Thursday, March 3, 2016

Glutton for Punishment: Fuego

by JB
“I don’t know if I’m fickle… or wicked! […] I love you, but I’m being consumed by this sexual fire inside... I need men! I need men! I NEED MEN!” --Laura (Isabel Sarli) in Fuego

We are all interested in bad movies, inexcusable cinema, worse-than-mediocre pictures, and miserable excuses for art, for that is the stuff we use to fill the empty spaces in our souls. You are interested in the unknown, the mysterious, and the unexplainable—that is why you are here. And now, for the first time, we are bringing to you the full story of some of the worst movies ever made. We are bringing you the grim evidence, based on the secret testimony of the miserable soul who survived a screening. I am that miserable soul. The absurdly low budgets, the cramped soundstages, the ridiculous plots, the inane dialogue, the risible acting—my friend, we cannot keep these a secret any longer. Let us punish the guilty. Armando Bo is guilty. Let us reward the innocent. Remember, my friends: terrible movies such as these will affect you in the future!
Fuego owes a lot to Russ Meyer. Producer/director/writer/star/one-man band Armando Bo must have been a besotted Meyer fan because, just over a year after Meyer’s groundbreaking film Vixen! was released and broke box-office records, Armando Bo made his own version down in Argentina. The “similarities” between Vixen! and Fuego are almost too numerous to list. (I said almost.)

Vixen! features a sexually insatiable female lead, who spends the film seeking satisfaction in all the wrong places. Fuego also features a sexually insatiable female lead, who spends the film seeking satisfaction in all the wrong places. Both films open with a bikini-clad protagonist emerging from a lake; in Vixen!, Meyer has Erica Gavin playing with a fish, kissing it, putting it into her mouth (insert “felate-o-fish” joke here) and slipping the scaly thing down her top in a most provocative manner. In Fuego, there are no fish. You know a movie has problems when you think “more fish-kissing” would be an improvement.
Vixen! features taboo-for-the-time scenes of lesbian lovemaking. Fuego does too. Vixen! features unusual settings for its sex scenes: a lake, a shower, a rustic cabin, and an airplane in midflight. Fuego also chooses unusual settings: a lake, a clearing in the woods, a chicken coop, and an elaborate toilet. In both films, many of these scenes seem intended to elicit in viewers shouts of “that looks very uncomfortable!”

The Plot in Brief: Poor Laura (Isabel Sarli) cannot find sexual satisfaction, no matter how or with whom she tries. At one point, she is so overcome with lust that she rubs snow all over herself to cool down. That’s about it.

Like many of these “nudie cuties” from the late 1960s (although, to be fair, Fuego is more like a turgid soap opera or steamy “telenovella”) the plot consists of three basic scenes repeated until the minimum running time is met: Laura struts and preens, Laura has sexual relations, Laura feels bad and repents, repeat. Silly Laura!
Fuego exists to show off the pulchritude of Argentina softcore superstar Isabel Sarli. Armando Bo produced a string of these films in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, before hardcore pornography put this kind of movie out of business. Fuego is the best known of the series, perhaps because famed cult filmmaker John Waters holds the film in high esteem. He has often cited it as one of his favorites and even featured it as one of his selections at the Maryland Film Festival.

Like many films of this ilk, Fuego features insane, quotable dialogue:

“I need to help you… with this infirmity.”

“Did I hear you right? An infirmity?”

“Yes, it’s an… infirmity.”

“It’s not an infirmity… it’s INSANITY.”
There are actually reasons to champion or recommend Fuego. Unfortunately, those reasons do not include things intrinsic to enjoying a movie, such as plot, performances, or dialogue. Even in the rough shape of the Something Weird DVD release, this is a beautiful film to look at: it’s well photographed by Ricardo Younis and features beautiful scenery (if viewers can bear to pry their eyes away from Ms. Sarli’s more intimate “beautiful scenery.”) As in many foreign films from this era, the score is top-notch and memorable. The music was written and performed by Humberto Ubriaco and… wait for it… wait for it…producer/ director/writer/star Armando Bo! Perhaps not since da Vinci has there been an artist who more embodies the ideal of the Renaissance Man. (Wait – did Michelangelo come after da Vinci? Okay, so then it’s basically da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Bo.)

Listen to the theme song for yourself and tell me that you can get this *&^%$#@# tune out of your head:

The Something Weird Video disc also contains a second feature, The Female, which I was not able to watch, unfortunately, because Fuego so inflamed my loins that I was forced to take a lengthy roll in the snow. It also has a plethora of bonus features that make the disc almost worth buying: three separate trailers for Fuego, each with a different level of sleaze; trailers for seven other Argentine nudie cuties, including the irresistibly titled The Curious Dr. Humpp; two short subjects; and a gallery of exploitation art with a soundtrack of vintage radio spots used to advertise the films.

My friend, you have now read this column, based on my own sworn testimony. Can you prove that this film doesn’t exist? Perhaps on your way home, someone will pass you in the dark, and you will never know it, but it might have been Armando Bo, the producer, director, writer, composer, and star of Fuego. Many scientists believe that bad movies are being filmed at this very moment. We once laughed at fire, the wheel, gravity, the horseless carriage, the telephone, the electric light, and the airplane. So much laughter! And now some of us laugh at very bad movies. God help us in the future.


  1. I´m from Argentina, a fan of awful cinema, which happened big time all across latin america during the 60s 70s 80s.

    Fun fact about the director Armando Bo: His grandson (named after him) wrote Birdman, and went ahead to win an Oscar for it.

  2. May I recommend the Mexican movies from Tin-Tan. They are the perfect awful movie, because unlike others, these have no dead spots. It´s always something imbecilic and against the minimum common sense happening.

    The title alone from this one should sell it: "Chanoc vs the tiger and the vampire".

    Ponder on it.

  3. Wow! Thanks for the info. I had no idea there was a Fuego/Birdman connection. This proves that evolution is REAL. Chanoc sounds like something I must see.

    1. It came out of left field for me as well.

      Armando Bo´s son (Victor Bo) was a lousy actor who starred many outrageously awful movies (action-comedy ones and worth watching, about a special team named Acuario, each with a fish name and bionic ability), and yet his son flipped the bird at genetics.

      The trailer for one of Victor´s delicacies