27 June 2011

Tintorera: Tiger Shark

UK/Mexico – 1977
Director – Rene Cardona Jr.
Media Home Entertainment, 1983, VHS
Run Time – 1 hour,31 minutes

Tintorera came to my attention because of the Hugo Stiglitz name and the raggedy old Media box in which I spotted it. It quickly became evident that despite more obvious on-screen distractions, there was a lot of subtext in the sex and violence that pervade the film, and I wanted to figure it out. Monsters pretty much always represent more complex issues than their own physical or spiritual presence. Animals as monsters, despite common connections to fears of science, can also embody some socially or personally repressed aberration (or both).

Tintorera: Tiger Shark centers around Steve (Hugo Stiglitz,) an affluent and bored middle aged bachelor vacationing in Mexico and his relationship with Gabriella (Susan George) and Miguel (Andres Garcia). Initially Steve chases women in the bars and beaches, but his interest is ambivalent at best. After an insincere argument with Miguel over one particular woman, he and his rival quickly become friends and begin chasing women together. Soon they meet Gabriella with whom they establish a Menage a Trois with some important rules; no attachment to her, and no other women. Much of Steve and Miguel’s remaining time together is spent interacting with one another while Gabriella, whose character remains largely undeveloped beyond her introductory lines, remains peripheral and safely within the prescribed confines of female sexual object. Her presence serves to superficially deny what is becoming increasingly readable as a journey of sexual discovery between our two brotagonists.

In the opening scenes while pursuing women, Steve is horrified by a local fisherman’s wanton killing of sharks, but as his relationship with Miguel quickly becomes closer (although never explicitly physical) his friend teaches him how to hunt sharks and he actually begins to enjoy it. Up to this point the violence meted out against sharks is largely implied, but when they start hunting together it is shown quite explicitly, and becomes rather difficult to watch in its gruesomeness. For both the narrative and the film itself, this graphic penetrating violence clearly implies sex between the two men and Steve’s increasing comfort with this new identity. The first time they take Gabriella on one of their hunting forays she is shocked when she witnesses what the men are doing, and as if on cue Miguel is eaten by a Tiger Shark. According to the established rules of the three way, Gabriella takes her leave and Steve is left alone again.

Until this point, social disapproval and condemnation of his sexuality have pushed Steve into bitterness and even self repression which, with Miguel’s tutelage he has overcome. Through their commission of the transgressive act, the sex as violence, the men kill their feelings of lonely ostracism and guilt. In the final scenes after his lover’s death Steve goes completely apeshit and begins clubbing and spearing every shark he sees in a desperate attempt to find the one that ate Miguel. When he does, he kills it at the cost of his own arm.

Violence committed by men has a long and multicultural filmic tradition as a metaphor for sex, so it is not really a surprise to find it surfacing in a Mexican Jaws knockoff. What is interesting are the connotations of that violence as meted out against sharks in Tintorera, and the fact that contrary to Hollywood’s imperialist tradition, it ends on a positive note with the outsider still outside and unrepentant. Although Miguel’s death truncates the possibility of an continued or overt relationship, and the brilliant white hospital room in which Steve wakes suggests a return to safe institutional normalcy (that is, the hetero-normative), Steve is undeniably and visibly marked by the experience. The look of satisfied serenity on his face leads me to believe that his guilt-demons have been finally exorcised.

 This post is part of Queer Film Blogathon hosted by Garbo Laughs

German poster from Grindhouse Database

Japanese art from Super Trash Cinema

"Cult" Classic? I hardly think so.

Three French VHS inserts, all from Agressions Animales

24 June 2011

Saigon In Beverly Hills

Saigon in Beverly Hills
United States - 1993ish
Director - Tuan Anh
Tuan Anh Productions, 1993, VHS
Run Time - I don't have the karaoke stamina to count

What blogathon would be complete without a random oddity from the Lost Video Archive VHS vault?  In this case, transgender Vietnamese variety show hosted by singer Tuan Anh who just happens to be on tour right now!

This post is part of the Queer Film Blogathon hosted by Garbo Laughs

20 June 2011

Monster in the Closet

United States – 1986
Director – Bob Dahlin
Troma, 1993, VHS
Run Time – 1 hour, 26 minutes

The very title of this movie invites an easy assumption when writing in the context of a queer blogathon. I decided to go ahead and make that assumption more or less just because the VHS tape had been sitting in my “In” box for quite some time and I wanted an excuse to watch. If you’re looking for the simple send-up of classic B monster flicks that Monster in the Closet purports on its surface to be, it’s here, packed with B-movie personnel and flaunting its Troma pedigree. And if, like me, you’re looking to find a bunch of subtext, you can’t miss a preponderance of queer innuendo that, even if it stumbles a few times along the way, turns out to be surprisingly transgressive.

image from Lost Highway
Clark is a novice newspaper reporter who thinks he’s gotten his big break covering a series of alleged monster abductions originating from closets. When the closet monster turns out to be real, the full forces of socio-cultural status-quo maintenance are called in to return things to acceptable normalcy. When the most hetero normative institutions, the police and the military, prove unable to destroy or even slow this physical expression of monstrosity, will the scientific/medical community calculate and codify its degeneracy into submission? Or will it be the love of an attractive and conspicuously available young reporter? Glimpsing for the first time Clark’s handsome visage, the monster softens, then abducts him and heads to San Francisco carrying him like the classic “damsel”.

