Friday, December 17, 2010

Tintorera: Killer Shark (1977)

Directed by: Rene Cardona, Jr.
Written by: Rene Cardona, Jr., from a novel by Ramon Bravo
Starring: Susan George, Hugo Stiglitz, Andres Garcia

So a strangely misshapen little kid with the physique of a super-deformed candy toy is walking along a beach one day.  He comes upon an wizened old turtle who, long ago in his youth, had his teeth knocked out by his pimp so he could give better blowjobs.  The kid asks the turtle, “Mr. Turtle, how many dull romantic montages does it take to get to a shark attack in a Mexican Jaws ripoff?”  The turtle replies, “I never made it without at least a threesome, go ask Mr. Owl”.  The kid, who presumably as a result of ridicule based on his freakish figure looks to be on the verge of suicide at any moment, heads farther along the beach until he comes to a tree which houses a wise old owl.  Once again he puts forth his question, “Mr. Owl, how many dull romantic montages does it take to get to a shark attack in a Mexican Jaws ripoff?”  “Let’s see,” replies the slightly creepy owl.  He bangs a spring break hussy.  “One”.  He bangs another spring break hussy.  “Two”.  He bangs two spring break hussies at once.  “Thr-”, and he can’t finish the last sentence because a cranky, asthmatic tiger shark leaps out of the water and chomps him right out of the tree.

Steven is an American vacationing in Mexico.  He rents an inexplicably huge pleasure craft from a self-confessed poor fisherman named Colonado (when asked why he hunts sharks instead of other commercial fish, he says he’d rather do work he likes more for less money, and then goes on to say farming is too dangerous!), and basically uses it as a floating pussy wagon, telling all the vacationing whores who think what happens in Mexico stays in Mexico that it’s his boat and yelling at Colonado whenever he tries to have a little fun himself.  One day he accompanies Colonado out to his shark traps, and while they’re hauling in a hammerhead that must have been eight or nine feet long judging by the piece they get into the boat, the titular fish swims along and bites it clean in half!  I’m no ichthyologist, but I’m pretty sure tiger sharks don’t get big enough to eat half an eight foot shark in one bite.

Steven meets a British girl named Patricia, and after a few steamy nights of hide-the-burrito, he blows it by making the most half-assed non-committal expression of affection in the history of foreign summer vacation hookups.  She runs into the arms of local playboy Miguel, who Steven whines at a bunch and punches in the face.  One morning Patricia goes swimming and gets eaten by a tiger shark that wheezes and grunts like Jason Voorhees stalking naked camp counselors.  You would now think that, with the first shark attack out of the way, the movie is going to kick into full gear.  You’d be wrong.

Steven confronts Miguel again at a bar where he’s setting his hooks into two more floozies, and although Steven is an obnoxious, bitter little douche nozzle, Miguel disarms the situation by telling the girls Steven is his best friend, and buys him a drink!  After arranging to have the girls come out to Steven’s rented boat that night, they have a little bonding moment where they decide, Ah, fuck it, Patricia probably went back to England so forget her, let’s be man-whore BFF’s!  Why any of the women they bone would want Steven is beyond me.  He’s a skinny, ugly, ill-groomed little prick who looks like a malnourished version of Robert Foxworth’s character from Prophecy and has a personality that makes that guy seem positively delightful.  Miguel, on the other hand, is buff and handsome and has that Antonio Banderas accent the girls all love, and he’s the grooviest, mellowest, swingin-est dude in town.

For the next thirty or forty minutes, pretty much the only action you’re going to see is nekkid people lounging around on a boat.  In between all the nekkid lounging, Miguel takes Steven out and teaches him how to spear sharks.  You’d think Colonado would be the logical choice to do this since he seems to be the owner of the boat, and makes his living shark fishing, while Miguel makes his cash being a gigolo and has, up until now, displayed no talents other than conducting the bed spring orchestra.  However, the director has completely forgotten that Colonado exists, so Miguel it is.  They spear a shark that looks to be a good five or six feet long, and just as they’re about to haul in their catch, that wheezing, grunting tiger shark appears and swims away with their catch in its mouth.  It’s pretty clear that the shark the tiger swims off with is the one they just speared, and if that’s the case then this bastard is the size of a freakin’ megalodon!

