In a sense, what might have been the most exciting event of the Oporto Film Festival never happened.

Fest chief Mario Dorminsky had communicated with Yank producer-director Russ Meyer about running a retro of his 14 cult films at the Feb. 8 to 17 fest. But as the correspondence dragged on, Meyer made an unusual condition for sending his films: His “fiancee,” Melissa Mounds, must be allowed to show the Portuguese “what the classical American striptease is all about.”

Meyer asked for a raised stage with appropriate sound and lighting, and a press reception (executed in a “splashy/fancy fashion”), plus the usual first-class air tickets and a suite in the best hotel, and so on.

Dorminsky’s terse reply was, “We are very sorry that you failed to understand what the mission of a film festival is.” But it was too late to take the listing of the Meyer retro out of the official catalog.

So the fest modestly played host to German helmer Peter Fleischmann, French director Alain Jessua and some little-known Russo talent.

Otherwise Fantasporto, which unspooled in four hardtops, drew enthusiastic crowds (90,000 fest organizers claimed) to ogle 17 screenings per day, most of them sci-fi and fantasy pics. Retros on Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bigas Luna and Jessua also were presented.

Some screenings ran until 4 a.m. at the Carlos Alberto site, whose aged projection and sound equipment left something to be desired.

Fantasporto lined up European preems for such pics as “The Russia House” and “Predator II.” Fest opened with Nicholas Roeg’s “The Witches” and closed with David Lynch’s “Wild At Heart.”

Since dubbing of theatrical pics is unheard of in Portugal, the films ran in their original versions. Although some were not subtitled, audiences seemed to take them in stride.

Running away with the bulk of the prizes was “Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer.”

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