Bacalhau (1975) [REVIEW] | Brazilian Jaws

After almost a year of searching the digital sea, i got hold of the legendary and obscure Brazilian Jaws spoof… like most of the few people that even knew about it did, by ordering a bootleg copy with english subs on a foreign DVD site, which delivered. I will not name or recommend this site, since the quality of the film was atrocious and the english subs where clearly handled by an online translator tool and/or a person who also doesn’t have a real grasp on english as a language.

I seriously doubt there’s even an official release of the movie in Brazil, and IMDB isn’t helping at all on this regard. It’s that barely documented, yes.

I’m gonna have to apologize in advance for the abysmal quality of the screenshots, but i have never seen better looking images of this movie online (there’s a trailer on youtube in decent quality), and i wouldn’t hold my breath for a Criterion re-release or anything like that anytime soon for Bacalhau, There’s not exactly much demand.

Of course someone uploaded the full film to Youtube couple of months AFTER i ordered the bootleg DVD, no subs of any kind and with the same video “quality” of my copy.

Then again, don’t expect to drum up much interest when you say “foreign Jaws parody from the 70s”, it’s a niche interest, to be generous, but we are cinema buffs, always searching for something new or forgotten piece of cinema to “unearth” from the bowels of the entertaiment industry.

This time it’s a Jaws parody made in Brazil the very same year Spielberg’s movie debut, even predating the Jaws porno-spoof known as Gums, so already this sounds like it’s gonna be a quick and dirty spoof cranked out as soon as possible, nothing to take anywhere serious, since the title does literally translate to “Cod”, which is really fair enough for a spoof title.

The plot is about what you would expect.

A terrible monster threatens the beach season: the cod from Guinea. To catch the dreaded fish, local authorities count on the expertise of a Portuguese oceanographer, a fearless fisherman and baits made with Amália Rodrigues’s records. … had to google who Amalia Rodrigues is, to be honest.

After watching, my impressions that nobody cared to market this internationally… is because they never even meant the movie to travel outside of Brazil and portoguese speaking countries, it was just an easy and quick bout to capitalize on the success of a major Hollywood movie in their country when the iron was still hot. Zero interest on how it would have aged after a few… weeks, let alone 41 years, seen by a random dude in Italy, or anywhere else, really.

Though i do wonder why we didn’t do an italian Jaws spoof, alongside the many rip-offs, we are no write off for old, ultra-dated, cheap and lazy comedies that were terrible enough when released, let alone with decades of cultural distance and hindsight.

So, how did it age? How it fares for a viewing today, as watched by non-Brazilian eyes?

I still don’t know exactly, since i had to wrestle with subs that would be generous to call amauterish: no punctuation, often nonsensical in themselves (i refuse to believe an actual human translated this, it’s too random how some sentences makes sense, most don’t, i found the word “Whatsapp”, in a movie released in 1975, and it doesn’t even seem like intentional trolling), appearing AND staying on screen well before the scene where that dialogue happens. And not understanding portoguese.

It’s better than nothing, but i might as well don’t put the subs up, they’re more confusing than anything else since 80 % of the time they don’t relate to what happens on screen, or do but remain there well after the scene is done. And some scenes just don’t have any (or have subs, but sporadically for some exchanges and not others, completely at random), so i had to guess most of the dialogue by context, intuition, helped a bit by the fact some portoguese words just happened to be the same or very similar sounding in italian. It wasn’t fun to do.

Don’t worry though, you can guess what is going on most of the times anyway, since the movie isn’t very subtle and it’s mostly slapstick (i think there were some horrendous puns too, but i’m really just guessing, i don’t know), and it’s bad, unfunny slapstick. And plenty of offensive gay caricatures (“stereotypes” doesn’t quite describe them) that wouldn’t have feel out of place if this was made in Italy at the time, it’s embarassingly easy to imagine that having happened.

I’ll admit at times i had no fuckin idea what was going on, just had no idea of what the hell the scene was even supposed to be or do, but i was kinda ok with that, since most of the jokes and gags i could understand or desume made me roll my eyes so hard constantly, like when they introduce the fisherman and pretty much say “he’ll be useful later in the movie for the finale”. Or just spout random ass references or quotes (sometimes in english, sometimes not) that have nothing to do with anything, and are as “funny” as the one that make some sense in context.

And i will give the movie credit that at least the creators of Bacalhau seem to actually have seen Jaws before spoofing it, since they have most of the important character or scenes parodied, you can tell they at least knew what they were spoofing. Even if it’s a profoundly desperate and unfunny movie, happy to throw any old rote slapstick routine (including the hilarious “reversing the footage”), do it fairly poorly.

Maybe you can actually appreciate it more if you’re from Brazil or know something about it at the time this movie released, especially if you understand portoguese and don’t have to rely on incredibly bad & nonsensical english subs and deduction to even understand the gist of the conversation had in a language i really don’t understand.

I still think it’s a pretty shitty comedy, and i doubt accurate (or not “babelfish” translated from portoguese) english subs would change my mind about it in any significant way. Just a hunch.

Still, i can’t deny i got some chuckles out of it, sometimes despite how dated some of the stuff is, but mostly tdue to the “bacalhau” itself, intentionally – and conveniently – looking incredibly goofy, just a big ass puppet, easily the best thing in the movie. No joke, the monster is so cheap and goofy looking it works, even if in some shots they are clearly filming it in a frigging pool (like that Brutes & Savages mondo movie did with the crocodile scene), instead of the ocean, whatever.

Shame the rest of the movie doesn’t work, but at least it’s not a long sit and i kinda like the finale. It’s pretty bad, it could have been worse and way more annoying, i didn’t hate it, but i’m quite content leaving the Bacalhau to the same obscurity i found it in, it’s pretty deserved either way, for better or worse.

Still, for the sake of archival, curiosity and fellow cinema buffs, it would be nice to see surface a copy of the movie that doesn’t look like a bleached, plutonium irradiated crap of a transfer from VHS. Not needed, but nice.

Un pensiero riguardo “Bacalhau (1975) [REVIEW] | Brazilian Jaws

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