YOU PROBABLY THOUGHT THE LAST time Cowboy Bob fired umpteen shots out of his six-shooter, laying waste to all the guys in black hats, looked romantically into the eyes of the school marm, then kissed his horse and rode into the sunset singing a song was in some horse opera made 30 years ago and is now only a fit subject for TV-watching insomniacs and masochists.
Yep, pardner, and if that’s what you thought, it’s because you don’t speak Spanish, because you’ve never been inside some place like the Alameda Theater in San Antonio, and because you aren’t a part of a vast film underground that includes some 200 movies in theaters in Texas—not the usual type of film underground out-of-it cities like New York and Los Angeles produce where movie freaks with 16 mm eyes stare appreciatively at Andy Warhol’s four-hour extravaganza of a friend of his asleep in bed. No, it’s a different type of underground, built around a cult of worshippers of Cantinflas and Tony Aguilar, names that at best only ring a faint bell with most movie goers.
They are worshippers of a movie world that hasn’t existed in U.S. films for 25 years, a world of romance and slapstick, singing cowboys and baggy-pants comedians. It’s a world where people still believe the purpose of movies is escape by spending a couple of hours in a never-never land. It’s a world that in the U. S. for the most part, lives only in Texas and it’s a world whose sustenance is movies made in Mexico and shown, sans English subtitles, in the U. S.
You can find the world in about 200 theaters in Texas, in border towns and fairly well Anglicized cities like Houston and Dallas, according to Arnulfo Arias, assistant manager of Aztec Films, which distributes Mexican movies for the Mexican government in the United States. Azteca imports about 80 films a year, mostly in Texas with a half dozen outlets in Louisiana and Florida. Columbia Pictures also distributes about the same number of movies each year with outlets in Texas, California, and other Southwestern states