by Kevin on

(preface: KEVIN GEEKS OUT is a monthly video-variety show which showcased off-beat film and TV clips around a given topic.  The shows featured guest speakers, experts, performances, as well as themed-snacks, trivia and prizes.  This K.G.O. was devoted to the subject of SHARK CINEMA, it was hosted by Kevin Maher and Matthew Glasson, as “Kevin & Matt Geek Out About Sharks“)

July’s GEEK OUT was a massive success, we crammed dozens of clips into a 2-hour show for a packed house.  It was a great crowd and a fun night.  Thanks to everybody who took part in the evening.  For those of you who couldn’t make it, here’s what you missed….

MORE AFTER THE JUMP — a lot more…

We structured the presentation by compartmentalizing the Shark films:

PRE-JAWS 
and 
POST- JAWS
(And let’s not forget the 124 minutes when JAWS screened for the first time.  That’s right in the middle, like the 33 years Christ lived.)
From there, we sub-categorized the POST-JAWS era into four waves:
* First wave: The Golden Ave (1976 – 1981)
* Second wave: The Silver Age (1982 – 1987)
* Third wave: The Bronze Ave (1988 – 1998)
* Fourth wave: The Brass Age (1999 – Present)
And those were then divided into smaller sub-categories, but enough of my categorizing… let’s boogie! 
Starting with the early influences, we looked at how MOBY DICK and Jack Arnold’s CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON influenced the story. Herman Melville devoted an entire chapter to the legends of leviathans, equating stories of medieval dragon-slayers to whalers.  So JAWS is steeped in history.  (If you look at Creature, you’ll see shots repeated in JAWS.)
Then we dove into the actual Shark Cinema.  The earliest example we found is 1931’s MONSTERS OF THE DEEP (see poster, right) but the earliest film we could obtain is Howard Hawks’ TIGER SHARK (1932) where Edward G. Robinson does a crazy Portugese (?) accent and gets his hand bit off by a shark.   We looked back at a variety of old posters, including THE SHARKHUNTERSKILLERS OF THE SEA, TITANS OF THE DEEPKILLER SHARK (starring Roddy McDowell as a sensitive young man who goes to sea after his father calls him a “namby-pamby”) and UNDERWATER (starring Jane Rusell and a shark; though the film’s poster barely shows the shark, in favor of focussing on Jane Russel in a red bikini.  Over the course of the night we’d see how this would become a recurring theme in the posters of shark cinema.)
We opted to not screen the infamous footage from Sam Fuller’s SHARK.  The 1969 movie gained notoriety after a diver (32-year-old stunt-man Jose Marco) was attacked and disemboweled by a bull shark.  The filmmakers had placed nets around the boat and were using a sedated Tiger Shark for the scene, when a bull shark crossed through the netting and attacked the stunt man.  The cameras kept rolling and the crew shot spears towards the shark.  2 hours later, Jose Marco died on the way to the hospital. Sam Fuller disowned the movie after the production company used the death to promote the movie (changing the film’s title from CAIN to SHARK, calling attention to their news coverage from LIFE magazine, and depicting the death of the stunt-man on the poster with the tagline: SHARK will rip you apart. 

Fuller demanded that his name be removed from the credits, but the producers refused.  (I guess you can’t expect much from a team that exploits a man’s death to sell a Burt Reynolds movie.)

In happier news, here’s my kid in his shark shirt:
When we got to 1975, we watched the trailer for the movie that opened just a few months before JAWS, 1975’s SHARKS’ TREASURE.  Cornell Wilde’s adventure picture doesn’t have much on the 1975 favorite, but he does include something you won’t see in Spielberg’s blockbuster: a black actor.  Also, the trailer boasts that they don’t use trick photography, miniatures or mechanical models in the film — just REAL sharks. And presumably real sharks were harmed in the making of the movie.  
Then Matthew got into the history of JAWS, with stories about casting, technical difficulties with sharks, and a great split-screen comparing the finale of JAWS with Spielberg’s made-for-TV epic, DUEL.  It’s fascinating to see how the truck is similar to the shark.  It’s like DUEL is to JAWS as DARKMAN is to SPIDER-MAN
Matthew covered lots of great behind-the-scenes details from the first film.  I was surprised to learn that a couple of actors turned down the role of Quint.  Sterling Hayden was the first choice, but he was having all kinds of troubles with the I.R.S.  Lee Marvin turned it down next, explaining that his fishing buddies would tease him for making the movie.  Robert Shaw reportedly said the script “was shit” but agreed to do the movie anyway.  There’s a lot of conflicting stories about who wrote the U.S.S. Indianapolis monologue, but I’ve heard it was Shaw himself. 
Also surprising was that in 1975 Universal wasn’t interested in the shark movie, they were putting their marketing dollars into two other films: AIRPORT ’75 and THE HINDENBURG.  (These two didn’t fare well, but we’d continue to see the influence of ensemble “disaster movies” in the first wave of post-JAWS Shark Cinema.) 
After celebrating all that the original blockbuster had to offer, we looked at the specific JAWS knock-offs (GREAT WHITE, UP FROM THE DEPTHS) and two different adult movies (DEEP JAWS and GUMS — starring German monologuist Brother Theodore in the role of “Captain Carl Clitoris.)

