Tintorera! (1977, UK / Mexico)

Tintorera! (1977)Following it’s initial release in Mexico, Tintorera! was cut and released internationally on home video in the USA (85 minutes) and the UK (89 minutes). These cut versions were replaced by a restored 126 minute print in 2004, released to DVD (Region 1) by Desert Mountain Media. This review will focus upon that 126 minute “25th Anniversary Edition” of Tintorera!

Written and directed by Rene Cardona Jr., Tintorera! is a Mexican-British horror film released in 1977, shortly after the success of Jaws (1975). You would expect Tintorera! to be nothing more than a clone of the cultural phenomenon Steven Spielberg spearheaded. Instead Tintorera! blends the ‘killer shark’ sub-genre with softcore erotica!

After suffering a work related nervous breakdown, Esteban (Hugo Stiglitz) is advised to take an extended vacation in order to rest. His destination? A yacht anchored just off the coast of Isla Mujeres, where he meets Patricia (Fiona Lewis), a newly-arrived English tourist. Soon enough the two are engaging in a sexual relationship, but as Esteban’s feelings for Patricia develop over time his inability to express these emotions causes Patricia to leave him.

Tintorera! (1977)

Not long after Patricia leaves Estaban, she meets Miguel (Andres Garcia) on the beach and the two begin to flirt. This catches the eye of an enraged and jealous Esteban who verbally, and then psychically confronts Miguel. Patricia however is less than impressed with Esteban’s display of machismo and attaches herself more firmly to Miguel, leaving Esteban to return to his yacht alone and berate himself for the stupidity of his actions.

That night Patricia and Miguel sleep together, but once Miguel falls asleep Patricia decides to take advantage of the sunrise and go outside for a swim. As soon as her naked body hits the warm salt water of the Caribbean sea the tintorera begins to stalk his/her prey. Soon enough the tiger shark is close enough to clamp it’s jaws down into Patricia’s torso and pull her further under the water. No screams are heard and no evidence is left to discover. Patricia is simply…gone! Or that’s at least what Miguel thinks when he reawakens.

The next day Esteban stumbles upon Miguel the next day at a bar in the company of two young American women (Laura Lyons and Jennifer Ashley). Miguel explains that Patricia had left, presumably back to England before inviting Estaban to join them. Thus begins the curious friendship of Miguel and Esteban! The four promiscuous adults head back to the yacht later that night and quickly undress until no item of clothing remains…

Tintorera! (1977)

Did I mention Coronado (Roberto ‘Flaco’ Guzman)? Coronado is a fisherman obsessed with stories of the local shark population, particularly that of the tintorera, which he relays to the many tourists that visit the island. “Americans like you call it tiger shark.”, he mentions before assuring that the tintorera is the most dangerous species of shark found in the Caribbean sea. The idea of shark fishing appeals to Esteban, who agrees to help Coronado haul his overnight catch earlier in the movie. Estaban’s developing obsession would also help to solidify the friendship between him and Miguel and Esteban, as the two themselves would begin to engage in deep sea fishing. No species of sea creature are safe in Tintorera!

Miguel and Esteban soon encounter another English tourist by the name of Gabriella (Susan George), both imposing themselves upon her with their flirtatious ways. Esteban himself claims that the two of them are “shark hunters”, which impresses Gabriella enough to agree to accompany them on their fishing trip the next day. As time passes Gabriella, Miguel and Esteban develop their friendship into an exclusive threesome; where no other women or men are allowed or the arrangement is dissolved! But it won’t be a member of the same species that creates a rift in this two male / one female relationship!

Tintorera! (1977)

As Gabriella, Miguel and Estaban set out on another fishing trip by motor boat Esteban ponders the question; what should the group do if a tiger shark was to appear. “We have to get out of the water!” Miguel responds, laughing. Diving into the water, both Miguel and Estaban begin another hunt of various sea creatures by speargun whilst Gabriella prepares to snorkel. But just as Gabriella jumps into the sea the tintorera engages upon his/her prey. Miguel notices the tiger shark’s approach and signals to Estaban to get Gabriella out of the water. Taking aim with the speargun Miguel fires upon the approaching tiger shark…and misses!

Tintorera! is based upon the 1975 novel of the same name by oceanographer Ramon Bravo. Bravo became widely known for the discovery, study and photography of “sleeping sharks”; tiger sharks that appeared to be “sleeping” on the ocean floor near Isla Mujeres. Ramon Bravo himself would assist with many of the underwater shots in Tintorera!; primarily the footage of the tiger sharks.

Tintorera! (1977)

The story of Tintorera! however is all over the place in terms of tone. This creature feature just doesn’t know if it wants to be a horror/thriller in the same vein as Jaws, or an erotic drama. It makes me curious as to how much of the film was indeed lifted from Ramon Bravo’s original novel! Even the “25th Anniversary Edition” DVD release by Desert Media adds an additional layer of confusion into the mix. This print restores the scenes that were cut from both the US and UK releases; complete with the original Spanish soundtrack. Everything else remains with the English dubbed soundtrack. Therefore, as the film itself switches back and forth between English and Spanish (audio/subtitles), the characters’ names switch back and forth between Esteban and Miguel, and Steve and Mike.

Tintorera! (1977)

Unfortunately a significant portion of Tintorera’s running time is also devoted to the unmotivated butchery of it’s featured marine creatures. One particular tear-inducing scene featured a Manta Ray that is shot with a spear-gun. None of this has any real relevance to the plot. The worst that exploitation cinema has to offer are undoubtedly the movies that feature real cruelty and murder, included only for shock value; for example Chi Chang’s Calamity of Snakes (1983) or Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi’s Africa Addio (1966). Tintorera! is no exception…

“There’s a monstrous killer churning up the sea…” …and it certainly isn’t the tintorera in this feature. With that said Tintorera! is a curioso exploitative entry into the shark/horror subgenre, competently directed by Rene Cardona Jr., that manages to offer up unexpected scene after unexpected scene. Tintorera! certainly was not the film I had expected from the sensational tagline.

Tintorera! (1977), directed by Rene Cardona Jr.
Written by Ramon Bravo, Rene Cardona Jr. and Christina Schuch.
Based on the 1975 novel Tintorera, written by Ramon Bravo.
Starring Susan George, Hugo Stiglitz and Andres Garcia.

Tintorera! is available to buy from Amazon.co.uk; plus if you decide to make a purchase after following the link provided you will have supported Attack From Planet B, so thank you.

Ken Wynne

⚡ EIC [¬º-°]¬ for Attack from Planet B ⚡ Contact: ken@attackfromplanetb.com