Another feature of...
Jaws 3-D -
Jabootu's Bad Movie Dimension
Elements Indicative of a Second Sequel:
The early ‘80s provided that reason via a mini-renaissance in 3-D movies. As in the ‘50s, audience enthusiam for the fad proved intense but short-lived. Still, when a cheesy, low-budget 3-D Western named Comin’ at Ya! made some coin in 1981, independent producers and studios alike started looking for properties that might benefit from the resurgent technology.
Soon theater audiences were thrilling to further headache-inducing fare. The fertile period of 1982-84 saw Treasure of the Four Crowns (Raiders of the Lost Ark retread; this one I saw myself), Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone (Star Wars retread, co-starring a young Molly Ringwald), Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn (ditto, sans Molly); Parasite (combined Mad Max/Alien knock-off, Demi Moore’s first starring role), Silent Madness (low-grade slasher movie—er, lower grade than usual, I mean), Dogs of Hell, a.k.a. Rottweiler (the inevitable Earl Owensby contribution) and Emmanuelle 4 (softcore porn). Perhaps the most unlikely contribution was the embarrassing-even-for-Steve-Guttenberg ‘invisible man’ flick The Man Who Wasn’t There.
The three most memorable entries, however, were chapters in previously established film series. Pretty much any series that had two previous movies under its belt found a third chapter being rushed to the screen. One was Friday the 13th Part 3: 3D. This provided perhaps the decade’s single most infamous 3-D effect, when Jason squeezed a victim’s head until an eyeball popped out towards the audience.
Next there was Amityville 3-D, which featured a young Meg Ryan. This achieved the impressive feat of making the earlier Amityville movies look comparatively good.
And then there was the innovatively titled Jaws 3-D*.
[*A word about the title. In theaters it was Jaws 3-D. On TV and home video, however, the movie is obviously presented ‘flat.’ Presumably for this reason, such prints sport the onscreen title Jaws III. This remains an odd choice, as the second movie used a regular numeral, i.e., Jaws 2. This was actually a common problem in the ‘80s. See, for example, Friday the 13th Parts 2 & 3, followed by parts VI, VII, VIII and X. The numbering of the Halloween series was similarly incoherent.
Making this even goofier is that the ‘Jaws III’ title seen in the movie, as from the DVD I purchased, still ‘comes out’ towards the screen as a 3-D style effect. The video and DVD box art, however, keep the title as Jaws 3, probably so the titles won’t look weird when the series sits together on video store shelves.]
Except in cases where it’s too prominent to do so, I’m going to generally ignore the whole ‘3-D’ thing. It’s too distracting otherwise. It must be said, though, that watching item after item being thrust at the camera doesn’t help one keep a straight face while watching the film on TV. Viewers of a certain age will find themselves helplessly cracking wise with the Dr. Tongue references.
Whatever faults you may assign them, you can’t fault the filmmakers for being stingy in the 3-D department. Before the film even starts, we get the old "globe spinning in space" Universal Studios logo. In this instance, however, the Earth and the word Universal grow larger, indicating that they once rushed out towards theater patrons. One of those benighted viewers, it must be confessed, was the 1983 version of one Ken Begg.
Next we start the film itself, which like the others, begins underwater. Our first credit, for "Alan Landsburg Productions Presents," appears in that boxed Superman: The Movie font, the one with the trailing Doppler effect. (Oooh! 3-D!) Cue the classic John Williams ‘duh-duh, duh-duh’ theme. Then we see various fish, swimming out before us. (Oooh! 3-D!) Suddenly something flashes across the screen. A cloud of red appears, and the disembodied head of a huge grouper floats out towards us. (Oooh! 3-D!) Amusingly, the fish’s mouth is still working.
Then we get the title, projecting out towards us, moving again like the titles of the Superman series. (Ooo…oh, never mind.) Apparently never having heard of overkill, the word of the title are also split horizontally in two, and come crashing together like teeth. And that’s all in about the film’s first minute and a half. Oh, and let me take a minute to thank the people behind Jaws III for making the film a good (well, not good, necessarily) twenty minutes shorter than Jaws 2. It’s appreciated.
The camera continues moving through the water, providing us with the classic Jaws shark-POV shot. The main credits begin. These are also in the Superman font, but unlike the title credit, don’t actually come shooting out towards us. The film sports an ur-‘80s cast. The first credit goes to the then-relatively-unknown Dennis Quaid, who in the same year appeared indelibly in perhaps the greatest American film of the decade, The Right Stuff.
Next up is Bess Armstrong. 1983 was for her, like Quaid, a chance to establish herself as a movie star. That year she landed two female leading roles, both, oddly enough, in pictures that aped earlier Steven Spielberg movies. One was Jaws 3-D, the other was High Road to China, a Raiders knock-off starring Spielberg’s first choice for Indiana Jones, Tom Selleck. (Really. He accepted the role but had to surrender it when a TV pilot of his was picked up. It resulted in a show called Magnum P.I. How history could have been different….)
Unlike Quaid, though, Ms. Armstrong failed to make her mark. (This is presumably at least partly attributable to her starring in two such awful movies.) She continued to work steadily in film and especially in TV movies, but never became a star.
Third billed is British actor Simon MacCorkindale, the guy you get when you can’t afford Michael York. Mr. MacCorkindale remains most famous on this side of the pond for starring in the classic 1983 television series Manimal*. Boy, that was a pretty good year for him, huh? He went on to appear in such fine fare as Wing Commander. (OK, this is a little snide, as MacCorkindale’s actually a pretty decent actor. He’s just not, it seems, a particularly lucky one. Proof of his talents can be found in such projects as TV’s I, Claudius.)
[*An amusing piece of trivia: Sixteen years after the show’s entire nine episode run, MacCorkindale reprised his Manimal role of Prof. Jonathon Chase in the goofy syndicated superhero series Night Man. He and Night Man teamed up to capture a time-traveling Jack the Ripper. Really.]
Then there’s this solo credit: "and LOUIS GOSSETT, Jr. as "Calvin Bouchard" " Why the big play-up? Gossett had just won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for 1982’s An Officer and a Gentleman. Gossett’s august presence was beaten into the ground as evidence that the filmmakers were committed to actually making Jaws 3-D a quality film. (This remains somewhat disingenuous, as he obviously must have taken the job, and even finished the film, before he won the award.) Gossett, old pro that he was, played along. He appeared in many interviews talking about the movie’s purportedly high aims.
Sadly, Mr. Gossett’s appearance here marked the beginning of his learning an old, painful and bitter lesson: Winning an Oscar does not guarantee a career full of rich, intelligently-written roles in high profile movies. Lest he thought Jaws 3-D an anomaly, 1985-86 must have set him wise. That’s when he starred in Iron Eagle and Jabootu subject Firewalker. This period also saw his last starring role in a major film, Wolfgang Petersen’s Enemy Mine. His co-star in the essentially two-man feature was Dennis Quaid. It has its fans, but tanked at the box office, dooming Gossett to junkier pictures. This situation mired the actor in such fare as Iron Eagle II, Dolph Lundgren’s The Punisher, Aces: Iron Eagle III, Iron Eagle IV, and an appearance as Commander Clash in Captain Planet.
Also on hand is a young Lea Thompson, three years before starring in Howard the Duck. She and Quaid met on the movie and ended up engaged to be married for a while. Then there’s John Putch. Putch has remained a busy actor, but later moved into directing. Jabootuites might recall his insipid Killer Meteor movie, Tycus. All in all, it’s an impressive lineup, isn’t it?
