Somewhere out there beyond the distant horizon lies an island paradise where women and shark alike exist solely to be ravaged by Latin machos in skimpy, bulging banana-warmers. Practicing feminists (and animal rights activists) should probably refrain from reading much further… TINTORERA was originally conceived as a (Mexican) JAWS rip-off, but we quickly learn that writer/director Rene Cardona, Jr. had very different plans, which pan out to something like a soft-core version of the “The Love Boat”, complete with implied 3-way sex and sharks (though the sharks are incidental, an afterthought…).
Although it opens with foreboding theme music and footage of a tiger shark, TINTORERA is a sleazeball epic (at 126 minutes) more interested in detailing the sexual escapades of Steve (Hugo Stiglitz) and Miguel (Andres Garcia), a pair of lotharios of opposite temperament who become reluctant buddies after they bed and fight over an English tourist (Fiona Lewis). When she succumbs to a shark attack during an early morning dip, the pair simply assume she's returned to England.
Hugo Stiglitz is a man of exquisite passions, intensely brooding alot while attempting to prove to the world that scowling men with scuzzy beards can wear booty shorts, too… Miguel is the prototypical Latin lover, a care-free gigolo (perpetually sporting a tiny speedo and toothy grin) who frequently accosts Hugo with the philosophies of womanizing and taking life easily. Pretty soon, the pair are swapping partners regularly on the deck of Hugo’s borrowed yacht while casually trampling through the scenery in the buff.
A variety of characters cross paths with the stud-men, including pretty American sisters Kelly and Cynthia. On their way to the beach, the gals hitch a ride on an orange truck driven by a pair of mustachioed banditos (with a “GOD IS LOVE” sticker on their windshield). When attacked in their sleep, the gals cheerfully decide to go along with it, effectively proving that you can’t rape the willing (I did warn you).
Hugo’s manservant Colonado (aka “redhead“) is a wisecracking letch who often steals the scene, especially during his uproariously sleazy grind on the dance floor. Susan George (of “Straw Dogs”) plays a free-spirited English gal on holiday who draws Hugo and Miguel into another intense love triangle, rounding out the plot. Colonado, witnessing the trio’s nude frolicking, remarks “the vibe is getting folkloric”.
The decadence during these scenes can be a little much, especially when seeing Hugo’s bare ass pop out of an apron while he cooks “an omelet for three”. For a good half hour we witness the trio fall in love, walk hand-in-hand-in-hand, make goo goo eyes, etc. And (I should add…) the homo-erotic tension between Hugo and Miguel is palpable.
Between all the drunken coupling and amorous antics, the buddies spend their free time hunting and killing sharks (oh yeah, the sharks…). During his first trip out shark-hunting, Hugo remarks, “killing these creatures makes me sad”. That said, he kills countless others before it‘s all over. Many sharks are killed on camera for this sucker (a rather disturbing, insidious way to pad out a sex flick). Then there are long stretches where you’ll forget this is a shark movie altogether... during these lapses, a shark will occasionally swim through a scene (as if to remind us).
Finally (about 90 minutes in), the “killer” shark elbows it’s way back into the plot, biting Miguel’s head off and effectively ending the queasy love triangle. Susan packs her bags (“the memory of Miguel will always remain with us”) and Hugo sets out to get the beast (while seeing repeated flashbacks of Miguel’s angelic smile). While hunting Miguel's killer, we witness Hugo brutalize several sharks, viciously bashing one’s head in. Of course, now that Hugo is alone he also sets out to get laid again, meeting Priscilla Barnes (Terri from “Three’s Company”) and getting back together with sisters Kelly and Cynthia. A drunken skinny dip with the three results in another shark attack and now Hugo’s really pissed…
TINTORERA is one those films that truly tests your ambivalence. As much as I was offended by the senseless slaughter of dozens of sharks (and the concept of rape played for laughs), I also found it to be endlessly, ridiculously amusing. This movie is so unabashedly sleazy and just revels in the bogus philosophy of the swinging 70s. At various points I found myself rooting for the pair… they‘re sort of a Mexican “odd couple”, overcoming their differences for the greater purpose of bedding as many comely tourists as possible. It’s one of those cases where you know you’re wrong, but can’t help but tip your hat. So… Go Hugo! Long live Miguel! VIVA TINTORERA!