Color, 1977, 129 m. / Directed by René Cardona, Jr. / Starring Hugo Stiglitz, Andrés García, Susan George, Fiona Lewis, Jennifer Ashley, Priscilla Barnes / Desert Mountain/Ventura (US R1 NTSC)

After the success of Jaws in 1975, a host of imitators flooded the market from around the globe. Some good (Piranha), some juvenile (Tentacles), and some legally ill-fated (Great White), these rampaging sea monster epics found an eager audience for a few years before slasher films eventually overtook the marketplace. Even in context, it's hard to imagine what target audience René Cardona, Jr. was aiming for with Tintorera, a wholly ridiculous fusion of shark footage, softcore frolicking, and reams of eye-rolling dialogue. Already familiar with nature gone amuck thanks to his infamous The Night of a Thousand Cats, Cardona knew a good thing when he saw it and reeled off a few more exploitation gems like The Bermuda Triangle, Cyclone, Beaks,, and the genuinely stupefying Guyana: Cult of the Damned before settling back into standard Mexican movie fare.

Two easygoing tourists, Steven (Nightmare City's Stiglitz) and Miguel (Garcia), spend what seems like a year-long summer at an island resort where the British and American women apparently fall for any guy who speaks to them. They take turns hitting on and swapping conquests, though one unlucky British lass, Patricia (Fiona Lewis, a.k.a. Mrs. Phibes), falls prey to a hungry tiger shark during a nude swim after a night in the sheets with Miguel. Undaunted, the boys continue their partying with another English lass, Gabriella (George), with whom they all shack up on a boat faster than you can say ménage-à-trois. The trio agrees that love and jealousy have no place in their relationship, so they spend their days and evenings cavorting, dancing, and playing pranks on each other. Oh, and every now and then the shark pops up again to eat a few tourists, including a naked, pre-Three's Company Priscialla Barnes. When the fish finally chomps too close to home, our heroes decide to take some time out from their carnal fun and do a little shark-hunting.

Complete with an exotic, disco-flavored score by Basil Poledouris (several years before Conan the Barbarian) and reels of island scenery, Tintorera will be an endurance test for horror fans but a joy for fans of bizarre world cinema. Released to theaters under a number of titles (Tintorera: Bloody Waters, Tintorera: Tiger Shark, Tintorera: The Silent Death - heck, why not Tintorera: Fish of the Damned?), the film was trimmed down to 90 minutes by its U.S. distributor and still felt ridiculously padded.

Thus with Desert Mountain's DVD release, we have good news and bad news. The good news: Tintorera is finally restored on DVD. Now the bad news: Tintorera is finally restored on DVD. And it runs well over two hours. Some sources list 134 minutes as the original running time per the Mexican pressbook, though if anything is missing from this 129-minute edition, the mind boggles. Much of the extra footage consists of Stiglitz and Garcia lounging around in Speedos exchanging sexual philosophies, since distributors wisely never trimmed out the gore and sex scenes.

The full frame transfer appears to be open matte and frames pretty well when zoomed in to 1.78:1 on widescreen monitors. Image quality is quite nice and certainly beats the awful, murky transfer first released by Media and recycled by a few other labels in the following years. More problematic is the sole audio track, which contains English dialogue for all of the scenes present in the initial U.S. release version and Spanish dialogue for the restored scenes. However, in one of the more head-scratching decisions from a DVD company in recent memory, the optional subtitle track contains Spanish subs for the English scenes and English subs for the Spanish footage - which means the viewer must constantly toggle the subtitles on and off throughout the film whenever the characters suddenly switch tongues, often in mid-conversation. Very frustrating. Extras for this "25th Annivesary Edition" are pretty minimal - a few cast/crew filmographies and trailers for other Desert Mountain Spanish titles.

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