Perhaps a more appropriate question is whether paranoia, punishment, oppression, hatred and violence is preferable social behavior than, well, than love. The answer to this eternally vexing question lies amply suggested beneath a few thin layers of parodic silliness, but never explicitly committed to in Monster in the Closet. What sealed the deal for me was that Clark doesn’t hook up with the obviously romantically available female lead. Pairing them up would have been a straightforward and easy way to truncate any idea that homosexuality was anything more than monstrous. But it doesn’t. In the end, people rebuild their closets having dispelled all notions of “monstrosity”, which anyway, is better symbolic of fear and shame than any lifestyle choice.

Watch the whole thing online and come to your own conclusions.

This post is a part of the Queer Film Blogathon hosted by Garbo Laughs

13 June 2011

Charles Bronson Deja Vu Double Feature

United States - 1984
 Director - J. Lee Thompson
Goodtimes Home Video, 1989, VHS
Run Time - 1 hour, 30 minutes

But WAIT! Haven't we seen this same classic manly, phallic-symbol Bronson pose on the promo art for another film?

United States - 1972
Director - Michael Winner
MGM/UA Home Video, 1988, VHS
Run Time - 1 hour, 41 minutes

An interesting story that you will find on the Wiki about The Mechanic:
"In Lewis John Carlino's original script, the relationship between Arthur Bishop (Bronson) and Steve McKenna (Jan Michael Vincent) was explicitly gay. Producers had difficulty securing financing and several actors, including George C. Scott, flatly refused to consider the script until the homosexuality was removed.

There's more too if you just click the link above.

08 June 2011

Queer Film Blogathon

Lost Video Archive will be contributing at least one post to this worthy event. 
Check out host Garbo Laughs for a complete list of contributors and information on participating yourself.

In the meantime, I wrote a short essay on the important subject of "Naming Your Girl Band" which was published yesterday over at the preeminent music blog Illogical Contraption.

Slave Girls from Beyond Infinity

United States - 1987
Director - Ken Dixon
Amazing Fantasy Entertainment, 1987, VHS
Run  Time -  1 hour, 20 minutes

06 June 2011

Night of the Lepus

United States – 1972
Director – William F. Claxton

Monster movies come in all sorts of forms, subgenres and species. Monsters both in literature and in cinema are almost always a symbol for something more than just a monster. Night of the Lepus ranks alongside such trash classics as Them! , Slithis and Godmonster of Indian Flats as one of my favorite among the nature twisted by science flicks. Fear of atomic power, industrial pollution and even computers have all become cultural boogeymen reformulated as screen monsters. “Progress” is scary because it’s unpredictable, and because man’s intellectual reach outdistances his ethical grasp, and so on and so forth….

It wasn’t until a second watch through of Night of the Lepus that it suddenly dawned on me that the film is a not so thinly veiled parable for the issue of Mexican immigration that has repeatedly proven anathema to deluded United Statesian racists since at least the 19th Century. The rabbit metaphor should be a familiar one, although parallels between “breeding like rabbits” and well established stereotypes about low income ethnic groups are rarely drawn explicitly. “Takeover” by the exponentially reproducing vermin, which threatens to subsume their typical hardworking all-American victims and ruin their good cultural traditions is clear enough. In Night of the Lepus the growth of the rabbits to human proportions and their proclivity for fresh blood and flesh remains mysteriously unexplained leading me to believe that not only are regular sized rabbits just not scary, but that these Lepus are meant to be even more like their analogues, making them still scarier.

The solution in Night of the Lepus, as parroted time and again in real life immigration paranoia rhetoric and literally realized along the large portions of the U.S. Mexico border, is a giant fence. Not only does this one keep them out of “our” territory, but it's also electrified such that any invaders attempting to cross it are thoroughly electrocuted to crispy death.

It is likely true that we often find the evidence we’re looking for. The fact that the film was set in Arizona although based on a novel (Year of the Angry Rabbit) set in Australia, and that it so clearly reproduces established stereotypes about Mexican immigrants in an era immediately following the end of the Bracero Program (and new immigration legislation) is too much coincidence for me to bear! Night of the Lepus is nothing more than a hilarious and ludicrous reification of United Statesian white supremacist paranoia, but damned if it doesn’t make for some entertaining cinema.

Once you know what the movie is about, the posters become even more awesome.
This one is from The League of Dead Films

Is the tagline in this ad meant to mimic the 1967 race-film Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?

 Ads from Criticonline.

03 June 2011

01 June 2011

Stephen King's Nightshift Collection vol. 1

United States - 1985
Director - Frank Darabont
Interglobal Home Video, 1987, VHS
Run Time - 32 minutes

Perhaps most notably this film stars Brian Libby as "prisoner". Libby also starred as the deranged genetically enhanced killer in the Chuck Norris film Silent Rage.