Dedicated fest followers who keep busy virtually every day of the year, except Christmas and New Year’s Day, should now be warned of a new movie jamboree that bids to be both the last and the first fest of the year. The first Intl. Comedy Festival of Torremolinos unreeled in this infamous Spanish beach resort Dec. 28 to Jan. 5.

Largely funded on a budget of more than $500,000 to boost the declining image of this holiday town, the event had good, centralized facilities, a wide and varied program of recent and classic comedies, constant sunshine and nightly partying, which made up for loose organization and lack of many notable attendees.

Some 350 invitees were housed in four-star hotels, and the concrete Congress Palace accommodated screenings of some 50 features, press confabs, poster exhibitions and some offbeat theatrical “happenings” staged by local young hopefuls.

Three screening rooms drew some 8,000 paying filmgoers. Though most prints were screened in the original version (with good Spanish simultaneous translations via earphones, and occasionally an English track for other foreign pics without subtitles), several were Spanish-dubbed tv or video versions, and the morning matinees of Walt Disney cartoon features for kids were all dubbed.

There was an extensive homage to Jean Negulesco, jury member and local resident, with “How To Marry A Millionaire” and “Daddy Long Legs,” and a salute to fellow attendee-writer Peter Viertel, with “The African Queen” and “White Hunter, Black Heart” forming a natural couple. His spouse, Deborah Kerr, was a no-show for her tribute screenings of “The King And I” and “Bonjour Tristesse.”

Surprise guest of honor for the New Year’s Eve banquet in the Hotel Don Pablo was David Carradine, who amusingly introduced Robert Dornhelm’s competition entry “Cold Feet,” a black comedy of jewels smuggled inside a horse, that happened to co-star his kid brother Keith. Event drew a rare capacity crowd.

The competition for features aired 14 of European origin, mostly seen at other fests outside Spain. An informative section drew a dozen of more varied provenance (with Claude Faraldo accompanying his 1973 “Themroc”), while there were parallel sections on “Comedy And Liberty,” of recently unshelved satires from Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland and a survey of the films of the pioneer of Spanish comedy, Eduardo Garcia Maroto, with a roundtable debate between critics and filmmakers.

Keaton, Chaplin lauded

Brief nods to Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin and the section “Five Comedies For History,” however, furnished the most laughs. Latter was the result of a poll among Spanish professionals that resulted with Lubitsch’s Nazi farce “To Be Or Not To Be” and Billy Wilder’s “Some Like It Hot” leading the field with “Bringing Up Baby,” the Spanish “Bienvido Mister Marshall” (whose Luis Garcia Berlanga did jury service), and “The Apartment” not far behind in votes, or durable jokes.

The public prize went to the French entry “Tatie Danielle,” by Etienne Chatiliez, though neither he nor the horrible “aunt” of the movie made it to the fest. British director Giles Foster bravely accompanied his “Consuming Passions,” a farce set in a chocolate factory, while there were other guests from the USSR, Italy and Germany, and a handful of foreign press, and two courageous buyers from Jordan.

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