Fuego
Argentina / 1969
Directed by Armando Bo
Starring
Isabel Sarli
Armando Bo

Alba Múgica
Color / 84 Minutes / Not Rated
Format: DVD
Double Feature Disc / R1 - NTSC

Something Weird
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Review by
Brian Lindsey
 
5
    6   10 = Highest Rating  
Voluptuous, raven-haired Isabel Sarli Miss Argentina of 1955 became the cinema sex siren of her native country by starring in over two dozen movies, most of them directed by husband Armando Bo. Her most infamous role, as an insatiable nymphomaniac in 1969's Fuego ("Fire"), proved too steamy for government censors; the film was banned from domestic release. This didn't stop foreign distribution, however. It actually received a theatrical run in the United States and elsewhere, establishing Sarli as an international cult film femme fatale. Oddball director/kitsch maven John Waters has cited Fuego as among his inspirations.
    Sarli is Laura, independent woman of some means, who sets tongues wagging (ladies in her social circle) and gonads throbbing (every man she meets) with her wanton, wicked ways. She can't help it, though she's afflicted with "exaggerated pathological sexual desire" as a doctor later explains. When banging every dude in town can't quench her inner flame, Laura turns to her freakish lesbian maid, Andrea (Alba Múgica), for satisfaction of the sapphic variety. Enter well-to-do businessman Carlos (director Bo, too old for the part), who falls in love with Laura and proposes marriage. She tries to warn him of her uncontrollable hunger for sex. But she's fallen for Carlos, too, and agrees to become his wife. Andrea predicts the union will only lead to sorrow, that Laura's sexual hijinx will eventually drive Carlos nuts and he'll end up killing her. (The kinky, possessive maid also doesn't want to lose her.)
    Sure enough, after she and Carlos wed Laura finds that she can't stifle the powerful erotic urges that overwhelm her. Her lesbian romps continue with Andrea, and she seeks out additional male partners by flashing men in a nearby town, fondling her breasts in a silent invitation to shag. (Not surprisingly, this method proves successful.) Catching her in bed with a guy one night, an enraged Carlos grabs a pistol and almost kills them. His love is too strong, though, and he turns to medical doctors to hopefully come up with a cure or some kind of therapy. But when even a gynecological exam causes to her to orgasm, can there be any hope?
    Turgid and overwrought (to put it mildly), this South American soap opera is at times histrionic to the point of hilarity. Bits of the dialog are real kneeslappers. ("I love you but I'm being consumed by this sexual fire inside... I need men! I NEED MEN!") Sarli is completely over-the-top as she tries to convey either a near-constant state of horniness or hysterical anguish at the hell she's putting poor, jealous Carlos through. The character of Andrea adds grimace-inducing freak appeal to the picture, as we're subjected to the bizarre juxtaposition of Sarli's gloriously tanned and fleshy nude body being kissed and fondled by Múgica, whose severe, skull-like countenance
looks like it's covered with stretched leather. (Imagine Peter Cushing after a sex change operation... Eeeeeew!) The kitschy theme song — especially an instrumental variation that'd be more appropriate in a western or action movie — kicks in whenever Laura's motor is really running hot... which is just about every few minutes or so.
    Sloppily made, with an utter cluelessness that its breathless hysterics put it firmly in the realm of camp, Fuego really exists only as a showcase for Isabel Sarli and her bodacious bod. 34 when she made the film, she's like a hot MILF from the Latin American family next door. If you're into the full-figured, stacked and curvy female form as personified by Marilyn Monroe or Jayne Mansfield, then this spicy brunette version will certainly get your mercury rising.

Fuego comes to Region 1 DVD as part of Something Weird's Sizzling Latin Double Feature disc, which pairs the film with a black and white Sarli vehicle from 1968, The Female (aka Seventy Times Seven). I chose not to review this second 'bonus' feature because (1) it's actually more of an art house film, far removed from the unabashed sexploitation of Fuego; (2); Sarli doesn't get naked in it; and (3) I am lazy.
    The fullframe Fuego transfer is taken from a beat up English-dubbed print that seems to be missing a few minutes of footage.
(The IMDB lists the banned Argentine cut as running seven minutes longer.) Dirt and print damage are prevalent, with quite a few frame jumps, but colors are often bright and bold. Too bad the film doesn't look at good as its less titillating co-feature, The Female, which sports one of the best looking transfers of the SW catalogue I've ever seen. Audio quality of both titles is decent.
   
Under the moniker of "A Throbbing Eruption of Amorous Extras" you'll find the disc's slate of complimentary Latin side dishes. These include three trailers for Fuego and seven others for Love Hunger, The Curious Dr. Humpp, The Deadly Organ, No Exit, The Unsatisfied, The Pink Pussy: Where Sin Lives ("Charged-up, sex-crazed women... driven by bizarre desires!"), and Put Out or Shut Up. All but one of these films is Argentinean; the other Spanish. Two short film excerpts are provided (though the titles of the films they're derived from are not given): South American Smoke Den Stripper sees a chunky exotic dancer goofily shaking her moneymaker in a narcotics speakeasy, while South American S & M Show features a Jess Franco-like erotic nightclub act. A gallery of sexploitation posters set to sleazy radio spots rounds out the DVD. 6/01/04
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