The director of Jaws 3-D was Joe Alves. Alves is one of the few holdovers from the earlier two Jaws entries, for which he was Production Designer and Second Unit Director. (Carl Gottlieb, who co-wrote the scripts for the previous two movies, also had a hand in this.) Jaws 3-D was the only film he ever helmed, proving that occasionally Hollywood does manage to learn a lesson.
It’s his career as Production Designer, though, that will draw the Jabootuite’s sustained attention. He first worked in this capacity in Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, then a third time for Jaws 2. Oddly, after those obvious successes he only worked as a PD twice in the ‘80s, for Escape from New York and America’s All-American. Trivia fans will note that the latter starred Jaws 3-D’s Dennis Quaid.
In the ‘90s, however, Alves’ PD duties really racked up the Jabootuian credits. 1992 saw Freejack; 1993 the over-earnest and historically-revisionist Geronimo: An American Legend; 1994 the silly Wesley Snipes skydiving action flick Drop Zone. It was 1997 when he really hit his stride however, PDing both the legendarily inept Charlie Sheen political thriller Shadow Conspiracy and Steven Seagal’s hideously awful eco-actioner The Fire Down Below.
Let’s see…what else? John Williams didn’t score this one (surprise). The film’s original music was written instead by one Alan Parker, who is not, lest you were wondering, the director Alan Parker. Mr. Parker the composer has scored several dozen movie and TV projects over the years, of which Jaws 3-D is probably the most prominent. What a sad note that is. As you might have suspected, Mr. Parker’s work will not prove up to Williams’ work on the first two movies.
Williams, of course, gets his own credit, for "SHARK THEME". Equally lame is the "Suggested By the Novel JAWS By PETER BENCHLEY" card. If you say so. The most painful credit of all, however, follows that. For the screenplay is blamed on, er, credited to Richard Matheson (!!!) and Carl Gottlieb. (Oh, Mr. Matheson! How could this have happened? You make me sad.) Meanwhile, there’s a ‘Story By’ credit for the aptly named Guerdon Trueblood.
Then there’s…there’s…dammit, I can’t think of anything else to waste time with. OK, OK, back to the movie.
Back, finally, to our Feature Presentation. By this time we’ve moved above the water, following a line of synchronized water skiers performing in a Water Follies sort of deal. (One of the team is Thompson, appropriated attired in a wee bikini. Hubba hubba.) However, we also see the line of skiers from underwater, as the Jaws theme plays. Sure enough, a shark fin soon crests the water.
Suddenly the group’s newly formed human pyramid collapses and they fall into the water. We see them treading water from below in traditional Jaws movie fashion. Then, in a bit right out of a ‘50s sci-fi cheapie (and not a good one), the boat’s engine stalls. Luckily, though, at just the last second, the engine restarts and the unsuspecting skiers are pulled to safety. That was…too close!!
For what it’s worth, as least this chapter of the Jaws saga isn’t set on Amity Island. Instead, the environs are a Sea World park, a new facility due to open the following week. They actually use the venue’s real name instead of something like WaterWorld, so presumably Sea World and Universal were part of the same conglomerate.
The fact that the park’s soon to open provides an opportunity for much exposition via press tours and the like. For instance, there’s a huge complex with viewing chambers connected by transparent walkways set forty feet beneath the surface of the facility’s massive artificial Lagoon. (Three guesses where this is going.) Wait, are you sure Michael Crichton didn’t write this?
This brings us to Gossett’s Calvin Bouchard, who is, naturally, the entrepreneur who built the place. (I mean, what else would he be playing?) Think of it as an early dry run, well, wet run for Samuel Jackson in Deep Blue Sea.
Bouchard watches his team of water skiers as they return to the park’s immense Lagoon. Behind them, still unnoticed by all, is the shark fin. The skiers go through the entryway to the Sea World Lagoon, and the gate starts closing behind them. This is played for suspense, but loses. For some reason, in any case, the gate jams. (Was the shark supposed to have been caught in it? Who knows?) Then comes the line that let’s us know how much trouble we’re in: "Somebody get Mike Brody!"
Thaaat’s right, the film’s main character is one Mike Brody, son of Martin and Ellen. Yep, after very, very nearly being eaten by massive sharks at the age of 12 and then again at 17 (situations so fearful they apparently turned his hair orange, as he’s played here by Dennis Quaid), Brody decided to become a professional scuba diver, one who now does underwater work at the new park. It’s a small world, isn’t it? And guess who else is on hand? His brother Sean (John Putch)!
In point of fact, the Brody kids end up appearing in all four Jaws films, although the boys are played by different actors each time around. (This makes Lorraine Gary the series’ most consistent star; she played Ellen three times to Roy Scheider’s two turns as her husband.) I don’t know if they’ll ever make another one of these—stranger things have happened—but here’s a piece of advice: Don’t make the Brody family part of any future movies. Seriously, the whole thing with them is getting more than a little silly. I’d say the presence of a big shark would be enough ‘continuity’ for a Jaws entry. Really, somebody let this clan have some piece of mind.
Then there’s the age of the characters. Here are the stats through the first three films:
Film Actor Actor’s Age When Film Released
Jaws Chris Rebello 12 (1975)
Jaws 2 Mark Gruner 19 (1978)
Jaws 3-D Dennis Quaid 29 (1983)
Film Actor Actor’s Age When Film Released
Jaws Jay Mello No birth date provided, I’m guessing he was about five or six in 1975
Jaws 2 Mark Gilpin 12 (1978)
Jaws 3-D John Putch 22 (1983)
One immediately apparent fact is that the boys appear to be suffering from an extremely rare variant of progeria, a usually fatal disease that causes accelerated aging in children. I’m assuming the condition is hereditary, although I suppose its cause could conceivably be environmental. In any case, each brother ages about six years between 1975 and ’78, and another ten years between ’78 and ’83. Thus a ‘Brody Year’ would indicate aging the rough equivalent of two years during every twelve-month period, just as dogs age seven ‘years’ for every human one.
Luckily, medical science presumably came to the rescue shortly after the events of this film. When next we see the Brody boys in 1987 (during Jaws: The Revenge), their condition has apparently gone into remission. Sean, in the guise of actor Mitchell Anderson, is 26 at that time, meaning that he has aged normally over that four-year span. Unfortunately, this medical miracle didn’t make him shark-proof. Anyway, that’s for next week.
Even more amazing are Michael’s circumstances. The therapy that halted Sean’s accelerated aging has actually reversed Michael’s aging process. For when we meet up with Michael in 1987 (as played by The Last Starfighter’s Lance Guest), he’s at that time 27 years old, two years younger than he was here in 1983*.
[*Assuming this rate of de-growth stays consistent, Michael will cease to exist somewhere around the year 2042. Meanwhile, had Sean lived out the events of Jaws: The Revenge (oops, sorry), he would have actually become older than his older brother sometime in 1988.]
In any case, we now meet the latest edition of Mike. He’s the crew chief for the underwater maintenance guys, and a Firm Yet Beloved Leader. (As played by Quaid, this is actually somewhat believable.) They establish that the gate doors have been knocked off their tracks—bum bum bum—and Mike orders his men to get them fixed.
