Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Temptation Island (1980)


Four young women from different social backgrounds join a beauty contest with various motives. Demure Dina Espinola (Dina Bonnevie) wants the car; spoiled rich brat Suzanne Reyes (Jennifer Cortez) is eyeing the trip to California as an alternative for a boring summer; social climber Bambi Belisario (Bambi Arambulo) sees the 20,000 peso cash prize as a way for her extravagant 18th birthday party to push through in light of her family’s dire financial situation; while con artist Azenith Tobias (Azenith Briones) dreams of winning the house, and is planning to seduce the judges for a sure win. The four make it through the preliminaries, but in an interesting twist, the yacht they are boarding en route to the evening gown portion catches fire. Along with Suzanne’s loyal maid Maria (Deborah Sun) and a bunch of guys, they all get marooned on a deserted island. Amidst their grand delusions of giant fried chicken and ice cream fuelled by their desperation for food and comfort, the girls also face an even bigger dilemma: surviving each other.

The film somehow bored me, although the quotable quotes: “Rub-a-dub-dub, two bitches in a tub” and “I have no time for middle-class sentiments” among others, were enough to hold my short attention span for two hours or so. Coming from the perspective of someone living in 2011, I could not help but think that this movie somehow became a precedent for most of what we see on television today. Seeing those people with contrasting personalities stranded on an island and bickering with each other was like watching an episode of Survivor or Big Brother. Come to think of it, this formula is sort of commonplace on TV nowadays, which makes me think that this movie was released 30 years too early. Furthermore, most movies produced during that period, if I am not mistaken, were mostly a mix of slapstick comedies and formulaic dramas, with the former now reformulated to suit modern tastes (ex. Wenn Derramas comedies) and the latter mostly confined on television via teleseryes. I could only imagine how out of the box this movie had seemed during those days.

Having been released five years before I was born, Dina Bonnevie was the only one that I actually recognized from the cast. It seems pretty clear that the careers of the other three girls failed to take off, while the men have either disappeared from showbiz or died, in the case of Ricky Belmonte and Alfie Anido. While the acting generally seems to be lacking and a bit technical at times, the rapport among the cast is just right for you to actually give a damn about them. The endless feud between elitist Suzanne (who seems to be the template for the modern coño) and tactless Azenith (think 80’s Marian Rivera, who incidentally got the role in the remake) provides the conflict that keeps you interested in the plot, while Bambi’s and Dina’s respective love stories deliver the romance. The gay co-producer of the pageant is the main source of comedy through his witty lines and flamboyant delivery, while the Maria character takes care of the slapstick factor. This odd mix results in a film that was surely ahead of its time, definitely a cult classic.

Where did I watch? Torrents, my friend. It is not as if I had a choice. If there were original DVDs for sale I would buy one without hesitation.

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