Sunday, April 19, 2009

Possibly the Worst Film I Have Seen

Carlos The Terrorist
VCI Home Video // 1979 // 85 Minutes // Not Rated

Reviewed by Steve Evans

Opening Shot
A coma might be more interesting.

Friends, I have seen some bad films in my life as a cinephile and reviewer. Some I have even watched on purpose with fellow B-movie buffs who enjoy a good laff at cinematic train wrecks. Typically, beer is involved to facilitate our amusement.

But I cannot recall a more appalling waste of time than Carlos the Terrorist, a 30-year-old ditty from South of the Border. How can I adequately convey the ineptitude of this mesmerizingly awful motion picture? Mesa of Lost Women is a masterpiece compared to this drivel; The Giant Spider Invasion comes off sublime, and Manos: the Hands of Fate might be the Citizen Kane of 1966 if it were held in competition against this remarkable thriller, which is completely devoid of thrills.

Carlos the Terrorist was directed by René Cardona Jr., who could be the Ed Wood of Mexico. And if you’re hip to that, you already know where this is going. At least Wood’s films are entertaining.

A Bit of Plot
Dissatisfied with his life as a killer, Carlos the Terrorist (Andrés García) begins to question the life he leads. After killing his crime boss, Carlos tries to trade information for help from the CIA. But when agents double-cross Carlos and kidnap his wife and daughter, the terrorist must complete a deadly mission for American operatives. If he refuses, his wife and child will die. Shootings and low-budget chases in junky old cars ensue. The ending comes off like the punchline of a bad joke that takes too long to tell.

Historical Context and (In)significance
There seems to be some uncertainty over the release year of this film by director René Cardona Jr., who also made ¡Tintorera! (¡1977!), a Jaws ripoff starring García and the bodacious Susan George (Straw Dogs, and seen at right), who I sorely wish was in Carlos the Terrorist, so I would have had a reason to watch this silly film. Some sources list a release year of 1977, others claim 1979. Whatever the year, Carlos is a pitiful excuse for a thriller.

Cardona allows scenes to play out for what seems like an eternity, long after the point of the shot has been made. Who wants to watch actors walking down the street — and doing nothing else — for 10 minutes? The feature run time of 85 minutes feels twice as long. Heavily edited, this film might actually work as an hour-long television show, including commercials.

Worse, most of the action is telegraphed by an omniscient narrator, who saved Cardona a lot of production money by describing many amazing things that we never actually get to see. We hear more about what Carlos did and might yet do, without the benefit of watching Carlos do anything at all.

Act One is almost a silent film punctuated with narration as Carlos looks stern. Or peeved. Or determined.

In Act Two, Carlos devotes considerable time to running around in his underwear after a long swim to a bad guy’s oceanfront home. I am not making this up.

Act Three finds Carlos limping for hours with a bullet in his leg. In the scene that made me laugh out loud, when Carlos is shot the actor hobbles to his feet and clutches the wrong leg for an instant before realizing his mistake and shifting his hand to grab the other limb — the leg with the special effects blood running down his pants.

All of the characters are unlikable or boring, especially Carlos. As played by Garcia, the character is less dynamic than a wooden Indian. Charles Bronson, by comparison, was positively vivacious.

What a crazy film! Sometimes the narration is in English, sometimes it shifts to Spanish without warning or any discernable reason other than sloppiness. Since there are no subtitles, being bilingual is no mere advantage to watching the picture; it is a necessity.

I am happy for star Garcia (as he appears today, at left). The actor seems to have earned a fair amount of money making shitty movies over the last 40 years. My research indicates he’s still raking in the cash – or at least he’s still trying. Garcia, who turns 68 next month, is quite the entrepreneur. His official website offers houses for rent in Acapulco. As part of your one-stop shopping experience, on the website you can also rent film locations in his native Mexico, buy Garcia’s biography, his CD, and the natural health remedies he has endorsed (the semi-retired actor is a prostate cancer survivor). His home page also displays a convenient ad for La Bombita, which is apparently a solution for those who suffer erectile dysfunction.

What’s on the Disc, Steve?
Not much, I’m tellin’ ya. The video transfer is flecked with dirt and deep scratches throughout. The mono audio is weak and thin. Extras are limited to a few static screens of biographical information and five trailers of Cardona schlock, including this picture. The audio pops in and out during several trailers, rendering them all but unwatchable.

VCI specializes in high-quality packages of old Western serials from the 1930s and ’40s. Why the company added this title to their catalog is a mystery.

Got Anything Nice to Say, Steve?
Cardona managed to shoot this extremely cheap picture in focus.

The film’s dramatic and technical incompetence is so profound as to make watching a neighbor’s vacation videos a thrilling alternative.

On the Internet Movie Database website, under the user comments section for this film, someone has posted the following assessment of Carlos the Terrorist: “Perhaps the most beautiful and exiting (sic) film ever made!”

That’s precious; easily funnier than the flick itself.

Copyright © 2009 by Steve Evans // dba Cinema Uprising. All rights reserved.

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