The first official JAWS rip-off (and arguably the first knockbuster) is a little made-for-TV movie called SHARK KILL (1976).  A slow-paced yarn about an unlikely pair of men who team up to catch and kill the troublesome sea creature that’s menacing the seaside community.  The DVD, issued a few years ago, acknowledges that it was stealing from JAWS, but it also claims to have inspired the indie shark drama OPEN WATER (2004), because the last act of the film focuses on the two men floating at sea, praying they don’t get attacked by the shark.  But unlike OPEN WATER, this movie ends with the two men blowing up the shark, collecting the reward money and then leaving their girlfriends to go on an exotic fishing adventure.  I guess in this film, the shark represents monogamy.  (If you do rent or buy this movie, it’s a murky transfer that’s hard to watch.  Or maybe that’s just the script/acting/poor stock footage of sharks.)

Next we turned our attention to general sharksploitation that came out of the JAWS‘s success: TINTORERA! (which features nudity from Terri from 3’s Company)  THE SHARK HUNTER (the Italian filmmakers actually killed sharks for this movie) and MAKO: JAWS OF DEATH (which takes a unique angle, the anti-hero defends the sharks and kills fishermen — see the TV spot below.)  Another film I sat through (all in the name of research) was 1978’s CYCLONE (a.k.a. TERROR STORM).  This is a great example of mixing disaster movies with sharks.  A cyclone takes down an airplane over the ocean, the survivors of the plane crash are rescued by a group of people stranded on a tour boat.  They spent the rest of the movie getting on each others nerves and debating the morality of cannibalism.  The sharks don’t show up until the last 8 minutes of the movie where there’s a feeding frenzy, but if feels like too little too late.  The filmmakers fed cadavers to the sharks, to get some authentic shots of the maneaters chomping on torsos.  On the upside, we showed the DVD cover (pictured) and discussed how the victim managed to get into the shark’s mouth like that.  It looks like a sleeping bag.
Now the most shameless knock-off is probably the most fun. GREAT WHITE (a.k.a. THE LAST SHARK) is as shameless as it gets. The 1981 movie was in theaters for a week before it got pulled: Universal filed a lawsuit against the film because the 4-million dollar budget was deemed “too derivative.” Universal won. But director Enzo G. Casterllari (who made THE SHARK HUNTER) had an international hit. In Spain it was actually released as JAWS 3 and the Japanese VHS box art features the same font/logo as JAWS.
Matthew cut together a killer 9-minute version of the movie, with plenty of appearances of the best worst shark we’d see all night.  The Chief Brody character is played by James Franciscus (the Heston look-alike from BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES) but the real scene stealer is Vic Morrow as the Quint-like shark hunter with an indeterminable accent.  What’s also fun about this one is the way it borrows from plot points from JAWS and JAWS 2.  (Years later, director Bruno Mattei would go one step further by actually stealing footage from his inspiration for his own CRUEL JAWS, the film used scenes from JAWS I and II as well as sequences from GREAT WHITE and DEEP BLOOD.  The 1995 film was released as JAWS 5: CRUEL JAWS.) 

Another tangent: During the show, Matthew claimed that this shark from GREAT WHITE (1982) was the fakest of the fake.  But this super-8 movie shark deserves that honor.)



