What's the big fuss about?
I didn't get it.
It was 1971. I was in the fourth grade. It was Thursday. As usual, I'd gotten up early to read the newspaper before my dad got his hands on it. Before my dad took it into the bathroom and read it in there. I know he didn't use it as a cheap alternative to toilet paper, but knowing it had been in there with him before I got to it bothered me. It still does.
Thursday was the day the movies changed in Melbourne, so the Thursday edition of The Sun newspaper had the biggest ad mats -- like the one for "Fever".
I kept re-reading "explore the psychology of an animal lover and find out -- why!" I didn't understand the question. Lots of people loved animals. Was that to be questioned? We had a black cat named Jet. I loved him. There was a dog across the road named Nelson. Nelson was loved. There wasn't any "Why!" about it. It was just the way things were.
This film was from South America, a place I didn't know much about. I did know that Paddington Bear came from that part of the world. He lived in "Darkest Peru", a place where, I assumed, the sun never shone. Paddington had a bunch of adventures and liked marmalade sandwiches and cocoa. I liked cocoa, too, but marmalade, which my mum slathered on her toast, was disgusting.
The "Fever" poster was a beauty. It had a very pretty woman from Paddington's part of the world being kissed by someone who was probably her husband. Years later, I would learn that the actress, Isabel Sarli, made lots of movies with her husband, the director Armando Bo, and she took off her clothes in all of them. Some of them were like Russ Meyer movies, although the movies themselves weren't as technically polished as Russ's were.
The film was rated "R" (No-one Under 18 Admitted, not even with a parent), always a sure sign that it was good. A sign that it was great was a mention it had gotten in "The Advocate", my mother's Catholic newspaper. They had a film reviewer, a priest, who would diligently place current releases in neat categories. These were "Recommended" (for Adults and Children), "For Adults" (Adults only), "Recommended With Reservations" (for Adults who should think twice about seeing them if they intend to get to Heaven), and "Advised Against" (films you'll go straight to hell for seeing).
My mum was always encouraged when she found me glued to "The Advocate". She thought I was genuinely interested in what was going on in the Archdiocese of Melbourne. To an extent, I was. I was very interested in what was going on in the Advised Against listings in the archdiocese's own weekly newspaper. "Fever" had just appeared in the Advised Against column under "Tropic of Cancer". I already had the great ad mat for that film pasted into my scrapbook. I was even checking it every day -- just to make sure it hadn't been stolen or defaced by my seven year old brother.
This movie reviewing priest would very kindly explain why certain movies were Advised Against. Enclosed in brackets after "Fever", the following appeared: "Nudity, Offensive Language, Immorality." I looked each word up and could only think of more reasons why an adult would want to see this movie. Why was this guy steering his flock away from it? He sure had everything upside down. But I wasn't mad at him for that. On the contrary, he was doing me a favor by pointing me in the direction of stuff I had to see (one day, anyway).
The South American Bardot, huh? I didn't know what a "Bardot" was, but I imagined it had something to do with ladies who enjoyed being naked. Many years later I would learn that I was half right.
So why the horse? How did the horse figure in this R-rated movie? If you take a look at the top picture, it looks like the horse is waiting in line to kiss Miss Sarli. Perhaps he didn't like the fact that she had a husband. Perhaps the film was about Mr. Horse stealing Miss Sarli away from her husband. It was about an "animal lover", right? And the horse was an animal. So, "Fever" was about a horse who loved a lady who had a husband. And it was R-rated because the horse got violent with the husband and kicked him to death -- or something like that.
I was convinced that I'd nutted this one out. The picture was clear now. The "why!" was there because nobody could understand why the horse was so mad at the lady's husband. He couldn't explain his feelings because he was a horse. All he could do was kick the husband and make a fuss.
Wow, this sounded like some kind of movie. Not the sort of movie you see on TV, that's for sure.
I saw Isabel Sarli in "Carne" many years later. She was a beauty. She got raped in a refrigerator in that one. If she'd stuck to horses, her life might have turned out differently.
I never did catch "Fever", though, although I look for it frequently on-line. If you have a copy, let me know. I'll trade.
What I learned about "Fever", which is a Brazilian production (not a Peruvian one), proved that my nine year old head was in serious denial mode back in those formative days. I guess I wasn't yet ready for the Truth.
According to eye witness accounts from those who have seen the film, Miss Sarli does fantasize about sex with a horse. She masturbates to images of it and obsesses over it like crazy. Those around her try to understand "Why!" Now I know why.
Almost forty years later, Brazil is the bestiality production capitol of the world. More animal porn is produced there these days than in any other country. Even Coffin Joe tried his hand (and long fingernails) at animal porn earlier in his glorious career.
The beautiful wife of Armando Bo, who was not comfortable with nudity (so the legend goes), was a woman way ahead of her time.
Now you know "why".