This vital task completed, Mike jumps on a jet scooter and travels over to the where the various animals are kept. After the film briefly pauses to inform us that the dolphins (or an unreasonable facsimile thereof) have been nudging at their gates, as if trying to get out of the Lagoon—bum bum bum—Mike moves on. We see Cindy and Sandy, chattering dolphins in a tank, working with their human. Hey, the film’s set in Sea World. What did you expect?
Mike gambols on over the park’s architecture until he finds Kay (Bess Armstrong—does anyone over the age of thirty work in this park?). She’s in a tight wetsuit—hubba hubba—and riding around on Shamu. I guess all killer whales in parks are called Shamu. Kay and Mike, we quickly learn, are a couple. You know, this place doesn’t seem to have a very big staff. Moreover, you’d think there’d be a lot of workmen around, getting things ready for the opening next week. It’s almost as if this facility has actually been up and running for a while.
Dan and Liz, two of the animal handlers, come to report that Sandy and Cindy are resisting being put in the Lagoon. (Are we all getting this yet? The dolphins don’t like the Lagoon all of a sudden. It’s as if…something eeee-vil is in there.) For what it’s worth, actress Armstrong really interacts well with the obviously well-trained Shamu. Even if the film didn’t boost her career, I’m sure she had a blast working with the animals.
Outside the park, the local press is gathered to watch Bouchard greet the famous adventurer and undersea explorer, Philip FitzRoyce (MacCorkindale). I think he’s supposed to be sort of a Jacques Cousteau type, only played as more of publicity hound. Meanwhile, an off-duty Mike and Kay meet up with the just-arrived Sean, a hunky dude in a cowboy hat and boots. Ah, the ‘80s, when Urban Cowboys freely roamed the land.
At this point we’re about thirteen minutes in. The odd thing is that most of the film seems obviously geared to kids. The chittering dolphins, the frolicking whale, the aggressively whimsical music, the sheer, 1950’s-ish sunny happiness of our three young leads. You almost expect Gidget and Moondoggie to pop up.
We get back to business, however, as we watch a lone diver enter the water alongside the now-repaired gate. (Of course, any reputable firm would likely fire a worker who went diving alone like this. I can’t imagine how many safety rules this breaks.) The ominous music cues us to expect something, well, ominous. Down below, he secures the gate with what the sort of chain and lock you’d use to safeguard a bicycle. Is this how they secure their massive gate to the Lagoon? Every night a guy swims down with a bike chain and locks the doors together?
The guy, who’s sans scuba gear (yeah, that’s a good idea), is obviously edgy. He keeps darting around, but doesn’t see anything unusual. Which, of course, is followed by him being attacked once he turns back towards the gate. A series first is achieved when we get a bloody shot from inside the shark’s mouth (!). This is followed by the image of the fellow’s disembodied arm, the bluescreen lines around the fingers especially evident. This object is seen, lest I need to say it, drifting slowly towards the camera, ooky end towards the audience. *Gasp! Choke!*
We cut to a large, crowded and mildly funky bar. Kay, Mike, and Sean are throwing back a couple. Their barmaid, meanwhile, wears an outfit that I think was featured in every bad ‘80s movie, complete with rolled pink headband straining to contain her poofy hair. The scene features a lot of light profanity, and let’s just say that Quaid is very convincing playing an inebriated person. Again I found myself wondering just who they were aiming this movie at.
Two of the bar patrons are playing ‘standoff,’ a game where the participants face each other, assume a stance, and then press or slap hands together, trying to knock the other off-balance. "Uh, oh," Mike tells Kay. "My brother considers himself to be the standoff champion of New England." Sean goes to throw his (literal) hat in the ring, only to find that the reigning victor is Kelly (Lea Thompson). Since she’s about 5’ 5" and must weigh quite nearly a hundred pounds, her mastery of this sport seems unlikely. They try to offset such sexist notions, however, by having her shout, "I tell you, it’s a game of balance!"
Sean, standing a good 6’ tall, pauses in dismay before challenging his diminutive opponent. She grins, but her expression quickly chances when he proves steady on his feet. After a non-too epic struggle lasting a good ten seconds, Sean says, "My fly’s open." Kelly looks down and he pushes her off her feet. I have to admit, I was surprised they let the big guy beat the little gal, even through subterfuge.
Meet Cute accomplished, the two shuffle back to Mike and Kay’s table. Sean, we learn, has developed quite a smooth ways with the ladies, especially the drunk ones trolling in bars. (And even though Armstrong is a good-looking woman, you could see what drew Quaid to Thompson and vice versa. They both have that impossibly attractive hell-raiser thing going.) Meanwhile, a little exposition establishes Kay and Mike’s relationship as a fairly long-term one. Frankly, if the movie were in fact more of an Urban Cowboy sort of deal, centered on these four, it probably would have been a much better movie.
Cut back to the park. In a set-up whose ultimate finale seems clear, two civilian scalawags in scuba gear sneak towards the Lagoon, apparently hoping to "cop a lot of good stuff." (Like what, a gar?) After freaking out the theatrical audience with a projecting 3-D reed, the two move on. There’s a lot of swearing here, and I was surprised what you could get away with while maintaining a PG rating, even back in ’83.
Back to the Leads. Taking their leave, Mike and Kay head off for a romantic, if drunken, moonlit stroll on the beachfront next to the tavern. Kelly, for her part, suggests a swim to Sean. "No," he somewhat nervously answers, "I hate the ocean." (Nice touch, there, I have to admit.) She suggests the Lagoon, and he goes along. Hey, who wouldn’t?
In any case, I’m sure we all appreciate the IRONY. Sean doesn’t like the ocean because of his past experiences with sharks. So instead, he agrees to go to the Lagoon, which we know contains a killer shark!!
Out on the beach, Kay asks Mike why Sean doesn’t visit more. "He hates the water," Mike replies. "Remember that shark attack I told you about?" (What, he only told her about one of them?) This supposedly explains why Sean is attending college out in Colorado. "If our parents didn’t live on a island, I don’t think he’d ever get wet. My dad, he’s the same way," he offers.
This is nice stuff, actually, and Quaid delivers it well. However, it’s still making the best of a ridiculous situation, that being the Brody family’s continual encounters with monstrous sharks. Again, watching the scenes without the shark, the ones centering on the four leads and their personal lives, makes you wish you were watching another movie entirely.
Or maybe not. Suddenly, we veer into different terrain entirely. Mike reveals that he’s received a much anticipated job offer in Venezuela. However, taking the job means he’ll be gone for eighteen months. Kay, meanwhile, has her work here, and then a job set up with the Scripps Institute. Ah, the Road of Love is seldom well-paved or adequately marked with those little inset reflecty-dealies for nighttime drivers.
Of course, the idea is that now they’re wondering if their love will survive, and only when they face losing each other—the shark, remember the shark?—will they realize that the only important thing blah blah blah. The insertion of this soap opera material seems a little strange in a killer shark movie lasting all of 97 minutes, but there you go. I guess this was somebody’s idea of characterization. They’re just lucky they got the actors they did. In hands less capable than Quaid and Armstrong’s, this stuff would be gruesome to watch.
Cut to the Lagoon. Sean and Kelly (fetchingly wearing Sean’s hat, her shirt and blue bikini bottoms) are running around the grounds in pre-carnal anticipation. She strips down to her bikini—mercy, I’m getting the vapors—and then she tries to lead him into the Lagoon. "Oh, I don’t swim," he answers. However, the lure of Eros overcomes the power of Phobos, and he indeed joins her.