THE BEST JAWS KNOCK-OFF
Of course the best JAWS knock-off that ever got made was JAWS 2.  This is a film rich with anecdotes, production problems, and horror stories.  I can’t get into it all here, but if you’re really interested check out Peter Jankiewicz’s book Just When You Thought It Was Safe: A JAWS Companion.  Besides detailing the hiring and firing happening behind-the-scenes, he lists some of the ideas that had been thrown around for sequels. The only idea Spielberg entertained directing was making a movie of the U.S.S. Indianapolis, but everyone involved felt it was too much of a downer (and we all know how the story ends.)  
Writer-Comedian Ritch Duncan is a big fan of the sequel, but even he notes the movie has a huge plot-hole (detailed here).
Additional recommended reading: The JAWS 2 comic-book adaptation, based on the original script.  Besides following the story closely, the Marvel Super-Special boasts that each page was done as an original oil painting.  (You can read/view the whole thing here
NON-SHARK AQUATIC MONSTERS
Next we surveyed the other aquatic monsters that got their own films, WHALES: Dino De Laurentiis’ pretty damn good ORCA: THE KILLER WHALE. What’s better than a movie with Richard Harris, Keenan Wynn and Will Samson.  How about a scene where a whale bites Bo Derek’s leg off!)  Also, there was a 1976 re-release of MOBY DICK, its poster bragged “Before the shark, there was the whale.”  Nice try, Marketing Team.

KILLER FISH: Starting with Roger Corman’s PIRANHA, (written by John Sayles and directed by Joe Dante.  This movie was almost sued by Universal, until Spielberg screened it and said “relax, it’s a comedy.”
Then there’s the disaster-esque ensemble thriller KILLER FISH (featuring a beardy James Franciscus, a leggy Karen Black, a stoic Lee Majors, and the fat lispy guy from TOTAL RECALL) , the forgettable BARRACUDA (mentioned here only for thoroughness.)
Wrapping up with the legendary flying-fish movie PIRANHA 2: THE SPAWNING, directed by none other than James Cameron. The new remake (PIRANHA 3D) has a French poster which beckons the original Jaws poster art, what with an unsuspecting bikini-clad woman just moments away from being chomped.   
While we’re on the legacy of PIRANHA, let’s not forget the 90’s made-for-TV remake starring William Katt and an all-grown-up Punky Brewster (Soleil Moon Frye.)
OCTOPUSTENTACLES (1977) is yet another Italian knock-off.  But this one includes a storyline about the phone company’s evil scheme — and an all-star cast including Henry Fonda, John Huston and Shelley Winters, who must’ve been on a Shelly-at-sea-equals-Oscar kick having won an Award for THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE. You can watch the movie for free on Hulu, but that’s doesn’t mean you should.)
And while the internet made a big stink about the upcoming Roger Corman Sy Fy Original SHARKTOPUS. I was quick to point out that the shark-octopus hybrid had been the subject of 1984’s DEVIL FISH (a.k.a. Monster Shark — which some of you may remember from Mystery Science Theater 3000)  Devil Fish was also ahead of its time (sort of) in that it was set at an aquarium — just like JAWS 3-D!
But not every JAWS knock-off lives in the water.  As a matter of fact, one film’s poster boasted it was the “most terrifyng Jaws on Land!!!” (their punctuation, not mine), of course I’m talking about: GRIZZLY (1976)
GRIZZLY was originally titled PAWS (can you believe it??? – my punctuation, not theirs).  But Universal Studios sued and they had to change the name to GRIZZLY.  
There’s so much to say about this movie.  First of all, it was rushed into production and came out in the summer of ’76.  Matthew recently listened to the commentary track and the writer (?) director (?) states for the record that the film is in no way plaguirising JAWS.  He admitted, they had heard of the film while writing the script, but it was never meant to have any similarities.  So it’s sheer coincidence that the film follows a ranger, a bear expert, and a Viet Nam Vet who stalk the 18-foot-tall beast because the Mayor refuses to close the Park.   For further reading, you should definitely read this essay by the guys over at And You Call Yourself a Scientist.  They do an excellent blow-by-blow comparison and help debunk the myth that actress Susan Backlinie (Chrissie Watkins, the shark’s first victim) is attacked by a bear in GRIZZLY.  (For the record, she did appear in another nature-gone-wrong film by Grizzly‘s director,  Day of the Animals (1977).  And, another fun fact: there’s a GRIZZLY rip-off called CLAWS
We watched the delightful TV spot (above) but the best scene of the film is the big finale (SPOILER ALERT?  Is that really necessary?)  When the bear expert is believed to be dead, the ranger and helicopter pilot go further into the woods and come face to face with the furry killer.  The Pilot gets killed in a gruesome fashion.  But the ranger gets a rifle.  It jams, so he reaches for the only other thing he can find in the helicopter: a rocket launcher (naturally.)  He blows up the bear.  Blows it up real good.  The only thing missing from the scene, was the pre-explosion one-liner like “Grin and bear it!” But alas, that line must’ve been cut. 
As far as these kinds of movies go, GRIZZLY might be worth your time. 
Next came something we affectionally called THE CROC BLOCK — looking at the numerous alligator/crocodile movies including Tobe Hooper’s hokey EATEN ALIVE (1977),  the John Sayles scripted ALLIGATOR (1980 — see trailer below), the over-the-top CROCODILE (1981) and the Barbara Bach-vehicle THE GREAT ALLIGATOR (1979) a.k.a The Big Alligator River.
Some borrow a line of dialogue from Carl Gottlieb’s script, while others steal the basic storyline, but the best of them score by keeping the poster formula: scantily clad woman is about to be eaten by a creature. 
Rounding out the Jaws-on-Land section with a look at an unclassifiable monster from BLOOD BEACH. Regardless of what you think of the movie, it’s one of my favorite posters from the bunch.  And that’s saying something!  
Then it was time for a SNACK BREAK with home-made treat courtesy of our good friend, artist-baker-blogger Sara Reiss. Her shark cupcakes (pictured) were a big hit.  Ocean-blue icing and mini-cakes topped with severed body parts or a frosted dorsal fin.  
At this point let me mention some other give-aways from the night:  the first 10 people to arrive received free copies of Sea Bear and Grizzly Shark comic book (courtesy of artist Ryan Howard.)  The New York Aquarium donated free passes (with the hopes that it would be used to see the morning feeding.) 
Back to the pop-culture landscape of the mid-late 70s: in the wake of JAWS, sharks also popped up in magazinesnovelty recordsboard-games, you name it.   The next portion of the show looked at a personal favorite media trend: GRATUITOUS SHARK CAMEOS IN NON-SHARK CINEMA.  That’s when you see a shark shoe-horned into movies that don’t really involve sharks and characters who you don’t normally see with sharks.  

