Tintorera (1977) poster

Tintorera (1977)


aka Tintorera: Killer Shark

Mexico. 1977.


Director – Rene Cardona, Jr., Screenplay – Ramon Bravo & Rene Cardona, Jr., Adaptation – Christina Schuch, Based on the Novel by Ramon Bravo, Producer – Gerald Green, Photography – Leon Sanchez, Underwater Photography – Ramon Bravo, Music – Basil Poledouris. Production Company – Hemdale/Conacine S.A..


Hugo Stiglitz (Steven), Susan George (Gabriella), Andres Garcia (Miguel), Fiona Lewis (Patricia), Roberto Guzman (Colonado), Jennifer Ashley (Kelly), Laura Lyons (Cynthia)


The US businessman Steven flies into an island beach resort in Mexico to his yacht moored just offshore. He becomes involved with the British tourist Patricia but she walks away when he won’t commit. She then becomes involved with the local Miguel, which inflames Steve’s jealousy. Patricia then goes for an early morning swim only to be devoured by a shark. Steven and Miguel become friends and party and go shark hunting together. The two then become involved in a threeway relationship with another British tourist Gabriella. However, the lurking shark brings tragedy.

After Jaws (1975) became a No 1 box-office hit, a host of other filmmakers quickly jumped on the fad, making Killer Shark films for several years after. (This was some three decades before the killer shark film became something deliberately ridiculous). Amid this, we saw the likes of Mako, The Jaws of Death (1976), Shark Kill (1976), Great White/The Last Shark (1981) and Devil Fish (1984) and similar non-shark attack films like Orca (1977), Piranha (1978) and Tentacles (1977).

Rene Cardona Jr (1939-2003) was a popular Mexican director, the son of Rene Cardona, who was also a prolific Mexican director. Rene Jr made 100 films between the 1960s and 2000s. Most of these are spy and adventure films or light comedies. Cardona had ventured into the horror genre with The Night of a Thousand Cats (1972) and in genre material also made the likes of The Bermuda Triangle (1978), The Gorilla Kid (1977), Beaks (1987), Playback (1989), Murderous Fury (1990) and The Man in White (1994). He gained his greatest international exposure with Tintorera and several films based on real-life tragedies with Guyana: Crime of the Century (1978) and as writer/producer of Survive! (1977) based on the Andean plane crash where the survivors were reduced to eating their dead.

Tintorera was one of the better of these Jaws imitators, although works less effectively as the killer shark film it aspires to be. More than half of the film seems to be about Hugo Stiglitz, joined in later scenes by Andres Garcia, and his enjoyment of the beach party lifestyle and dalliance with various of the women who hang out there. There are sporadic shark attack scenes, although far more in the way of scenes with scuba divers hunting sharks for sport. It feels as though Cardona became distracted into making a film about a partying playboy and forgot he was supposed to be making one about a killer shark.

Hugo Stiglitz, Susan George and Andres Garcia in Tintorera (1977)
Threeway in tropical luxury – (l to r) Hugo Stiglitz, Susan George and Andres Garcia
The lurking shark in Tintorera (1977)
The lurking shark

On the other hand, we soon discover that there is actual purpose to this – one where we become involved with Hugo Stiglitz’s dalliance with first Fiona Lewis and then the threeway between Hugo, Andres Garcia and Susan George – before [PLOT SPOILERS] Fiona and Andres are then killed in shark attacks. There is considerable jolt to seeing characters we have become engaged with being abruptly killed.

The major difference between Tintorera and Jaws is that the shark here is not personified. Steven Spielberg gave Bruce the Shark a sense of malevolent calculating intelligence, whereas the shark here is of no particular note other than that it eats people. On the other hand, Rene Cardona, Jr does a far better job than Spielberg of personifying the victims and creating sympathy for them before delivering their fates. Spielberg created a great trio of characters aboard the Orca but none of the people that are chomped in the early scenes have anything beyond minimal individuation.

The film was written by celebrated Mexican oceanographer and shark expert Ramon Bravo who wrote the story first as a novel in 1975. Bravo also choreographs the underwater photography and shark scenes for the film. Bravo certainly delivers some beautiful underwater photography in the scenes scuba diving and spearfish hunting the sharks and other aquatic life. The warning one should issue is that there are some rather alarming scenes where we see divers killing sharks with spear guns – of the spear going through the shark, they bleeding out and writhing to collapse on the seabed floor.

This is also probably the most luscious looking and best directed of Rene Cardona, Jr’s films. The beach party scenes have an absorbing tropical beauty and sensuality. Some scenes like the attack on the party in the water where the camera follows the action both above and under the water is well accomplished. This is certainly one of the better Jaws copies.

Trailer here

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