Torremolinos 73 Review
Business isn’t going well for Alfredo López (Javier Cámara), a door-to-door encyclopaedia salesman. His job is under threat, the landlady is looking for rent and he is unable to give his wife Carmen (Candela Peña) the child she desperately wants. The Montoya publishing company he works for are also seeing a wider decline in sales in favour of periodically published collections and realise there is a need to diversify. Alfredo and the remaining salesmen are made an unusual offer. If they want to keep their jobs they must learn how to make and take part in educational sex films for a Danish publication investigating reproductive activities around the world. Although initially wary of the idea Alfredo and Carmen are assured that the films will not be seen outside Scandinavia. The promise of a lot of money means that they can solve a lot of their financial problems and be able to have the child Carmen longs for. Alfredo however has higher ambitions. Inspired by the films of the Swedish master, Ingmar Bergman, and having had lessons with one of his cameramen, Alfredo sets out to make his own serious, black and white arthouse epic.
Torremolinos 73 promises much and has an intriguing concept - the Bergman inspired home-movie pornographer in Franco’s Spain is sure to appeal to arthouse fans as much as to those looking back nostalgically at the 70’s sex comedy. With its cleverness and mixing of highbrow and smut, Torremolinos 73 is clearly calculated to draw maximum attention to its cleverness, with lots of full-frontal nudity thrown in to ensure it has the widest possible appeal. I’m sure the filmmakers were aware of the headlines such an approach would inspire in the press, eager to make references and comparisons that will get them quoted on the film poster. On the cover of the DVD, Total Film oblige with the comment “Channelling ‘The Seventh Seal’ through ‘Debbie Does Dallas’”, which only gives the film far more credit than it is worth, since it in not in the league of either of those films. Certainly the incongruity of a Bergman-styled porn film does allow for some funny moments – such as the scene between Carmen and Death playing chess on a pedal-boat off the Torremolinos coastline - but in the main, it’s actually just a fairly routine sex comedy that sounds hilarious on paper, but is far less entertaining dragged out to a full-length feature film.
The best material is in the early part of the film’s set-up. For me, the funniest scene in the film is early on when a lady in Carmen’s hairdressing salon describes that infamous scene from the Last Tango In Paris ("I thought it was a musical"), working on the same level as the old ladies of Craggy Island talking about the spoof arthouse porn film “The Passion of St. Tibulus” in Father Ted. There is also some humour in Carmen and Alfredo’s initially nervously amateurish but earnest early film experiments, they soon enter into the spirit of things and their Super-8 films become increasingly and playfully pornographic – but the film loses its comic charm in proportion to the more explicit the material becomes and the unlikelihood of the couple believing this material is suitable for the “Copenhagen Institute for Sexual Research”. When it is revealed that their exploits have rather generated a cult following in the Scandinavian porn industry, making Carmen an unexpected international porn star, the film shows its true colours, sitting in the less than elevated company of National Lampoon’s European Vacation. The whole Bergman spoof has been done much better by Woody Allen in Love and Death (here in Torremolinos 73 it actually looks more like Fellini), so it’s these well-used, juvenile, sex-comedy routines that are actually the highlights of the film. This would be fine in a TV series or in the episodic nature of a National Lampoon film, where it could quickly move on to the next joke if that one falls flat – Torremolinos 73 however is a one-joke movie (and an unoriginal one at that) dragged out way beyond the point where it’s funny any longer.
Tartan’s DVD release of Torremolinos 73 is Region 0, in PAL format, anamorphically enhanced on a dual-layer disc. Despite a 15 certificate, the film contains a fair amount of both male and female full-frontal nudity and, obviously, scenes of a sexual nature.
To capture the feel of the 70’s, the colours are intentionally bleached-out to create a faded look to the film. This works quite well when combined with the retro hairstyles and clothing, but it obviously looks more studiously contrived than genuinely authentic. The transfer copes well with this retro look, as well as the Super-8 effects and the crisp black and white Seventh Seal film-within-a-film sequences. The image is stable and free from any but the most minor of marks. There is no sign of any visible macro-blocking artefacts.
The original Spanish soundtrack is presented in a choice of DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks, which is more than necessary for a film like this. The tracks are all strong and clear and free from any problems.
English subtitles are optional and in white font, and translate the Spanish dialogue in the film well. A few lines of Danish dialogue used in the film are not translated.
The Original Theatrical Trailer (1:19) is good, but only serves to illustrate that the film works better as a funny idea than as a real full-length film. The Making of Torremolinos 73 (28:16) is shot partly in spoof documentary style, trying to pretend that this is based on a real-life story with all but a few scenes of Alfredo López’s legendary film being lost to posterity. The blurry, skipping Super 8 footage of the "lost" film, rather unconvincingly make the film look like it was shot in 1923 rather than just 1973. Three ten-second TV Spots (0:33) are also included as well as a Trailer Reel for other Tartan releases.
While the idea of making a spoof porn film in the style of Bergman’s The Seventh Seal sounds great on paper and makes for a great trailer, in practice and drawn-out to a full length feature film, the joke wears thin pretty quickly. It doesn’t help that Torremolinos 73 doesn’t really have anything other than the one-note joke going for it, with some rather tired and obvious plotting in Carmen’s wish to have a baby. Tartan’s presentation of the film on DVD however is good, with a fine audio-visual transfer and a modest selection of extra features.