It’s a long list, so I’ll just cover the highlights: 

1. Fonz Jumps the Shark — September 20, 1977, a date that will live in infamy.  The Happy Days’ season five opener was a special 3-part episode where the Fonz and company go to Hollywood.  Fonz had been flown out to become the next James Dean but things don’t work out.  The only way Fonzie can redeem himself is by accepting the California Kid’s challenge to jump over a contained shark.  (Click here to watch an edited down version of the entire 3-part episode.)  The same way Han Solo was frozen in carbonite, this incredible TV moment has been preserved as a Classic TV Toy.  28 years later, Winkler would literally jump the shark again in an episode of Arrested Development.

2. ZOMBIE — a.k.a ZOMBI 2 (1979) The best scene in Lucio Fulci’s zombie thriller is a gratuitous underwater sequence where a nameless ghoul encounters a giant shark.  The brief got a round of applause when we showed it.  Watch it here.

3. A*P*E (1976)  This movie started as a King Kong knock-off rushed into production to compete with the Dino DeLaurentiis remake.  But the filmmakers went the extra mile, the giant gorilla wrestles a giant shark, kills it, and cracks its jaws open. (it was a guy in a gorilla suit wrestling a real dead shark.)  And that’s in the film’s first 6 minutes.  And it all took place in 3-D.  Jack H. Harris (the guy who made The Blob) drummed up a lot of publicity, almost like a bargain-basement Dino DeLaurentiis, he got his movie on the cover of “Famous Monsters of Filmland”.

4. QUEEN KONG (1976)  Another Kong rip-off, this one is about a man named Ray Faye who is abducted by a giant female  ape.  There’s also a throw-away gag with a “Lady Jaws”.  

5. THE HARLEM GLOBETROTTERS ON GILLIGAN’S ISLAND (1981)  

This made-for-TV movie was the third and final Gilligan reunion movie.  Originally written for The Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders, but they were replaced with America’s favorite novelty basketball team.  After their plane crashes in the ocean, the Globetrotters encounter an oversized shark and throw basketballs into its mouth.  The shark submerges and burps.  It was just hungry.  Again, this minute-long scene has little to do with the storyline.  (which is about Martin Landau’s attempt to gain control of the island by using basketball-playing robots.) Hardcore Gilligan’s Island fans will remember this is the second gratutious shark cameo in the reunion movies.  (The first appeared in 1978’s Rescue from Gilligan’s Island.  Whether or not it’s the same shark in the two movies, we may never know.  Second fun-fact: The Globetrotter’s manager is played by beloved character actor Scatman Crouthers, who just two years earlier had provided the voice for Nate Branch on Hanna-Barbera’s Super Globetrotters cartoon show.  So I’m sure they had a lot to talk about when they met. 

