwarves.
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