Troma // 1969 // 90 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // July 30th, 2004
The deadliest sharks aren't always in the water.
Troma unveils this 35th anniversary collector's edition of director Sam Fuller's tale of greed, double-crosses, and deadly shark attacks, starring Burt Reynolds as a macho drifter who likes to smoke and look cool.
What lies beneath the shark-infested waters of the Mediterranean has somehow compelled the duo of Anna (Silvia Pinal) and her cohort The Professor (Arthur Kennedy) to risk their lives investigating the depths. But when their Arabian guide is mauled in a shark attack, the two are one sucker short of a crew.
Enter Burt Reynolds.
Er, Kane, I mean.
Kane is a gun-runner who gets cornered by authorities, stripped of his assets and transportation, and cut loose in the desert. He eventually finds his way to the port where Anna and The Professor (a possible NBC sitcom?) are spinning their wheels. The three meet, drawn by their recognition as Americans in a decidedly foreign place, and Kane is lured into a job as the third member of the crew.
The Professor informs Kane that he's after some precious sea minerals (or equivalent gibberish) that could solve the world's hunger problem. But there is more to this story than a benevolent search for sea-salt.
Kane discovers that it's gold they're after. Encased in a sunken wreck, the gold will guarantee its finder becomes filthy rich. Of course, there is the small matter of the vicious sharks.
From here, the double-crosses begin, and the players immediately betray each other for the gold, back and forth, until some may become shark food.
The most famous part of Shark is probably its infamy. While filming the dangerous underwater shark scenes, a stuntman was killed. It's a shame really, that this guy had to give his life for a fairly unimpressive movie.
Shark isn't all bad, and, is in fact, quite decent when the noir elements take hold in the final third. Burt Reynolds is a cool cat and plays a nifty anti-hero. But it's the execution of the film that deep-sixes it.
The transfer is really rough, and the movie was shot poorly to begin with. Fuller may be an indie icon, but his methods for bringing Shark to life are lamentable. Much of the camera-work is choppy, scenes in the dark are impenetrable, and the sound is hollow and scratchy.
Seriously, buried under this mess lurks a half-decent, if dated, tale of greed and betrayal. Funny, as I went in it expecting a Jaws-like creature-from-the-deep experience. But the sharks are merely background, a means for danger, or a method of offing characters. Nevertheless, at least a small amount of praise -- probably bigger than small actually -- should be dished out for the real-life shark entanglements the stuntmen had to endure to produce the movie footage. Nothing is fake here. Compounded with the knowledge that some soul was made into fish-food only adds to the nostalgic awe.
As stated, technically, the movie flat out sucks. A grainy scratchy transfer from what I'm sure was a grainier, scratchier print leaves much to be desired (combined with a scratchy stereo mix.) Colors are severely washed out.
Troma has gone above and beyond its usual meager extras-offerings, and unloaded five interviews about Fuller and his work. The first is a discussion with Jerome Henry Rudes, Fuller's autobiography co-writer. Second is an interview about Hollywood blacklisting (Fuller was blacklisted) with director Vincent Sherman, followed by another interview with Eric Sherman. Lloyd Kaufman reminisces about Fuller, and lastly, and weirdly, Kaufman talks to teenage film fans about Fuller's legacy. Quite a line-up, reflective of the obvious respect Kaufman has for a forerunner of his B-movie exploits.
The film has some bite, but the presentation is chum. Nice catch of extras, though.
Slap on the wrist and a punch to the head. Court adjourned.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 1969
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Interview with Jerome Henry Rudes
* Interview with Lloyd Kaufman
* Interview with Vincent Sherman
* Interview with Eric Sherman
* Interview with teenage film fans