6. BATMAN: The Movie (1966)  Granted, this is an example of pre-JAWS gratuitous shark scenes.  But it’s an all-time favorite that totally holds up.  And like 3 out of 4 JAWS movies, the conflict ends with the shark blowing up.

Fun-fact: Years later Batman and a shark would have a “rematch” on the animated series (thanks to Noah Tarnow for pointing this one out.) 

We found a number of comic-book stories from the late ’70s that put sharks on the cover: 
Believe it or not, when we brought up the image of the Spider-man book, someone in the audience said “I wrote that book.”  Sure enough, right there in the front of the house was comic book editor Jim Salicrup.  When pressed with the question “What happens in the Spider-Man shark comic?”  He replied “Whadda ya think??”  Always nice when a surprise guest gets a big laugh.

Ironically, I couldn’t find any examples of Aquaman battling a shark in a comic book.  But the good people at MEGO produced a bathtub play-set called Aquaman Vs. the Great White Shark
The list of cameos and shoe-horned sharks goes on and on, many of the examples are less about cashing in on the shark-mania and more about being JAWS PARODIES.  The theme music has been used for laughs in countless movies like Airplane!, Swingers, Saturday the 14th, — though for my money the funniest one is the candy-bar scene in Caddyshack.  One of the best executed  parodies was actually by Spielberg himself; his explosive World-War II comedy 1941 opens with actress Susan Backlinie (Chrissie Watkins, the shark’s first victim) going skinny dipping in the ocean and being surprised by a Japanese sub. 
But the biggest JAWS parody is the one that never got made.  National Lampoon’s JAWS 3, PEOPLE 0
Following the success of National Lampoon’s Animal House, publisher Matty Simmons was give a 3-picture deal with Universal.  As a joke he pitched making a JAWS movie, a comedy about the making of the third Jaws movie, where a shark gets revenge by eating the people who have been exploiting him.  The film goes down as one of the greatest movies never made.  But judge for yourself — you can read the script (written by John Hughes and Tod Carroll) here or be like a real Hollywood big-shot and skim over this synopsis.
The movie was set to be directed by Joe Dante.  Ironically, he got fired from the film (where he would’ve had very little creative control) and got hired immediately to direct Piranha (where he called the shots.) 

There are conflicting stories about who killed the project, after all studios are reluctant to disrespect their money-making franchises, and the script has so many jokes about the real difficulties that took place in making the first two films the gag might’ve hit too close to home.  Matty Simmons’ memoirs suggest it was Spielberg himself who put an end to the project.
Meanwhile, Animal House director John Landis was planning a big re-make of Creature from the Black Lagoon.  This version would use state-of-the-art 3-D.  Someone at Universal decided that rather than try to resurrect the old 50’s creature, they could use 3-D to rejuvenate the shark.  And so, that’s how JAWS 3-D came to be. 
Fun-Fact: John Huges’ didn’t get his Lampoon parody made, but when JAWS 3-D premiered, it was also the opening weekend of Hughes’ Mr. Mom, which featured this gag about a vacuum cleaner named JAWS.  So National Lampoon got the last laugh.  Sort of.  JAWS 3-D was the top-grossing movie at the box office, slaughtering Mr. Mom.  But two weeks later JAWS 3-D would be brought down by National Lampoon’s Vacation.  Advantage: Hughes. 

So now would be a good time to get to JAWS 3-D.  We didn’t talk much about this one.  In some ways the film is not considered canon. The 4th JAWS movie acts like this one didn’t exist.  JAWS 3-D was written by Richard Matheson (who wrote DUEL), though he’ll be the first one to tell you that his original script has nothing in common with the finished film.

The best write-up I’ve seen about the movie is jabootu’s detailed essay including a breakdown of the Brody children’s mysterious aging process, and a keen observation that the final scene (where Mike Brody uses a hook to remove a hand-grenade’s pin in the shark’s mouth) may be a reference to the JAWS board game! 

Likewise, JAWS: The Revenge is a painful subject. It is frequently notes for introducing the idea that sharks “roar”.  Also, the footage we showed got big laughs for the very 80s use of slow-motion sequences of characters shouting “Noooooooooooo!”  The film was also the basis of Richard Jeni’s famous Tonight Show routine.

