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TIGRERO: A FILM THAT WAS NEVER MADE (director/writer: Mika Kaurismaki; screenwriter: Christa Fuller- Lang; cinematographer: Jacques Cheuiche; editor: Sam Fuller; music: Chuck Jonkey/Nana Vasconcelos/the Karaja Indians; cast: Jim Jarmusch, Sam Fuller; Runtime: 75; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Mika Kaurismaki; Fantoma; 1994)

If you’re fans of the colorful Fuller and the hipster Jarmusch, you’ll probably like the pic.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Finnish filmmaker Mika Kaurismaki (“Zombie and the Ghost Train”)shoots this pleasant personal documentary of the 1993 trip the genial cigar-chomping Sam Fuller takes with the cool Jim Jarmusch into Brazil’s Mato Grosso, up the River Araguaia to the village of Santa Isabel Do Morro, where he revisits the friendly Karaja Indians. Fuller was last there 40 years ago and took pictures of the Amazon natives, in 16-millimeter, as he came there in the summer of 1954 on a film project for Twentieth Century Fox’s Darryl F. Zanuck. Sam is happy that the Indians remember him, but unhappy that even this remote area has experienced some modernization though its culture has has not changed.

Fuller recalls he was set to make a jungle film about a Tigrero leading an escaped prisoner and his wife across the jungle. It was to be filmed in the Amazon jungle and to star John Wayne as the hunter guide, Tyrone Power as the prisoner and Ava Gardner as the woman in love who frees her hubby from prison and discovers during the escape he loves himself more than he does anyone else. But the project was nixed because it cost too much to insure the stars for the dangerous jungle shoot (something like 18 million dollars).

It’s a playful venture, with the young filmmaker Jarmusch, donning a Ramones T-shirt, asking the master elderly filmmaker Fuller many questions about how he uses the camera to tell a story. The doc also furnishes footage back then and now of the joyful ceremonial rituals of the Karajas and Fuller explains how he cleverly used color footage shot for Tigrero for his loony bin b/w great classic, Shock Corridor (1963), during a dream sequence. If you’re fans of the colorful Fuller and the hipster Jarmusch, you’ll probably like the pic; others might not be so taken with such an expedient artifice.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”