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  Tanya's Island The Great Grope ApeBuy this film here.
Year: 1980
Director: Alfred Sole
Stars: Vanity, Richard Sargent, Don McCleod, Mariette Lévesque, Donny Burns
Genre: Weirdo
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Tanya (Vanity, under the name D.D. Winters) is a model whose private life is getting in the way of her career. She spends the morning jogging, but this makes her late for her job on a film set where she is told by the producer (Mariette Lévesque) that she should forget about her personal life if she wants to get on. Her boyfriend is an artist, Lobo (Richard Sargent) who wants to break up with her, but she still loves him and they suffer a bitter argument about their relationship. When Tanya arrives home that evening she hears heavy breathing from up the stairs and gingerly ventures upwards to see what is happening - and it's not what she expects.

This strange item of exoticism was written by its producer Pierre Brousseau and for the male viewers it poses that age old problem. You're artistic, sensitive but manly, and entirely self-sufficient - so why is your girlfriend interested in a gorilla? Not a figurative gorilla, i.e. a man who acts like a beast, an actual gorilla, or at least a man in an ape suit. While both man and gorilla become less sympathetic as the film draws on, our allegiances lie with Tanya because this, although written by a man, has pretentions to map out a female sexual fantasy, and that's not all it has pretentions towards as becomes clear.

Well, clear-ish, due to the real meaning of the fable-like events not being entirely lucidly presented. And there's a hell of a lot of padding, even for a fairly short film, with Tanya finding herself on an island with Lobo where they apparently live in a tropical idyll: he paints and provides while she, erm, rides a horse and goes for nude swims, either to build up an atmosphere of heady eroticism or because this is really soft porn with ideas above its station. Let's give it the benefit of the doubt; after much wandering about, Tanya is pelted with fruit in the jungle by hands unseen, and goes exploring amongst the rocks by the shoreline.

And who should she find but a gorilla in his cave? At first Tanya is frightened, but after going back to see him a second time she makes a new friend and puts his flowers in her hair. She names the ape Blue because of his blue eyes and at this point you may be considering that perhaps Lobo would be a better name for the gorilla and Blue for the boyfriend, but I guess it worked for Tor Johnson. Then jealousy arises when Lobo discovers that Tanya is seeing someone else, even if he isn't from the same species, and the fact that the ape pulled the head off his pet piglet doesn't exactly endear the animal to him.

So Tanya wanted love, yes, she gets that from them both, but also security and Lobo and Blue each believe they have to protect her from one another although they could all get along swimmingly if they tried. The man goes to the lengths of trapping Blue in a cage and demanding that Tanya accompany him to the other side of the island, but she refuses and frees the ape. Lobo then plumps for the alternative, caging Tanya in his quickly constructed fort and violence follows. Tanya's Island is one of those films that appears to have something important to say, but puts it across in such a ridiculous manner that its message is muffled. The ape suit was designed by Rick Baker and Rob Bottin, but still looks fake, and the acting is even less convincing, with Sargent ludicrously over the top and Vanity more wooden than all those bamboo poles. What it says about women's desires is anyone's guess. Music by Jean Musy.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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