24 September 2017



This is a French film set in Latin America and directed by a Spanish-born Mexican film-maker who worked in Spain, Mexico and France. It's nothing if not ragingly cosmopolitan, in other words. Luis Bunuel was an iconic surrealist director on whom much praise has been lavished.

Here's what THE NEW YORK TIMES said about him on his death in 1983 at the age of eighty-three: 'An iconoclast, moralist and revolutionary who was a leader of avant-garde surrealism in his youth and a dominant international movie director half a century later.' That's quite the flattering obituary, haha.

Luis Bunuel made films in a wide range of genres from the 1920s when he was just a young whippersnapper of a lad through the 1970s when he was getting on a bit, and most critics and other film-makers agree that a Luis Bunuel film is always instantly recognisable as such, and that in a good way. Ingmar Bergman himself even said that 'Bunuel nearly always made Bunuel films.' Well, there's a lot to be said for staying true to oneself, and he certainly seems to have done that.

DEATH IN THE GARDEN has been described as both a 'rousing adventure and a surrealist tour de force,' so there you have it. It tells the story of five randomers who high-tail it into the South American jungle because they're being chased by armed soldiers during a revolution in a tiny diamond-mining outpost in the mid-1940s.

The five randomers, who aren't strangers to each other but all know each other in degrees ranging from slightly to very well indeed, are as follows. Chark is the leading man, so to speak. He's described as a 'roguish adventurer' who's presumably come to town to jump firmly on the diamond-mining bandwagon with both plates of meat. He's handsome, rugged, manly, an Alpha male with a sweaty bare chest and a money-belt strapped around his rather delightful middle regions.

Djin is to me the most interesting and appealing character. A blonde with soft hair and red lipstick and a cigarette permanently dangling from between those red lips, she's a local prostitute who's been there, done that, bought and worn the T-shirt and then donated it to charity afterwards when she's done with it.

Nothing men do has the power to surprise her any more. She's jaded, tired, bored and just doing what she can do to survive. Prostitution is one of the few businesses that thrives in this little God-forsaken mining outpost. Mining men without wives or families (none that they've brought with them, anyway) will always need women to lie down with. The softness of a white breast or belly or thigh can be the perfect antidote to a hot horrible day spent panning or digging for gold. In that sense, Djin is doing all right and raking in the pennies.

In another sense, she's desperately lonely and ripe for the manly, sweaty, open-shirted charms of the tousle-haired Chark, the first real man who's been sighted in the town since God knows when. She sleeps with him in her professional capacity, then turns him in to the local police to get a share of what's hidden in his money-belt. I must admit, I like her style...!

Father Lizzardi is quite the heart-throb. Literally tall, dark and handsome, he wears a fancy watch given to him by the big corporation who seems to sponsor the order of missionaries to which he belongs. He's come to South America to convert the 'savages' he finds there but one senses that the arduous trek through the jungle to escape the soldiers is the first real physical hardship he's ever endured in his life.

Castin is an ageing diamond miner (aged sixty-eight, in point of fact) who fondly imagines
that his newfound wealth will make him an attractive proposition to Djin, whom he worships. Djin is mercenary enough to be drawn to his diamonds, but physically she's not turned on by the old man.

Djin likes Chark, and one can hardly blame her for favouring Mr. Macho Universe over Old Papa Smurf. Her rejection of Castin in favour of Chark will cost the little motley crew dearly down the line, but we won't talk about that here for fear of the dreaded spoilers...!

Maria, Castin's beautiful young daughter, is another interesting character and the only other female of note in the film besides Djin. She's a deaf-mute with more than a touch of Brooke Shields in THE BLUE LAGOON about her. With a great figure and fabulous long dark hair and with no more than about eighteen years under her belt, she'd make the perfect love interest for either of the leading men, the rogue or the padre, but again I'm not saying a word. Spoilers, you know...?

The jungle, with its unending soundtrack of bird and animal noises, looks utterly fabulous and green and lush and verdant as the five travellers make their weary way through it. They've no food and little water and no shelter, and even Chark doesn't seem to know how to trap and kill small animals for the purposes of eating 'em. He attempts it once with the snake, but that goes tits-up thanks to the pesky fire-ants.

I love the way that the discovery of the crashed airplane provides the little party of five with shelter, food and gorgeous black cocktail dresses (the must-have item for jungle dwellers everywhere, dontcha know?) to keep them going for a bit longer.

It's like the bit in ALIVE where a small party of survivors finds the missing bit of the plane that stranded 'em in the Andes mountains and suddenly it's like Party Central up there in the snow. Toothpaste, chocolate bars and comic books improve their grim situation big-time, for a short while, at least.

The priest surprisingly turns out to be a nice bit of all right, the deeper he goes into the jungle. A luxuriant carpet of sweaty black chest hair, prickly dark facial stubble and a good tall solid physique turns him into serious romantic competition for Chark, in my own humble opinion, and he even puts me in mind of Christopher Lee at times, and I don't say that lightly. God knows, I don't say that lightly!

Christopher Lee is my sex idol. Nothing will ever change that. But I could be persuaded to go all THORNBIRDS for the divine Father Lizzardi. Bless me, Father, for I have sinned and, with any luck, have every intention of sinning again... and again... and again...!

EUREKA ENTERTAINMENT have released DEATH IN THE GARDEN as part of the MASTERS OF CINEMA series in a definitive Dual-Format (Blu-Ray and DVD) edition and it is available to buy now from the usual outlets.


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


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