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Film / Kontrabando

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Kontrabando ("Contraband" in English, obviously), is a 1950 Filipino film, produced by then-dominant local studio LVN Pictures, directed by Gregorio Fernandez (who also happens to play the Big Bad crime boss).

It follows the mission of Diego Malvar or also named Lt. Diego Magtanggol, a military intelligence agent working for the Philippine government—in local terminology, a "G-2 operative", played by 1950s movie star Jaime dela Rosa (brother to the more famous matinee idol and later Philippine Senator/Ambassador Rogelio dela Rosa), as he's tasked with infiltrating a notorious criminal syndicate in the business of narcotics and arms trafficking. He does it rather successfully for the most part.

This piece is a rather heavy-handed piece of government propaganda characteristic of the era it was made in; a time when American political influence hung deep and dark over the newly, but nominally, "independent" Philippine republic, and was constantly convincing its leadership that a Communist threat was constantly hanging over the country, and needed to be stopped at all costs.


The full movie is viewable online on this site.

Relevant Tropes:

  • Author Tract
  • Big Bad: Rolando Lim, head of a nationwide syndicate smuggling drugs like opium as well as firearms into the islands.
  • Dirty Commies: Lim's drug gang is working with a bunch of Chinese Communist rebels.
  • The Don: Lim. Though Mr Chua is The Man Behind the Man to him.
  • East Indies: Much of the second half of the film takes place in Jolo, Sulu, one of the southernmost Philippine islands, where much of the country's indigenous-Muslim population is based, and which shares much in cultural and religious makeup with neighbouring Indonesia. (Sulu used to be a sovereign Islamic sultanate until American colonialists appropriated control—and turned it over to the Catholic-lowlander Philippine government in Manila after 1946.)
  • Far East Asian Terrorists: The Chinese Communists are depicted without sympathy as this. The rest of the gang could count too, both Catholic northerners and Muslim southerners, except that they're not terrorists in the strict sense of the word (i.e., with political motive), although it's strongly implied they'd gladly help overthrow the "legitimate" (i.e. U.S.-backed) Philippine government. Also, more strictly speaking they'd be Southeast Asian terrorists.
  • Advertisement:
  • The Film of the Book: Based on a short story titled "G-2", serialised then in a local magazine called Bagong Buhay ("New Life").
  • Mafia Princess: The daughter of Mr Chua, who quickly becomes Diego's Love Interest.
  • The Mole: Diego.
  • Propaganda Piece: The film as a whole is a vehicle to promote the Philippine government's actions against the alleged Communist insurgency then ongoing when it was made, to which the criminal actions of Lim's organization are actually second-place, no matter how much screen time the latter occupies. The public-service message at the start of the film even blatantly calls the Philippines a bastion of democracy!
  • Red Scare
  • Ruthless Modern Pirates: Not entirely seabound, but many of the Moros, lowlander-Catholic Filipinos, and Chinese agents working within or in tandem with Lim's gang effectively double as this, especially since—operating within an archipelago—they need to use boats a lot anyway in transporting any kind of contraband.
  • Spy Cam: Pretty ingenious, too: Diego's belt-buckle conceals a tiny film camera, which he uses to catch the criminals in the act, simply sliding up the buckle to expose the lens. It's also capable of shooting in low light conditions, a necessity when the criminals often have to work literally in the dark.
  • Strawman Political: Any Communists depicted are shoehorned into the side of the villains, interested in nothing more than infiltrating the Republic and gaining power and profit.
  • Tuxedo and Martini: A little bit of this; indeed, the film's been described as having "shades of 007", but of course before James Bond became a household name. But there's a significant mix of Stale Beer style here as well: Diego doesn't spend a whole lot of time in very glamorous settings, and the villains aren't megalomaniac masterminds with complex world-domination schemes; they're a very realistic, and very dangerous, crime syndicate.


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