Unlike JAWS 3-D, this one featured a couple of characters from the first film and a sepia-tinted flashback to the final scene where Chief Brody blows up the shark.  The story follows widow Ellen Brody (in what would be Lorraine Gary’s final performance before retiring) as she goes insane watching her family members get killed by a shark.

Fun-fact: the film suggests a psychic link between Ellen Brody and the shark, while the novelization reveals that a witch doctor put a curse on Michael Brody and his family. 

What was most interesting to me is that the film was directed by Joseph Sargent.  His A-list credits include The Taking of Pellham 1,2,3 and great episodic television, but jerks like me will point out that he directed portions of the anthology movie Nightmares (1984).  Specifically, he directed the segment called “The Benediction”, where Lance Henriksen travels through a desert highway being stalked by a satanic truck. (see clip, where the truck is the shark. It always comes back to Duel.) So it’s somewhat fitting that he goes from a bargain basement Duel rip-off to the weirdest JAWS movie.

With JAWS: THE REVENGE, the film franchise was officially dead.

The SANCTIONED SPIN-OFFS included the hokey JAWS ride, featured at four different Universal Theme Parks, an the theme park’s mechanical shark would be brought into some movies and TV shows like The Nude Bomb (the Get Smart feature film), The A-Team, and Kevin Smith’s Mallrats.  

And then there were two videogames — Nintendo’s JAWS THE GAME (1987) allowed players to go on adventure as the shark hunter, while the 2006 Playstation game JAWS UNLEASHED made a dramatic change to the gameplay: you are the shark.

These commercial projects contributed to the downfall of the shark; the once-powerful image of a locomotive with teeth became a washed-up has-been.  Moving forward we’d see that sharks appeared in embarassing movies, like a once-great box office idol appearing on Hollywood Squares.

The POST-REVENGE MOVIES of the late 80s/early 90s are the types of projects even a mechanical shark would leave off his resume:

FIRST STRIKE (1987) Comic relief in a Jackie Chan movie. Oddly, this same bit would be revisited and animated years later in the cartoon show “Jackie Chan Adventures.”

NIGHT OF THE SHARKS (1988) Treat Williams stars in this Man vs. the Mob action-drama, we are promised a lot of shark attacks.

DEEP BLOOD (1989) follows a killer shark that’s possessed by an ancient Indian spirit.  However, Native Americans would wear the shark tooth necklace, believing it possessed good mojo.

CRUEL JAWS (1995) already discussed, in the GREAT WHITE section above, the film used actual footage from JAWS I and II, and the closing credits music even steals the theme from STAR WARS.  (Why would I make that up?)

AATANK (1996) The Bollywood JAWS.  This musical requires some patience.  It’s 50 minutes before we finally see the shark.  But the set-up is rich:  instead of the big fish attacking some college girl, the scene begins with a married couple going to the beach immediately after their wedding.  The guy is too drunk to swim, but the bride goes in the water.  It’s a much more powerful scene.  Then there’s a lot of waiting, at one point the theme from TV’s St. Elsewhere is heard on the soundtrack (!?) and finally a helicopter gets involved.  It’s attacked by the shark and then it blows-up for no particular reason.  (Yay! When I screened the movie at a wine-bar, this scene got big applause.)  The finale is unlike any other shark movie I’ve seen.

But the rock-bottom appearance for any shark has to be this.

Hold on, we’re almost done.

The next waves will bring us up to the present.

It would seem that when the shark in JAWS 3-D blew-up, so did the the modern shark story.  We are left with the post-modern fragments, with filmmakers trying to re-build and re-create the magic of JAWS in their own unique way.

The two most popular methods today are the DOCUMENTARIES and CGI SHARKS:

For basic cable companies, sharks are a cash cow.   Since 1987 (the year of JAWS: THE REVENGE) the Discovery channel has made a big production of SHARK WEEK.   These documentaries are pretty great.  For the most part, they know they can’t compete with the filmmaking prowess of Spielberg, so they replace his well-paced adventure story with science and nature facts.   You can find a lot of these one-hour specials on Netflix’s instant-view.   AIR JAWS is pretty great, that’s the series where sharks breach the surface and fly through the air.  (Again, it’s something a mechanical shark could never do.)