He stays on shore to take off his boots and disrobe. Kelly, meanwhile, begins her swim. I don’t think I have to draw anyone a map, here; this is a replay of the Chrissie Watkins sequence in Jaws.
Meanwhile, in what I guess is supposed to be another section of the Lagoon, we cut back to the scuba thieves currently floating around in a rubber raft. Am I following this right? How big is this Lagoon supposed to be? I’ll buy that it’s the size of a small lake, and that maybe Sean and Kelly are sufficiently far away from them to be unaware of their presence. However, the area the thieves are in is covered in fog. I can only imagine that these two scenes were originally meant to take place at different times, and were later cut together during editing. Either that, or it’s a pretty hilarious continuity error.
The thieves provide handy exposition about how they’re here to steal pieces of the Lagoon’s reef. "A guy in Miami’ll give us $200 for the good stuff," one helpfully notes*. Yes, I guess that really does explain it. Don’t worry, my friends. I’m sure your activities here will garner you everything you deserve. Bwahahahahaha.
[*As Jabootu Minister Carl Fink notes, "Coral poaching is real. Salt-water aquarists literally pay for smuggled live corals, which are illegal to collect because the collectors were (and are) destroying whole reefs." It sounds to me like this situation could therefore result in that long-anticipated Jaws/Captain Planet team-up.]
One guy dives below with a bucket, which is tied to a line. He’ll put pieces of the reef in it, and his compatriot will bring the material back up in the boat. Anyway, I guess I was wrong about the two scenes not being meant to occur together, as the guy still in the boat hears Sean and Kelly laughing in the distance. I’m still not getting the localized fog thing, however.
In a pretty funny scene, Mike and Kay drive through the park and see Kelly’s parked car. Figuring out what’s going on, they mischievously sneak over to the Lagoon with a bullhorn. Spotting Sean’s clothes on the beach, Mike is amazed. "I don’t believe it," he blurts. "She got him in the water."
Scuttling down to the shore, they play a flashlight over the necking couple. Mike assumes an officious voice and orders them out of the water over the bullhorn. "I’m okay," Sean shouts. "My brother works here." Realizing who’s behind the bullhorn, the two rush ashore and Sean jumps Mike. (Luckily, if counterintuitively, Sean still has his underpants on. It’s fortunate for Mike, though, that he and Kay didn’t happen along five or ten minutes later.) This isn’t brilliant stuff, but it’s really not bad, either. I’m not kidding, this movie’s a lot more entertaining in the non-shark parts.
The noise emanating from all this makes the thief in the raft nervous. His anxiety is exacerbated when his friend’s light disappears and something begin tugging at the bucket line. He tries to grab a firmer hold and is pulled into the water. He surfaces briefly, only to be yanked back under the water. This is followed by the raft mysteriously imploding and sinking from sight. I guess the shark is covering its tracks.
Cut to the morning. Mike and an apparently hung-over Sean are having breakfast in the kitchen, while Kay comes through on her way to work. This scene, I assume, is Matheson’s work, although perhaps Gottlieb supplied it. In any case, it’s a nice echo of the first two movies, each of which contained a scene of the family dining together. Putch proves a pretty decent actor, and after Kay departs he and Quaid have a pretty good scene together. It’s interesting to watch Mike and Sean together. In the first two films they were still kids, and their age difference was too great to make their hanging out logical.
Mike gets a call from Bouchard and has to leave to go to work. We cut to the park, for several more minutes of Kay and her staff running the dolphins through their, er, paces. I’m guessing the reduced budget meant they only had enough dough to show the shark for a limited amount of time, and that they’re saving it for the latter half of the movie.
Kay is annoyed to seeing FitzRoyce hanging around. I think it’s because she’s a Serious Scientist and he’s a mere publicity hound. (In real life, I imagine most such workers would love to have, say, Steve Irwin show up at their facility. It would be sure to raise their attendance rates.) Here we learn that Kay is, in fact, "Dr. Morgan, the senior biologist." Wow, she must have been quite the prodigy to graduate from college, earn her doctorate and work her way up to being part of the senior staff at this new, deca-million dollar park while still in her twenties.
Mike is seen doing general maintenance work. Suddenly an irate Charlene, the waitress from the bar, shows up. (Good grief, doesn’t this place have any security? It’s not even open yet!) She throws a bag at him. See, she’s been living with the worker who got kacked at the gate earlier. Remember? It seems so long ago, doesn’t it? Anyway, she assumes he’s sleeping, er, elsewhere, and she’s kicking him out. I’m not sure why she’d go to Mike, though. Oh, wait, it’s because otherwise we wouldn’t know what was going on.
I’ve noted in my reviews of the prior two movies that while sharp-but-believable dialog was a hallmark of Jaws, it was noticeably lacking in Jaws 2. Ditto the third time around. Here’s a classic bit of writing:
I’m just surprised she didn’t end that statement by ordering Shelby to ‘kiss my grits.’
Mike, however, is concerned. Shelby didn’t show up for work, either. Despite the fact that they find his credit card and driver’s license among his belongings (dude, they have these things called ‘wallets’ now—check it out), they aren’t particularly worried. Shelby has a history of disappearing on benders. Still, Mike and Kay quietly go to check out the Lagoon, trying not to worry Charlene.
This allows them to introduce a teeny, two-man Sea World submersible. You’ve got to figure they made an inventory of stuff they could use in a movie and presented it to Matheson and Gottlieb, telling them "work all this stuff into the movie, would you?" Somewhere there was a Sea World tax attorney in a blissful mood at all the extra write-offs this situation provided.
Kay and Mike enter the sub. A staff member alerts the Control Room that the vehicle is entering the water. We cut to this chamber, which proves to be hilariously oversized. Filled with monitors and control boards and not entirely convincing computer banks, it’s dominated by the obligatory giant viewscreen. This is currently tied into the Lagoon’s underwater cameras so as to supervise their expedition. The result is an image, complete with a thick bluescreen border, of a large, detailed yet patently bogus model of the aforementioned underwater complex supposedly lying four stories under the Lagoon’s surface.
The submersible moves through the gigantic Lagoon, providing some appallingly bad special effects. It’s like something you’d see in a Toho picture, such as Latitude Zero, made decades earlier. A couple of large stones, meanwhile, are matted into the foreground of the shot to provide a sense of depth for those long-ago viewers who could see the film in 3-D. Certainly they’re worse than you would have seen in an episode of, say, Thunderbirds Are Go!
As the sub moves past the control chamber, we see that it too is set some stories under the surface of the Lagoon. Moreover, what I had thought was the viewscreen is in fact a giant window (uh, oh!) looking out over the underwater complex. Which means the special effect work is even more inept than I’d assumed. I have to say, moreover, that the Lagoon’s waters are amazingly well lit for this depth.
I’m not kidding, the bluescreen work here is awful. At one point a section of the sub’s forward window noticeably turns transparent and disappears, like parts of Glenn Manning did in The Amazing Colossal Man. (Of course, that film was made nearly three decades earlier by shoestring hyphenate Bert I. Gordon. Gordon worked out of his garage and the film probably didn’t cost much north of $20,000 dollars. Jaws 3-D, meanwhile, boasted a production budget of $18 million.)
The *cough, cough* submersible goes past the large model tunnel-like structure that represents one of the Lagoon’s massive filtration pipes, a subject upon which they deliver a wad of exposition. In other words, they’re establishing them for some plot purpose later. Mike notes that if Shelby died while locking the gate, his body would have been carried by the tide to this central area of the Lagoon.
