Jun 17, 2011

[Movies] Temptation Island (1980)

Temptation Island (1980)As mentioned previously, I don't watch many local films. Very few strike my interest and since I stick mostly the stories that I like, it has done very little to add to my list of Filipino movies that I've actually seen thus far.

This one was a little harder to ignore.

In queer circles, Temptation Island is one of those cult classics that everyone is supposed to watch - or something like that. It's a movie that's often quoted for added humor at parties and it's even been converted into a stage play featuring gay men in the roles of the beauty pageant contestants.

With news of a remake getting everyone excited about the movie again, it became somewhat inevitable for me to give in to queer peer pressure. So secured a copy and watched the darn thing with my partner...and thankfully I survived.

Temptation Island is a 1980 Filipino comedy directed by Joey Gosiengfiao. The screenplay was written by Toto Belano and it was released by Regal Films.

The movie centers around the fictional Miss Manila Sunshine Beauty Pageant. The pageant attracts young women of all walks of life and eventually the list of contestants is narrowed down to four semi-finalists. As an added catch, the four are to be sent on a cruise where they will be observed by the judges to determine who is most deserving of the title.

The first is Dina (Dina Bonnevie), a college student who joined to win the prize money and make a life of her own. Then there's Suzanne (Jennifer Cortez), a spoiled rich girl who is followed around everywhere by her maid / yaya Maria (Deborah Sun). There's Bambi (Bambi Arambulo), who is an 18 year old whose debut didn't go accordingly to plan and thus the contest offers a way to make up for her lot in life. And then there's Azenith (Azenith Tobias), who is a con artist who plans on finding a way to rig the contest with her sexual wiles.

One thing leads to another and the boat catches fire, forcing everyone to abandon ship. The pageant ladies eventually end up on a deserted island together with the gay pageant director Joshua (Jonas Sebastian), Ricardo (Ricky Belmonte), the waiter Umberto (Domingo Sabado) and the eternally-smitten "hunk" Alfredo (Alfie Anido). Stranded without food, water and shelter, the group must now try to survive until rescue comes.

The movie is campy beyond believe, and thus it makes perfect sense why the stage remake was conducted with an all-male cast. The different personalities of the beauty queens all seem a little far-fetched and that doesn't even begin to explain a lot of their antics while on the island. And one can't even explain why the maid Maria continues to follow Bambi's every whim when they're all equals on the island.

The camp is further pushed by the limited budget used to film the movie. Thus you get some very ridiculous rotoscoped fire effects for the boat, giant paper mache chicken suits and other odd uses of the budget. Oh, and don't ask me what all that senseless posing on the beach was for (especially with the chicken). The absurdity of it all just adds to the strange charm of this movie.

And don't get me started on the dialog. The verbal barbs hurled by each of the personalities are sharp, precise and pretty well thought-out. Of course to have the characters wielding so many quotable quotes one after the other makes the movie a gay man's dream and an instant resource in future insult battle whether in Filipino or in English. The movie does come that period of time when the use of English was a lot more prevalent in movies and as a way to add additional stress or emphasis to certain lines. The practice still continues today, that I can admit, but not quite in the same way it was handled here.

The plot will definitely make your head hurt given how pointless the story seems. They just seem to wander from one scene to the next with extremely misguided motivations. Everyone tries their hand at flirting with Alfredo at one point or another. They fail miserably at trying to build proper shelter for themselves or to even catch food. And the maid even tries to tidy things up whenever she can! Crazy!

The movie is not meant to be taken seriously, not matter how you look at it. It's strange and sometimes disturbing, but ultimately in a campily comical way. It's funny but not because of the lines as they are taken in context of the story (as limited as it is) but just as a whole from the perspective of a movie-goer trying to put things together. I can't even explain why the movie works, but it does despite all the absurdity. It's a sexual romp and it's an exploitation and a lot more all in one movie.

Temptation Island may have little intellectual value, but it is pretty fun even by modern standards. I'm not sure how the remake is going to turn out - I'm afraid it's just going to be a weird pale shadow of the original. And just saying that out loud seems even more ridiculous! For what it's worth, the movie gets 3.5 out-of-the-box reasons for the actresses to pose seductively for the camera out of a possible 5.

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