Color, 1977, 87 mins. 14 secs. / 126 mins. 2 secs.
Directed by René Cardona, Jr.
Starring Hugo Stiglitz, Andrés García, Susan George, Fiona Lewis, Jennifer Ashley, Priscilla Barne
Scorpion Releasing (Blu-ray) (US RA HD) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9), Desert Mountain (DVD) (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 absurd (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 demographic 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 (The Fury's Lewis), 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 Priscilla Barnes (credited on some prints as "Priscilla Barner"). 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-laced score by Basil Poledouris (several years before Conan the Barbarian and credited as "Basil Poladouris" in the Mexican version) 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 also prepped for an English-language U.S. version lopping the running time down by over half an hour (all travelogue/swimming material and inconsequential chitchat) and restoring some extra sexy footage with a slicker opening title sequence, but it still felt padded at times.
Thus with Desert Mountain's DVD release in 2001 (which is now outrageously expensive), we have a good news/bad news situation. 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 that seems hard to imagine.
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 Anniversary Edition" are pretty minimal - five few cast/crew filmographies and trailers for other Desert Mountain titles: Cilantro y Perejil, Terror and Black Lace, The Magic Hour, and Poison for the Fairies.
Thanks to the involvement of Hemdale, the English-language version of this film ended up taking a twisty route to eventually land up in the hands of MGM, who prepped an HD master that ended up briefly going into broadcast circulation. That transfer turned up on Blu-ray in 2020 from Scorpion Releasing, looking the best this film ever has on home video and likely outclassing any prints you're likely to see floating around, too. The original production flaws are still here including some erratic second unit photography, but all things considered, it looks quite nice and serves as an accurate representation of the film as seen when it opened. The DTS-HD MA English 2.0 mono track is also as good as the original mix will permit, with optional English SDH subtitles provided.
A new audio commentary with Troy Howarth and Rod Barnett is good fun as well, opening with a very funny comment about the film's softcore inclinations and then going through every topic you can imagine including Stiglitz's career and persona, Mexican exploitation, and the reprehensible treatment of marine life at several points in the film. Unfortunately this is yet another of the many, many commentary tracks that have fallen afoul of the scissor-happy legal department at MGM, which means you get a lot of silent gaps popping up that clearly weren't part of the original design. The American theatrical trailer is also included (in nice quality) along with a disco-geared TV spot and bonus ones for Sharks' Treasure, The Barbarians, The Norseman, and Eye of the Tiger.
Reviewed on December 25, 2020.