Tintorera (1977) / Drama-Thriller
aka Tintorera - Killer Shark
aka Tiger Shark
aka Bloody Waters
aka The Silent Death
MPAA Rated: R for nudity, sexuality, violence and some gore
Running Time: 126 min. (some cuts run as much as 40 minutes less)
Cast: Hugo Stiglitz, Andres Garcia, Susan George, Fiona Lewis, Eleazar Garcia, Roberto Guzman, Jennifer Ashley, Laura Lyons, Carlos East, Erica Carlsson, Priscilla Barnes
Director: Rene Cardona Jr.
Screenplay: Rene Cardona Jr. (based on the novel by Ramon Bravo)
Review published August 28, 2005
For the record, I saw the full 126-minute version of the movie, and not the chopped up 85 minute that was released in US theaters. Although it may have made less sense, I think I would have preferred saving the extra 41 minutes of my life since the movie ended up a stinker anyway. The real problem with Tintorera is one of excess, as screenwriter/director Rene Cardona Jr. spends so much time in the hedonistic indulgences of the main characters, he affords little to building up the real drama -- the grudge match between man and shark.
I hesitate to mention Jaws, as comparing this movie to that one is like comparing Corky Romano to The Godfather, but you can bet your last dollar that the whole reason this was made into a film was to capitalize on the success of the Steven Spielberg blockbuster. Tintorera is almost the antithesis of Jaws in every way. Jaws built itself around great drama, tension, characters, and adrenaline-pumping action. TIntorera throws nonstop sexuality, nudity, and the occasionally gory scene at you, without any feeling for the characters or interest in the climax. The only "actors" you feel anything for are the half dozen or so real-life sharks that get slaughtered point-blank with a harpoon gun throughout the course of the movie.
Here is as much as I can make of the plot: After a stress-related breakdown, a wealthy Mexican businessman, Steven (Stiglitz, Nightmare City), travels to beach resort country (Cancun, I believe) in order to get some sun and fun. He meets and beds Patricia (Fiona Lewis, Innerspace), and the two lovers have feelings for one another, but she has also been carousing with another traveling playboy on the beach, Miguel (Andres Garcia). Jealous tensions between Steven and Miguel ensue, but those feelings are laid to rest when Patricia disappears suddenly. Shortly thereafter, the two men decide to befriend one another and party, rather than look for this woman they both claim to have such feelings for. They proceed to challenge each other in their own game of "¿Quien es Mas Macho?" by constantly betting one another who can do things first or best, with such activities as shark hunting and woman chasing. Meanwhile, there is a tiger shark swimming around the local area, apparently pissed off about something, and wanting to take it out on the vacationing hedonists.
I must state outright that this film is barely about the tintorera (tiger shark), except that the shark occasionally disrupts the story that goes on between the two men and their carousing. There appears to be a homoerotic aspect to the male relationship, although, unlike a similarly themed Y Tu Mama Tambien, it is never explored onscreen. Instead, we watch them drink copious amounts of alcohol, slaughter some puny sharks, go skinny dipping whenever possible, and strut their paltry wares in speedos all over the shoreline of their Mexican resort. The only interesting development occurs when the character of Gabriella (Susan George, Dirty Mary Crazy Larry) appears, as they enter into a threesome where the two men must share their affections with one woman -- almost unheard of for such macho playboys in Mexico.
There is still quite a bit of action underwater, and much of this is nicely shot, for such a limited budget release (much of this was provided by Ramon Bravo himself, the author of the book the film is based on). If only we had some vested interest in these scenes, as Cardona never manages to carry any momentum from scene to scene, content in just giving us more of what he thinks we really want to see -- carnage and T&A. Tintorera plays out more like a cheapie softcore porn flick shown on late night Skinemax than a legitimate shark horror entry, although both aspects cancel each other out for genre fetishists. Perhaps coincidentally, further confusion with skin films comes from the fact that Hugo Stiglitz is a dead ringer for 70s porn star Paul Thomas.
If the editing left much to be desired, Tintorera features some of the worst music I've heard in a movie, with disco and funk riffs that make it seem even more like a porno made during the same era. Many of the songs are cringe-inducing, and they aren't even as bad as the awful, repetitive score by an unusually lazy Basil Poledouris (Conan the Barbarian, The Hunt for Red October), with an especially annoying rhythm that drones on incessantly whenever the tiger shark is shown. John Williams he is not!
Long before the end of this travesty, I actually figured out what the film's real intent was. It seems to me that Tintorera is nothing short of a two hour travel brochure for Cancun, Mexico, as it is filmed in the most exotic, erotic ways possible. Although I have no proof of this, I'd wager much of the funding of this film was provided by the tourism industry there, who brought in English-speaking actors to give the film a broader international appeal, and injected a shark element that would capitalize on the Jaws craze of the time. Sex, partying, drinking, dancing, and girls gone wild are about 95% of what Tintorera is about, which leaves only 5% for the actual shark plot.
Unless you are a glutton for b-movie punishment, I'd advise you stay out of the water. It would have been more appropriate to do a film about killer stingrays, as Tintorera is strictly bottom feeder material.
©2005 Vince Leo