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CampBlood Reviews: Senseless Rants from a Picky Sissy

 

Tintorera Rene Cardona Jr. 1977

Fish Tacos

One of my favorite films as a youngster (okay, teenager) was the family film The Adventures of Milo and Otis. This charming puppy-meets-kitty tale is infectuously charming, detailing the budding friendship and subsequent adventures of a farm pug and his wily orange tomcat pal, who stumble merrily through the countryside making new friends, overcoming obstacles, and ultimately growing up. The film presented a fresh, precious take on animal-friend movies (narrated entirely by Dudley Moore, the film was neither animated nor silent, as most of its predecessors), and the protagonists were so genuinely adorable that even my tough-as-nails highschool biology teacher was so softened by its charm as to show the film's real-birth scenes in class.

Imagine, then, my utter horror when I learned the rumors (unconfirmed but very popular) that the filmmakers had gone through several dozen furry little actors in order to shoot the film, even going so far as to toss a handful kittens off a cliff in order to get a particular shot (the film was reportedly shot in Japan due to its lack of animal cruelty laws). Knowing that the adorable little cuddlemuffins were actually being smashed to bits in the name of entertainment was, needless to say, enough to sully further enjoyment of the film.

Of a similar nature is the experience of watching Tintorera, a strange and intriguing Mexican killer-shark movie that oddly takes more cues from Fantasy Island than it does from Jaws for its "tropical-hedonism-meets-toothy-nuisance" story. When I say tropical hedonism, I of course mean booze, group sex, lambada dancing, and Op-Art polyester shirts. And when I say toothy nuisance, I of course mean Susan George.

Tintorera, in truth, is less about sharks than it is about porking. The loose narrative tells the story of two unlikely friends (the rich dork Steven and the handsome, rakish Miguel) who are brought together and kept together by a strange parade of awkward and menially attractive British women who seem to flock to the island as if they were giving away real estate. They love, they lose, they love again, they lose again, they love some more, and one of them gets eaten. Oh yes -- there is also a tiger shark tooling about that eats a few people but is absolutely no threat whatsoever to anyone other than drunk tourists that seem to run the island.

Much like Milo and Otis, Tintorera is a thinly-veiled gay love story set against the backdrop of the wild animal kingdom. Awash in male nudity, the real story here is the relationship between Steven and Miguel, two star-crossed perverts who find one another when their pass-around pincushion (the gloriously dull Fiona Lewis, looking like Rosanne Rosanna-Danna on vacation) gets chomped by the titular shark and leaves them alone to light one another's cigarettes and walk around in Speedos. Enter Susan George (her teeth enter separately), who takes a shine to both of the men and decides that the three of them should live together in a triangle, with no one falling in love and free sex all around. And although the men never actually play any ass poker, the way that they are shot (it's odd how much the men are framed together opposite her, as if they were the couple) and the implicit communal sexuality in the trio is enough to suggest that the men are just as fond of one another as they are of their little blonde Jabberjaw.

Unfortunately, this sort of arrangement can't last long, and after Miguel is unfortunately ripped into pieces by the tiger shark, Susan packs up her Big Book of British Smiles and goes home. Steven later strikes up a brief affair with yet another chippie, but this too is short-lived after the shark attacks a group of Girls Gone Wild on the beach. Before you can yell "Show us your tits!", the beast is killed and Steven lives on to reminisce about his brief paradise with his hot latin lover and the Ferret Girl by remembering a day they spent at the ruins together.

Sounds great, right? Well, it's not bad. The shark scenes are sparse but actually very well done; the attack on Miguel is prett horrific and the scene where the group gets plundered at night is shocking and nasty. But there's a big obstacle to enjoying the mayhem, and that is this: they kill about a dozen sharks in this movie. On screen. In detail. In long, sustained takes (note: director Rene Cardona Jr. would later direct the absolutely unacceptable anchorwoman-in-peril film Beaks: The Movie, starring Michelles Johnson and Christopher Atkins, in which he would shoot about 40 birds with rifles in slow-motion). I went into this movie thinking that I hated sharks and that nothing could be more wonderful than seeing sharks get blown up or skinned alive. But after seeing shark after shark get shot in the head or speared through the side and bleed from their mouths and gills as they spin in lazy, brain-damaged cartwheels until they die, I have to say I will now reserve this fate for Republicans, people who sneeze without covering their mouths, and Baby Geniuses.

I would like to think that the filmmakers are making a point here, but I think that might be giving them too much credit. But from where I was sitting, these yam-flashing hos and tight-panted gigolos totally had it coming: all day these people go around indiscriminately butchering sharks, turtles, you name it -- so when the sharks get eye-for-an-eye and chomp some bare, drunk ass, it's long overdue. Maybe the prolonged scenes of cruelty to sea life are meant to elicit rage and bloodlust on our parts. But then why humanize the characters with a series of love stories before siccing the sharks on them? It all just comes off as being very cruel and exploitative, and would have been entirely unwatchable were it not for one thing:

Andres Garcia.

This man is so fucking hot that I would watch him throttle babies for 90 minutes if he did it with his shirt off. Seriously, he's smokin' and naked for half of the film, and that was enough for me to shut my PETA'd mouth and drool quietly for the duration. Of course, when he gets chomped by the tintorera, it's basically time to switch it off, as there's really no other reason to keep watching. But for every delicious moment that this exquisite specimen was on-screen, all I could think of was putting him on a plate and sopping him up with a biscuit.

So there you have it. If you're up for a shark movie with very little shark, or looking for a sexy romance where a few of the lovers get bitten in half while swimming, Tintorera may be just the ticket. And while it's hard to look past the inexcuseable cruelty that is presented on-screen, it was effective in my case in that it made me re-evaluate the way that I look at these animals. And if that's not enough to get you past it, just concentrate on the buns.

Rating (out of 5):