June 8, 2014

Movie Review: The Last Shark (1981)

Jaws has had a log lasting effect on the world of movies. It is generally seen as the first film of the blockbuster era. The movie scared people away from the beach and has lasted to this day losing none of its effectiveness. With that being the case, there have been scores of clones, copycats, and cheap imitations over the years. This movie may be the most famous, or at least notable of the bunch. The movie is called The Last Shark, or The Great White, or The Last Jaws, or Return of Jaws, or Jaws 3, or (originally) L'ultimo Squalo. Yes, it has had quite a few titles over the years.



The movie was briefly released in 1981, but was it with an injunction from Universal that resulted in all prints being removed from theaters and rounded up. It also called for the movie to not be sold, marketed, or screened in the US. To this day you will not see this movie for sale on store shelves. That is a shame. A,few years back when Tarantino was readying to release Inglorious Basterds, he approached Steven Spielberg about screening The Last Shark with director Enzo Castellari (who also directed the original version of Basterds) in attendance. Spielberg liked the idea, but Universal but the kibosh on it. C'mon, guys, let it go, this movie will not hurt Jaws or its legacy.


Anyway, the movie is clearly a riff on the first two Jaws films, and prose to be very entertaining nonetheless. The movie feels very Italian (and why shouldn't it?) and of a distinctly lower budget. There is plentiful bits of stock shark footage throughout, what look like toy sharks, and a giant mechanical shark head that would pop out of the water to eat random people and equipment (including a helicopter). At no point is there any consistency in the size of the shark. It is pretty hilarious.


The tale centers on a small town and their hosting of a windsurfing regatta. Everything is expected to go as usual, but they do not consider the arrival of giant shark. When they do and attempt to compensate for it, the security is woefully inadequate. It is left to a writer, Peter Benton (James Franciscus), and a local fisherman, Roy Hamer (Vic Morrow with one of the more inconsistent accents you are likely to hear, and chewing more scenery than Robert Shaw), to track down and stop the killer shark.

The movie is a trip, poor dubbing, bad dialogue, questionable effects, but for some reason it works. This movie is highly entertaining. It kind of defies the odds, considering how bad it would seem on the surface, it just sucks you with the silliness of it all. Now, I have no seen a lot of the Jaws knock offs, button the entertainment scale, this is right up there with Alligator.


As mentioned earlier, the movie was directed by Enzo Castellari, who would go on to directed a series of post-apocalyptic auctioneers, 1990: Bronx Warriors, Warriors of the Wasteland, and Escape the Bronx. This may be one of his most memorable films, jut for he whole ridiculousness of it. What else can I say? Should you get a chance to see The Last Shark, under any of it's titles, do it, it is a lot of fun.

Recommended.


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