Welcome to Latsploitation! Latin America is a hotbed for funny, explosive, weird, fantastic, sexy films, and this is the space where latsploitation’s hidden gems will be celebrated, deconstructed, and shared. Picking a film to get things rolling was no easy task, but the Argentinian duo of Alberto Olmedo and Jorge Porcel quickly climbed to the top of my list of perfect figures to start things off.
Olmedo and Porcel enjoyed very successful solo careers and the 40 or so movies they released as a duo still stand as the epitome of Argentinian latsploitation. In fact, Olmedo and Porcel are still heralded as one of Argentina’s greatest comedic duos of the twentieth century. Despite their joined success, Porcel, who also had a career in theater and television, is probably the only one known in the English-speaking world because he played Saso in Brian de Palma’s Carlito’s Way. The duo’s impressive filmography mostly followed the same winning formula: a couple of friends, some scantily clad ladies, raunchy humor, over-the-top situations, and a dash of adventure. When selecting a movie from the Olmeda and Porcel canon, I had to go with Galeria del Terror (Gallery of Terror).
Released in 1987, Galeria de Terror is a classic Olmedo and Porcel film with a few added elements that push it into the realm of the deliciously kitsch. It also happens to be the last film the two actors did together before Olmedo passed away 1988, when he allegedly fell from an eleventh-floor balcony while attempting to perform high-wire stunt while drunk. The plot is fairly simple: Olmedo and Porcel are unemployed and keep messing up every opportunity they get. Finally, they land a job helping a man who wants to set up a gallery (store). Unfortunately for them, the man is also an evil professor who hypnotizes everyone to get money, favors, or sex from them. The two friends snap out of the hypnosis when they accidentally grab a chipping hammer. Instead of fleeing, they pretend to still be under hypnosis to figure out what the evil professor is up to. What follows is a wild, ridiculous ride that brings together vulgar humor, slapstick comedy, and a touch of horror.
Galeria del Terror was directed by award-winning director Enrique Carreras. Although Carreras was respected as a filmmaker, this is one of those jobs he took just for the money. The camera work is shoddy, the supporting actors are incredibly funny to watch when they’re not trying to be humorous, and you’ve probably seen better special effects in student-run theatrical productions. However, the flashes of absurdity, surreal feel of some elements, and unapologetically weird/somewhat incoherent/childish writing make watching the film an enjoyable experience. For example, the evil professor walks around his house wearing a blue trench coat and black gloves, has a telephone hooked up to a red alarm, a mechanical arm protruding from a wall that only serves to squeeze fresh oranges into a glass, and spooky catacombs underneath the residence that are inhabited by slow-moving, non-too-violent monsters. Throw in a few cheap prosthetics, a random cougar (a big cat, not a lovely older woman with a thirst for younger lovers), the Abominable Snowman, girls in short skirts, and an amusement park, to name a few things, the end result is a very entertaining, incredibly cheesy film that offers the best and worst of Argentinian latsploitation.
When it comes to films, sometimes language is not a barrier. Olmedo y Porcel were two giants that I’m sure I’ll look at again in this space. For anyone looking to get a sense of what Argentina was doing in terms of adult humor between the mid 1960s and late 1980s, Galeria del Terror is a perfect place to start.