It wouldn’t, however, end up in one of the pipes, as the outgoing water pressure would be too strong. "The flow’s all into the Lagoon," he notes. "There’s a million gallons of fresh salt water every hour." (Uh, wouldn’t Kay already know that? It would certainly affect the health of the sea animals living in the Lagoon.) In any case, they move on, although the camera stays on the nearest huge pipe and we hear a Significant Ominous Music Sting.
They head towards the Lagoon’s ersatz sunken Spanish Galleon. A cheap shock sting is provided when the camera cuts to an equally bogus pirate skeleton sitting in the water. Of course, cheap shock stings are de rigueur for 3-D movies, so no foul there. Funnier is that the skeleton’s arm is propped up on a rock, so that as the camera approaches its bony hand projects out towards the audience. Oooh, spoooky. Then the camera approaches a hole in the galleon’s hull and suddenly two dolphins shoot out of it—right at the audience!! Whoa, Nellie!!
Mike goes to see if the body might have washed into the galleon’s interior. He tells Kay to stay inside the submersible (actually, what’s she doing in it in the first place?), but of course she demands to go along.
The dolphins (I guess) act like they’re trying to warn them about something. Nonetheless, the two disembark. Here we become reacquainted with a rule of filmmaking first illuminated during the earliest days of cinema: It’s really, really hard to make a scuba scene suspenseful, because by necessity the divers have to move so slowly. You can portray many things with such scenes, including peacefulness, an otherworldly quality, startling beauty, etc. Anything that requires action or speed of movement, however, is more than a little tricky.
So the two sloooowly make their way into the artfully ruptured hold of the galleon, which is strangely well lit inside. They look around, and at one point we cut to a moray eel. I guess this probably projected out towards the audience, but otherwise its inclusion here is bizarre, as it’s quite apparently nowhere near Our Heroes. They might as well have cut to a leopard hiding up in a tree.
Suddenly one of the dolphins reappears, chittering and waving its head to and fro in warning. Sure enough, a rigid one-piece plastic shark soon smashes into the rim of the hole in the galleon. (?) This is a normal-sized shark, though; big enough to be dangerous (they later say it’s ten feet in length) without being ludicrous.
This leads to a ‘suspense’ sequence where our two leads slowly swim away to elude their demise. Real footage of a great white shark is cut in here. To make the scene goofier, it’s been sped up, as if the beast were chasing Benny Hill. Moreover, in one shot the shark has a rope trailing from its mouth. The shark seen in the next piece of stock footage is sans this stylish accessory.
Just when you almost maybe believe that perhaps somehow the footage of the shark will in some sort of manner possibly interact with the entirely discrete footage of the actors, the dolphins come to the ersatz rescue. Mike and Kay grab a hold of their dorsal fins and are whisked to safety. And so we watch the sped-up dolphins guiding the actors, then the Benny Hill shark footage, then the sped-up dolphins, then the Benny Hill shark footage and so on.
Finally, the actors, skimming along the surface of the Lagoon on now-bogus dolphins, find themselves pursued by what has the be the single fakest shark fin the series treats us to. And yes, I include the cardboard one the two kids in Jaws use to precipitate the beach panic. Anyhoo, a big *cough* suspense moment occurs when Kay (who unlike Mike trains with the animals professionally—still, it’s always the girls, isn’t it?) slips off her dolphin and they cut to a shot of a shark that’s closer to the camera as compared to the previously seen shark footage and then, suddenly, just when she should have been eaten ten or twenty seconds ago, the dolphin reappears and again drags her to safety. Whew!
The chase reaches its exciting climax when the dolphins reach the pier containing the tunnel that connects the Lagoon to the performance area. Mike and Kay exhaustedly climbed up onto the ground, yelling for the nearby Dan to close the tunnel gate. He runs over to the panel and does so, right before the shark can follow the dolphins through. (Since this is a movie, its assumed we find the dolphins’ fate of more account than that of any of the mere humans.)
This leads to a pretty funny effects shot. They use a ‘ramming shark’ to smash into the gate. However, the impact causes the prop’s head to snap a ways back into its own body, like a stage knife’s retractable blade. This creates a noticeable fat fold where the rubber skin doubles up on itself. Like the seconds when we can clearly see the shark’s mechanical guts in Jaws 2, this quick shot must have been a scream to watch on a giant theater screen. (Unfortunately, my twenty-year old memories on the subject have faded.)
Up on the dock, still lying upon the prone and equally-frightened Kay (I’ll wager Quaid slipped the director five bucks for arranging this shot), Mike shouts, "What the hell is that?! What is that?!" Of all people, you’d think he’d know a shark when he saw one. Perhaps he’s just not used to seeing such a small example of one.
In the park’s fancy restaurant, Bouchard is dining with FitzRoyce and the latter’s man, Jack. (All rich English guys’ have a ‘man,’ don’t you know.) Here we learn that FitzRoyce is, in fact, the 16th Earl of Haddenfield—which I believe is where the murderous Sir Michael Myers hails from—which of course has nothing pertinent to do with anything.
An attendant comes over to inform Bouchard about the shark situation. The three men head over to the Lagoon, where Kay fills them in. "It was a great white," she breathlessly explains. "Ten feet long, exhibiting a typical feeding pattern." (Typical for this series of movies, certainly.) Hearing this, FitzRoyce’s mind starts working.
"You, know Calvin," he opines, "this could be a stroke of luck. If we kill this beastie on camera…" Smoking a small cigar and mugging ferociously to suggest a loveable, thrill-seeking daredevil, MacCorkindale’s performance suggests an actor who arrived at his room at the Ramada the day before filming started, saw an episode of the A-Team while unpacking, and decided to base his performance on George Peppard’s Hannibal Smith. In fact, if Dirk "Face" Benedict had played Smith on the show instead, and used a British accent while doing so, you’d have gotten the exact same result.
FitzRoyce’s impromptu plan is to have the shark lured into the smaller performance area, go into the water with it and, "at the precise moment, slit his belly wide open." Calvin is intrigued, given the publicity possibilities. Kay, meanwhile, is appalled. She wants the shark captured. Normally I’d roll my eyes at that sort of thing, but here it works. As she notes, there’s never been a living great white in captivity. As a marine biologist, you can actually understand her excitement.
In a nice moment, though, Mike sides not with his girlfriend, but with FitzRoyce. Given his history with great whites, he unsurprisingly agrees that it should be killed, and as quickly as possible. (Oddly, though, nobody seems concerned with what it’s going to do to the Lagoon’s ecosystem. I’m assuming Bouchard spent major bucks stocking it with sea life—a project presumably overseen by Kay—and an animal like this would have to be burning through its inhabitants pretty steadily*.)
[*Back to Minister Fink, whose experience suggests otherwise: "I once worked at the Discovery Center, a science museum in Florida. Our reptiles would last for years, but we expected (and the bosses budgeted) to replace the sea life regularly. Life spans in captivity just aren't that great. Our big tank of rays, for instance, had to be completely restocked three times in one summer. Real natural lagoons support a lot more than one shark. Most of them are under ten feet, but still, such a shark is no threat to the balance of a good-sized lagoon's ecosystem." On the other hand, as we’ll see later…]
In the end, Kay knows how to win over Bouchard—money. This is because capitalists in movies always put money before all else, of course. On the other hand, Bouchard proves surprisingly dense at seeing such opportunities, considering how Kay needs to spell out the obvious benefits of capturing the animal alive. She notes how many people would come to see the world’s only captive great white. Moreover, unlike FitzRoyce’s plan, the publicity and attendance generated by capturing and containing the fish would be continuing, rather than a one shot deal. Dollar signs all but dancing across his eyes, Calvin agrees.
