Sunday, 31 May 2009

Cruel Jaws (aka Jaws 5) (1995)

Aaah! Fibreglass shark head!

Jaws is widely credited as being the first true "blockbuster" film, and although that term has become something of a pejorative these days, you can't deny that Jaws is fuckin' awesome. After it's release the cinemas were flooded with animal-on-the-rampage films, most of which copied Jaws' plot down to the unscrupulous capitalists and exasperated nature experts. Mattei may have slowed down in the 90s, but in 1995, well after the animal-on-the-rampage genre was dead and buried, he popped up under his one-time pseudonym William Snyder to not only rip off Jaws, but rip off the rip offs. For his 1995 made-for-TV killer shark movie Cruel Jaws he lifts huge chunks of footage from Enzo G. Castellari's own Jaws rip-off The Last Shark. Pretty much every action sequence was taken from that film, as well as small segments from the first three Jaws films and Joe D'Amato's Deep Blood. This is the Citizen Kane of people-standing-around-reacting-to-stolen-stock-footage movies.

The film opens with a couple of divers trying to recover some top secret documents on board a sunken Navy ship so that they can sell them. Guys, I'm pretty sure that any secret documents lying at the bottom of the ocean would be pretty much ruined by now. Before long they are attacked by a giant shark and chased into a cave. The angry shark then rams the mouth of the cave until it collapses, trapping the divers. Luckily they have some explosives to blast their way out, but before they reach the surface the shark eats them up in a flurry of bad editing.

Cut to a marine biologist and his foxy wife, who are going to visit some people at a Seaworld-type coastal attraction in the sleepy town of Hampton Bay. The owner, Dag Sorrenson, is a dead ringer for Thunderlips himself, Hollywood Hulk Hogan. I was hoping he would perform an Atomic Leg Drop on the shark, or at least grab a microphone and start trash talking it. "Watcha gonna do when Hulkamania runs wild on you? Your razor-sharp teeth ain't no match for these 24-inch pythons. You'd better believe it, brother!" Unfortunately he's a little more morose than his WWE counterpart, especially since an accident killed his wife and crippled his daughter.

Adding to Dag's misery is the fact that the local evil property developer wants to knock down his seaside attraction and build an addition to his luxury hotel. You know he's evil because Dag's seal pushes him into the water and everybody laughs. With the hotel owner's big real estate deal about to go through and his own daughter fraternising with one of Dag's employees, the last thing he needs is a shark going around eating swimmers in terrible day-for-night photography. With all of this shark mayhem, they'll have to delay the big regatta. No, not the big regatta!

Of course, the evil property-developer constructs a bay-spanning shark net and demands that the regatta go ahead as planned, allowing Mattei to insert footage of a windsurfing race from The Last Shark. This is sloppily intercut with shots of our hero and the property developer's no-good son trying desperately to look like they are windsurfing as they stand still on dry land. To nobody's surprise the shark busts through the net and turns the race into an all-you-can-eat buffet. After he's had his fill of the race contestants, the shark starts ramming the pier, knocking people in like dominoes. Even Dag's little girl gets knocked out of her wheelchair and dumped in the ocean, at which point she starts frantically kicking her legs. She's healed! It's a miracle! Unfortunately she doesn't get eaten.

After this massacre the property developer puts a $100,000 bountry on the shark's head, inspiring a number of unsuccessful attempts to capture it. During one such expedition a girl inexplicably douses herself in gasoline just as her friend lights up a flare, proving that no justification is too flimsy for Mattei when there is stolen footage of a boat explosion sitting idle. The sheriff also tries to take out the shark from a helicopter by using a hunk of meat attached to winch cable, but the short-sightedness of his plan is revealed when the shark grabs the meat and pulls the chopper into the ocean. I'm sure in his final seconds he regretted shooting at the shark instead of, you know, releasing the cable, but he didn't really have much choice since this whole sequence was footage taken from The Last Shark.

Eventually our marine biologist decides to mount his own expedition to hunt down the shark. According to him it's a tiger shark, and although most of the footage is clearly of a great white I don't have a PhD in marine biology so who am I to argue? Somehow he also knows that the shark is the result of a secret Navy experiment and likely to be hanging out in the sunken wreckage of the ship that was transporting it. They mark it's location on a map with a big red circle and an arrow saying "It's here". This proves mighty handy to some mafia goons who break in later and use the map to mount an expedition of their own, hoping to collect on the reward.

Of the course the mafia's shark-hunting expedition goes horribly awry, but our heroes' own expedition goes surprisingly smooth. In fact, they set the explosives and blow up the shark without any twists, turns or surprising developments at all. The shark even explodes three times so Mattei can get the most of his stock footage. Our triumphant heroes head back to collect on the bounty and save their business. The seal even pushes the evil property developer into the water again and you know what? It was even funnier the second time.

Cruel Jaws is more of a greatest hits compilation than a movie in it's own right, but it's worth seeing if only for Mattei's enormous brass balls in not only stealing footage from the Jaws films but also giving Peter Benchley a writing credit.

No comments: