We're continuing our Killer Animals on The Loose theme for Movie Monday with the 1978 horror/almost-soft-core porn film Tintorera: Killer Shark!
In 1975, director Steven Spielberg made you afraid to back into the water with Jaws. A few months later, you grew comfortable about the whole water thing, and started to go back. Then director Rene Cardona Jr. tried to make you afraid of the water all over again in 1978 with Tintorera: Killer Shark!!
In the credits, its says this movie is based on the book Tinorera--no second "T." I guess those fat cat studio heads won again! Man, its all about the money with those guys.
Anyway, the movie opens with a guy named Steven (Hugo Stiglitz, a movie-star name if I ever saw one) arrives in Mexico on vacation. A local fisherman named Colorado takes Steven to a spot on the beach where he shows local tourists his haul of caught sharks.
Colorado uses the sharks to meet chicks, and engages in very typical movie Funny Foreign Guy shtick while wooing bikini girls:
Steven meets a woman named Patricia (Fiona Lewis) and they quickly hook up (this was the 70s, after all). Director Cardona gives us endless scenes of the two of them romancing, under the mistaken assumption that the combination of Stiglitz and Lewis would take ticket buyers to new heights of cinematic sensuality. He was wrong.
Patricia and Steven have a brief falling out, and she quickly takes up with a local named Miguel (Andres Garcia). While they're getting it on (it was the 70s), Steven broods on his yacht, refusing to even participate in the orgy-esque party going on around him:
This scene is pretty out there, in terms of what you'd expect for what's supposedly a horror movie. There's rampant nudity, girls getting it on with other girls, and assorted bacchanalia. As you can see from the above still, Colorado lays on some more classic movie comedy for us.
The next morning, post-coital, Patricia is feeling guilty. She strips down (it was the 70s) and goes for a skinny dip.
You might wonder, are there actually sharks in this movie? I was wondering that, too--we're twenty-two minutes into a eighty-four-minute movie and still no sharks!
Anyway, yes, this is where a shark shows up: it grabs the comely Patricia, thrashing her into bits. This might be the time for some, you know, horror, but director Cardona screws it all up, cutting away to a longshot that made me laugh in its Looney Tunes-esque feel:
Patricia's death remains unknown to anyone, and Steven and Miguel improbably become friends, teaming up to score more local women, assuming Patricia has gone home to England. They also start a shark-hunting business, mostly for the hell of it. When Steven asks Miguel what he does for a living, exactly, he answers, "I live!" in his most lusty European Guy style, acting as though the question itself is stupid.
A short time later, they meet Gabriella (Susan George) and within a few hours she goes back with them to Steven's yacht (it was the 70s). She makes it clear she likes both of them--a lot. So much so that, by night's end, they're in a Devil's Threeway:
Director Cardona does his best to show that Steven and Miguel are not--repeat, not--doing anything in bed together, but I think that's more of an editing choice, probably for an American audience who was not going to tolerate these kinds of shenanigans in a 1970s horror movie!
The three of them then engage in an ongoing three-way relationship, suddenly turning this Jaws ripoff into Jules and Jim. What movie, exactly, did Cardona think he was making here?
We see Gabriella, Steven, and Miguel visit some local sites, have dinner, take snapshots, and even engage in a sort of three-way marriage ceremony. Once again, we follow them as they get it on (it was the 70s), leading to a scene where Gabriella climbs into bed and waits for her men to follow her. Steven tells Miguel to "go first", but Miguel is nothing if not a gentleman:
...dear lord, this is like a porno version of Chip n' Dale--"After you. Ho ho, no, after you. No, after you. No, no, after you..."
Miguel and Steven take Gabriella shark hunting, and these scenes suggest that real sharks were actually killed, which is gruesome and unpleasant in the extreme, even more than the above scene. I'm no shark lover, but going around killing them for a movie is really despicable. Luckily, since this movie has so little interest in its title subject, these scenes are over fairly quickly.
Miguel is later killed by a tiger shark (hey, something happened!), and Gabriella is so distressed she leaves Mexico, breaking up with Steven. Steven vows revenge on all sharks, but not before he goes to a party where he engages in some more nighttime nude frolicking.
Unfortunately for everyone involved, the tiger shark shows up and ruins the orgy:
Steven recommits to hunting the shark, and with the help of Colorado he finds the shark, luring it with a devilfish he's using as bait. He then shoots the shark with speargun that has an explosive tip, killing it.
The Wikipedia entry for this film mentions a scene with Steven gets his arm ripped off by the shark, waking up in a hospital bed. There's no scene like this in the version I saw on Netflix--it just cuts to the final montage, where Steven reminisces about the great time in his life when he was in a three-way:
...man, more movies should conclude like this. The End!
The first fifteen minutes of Tintorera: Killer Shark is so meandering, the pace so slack, and the characters so unappealing that I seriously considered stopping it and watching something else. But man am I glad I stuck with it--once all the sex starts, the movie gets so creepy and icky and weird that I really couldn't believe what I was watching.
The whole long menage a trois plot is so bizarre, especially when you consider the movie was advertised as starring American actress Susan George. While George was no big star by any standards, she did come to this movie with a few bona fide big time credits to her name--Straw Dogs, Dirty Mary Crazy Larry, and The Looking Glass War, for example. Its hard to imagine a movie actress--even nowadays--taking a role that's so casually sexually transgressive.
And to have that plot jammed into the middle of a cheesy shark movie makes Tintorera: Killer Shark one of the most head-scratching-est, unease-inducing moviegoing experiences I've ever had. And I've seen Burial Ground.