FitzRoyce himself sees the benefits of what she’s talking about, and takes Kay’s side. We cut to him getting ready to capture the shark. He filled a large hypodermic needle with the tranquilizer, which is used to load the drug into a dart. Naturally when he squeezes the air out of the needle, a stream of fluid shoots right into the audience! Whooaaa!!
Kay notices FitzRoyce’s bright red wetsuit. "The color of your wetsuit’s one hell of a choice," she opines. "The shark’s gonna love you." In point of fact, that’s correct, sharks aren’t colorblind. Kay is going in too, although she’s wearing a chain mail anti-shark suit. Mike is naturally concerned for her—again, consider his history—and asks if the suit will really protect her. FitzRoyce provides the answer she avoids giving. "It won’t bite through," he explains, "but it will yield to pressure." And sharks, of course, exert a lot of pressure when biting. So they got this right as well, although I found it a little insulting that any intelligent adult, like Mike, would need this explained to him.
In an obvious Expository Moment, FitzRoyce attaches two ‘Mills bombs," or grenades, to his belt. (Mills bombs, named for Sir Williams Mills, were the standard British grenade in WWI.) "Baby claymores," he explains, although claymores are mines, not grenades. "Good horizontal dispersion." Just in case, you know.
This info doesn’t sound entirely correct to me, although I’m no expert on ordnance. And why use a seventy-year-old grenade design, at that? (Now, if you’re talking pistols, it would be because Webley revolvers and Broomhandle Mauser semi-autos still look totally bitchin’.) FitzRoyce does note that he has them made for him, so I guess they could be modified to his design.
Actually, in the end they make him leave the grenades topside, so it doesn’t matter anyway. At least until later in the movie, one supposes.
The whole crew motors out onto the Lagoon on a sort of mobile barge/platform. Some of the real-life equipment here is pretty interesting. It sports a border of underwater lights, which realistically might draw the shark to them. (Killing a fish or just thrashing in the water would, you’d think, do as well or better.)
Kay, FitzRoyce and Jack go into the water. Bouchard, meanwhile, is monitoring the situation down in the comically large control room. Kay has a bang-stick loaded with drugs. Up on the platform surface, Mike waits with a high-powered crossbow that fires a dart with a length of rope attached. (He’d have to be quite a marksman to hit something as small as a fin, moving through the water in the dark. I suppose his dad might have taught him to shoot, but still.)
This actually isn’t a bad little sequence. Going underwater to draw a potentially man-eating shark to you, even a normal-sized one, is an undeniably anxious situation. In any case, this is probably the film’s most effective shark-related sequence. (Of course, since the others tend to be laugh-out-loud funny, that’s not saying much.)
Of course, the shark suddenly smacks into Kay’s back while she’s being filmed in a tight shot. The effect is somewhat ruined because they’re using that rigid fiberglass fish I mentioned earlier, which is patently being shoved at her by an off-camera prop guy. The shark gets a grip on her scuba gear and starts pulling her away.
FitzRoyce comes to the rescue with a knife he draws from an ankle sheath. (That’s what he brought to the party? Just like a Brit, bringing a knife to a shark fight.) He taps the prop shark on its sensitive nose, and it disengages, turning briefly back into the Benny Hill Sped-Up Stock Footage Shark.
The shark runs for it, although for some reason (IITS) it surfaces to do this rather than diving deeper into the water. The divers pop up, yelling for Mike to hurry up and shoot it with the crossbow dart. Of course, the crossbow won’t work at first—I think maybe he had the safety on, although I couldn’t say for sure—but it fires a second later. This is probably the film’s most fun 3-D shot: Mike, against a totally black background, firing a dart that travels towards the camera on a quite evident wire, like when Moe tossed a cake during one of the 3-D Three Stooges shorts.
The way the scene is filmed, it would obviously take a miraculous shot to tag the projecting shark fin in this light and at the sizeable distance indicated, but of course, Mike provides one. A large red ball attached to the line indicates the shark’s position. (This, naturally, is a nod to the yellow barrels Quint used so prominently in the first movie.)
We cut back to the Benny Hill shark. I really have to wonder, whose idea was that? It’s really a dumb one, and the hyperkinetic fish provokes laughter every time we see it. I understand the problem they were facing. As I noted before, things generally move slowly enough underwater so as to at least somewhat denude them of menace.
However, in this case the cure is definitely worse than the disease. It’s not so much that they tried it—although I don’t think there’s one example in the history of film in which audiences were ever fooled by sped-up film—but that they left it in the film after seeing how it looked. I’m sure the makers of this chapter were victimized by a cruelly-small budget, but still, you don’t have to actively shoot yourself in the foot, either.
In any case, the shark swims right back over Kay, for no apparent reason, and she sticks the dart in it. The divers return to the platform, and eventually haul the shark up via the rope line. Setting it in a sling, they move it to a tank in a park’s research lab.
I’m not sure how they’d keep the shark from suffocating during the transportation process, not to mention after they knocked it out. Most sharks, including great whites, derive their oxygen by driving water through their gills while swimming. Dolphins and whales can be transported this way because they’re mammals and have lungs. This is probably partly why there’s never been a successfully live-captured great white.
Once in the tank, Kay and Liz, one of her subordinates, begin walking it around, trying to oxygenate the fish and bring it around. (By the way, how did they guess the proper dosage of the tranquiller?) This is the procedure that would be used in such situations. Despite this, though, this is not one of the film’s better moments. It provides us an entirely too good of a look at the rigid fiberglass shark, which is most definitely not enhancing our suspension of disbelief. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love dearly to have this thing decorating my house, but frighteningly realistic it ain’t.
Mike appears. Kay supposedly has been spending all her time with the shark, and he’s lonely. That sounds a little needy. How long could the shark remain moribund without kicking the chum bucket? Ten hours? Less, I’d think. Certainly it couldn’t be days or anything. If Mike gets "lonely" after two or three hours, then this relationship is a Lifetime Movie of the Week waiting to happen.
The two begin walking the shark around and it quickly comes to *cough, cough* life. (Maybe it’s equipped with some primordial instinct that alerts all sharks when there’s a Brody is in the area.) Since we can see the entire length of the prop shark, there’s no way for a grip to shove it their way, and so Mike and Kay get out of the tank unscathed.
Kay gloats about having the only living great white in captivity. Of course, catching ‘em is one thing; keeping ‘em alive, another. "Don’t do anything that's gonna traumatize him," she warns. Needless to say, this is setting up a later incident.
We cut to the performance of a jet-skier, heralding the park’s opening day. He goes up one of those ramps. We cut to the other side to watch him burst through a banner and fly towards the camera. It’s 3-Delightful! Meanwhile, a mob of kids is being escorted through the facility by a big fuzzy Killer Whale mascot.
We blow some running time watching more of this stuff. Look at the water skier! Look at the leaping dolphins! Look at the leaping Shamu! Look at the splashing water hitting the camera! It’s a 3-Drenching!
