How could i do a shark movie extravaganza without covering one of the most notorious pieces of “sharkxploitation”, especially if it comes from the motherland?
Italian exploitation cinema had always been very quick at tapping into trends (even inventing one, with the cannibal craze), but even without waiting for a resurgence of the shark movie (Jaws was released 20 years before, remember), many genre directors were quite happy to pump out monster movies like this regardless. And of course Bruno Mattei (credited as “William Snyder” here) wasn’t one to back down from anything.
Filmed interely in Florida (as were many of these Jaws rip-off) with the usual combo of italian director and american cast in order to better sell it in theathers, Cruel Jaws has a plot that basically rips off plot points and characters from the Jaws movies and re-arranges them together, changing just some words like you’re copying homework from a classmate, but have to change something and hope the teacher somehow won’t notice.
So, it all takes in the quiet little town of [Hampton Bay], where a shark causes panic and havoc on the coast. Despite the shark (this time trained by the american Navy to protect their secrets.. for whatever reason, i guess to rip-off Day Of The Dolphin a bit) already having claimed three young scuba divers , [the major and a close contributor] decides to keep the beaches open, as the business would go down and they would have to cancel the annual [regatta] that starts off the summer season. Also, a shady businessman is trying to pull a hostile takeover of the nearby aquatic amusement park.
So it’s up to [the sheriff, a shark expert and the owner of the amusement park] to kill the shark, saving both the lives of many and the park’s economy.
Of course, this wasn’t the first italian shark movie to rip-off Jaws, so there’s something almost poetic in how this movie not only uses stock footage from the first three Jaws movies (without authorization, of course), but also from other italian shark movies by other genre directors, ripping off footage from The Last Shark/Great White by Enzo G. Castellari (over which Universal actually sued Film Ventures for plagiarizing Jaws) and Deep Blood by Joe D’Amato (alias for Aristide Massaccesi). It’s like a perfect orgy of trash, with all the big names in the scene involved…. despite not one receiving so much of an invitation. At least it doesn’t have a “sets from Caligula used WITHOUT permission” disclaimer at the beginning.
Like i’m sure Bruno Mattei (or anybody in his stead) didn’t tell John Williams he used the Star Wars theme, just done in a synth version. And used like 3 times, and it’s so transparent you almost can’t believe you’re actually hearing the Imperial March in a random shark movie, along random disco tunes and other out of place (and probably lifted) tracks. Audio aside, while i don’t remember in any detail Jaws 2 and 3, so i can’t pinpoint how much and from where exactly all the footage bits were extracted… you can obviously tell was this was “frankensteined” using a LOT of stock footage, and editing itself is very bad, with obvious and random changes in the color tone of the film stock for some scenes, sharks that aren’t tiger sharks but great whites, sometimes not even sharks, as they just cut to stock footage of a dolphin. Bad transitions and bad cuts aplenty, and continuity errors, etc.
Yeah, this one also decides to basically re-introduce the mafia subplot present in the original Jaws novel, but cut from the Spielberg’s movie adaptation… and even the rip-offs usually don’t bother with it. And as a “bonus” there is no closure to this, the last scene involving the mob (with 2 thugs trying to kill the shark themselves) it’s abruptly cut, “implying” the other mobster has been eaten or is gonna get eaten in seconds. Then again, this movie also has a “Romeo & Juliet”-esque subplot, complete with a band of thugs that are willing to poison the dolphins of the aquarium owner, just to teach him a lesson…. all because of a rivality that is never properly explained (you get one, maybe 2 throwaway sentences explaining this, badly) and never makes any sense.
Exactly like the slapsticky final scene, following a disappointing anti-climax (as they just put dynamite in the shark’s den, and blow him up without much effort) and then an abrupt cut to the title screen again, as if to remind you of what the hell you just watched. And of course you gotta have bad acting (especially the little girl in the wheelchair), a cast member who looks a bit like Hulk Hogan, even the “good guys” here often feel as dumb and detestable as the obvious douchebags designed to be eaten, and in this case die in one of the dumbest way i’ve seen in one of these.
You can’t get more cult than this, or more obscene, shameless and trashy, at least without going in Godfrey Ho or “shot on shitteo” territory, but this is quite enough to immortalize any genre director, so you can still rest in peace, mr. Mattei, because this exploitation extravaganza of yours about sharks is still quite entertaining, despite…well, despite everything. 🙂