On the Line (1984) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

On the Line, aka Rio Abajo, is a film written and directed by Spanish director Jose Luis Borau, but performed almost exclusively in English by American actors. Many sources list this as having been made in 1972, but IMDb lists it correctly in 1984. (Victoria Abril was born in 1959, and she surely isn't 13 in this!)

A young guy joins the border patrol in Laredo, but becomes involved with a beautiful Mexican prostitute, played by the Spanish sensation Victoria Abril when she was 25ish. This brings his job and his private life into conflict, because he loves her and marries her, but is forbidden to bring her back to the States. Defying the laws he is sworn to uphold, and doing the very thing he is sworn to prevent, he brings his wife into the U.S. in the trunk of his car. 


Victoria Abril provides all the nudity. In a length pre-sex scene, she is completely naked, and her breasts are seen for several minutes, along with flashes of her buns and pubes.

Later in the film, Abril is naked again in a dark, mostly unrevealing sex scene.

David Carradine is naked on a massage table. Plenty of butt, no appearance from Captain Helmet

Concurrent with this story is the rivalry between two older Border Patrolmen. David Carradine, playing the uncle of the young guy, is an former officer who now smuggles Mexicans into the USA. Carradine is a tough, lowlife hombre, but essentially has a good heart, and decides to combine humanitarianism with profit. Scott Wilson plays an overly zealous active officer who has a reputation for racism. Wilson is in lust with the same prostitute that the young guy loves.

Wilson's jealousy over losing his lover to the young guy causes him to turn her in to the feds after she crosses the border, so she is sent back to Mexico. This gives her husband no choice but to move to Mexico and find work there, and he's ideally suited to join Uncle Carradine as a smuggler. Only one problem. He gets caught.

The final chapter shows the young husband being dragged off to jail by his own former colleagues, his ideals shattered. As he serves his sentence, the prostitute, now his wife, writes him to say that she took her revenge on Scott Wilson. She stabbed him and, assisted by Uncle Carradine, left his body to float down the Rio Grande. The sight of the body bag and the cowboy hat floating down the river at sunset is the best image in the film. 

The film got trapped somewhere between a sensationalist B picture and a worthwhile, important film.  It still could have been a good movie, but it really had some casting problems. The star of the film, Jeff Delger, was simply unable to deliver even a single line naturally, and that fact constantly tore down the ol' fourth wall, preventing any audience involvement in the story. Compared to this performance, Glen Campbell's acting in True Grit seems as powerful as Kenneth Branagh in Henry V. In fact, this may be the single worst acting performance I've seen in a professional movie. The poor kid really didn't have a clue, had never acted before, and promptly retired from filmdom after this performance. 

He was the worst actor with a major role, but several minor characters were just about as bad.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Sorry to say I can't recommend the DVD. Completely bare-bones presentation of a pan-n-scan full screen version.

  • The transfer is good, not great

Despite the grade-B cast, especially the hapless Mr Delger, the movie is not a bad watch. It is actually a shame that the acting is so bad, because it gives you the wrong impression of the film. If you watch the first ten minutes, you think "straight-to-vid", and are ready to dismiss the film, but it doesn't turn out to be as lightweight as you think. If they didn't quite bring it back to the level of a meaningful picture, they still turned out a reasonably entertaining film, and Abril looked sensational.


On the Line (1984), at its most basic level, is a famous old-time putdown:

"Do you know what Chuck did with his first 50 cent piece?"

"He married her."

However, this was a near miss, and only needed one better casting decision and a little slicker direction to be an excellent film. Chuck (Jeff Delger) and his best friend Jonathan (Paul Richardson) leave the midwest and move to Laredo to meet up with Chuck's uncle (David Carradine), who they think is a border patrolman. It turns out uncle has changed sides, and is now a "coyote," who actually smuggles illegals into the country. His rival is a hard-ass, bigoted border patrolman played by Scott Wilson.

The two kids end up joining the border patrol, and Chuck discovers the joy of sex across the border with Victoria Abril. He is instantly in love and wants to be with her always. The bigoted patrolman also has the hots for her even though he feels that a "whore and a wetback" are nothing but dirt. Chuck marries Abril and smuggles her into the US, but Wilson catches them, gets her deported, and gets Chuck send up the river for smuggling.

There were a host of colorful characters, interesting moral dilemmas, good perspective on the entire illegal immigrant problem, and some great locations. The two young recruits were a good study in contrasting character types, as were Wilson and Carridine. Sam Jaffe had an entirely too brief cameo.

There is much of merit in the film, and promise of much more. The biggest problem with this film was Jeff Delger. The role cried out for a Ferris Buehler, and we got Jason Priestly on prozac instead.

The Critics Vote

  • no reviews online

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 4.6 
  • With their dollars ... unknown ... the DVD box says it was successful in the international market.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C (Scoop) to C- (Tuna). Some good elements, but the overall effect was ruined by amateur actors.

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