This again raises the issue of the movie’s basic schizophrenia. The bright, cheery Sea World material could be from a typical ‘60s Disney live-actioner. I kept waiting for Alonzo Hawk to show up talking about an upcoming mortgage payment and plans to take over the park. The earlier beer-swilling and sex stuff, meanwhile, is right out of a slice-of-life character drama, albeit in this case a PG one. Then there’s, oh, yeah, the shark and all. What the heck? Try to be all things to all people and you end up pleasing no one.
Leonard the Flunky runs up to consult with Bouchard. Ticket sales are tremendous. However, the ballyhooed shark is still confined in the research area. Bouchard orders the animal to be moved to a public display tank. Leonard is confused, because they were supposed to wait for Kay to assent to this. Bouchard does one of those "I’m the boss," things and the order is given.
There are no doubt some regular visitors to the Jabootu site who have tired of me harping on Hollywood’s lame portrayals of businessmen. However, what am I to do? Such characters in the vast majority of films cover a dynamic gamut ranging from ‘A’ (blindly greedy) all the way to ‘B’ (positively evil). I guess the film deserves some credit for having Bouchard fall into the less frequently employed ‘A’ category. I suspect, however, that this decision reflected mostly their disinclination to have their (at that time) potential Oscar winner playing a completely bad guy.
Even with that stipulation, this scene illustrates another common characteristic of movie businessmen: They’re unbelievably stupid. The implication is that Bouchard runs the other Sea Worlds. Even if that’s not true, he’s supposedly a sharp operator. Yet in movies, such characters spend good money bringing in these experts, only to turn down their counsel on an almost-uniform basis.
Even a man of average intelligence (and presumably Bouchard’s smarter than that, if he’s amassed this fortune) would realize how fragile the shark’s health might be at this point. But, of course he orders the animal brought out to a public tank the moment his head biologist has her back turned. How is it even possible he would do something so stupid, only mere days after the fish was captured?
Beside, wouldn’t it make fiscal sense to wait? Wouldn’t you want a hugely publicized unveiling of the shark? Wouldn’t you want time to arrange for masses of news coverage, to bring in scientists and celebrities? Wouldn’t you want to arrange to have T-shirts and model sharks and other merchandise to sell? Besides, obviously you’re going to sell a huge number of tickets the week the park opens. Wouldn’t you want to save something to bolster public attendance after the initial flurry of visitors had subsided?
Oh, well, enough beating my head against that wall again. In any case, we cut to more water-skier action. Man, you just can’t get enough of that sort of thing. You can’t! That’s why they make all those movies that basically just show you two straight hours of acrobatic water skiing, because it’s just that thrilling! Then we cut to dancers in garish amusement park costumes—including one in a pig (?) mascot outfit—performing a stylized square dance. Man, if that doesn’t say ‘Sea World,’ then I don’t know what does. Then it’s back to the water skiers! How much excitement can one person take?!
Then we follow as some pretty teen girls enter the underwater tunnel complex. This involves some extras walking around and looking up at some of the worst bluescreen effects of the last thirty years or more. I’m not kidding, this is really appalling stuff.
They reach a sort of underwater haunted house chamber. An animatronic eel shoots out of the wall. Oooh! Aaaah! Then an ersatz tentacle wraps around one of them. Aaaah! Oooh!
Next we cut to Kay and Mike feeding the dolphins. They’re discussing his leaving for Venezuela again. Man, you can fit a whole lot o’ padding in a 98-minute movie, can’t you? Anyway, this is thankfully a brief bit, although that makes it all the more pointless. Nor was I much reassured by the line, "You and I are going to have to have a serious conversation some time, about what’s really going on." What, again?!
Anyhoo, Mike is called away. Then Kay hears an announcement over the PA system that the shark’s available for viewing. Needless to say, she sprints off angrily. (Again, you have a world-exclusive attraction, and you announce it’s opening over the PA system?! And here’s an idea: Maybe you’d want to set this amazing attraction off somewhere so you could sell tickets to see it! Morons. The filmmakers, not Bouchard. Well, OK, yes, Bouchard. But only because the filmmakers made him such an idiot.)
Cue segue to the indicated venue, where the shark has indeed been put in the display tank Bouchard indicated. I seem to remember this sight prompting a number of audience guffaws, because we cut to about the most idiotic display tank for a dangerous shark imaginable.
It’s not the traditional contained tank surrounded by Plexiglas walls to allow for unimpeded viewing. Instead, and I’m not joking, it’s a viewing pool with walls standing maybe knee-high to an adult. (I’m assuming the pool itself is sunken to some extent.) Here’s the best part, however: The wall is completely devoid of guardrails!
Good grief, this thing’s a lawsuit waiting to happen! Imagine some moron sticking his hand into the water and getting it bitten off. Imagine a kid climbing up on the wall for a better look, and falling in. Hell, the wall’s so low you could fall in by just leaning forward and being nudged by the people behind you.
So why would the filmmakers use such a patently inappropriate, not to mention retarded, location for this sequence? First, because this scene once more features the rigid fiberglass shark. This prop is clearly propelled by some human agency, and the normal sort of tank with transparent walls would make this much harder to disguise.
Second, it’s so that Kay can run up and dramatically jump into the tank when the guy lets go of the prop and it floats on its side to indicate the shark’s demise. (If you watch Armstrong after she pretends to walk the shark for a bit, she actually manually turns the prop with her hands and then holds it in the traditional upside-down dead fish position. I’m not kidding, this prop doesn’t do anything.)
FitzRoyce shows up in time to witness this tragic event. Well, there you go. She warned her staff not to traumatize the shark. Boy, Bouchard’s going to feel pretty stupid now, what with flushing this multi-million dollar attraction down the drain. Oopsie-doopsie.
By the way, is it good publicity for your Sea World facility to have several dozen customers watch the park’s most prized exhibition literally die before their eyes? I’m not a businessman, and let me be very clear on that, but I wouldn’t have thought so.
Also, Kay’s reaction is to be sad. That isn’t right. What she should be is monumentally pissed off. I don’t know how binding her contract is—she notes at one point that she has six months left on the job—but I can’t imagine she wouldn’t immediately storm over to wherever Calvin is (and why wasn’t he watching their valuable new exhibit, or at least the crowds around it?) and give him first a piece of her mind and then her notice. That he ignored her advice on such a matter, and in such a peremptory fashion, would constitute about the worst insult he could deliver to her.
Cut over to Sean and Kelly. She’s leading him to the ‘bumper boats’ found in a small section of the Lagoon. Sean resists going into the water again, but she goads him into it. (You’d think that after they already found a potentially man-eating shark in the Lagoon’s waters, he’d protest more vehemently. Ah, the things we do for love.)
Back to Davy Jones’ Locker o’ Bad Bluescreen Effects. The previously seen young ladies are looking out some portals at the myriad fish and such. Gazing upon a rather normal gray fish, one notes that it "looks like a butterfly." (??) I’m assuming the script called for a more colorful fish to appear in the window at this juncture, but they didn’t get around to arranging it. However, you’d think they have the wit to rewrite the line, or loop over it later.
Round about the third port window the camera zooms in on, a prop representing the missing worker’s decayed, mutilated body drifts right up against the pane. It’s 3-Decomposition! In a truly weird moment, we cut to a close-up of somebody’s hand. It presses against the back of one of the girls, pushing her face against the pane opposite the corpse’s. What the heck is happening there?
