Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Movies: Why isn't this shark smiling?

In keeping with the informal theme of reasons never to visit the developing world, this humble horror blog turns its attention back to Mexico, recently covered as the source of man-eating evil vines. Today we discuss a different, but no less sinister threat: really crappy movies like 1977's Tintorera.

I start this review with some reservation. This flick was so infuriatingly bad that I was unable to finish it and, without sticking through to the very end, I must admit the infinitesimally small possibility that, somehow, in the last 20 odd minutes, the movie completely turns about and becomes a cinematic masterpiece. So, in order to be completely above board, I hereby specify that what follows is not a review of the film Tintorera, but rather a review of the first 60 excruciating minutes of said flick. I cannot, and will not, hold it responsible for whatever happens in the last 20 minutes.

The first 60 minutes of Tintorera focus on a bearded Anglo square who takes doctor-mandated R & R in a Mexican resort. There he crosses paths with a sleazy gigolo. These two briefly squabble over a hot tourista who beds both of them, in sequence not tandem, before conveniently making herself a victim of the titular tiger shark ('tintorera" is Spanish for "stock footage"). The gents, assuming their mutual lady-friend simply left town (one morning, without taking any of her belongings, or checking out of her hotel, like ladies do all the time), become friends and the gigolo starts teaching the square how to bag local trim, where to score weed, and other essential life skills of the late 70s.

All the while, all too infrequent tiger shark attacks "terrorize" the populace. And by terrorize, I mean nobody seems to much notice the suddenly disappearing cast members.

I quit watching when, bored of T & A and pot, the "heroes" of our story go shark hunting. For these scenes, the actors and stunt doubles actually kill several sharks on camera. Mostly its relatively harmless beasties, like lemon sharks and small blues, that fall before the boredom of these mighty hunters. I can put up with a lot of crap in a movie, but the unnecessary killing of animals ain't one of them.

One could argue, on a theoretical level, that life is short and art is long: aestheticized suffering and death gain the victim a sort of immortality as a work of art. But then you would be talking about some imaginary worthwhile flick, 'cause Tintorera qualifies as art only in the sense that it is the intentional byproduct of human interaction with recording devices. Unlike Cannibal Holocaust, perhaps the most infamous instance of grindhouse cinema's lack of animal treatment standards, Tintorera lacks the thematic unity or emotional power to even attempt to justify itself (for the record, I think CH fails to justify itself as well, but at least it tries). It is simply easier to kill animals than fake up some effects, so that's what the filmmaker did.

Where it not for it callous disregard for the lives of some truly beautiful animals, this flick would be just another bit of sleazy post-Jaws detritus. But the idea that animals died to make this crap flick happen graduates it to the level of something genuinely depressing.


spacejack said...

Maybe in the end, an unlikely trio of sharks band together for a dangerous mission to rid their ocean of these deadly filmmaking predators.

Animal killing is such a weird trend in film. Not being a vegetarian, I find it hard to be too judgemental about it. I just know I don't like it, don't want to watch it, and have avoided such films because of it. How much of this is a result of being an urban creature, I don't know.

Much as I hate inappropriate CGI in modern movies, I'm glad it's available as an alternative to animal cruelty.

CRwM said...

Screamin' Spacey,

One can get yourself into an ethical tangle about this on a theoretical level, but in the case of this specific flick, it seems pretty clear cut to me. Given the choice between the lives of some of the most powerful and beautiful sea animals or this having this crappy flick in circulation, the world is a worse place for losing the later and gaining the former.

Anonymous said...

So are you saying this is a movie where gratuitous T&A doesn't help it in any way/shape/form ? What if lesbians were involved ?

(I recall the dances with wolves animal slaughter... )