But sometimes the documentaries get hokey and fun.  Mythbusters devoted an episode to the science of the stunts in JAWS, where they shot a cannister of oxygen to see if it could blow-up a shark, that sorta thing.  Meanwhile on National Geographic’s show “Animal Face-Off” teams of scientists contemplate who would win a fight: a salt-water croc or a great white shark.  You can skip all the jibba-jabba and just watch the ending where computer-animated animals appears in a simulation battle.  And then the Scientists trash talk each other, like they’re on “Monday Night RAW”.

Meanwhile, direct-to-DVD filmmakers are putting their money into computer graphics and like it or not, we are in the middle of a shark movie renaissance.

The “game changer” came in 1999’s DEEP BLUE SEA when Samuel Jackson was chomped by a CGI maneater and shark Cinema has never been the same since.

The direct-to-DVD market has been flooded by low-rent b-movies that typically have titles like RED WATER (2003), BLUE DEMON (2004), SHARK ZONE (2003), SHARK SWARM (2008) or SHARKS IN VENICE (2009).  The dramatic persona include a CGI shark that appears for less than 4 minutes of the movie, and a leading actor that you’ve heard of, but maybe not seen in a few years.   Actors include stars like Jeff Fahey, Casper Van Dien, Lou Diamond Phillips, a Baldwin brother, etc.  I’m not a huge fan of these movies, but they must be making somebody money because they keep getting made.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the 2004 made-for-TV thriller SHARK ATTACK IN THE MEDITERRANEAN (a.k.a. SHARK ALARM).  Besides having a great scene of a guy hollering “shark alarm!” the movie also features an action-packed sequence where our hero is nearly driven off the road by a menacing truck.  (It always goes back to DUEL.)   Also, this might be the only movie in Shark Cinema History where a helicopter encounters a shark and it does not get sunk/blown up.

Much the way the documentaries flaunt their science facts, the CGI movies embrace the fact that their villainous monsters can do things that Spielberg’s Bruce couldn’t.  There’s a great quote by animator Tex Avery about how his cartoons had to step up if they were to compete with the slapstick comedy of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton.  Cartoon characters could do the unthinkable (i.e. a man jumps off a diving board and discovers there’s no pool in the water so he safely lands in his wife’s glass of lemonade.)  The cartoons were not beholden to the laws of physics, and neither are CGI sharks.

For one thing, the CGI Sharks can be ridiculously large.  Like the size of a sand-worm in DUNE (or the length of a football field, to those of you who don’t read Frank Herbert.) 
In the original JAWS, the shark was 25 feet long. 
JAWS 2‘s shark was 30 feet long. 
JAWS 3-D‘s mother shark was a whopping 35 feet. 
While the shark from JAWS: THE REVENGE was a mere 23-feet long.  (What it lacked in length it made up for in its mighty roar)
But the CGI Sharks are unbelievably big. (The films will often include exposition with one scientist describing the bite-radius or another telling clue, and another character will declare “But that would mean the shark that did this is 100 feet long!”)  Sure enough, these giants can knock down a commercial airliner,  they take bites out of the Golden Gate Bridge, they can swallow entire lifeboats filled with rich jerks.  (Note: That last clip has been viewed over 23 MILLION TIMES.  I think that says a lot about the eye-popping theatrics of the CGI SHARK movies, even though they’re laughably fake, they still speak to man’s deepest fear of being devoured by a bigger fish.) 

There’s a lot more to say on this subject, but the story is (as of this writing) incomplete.  The good people over at The Asylum keep making movies like MEGA-PIRANHA (2010) and MEGA-SHARK VS. GIANT OCTOPUS (2009).   Roger Corman has the most JAWS-inspired movies of anybody, going all the way back to UP FROM THE DEPTHS and PIRANHA to the new movies DINO-SHARK (2010) and SHARKTOPUS (2010).  (Fun Fact: In 1975 one film critic said Spielberg’s blockbuster was “a Roger Corman movie with a bigger budget.”) 
Who knows what the next wave will bring. 

EPILOGUE: BLOW UP THE SHARK

If you encounter a shark, there’s only one way to defend yourself — blow it up.

Seriously, blow the shit outta that thing.

That’s what we’ve seen in all the great films.  I’m not going to post the video here, because Matthew and I will probably arrange for another screening of the show and our finale is showing back-to-back clips of sharks blowing up.  Why buy the cow?