Miguel and Steven meet Gabriella, another British tourist, and form this bizarre three-way relationship that culminates in her buying them all wedding bands!  Why she’d let Steve the abrasive, frumpy doofus touch her when she’s got Miguel to jump into bed with is anybody’s guess, but there you go.  Must be the cheap tequila.  Anyway, after loads of scenes of them doing fun couples…uh…triples stuff together, our movie remembers it had a shark in it and Miguel and Steve decide to show Gabriella how they make their living - as fearless shark hunters!  Which we’ve been reminded the whole time is total bullshit, but now it’s presented as if we’re supposed to forget that Steve’s on vacation renting that STD barge and Miguel is a fucking prostitute, and that they really are shark fishermen!  Oh, whatever.  The inconsistencies are forgotten when the grunting slasher shark returns and rips Miguel to shreds in one of the goriest shark attack sequences in film history, culminating in the thing swimming away with his blood-gushing head in its teeth.

Gabriella decides she just can’t live with Steven anymore now that the fun, attractive, interesting man in the relationship has been devoured by a shark that is starting to show signs of a Jaws 4-style vengeance grudge against our heroes, so she packs up and leaves.  Steve tries to stay true to Miguel’s statement that if he died, he’d want all his friends to party.  He attempts to hook up with some more nekkid chicks, but his skinny dipping party ends up turning into an all-you-can-eat buffet for the shark.  Unable to continue his hedonistic ways while pursued by a shark that carries a more relentless vendetta than an insulted mafia hitman, he takes the hunt to the shark, and manages to kill it, but not before it tears him up and puts him in the hospital.  Exeunt over a montage rehash.

Although the movie’s pace drags pretty hard through the middle when the shark is presumably off killing teenagers along a different stretch of coastline or maybe making obscene heavy breathing phone calls, the bizarre relationship between the three leads is intriguing enough to hold your interest.  Not quite so much that you forget you’d rather be watching someone get eaten by a shark, but enough to keep you from shutting it off.

The locations are all very nice to look at, and the underwater photography is beautiful, but what really grabbed me is how realistic all the shark/human action is.  The full on gore scenes are handled by filling a dive suit with chum and guts and letting the shark tear the hell out of it, but there are several shots, including one really cool bird’s-eye view of a girl being pushed through the water by the shark during the skinny dipping massacre, that really make me wonder how they pulled it off.  Obviously you can’t train a shark to act, and there are no anti-shark precautions visible.  It’s not like they’re wearing chain mail and trying to pass it off as real like when you can see a really obvious fire suit in some movies.  It’s just a naked girl getting shoved through the water at high speed by a shark that presumably has lunch in mind.  I thought the actress in Cannibal Holocaust had to be brave when she had to pretend to be gang-raped buck naked by a bunch of natives who probably didn’t fully understand what was going on, but these people are clean out of their fucking minds!

And finally, while we’re on the subject of cannibal movies, there’s the live animal violence.  Now, I’m not some PETA wimp, but I’m no fan of pointless violence to animals either.  The constant parade of pornographically lingering shots in this movie of a shark taking a spear to the head and spiraling down to the ocean floor pouring blood out of its mouth and gills before thrashing out its death throes on the sandy bottom, and then being drug up to the boat and being repeatedly smashed in the skull with a club by Steve or Miguel is a little much even for me.  Everyone rails against the snakes and turtles and monkeys getting chopped up in the Italian cannibal flicks, and I agree that it’s terrible, but there is more real animal violence in this one movie than any three of those and I don’t hear anyone giving any love to the poor sharks.

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