Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Tonino Ricci's The Shark's Cave (1978)

Tonino Ricci's cinema and I are simpatico. Ricci never made a truly great genre picture, in my opinion, but his entire directorial filmography reveals many an enjoyable one. For eighty to ninety minutes, Ricci crafts pure entertainment with pure craftsmanship. His best film is The Big Family (1973), a focused crime flick, which is as much a series of exciting mafia hits as it is a story about a corrupt crime family. I hope to revisit all of his films that I've seen for this blog, but let's start with Ricci's tale of tiburones and a mysterious triangle in The Shark's Cave (1978).Andres (Andres Garcia) washes up on shore after a six-month absence. Andres does not remember anything about his trip and does not even remember his girlfriend, Angelica (Janet Agren), who has a burgeoning relationship with Andres's brother, Ricardo (Maximo Valverde). Andres decides to take it easy and relax (which includes a date to a cockfight with Angelica) until his memory comes back. However, Arthur Kennedy's Jackson knows who Andres is and he wants something from him. There's little need for concern--The Shark Cave's plot is completely perfunctory, as are the performances. So if you have selachophobia or hate spoilers, then stop reading now.

Handsome Andres Garcia has numerous acting credits and apparently lives a very interesting life. The only memorable film that I remember seeing with him is Rene Cardona Jr.'s truly mediocre The Bermuda Triangle (1978), where Garcia is lost amongst quite a cast, including John Huston, Gloria Guida, Hugo Stiglitz, and Claudine Auger. Beautiful Janet Agren has appearances in a number of noteworthy genre films with my favorite being the pretty lady who runs the lonely truck stop in Sergio Martino's Hands of Steel (1986). Likewise, Arthur Kennedy is no stranger to genre cinema with standout performances, for example, in Jorge Grau's Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (1974) and Tulio Demicheli's Ricco the Mean Machine (1973). Garcia and Agren are eye-candy: while they are not smiling or grimacing, they are swimming in their bikini briefs. Both have nice legs, but I would give the edge to Agren. Kennedy is a wonderful, old school American actor and plays gangsters perfectly; but other than chomping a cigar and pointing a pistol, there is no real character development.With a title like The Shark's Cave, there has got be some sharks in a cave, right? Definitely. The film's strong points are its underwater scenes. Andres's past is revealed in a flashback: Jackson hires Andres and his friend to investigate a downed airplane at the bottom of the ocean. While scuba-diving, Andres and his companion notice a large shiver of sharks apparently sleeping at the ocean floor. The sharks appear to be guarding something. Whatever it is, it is not of this earth, and it's also the cause for the plane crashing into the ocean. Andres notices a bright light during his investigation and his memory disappears. The finale of the film is amazing: it involves a massive shark frenzy. It's in these scenes where the viewer gets to see some excitement from Ricci: they are photographed in a very claustrophobic way; the jump scares work; the lighting is terrific; and the shots of the sharks are menacing.Interestingly, the best sequences of the film involve collateral characters. In one, an unknown group of friends are relaxing on their boat, singing a few songs, and one of them has a tarot deck. A little girl notices a deadly card in the deck and walks, with tattered doll in hand, off the edge of the boat. The group immediately dives in to save her, but in the darkness, the sharks come. Stelvio Cipriani, one of Italy's greatest film composers, delivers the film's score, and it's during this sequence where the music stands out: eerie accompanying wailing sounds and horrifying dissonant notes and chords. The scene is also literally very dark, so when the light gleams off the shark's shiny skin, it's something else.In another scene, an unknown ship captain tells his tale to Angelica about his ship sinking. The sequence could involve a ship model, because I have no idea. As hokey as the scene plays out, it is very effective.The scene doesn't further the plot: it just serves to heighten the supernatural aspect about the mystery at the ocean floor and the guarding sharks. A mystery to which the answer is never truly revealed by the end of the film. Really no matter, I was having too much fun while the story was underwater, and by the time any of the characters came up for air or survived a shark attack, the film was over. I think that was Ricci was going for when he delivered his hidden jewel in The Shark's Cave.

1 comment:

adam2781 said...

I'm afraid of sharks.