If you would like to be added to the mailing list, to find out about KEVIN GEEKS OUT ABOUT SHARKS or any other screenings/shows, you can send your information to:  inagaddadakevin@yahoo.com 




** BONUS MATERIAL ** 




STUFF WE WANTED TO SHOW, BUT DIDN’T: 


Here’s an extended sequence which includes clips from The Hills Have EyesEvil Dead 2A Nightmare on Elm StreetPoltergeist and TV’s The Incredible Hulk.  It’s a thrilling footnote, but was cut for time. 
Trailer for Alligator (we woulda shown this, but ran out of time.) 
Preserve your TV heritage by watching this great cut-down of the famous 3-part episode where Fonz jumps the shark 
Also, here’s a clip of Henry Winkler jumping the shark AGAIN, 28 years later. 
As seen on Mystery Science Theater 3000, here’s Monster Shark (a.k.a. Devil Fish)
Everybody’s seen it, but it never gets old, here’s Batman vs. Shark
JAWS deleted scene with Quint.

ON THE SUBJECT OF SEQUELS:
Excellent review of JAWS 3-D including a breakdown of the Brody children’s mysterious aging process. 
The original ending to JAWS: THE REVENGE.
Richard Jeni’s famous Tonight Show routine about the 4th JAWS movie. 
Rob Schrab’s NSFW short film of JAWS: THE REVENGE, starring a cantaloupe as Michael Caine as “Hoagie”.
Read the script for NATIONAL LAMPOON’S JAWS 3, PEOPLE 0 (written by John Hughes and Tod Carroll) — or just read this synopsis.

PARODIES AND WHAT HAVE YOU: 

“PAWS” — of all the parodies, this is one of the strangest.  It’s a blow-by-blow re-creation of JAWS, seen in an episode of TV’s Eek! the Cat.  (reminds me of that episode of The Real Ghostbusters, where the team is hunting a big fat bearded ghost who clings to his sled called Rosebud.  Kids’ shows are rarely written for children.)
JAWS 19 will be featured on the upcoming Back to the Future Blu-Ray set. 
Mr. JAWS novelty album, by Dickie Goodman (who created the original Flying Saucers records)

SHARK SWAG: 
Shark sleeping bag (as referenced in the show)
3 Shark Moon shirt

GENERAL WEIRDNESS: 
An all-but forgotten moment from world of wrestling, John Tenta (a.k.a. Earthquake) debuts as his new incarnation: The Shark (courtesy of Brian Solomon)
A list of The 20 Most Intimidating Fictional Sharks, featuring a different shark-themed wrestler (courtesy of Wendy Mays)

I wish I coulda invited this guy to the show.  
Stunt Bike jumps the Great White Shark

Shark board game called Maneater

Break the chain!  Debunk this urban legend.
Storybook LP: Jaws of the Shark
FROM THE DESK OF KAREN SNEIDER: 
Karen Sneider is a cartoonist, stand-up comic, and sharkaholic.  She read a story at the first Shark geek out and shared these excellent resources. 
In this aquarium you can actually cage dive with sharks.  It’s indoors, so you can do it year-round.  I actually snorkeled there with 5-foot-zebra sharks, another harmless-but-scary-looking variety.  It only costs 30 bucks too and we didn’t have to sign anything.  It seemed like one of those activities they used to allow in the 1960’s when no one sued anyone. 

The website of the Shark Research Institute, located in Princeton, NJ.


My favorite website for underwater news about shark attacks, new fish discoveries, anything relating to the underwater realm. 
This guy‘s angle is that we are covering up the amount of shark attacks that occur and mis-classify them as deaths at sea or boating accidents.  He also belives taht the theor of “mistaken identity attacks” when a shark attacks a swimmer because it mistakes them as fish or seal is incorrect and sharks have good enough senses to deliberately select human as prey.  Basically, he believes the media is still perpetuating myths about sharks attacks and the public deserves the truth.  I don’t know if I believe everything he says, but it’s interesting. 
Lastly, here’s the trailer for the show: 





If you would like to be added to the mailing list, to find out about KEVIN GEEKS OUT ABOUT SHARKS or any other screenings/shows, you can send your information to:  inagaddadakevin@yahoo.com 

1 comment

  1. Cynthia

    Don't know if my brother, (Matt G.), relayed this story to you but when I was 9 or 10 we were at the Indiana Dunes and I was out in the water and stepped on a really sharp rock. I limped out of the water, foot sliced open, and my mom grabbed me and started saying "Oh my god, maybe it was a shark!" A few people heard and a few freak outs ensued. Most people were just dispassionate though and focused on the trail of dripping blood in the sand. Because blood is much scarier than sharks.

    Ah, I remember it like it was 31 years ago…or so.

    Cyn