Cut to the facility lab. The worker’s body has been brought there for examination. (Never at any point from here to the end of the movie do we get any indication that any outside authorities have been called in. Wouldn’t the body obligate them to do so? You’d think.) They pull the sheet back—its fabric is speckled and splotched with blood, which seems a little unlikely given the circumstances—revealing a surprisingly gruesome prop corpse.
Kay steps forward to examine the body, over Mike’s protests. Why the hell would she be examining the body? Again, where are the cops and someone from the coroner’s office? Gazing upon the massive wound that trails down from the shoulder (I guess the shark was traveling sideways when it hit), she’s shocked nearly speechless. Presumably referring to the bite radius indicated by the wound, she holds her hands about a yard apart. She and Mike than run off to find Bouchard.
Of course, this is when the real shark independently reveals its presence. (What, you thought they would base a Jaws movie on a measly ten-foot shark? One that dies forty minutes before the movie is over? C’mon, weren’t you paying attention when I wrote about the Little Shark?) This occurs when the Control Room finally notices some strange readings from the massive filtration pipe.
That, of course, is where the real shark has been hiding all this time. See, the water pushing through the pipe would allow the shark to stay put and still breathe. I guess that would allow it to lower its metabolism, explaining first why there’s any fish left in the Lagoon and why no one’s seen the big shark yet. As we’ll see, this thing couldn’t move around much and remain unseen.
Economically, this all makes sense. The film’s reduced budget would have only allowed them so much Big Shark action. Thus, like many a ‘50s sci-fi cheapie, which the film will increasingly resemble from here on out, they contrived to save showing their monster until the latter part of the film, to provide for a (supposedly) cool climax.
Meanwhile, Bouchard is showing FitzRoyce and Jack the park’s pretty nifty underwater restaurant. The waters outside the large bay windows boast a number of sharks. FitzRoyce asks how they are contained. Bouchard explains that there’s a bubble barrier; the sharks don’t like the bubbles and steer clear of it. I’m not sure if that’s valid or not, but we’ll see why they set this up in just a bit. Anyway, he gets a call from Flunky Leonard about the possibly malfunctioning pump and orders it shut down until it can be examined.
We cut to the pipe, and espy a big shark tail inside the structure, cueing Williams’ Shark Theme. As the hum of the pump stops, the tail begins agitating, and we see that the beast seems to be moving outside. (Actually, this impossible; great white sharks can’t move backwards because their fins are inflexible. By swinging her tail back and forth, the shark would just be causing its head to smack into the front wall of the pipe.)
Back in the restaurant, Kay and Mike hurriedly arrive. Kay delivers her news, intercut with shots of the Big Shark extricating itself from the filtration pipe. This film, presumably as an economy measure, not to mention the demands of working in 3-D, generally uses a miniature model (which I imagine still could have been fairly large) of the Big Shark rather than the life-sized props utilized by its predecessors. There’s also, naturally, a full-sized shark head used to interact with the actors.
Although these props remain primitive compared to the ones in the previous films, which themselves were the subject of carping from some corners, it does do a couple of tricks. I know, because we are treated to seeing them again and again. First, no doubt to the delight of Lyz Kingsley, this is the first fake shark in a Jaws movie whose lips draw back to expose its teeth, as those of a real shark can.
Second is that the prop’s tail can undulate back and forth. This effect cannot really be called convincing, especially given the way the mechanics visibly move under shark’s apparent foam rubber skin. Instead, it suggests something on the order of a toy shark sold in the ‘70s to menace G.I. Joe, one which possesses an advertised "Powerful Swimming Action" to counter the bearded war hero’s awesome Kung Fu Grip.
Kay, meanwhile, is answering Bouchard’s query about what killed the worker. "It was a shark," she explains, "with a bite radius about a yard across." FitzRoyce is understandably incredulous. "Don’t be silly," he snorts. "That would indicate a shark of some 35 feet in length*." Kay concurs. "You said it exactly," she answers. What I found impressive is that way even two sorta-experts can instantly extrapolate a bite radius into an entirely body length. I wonder if they could convert the figures into metric ones as ably?
[*This fact will not surprise the more analytical viewers of Jaws 2. As I noted in my review of that film, they rather comically gave that film’s 25-foot great white facial burn scars in an attempt to make it look ‘scarier’ than the first film’s more prosaic 25-foot great white.
This film is also trying to ‘top’ the earlier sharks, by making its main menace even more ludicrously huge. Of course, this is silly. Why being eaten by an impossibly-gigantic 35-foot shark would be more terrifying than being consumed by a merely highly-improbable 25-footer remains unexplained.
Now, let me be clear: I am not a professional filmmaker. However, this would be my advice to those making any future sequels to Jaws: If you concentrate on producing a film as well-made as Spielberg’s, you probably can skip trying to figure out whether your particular shark should be equipped with poisonous metal teeth or Kung Fu Grip.]
After relating the beast’s enormous size, Kay drops a bombshell, which is that the big shark is…are you ready?…bum bum bum!…the little shark’s mother!! Well, OK, that’s less a bombshell than a limp firecracker. Still, it’s played up quite a bit. You might also be wondering what exactly lead her to that conclusion. I guess it’s just the sort of thing a woman would ‘know.’ Either that, or she’s seen Gorgo.
The others continue to scoff, however. Not for long, though, as we next get one of the film’s endearingly goofy shots: A POV of the Mama Shark approaching the restaurant. First the camera moves through a sheet of bubbles, i.e., the aforementioned shark shield, which is meant to explain how this massive fish can suddenly appear out of nowhere. Sure enough, after we get a POV shot of a shocked Quaid pointing towards the camera (i.e., towards the shark) we cut to a standard shot revealing the gigantic Mama Shark hovering outside the aforementioned bay window.
Well, no, actually, we don’t. Sadly, they apparently couldn’t afford such a shot. So instead of seeing the giant shark framed in the window with our characters in the foreground—which actually would have looked pretty cool—we cut to an out-in-the-water close-up of the creature and its receding lips. This is significantly less dramatic, as it leaves us nothing to scale the shark against.
Everyone splits up. Bouchard calls the Control Room, ordering them to evacuate the underwater tunnels and close the park. (Carl Fink and correspondent Bill Leary both note that Bouchard deserves props for not trying to pull a Mayor Vaughn here. Of course, he also has more personal liability in this situation than Vaughn did in Amity.) Cut to Mike and Kay run topside to warn the currently performing water skiing troop. In a scene right out of Bullitt—well, sort of—Mike commandeers a popcorn vendor’s golf cart to speed to the performance arena. I’m quite serious when I say that they might have employed this expedient because they could afford to spill twenty dollars worth of popcorn, yet lacked the funds for the more traditional-but-costlier fruit cart.
Upon reflection, moreover, the scene seems not so much of Bullitt as from the popular Mystery Science Theater 3000 subject Space Mutiny. Certainly a similar amount of mirth is derived from watching Mike ‘speed’ around in vehicle somewhat slower than he’d be on foot. In any case, the excitement climaxes when he attempts to take a turn and the unwieldy cart falls over onto its side. Luckily, Mike escapes this fearsome crash relatively unscathed. (Sadly, they lacked the wit—or perhaps the cash—to have the cart explode into flames once he’d gotten clear.)
Oddly, even though Mike, Kay, FitzRoyce and Jack have made it upstairs and to the borders of the Lagoon, no one’s yet thought of using the PA system to ask people to leave the water or make their way to the exits. Instead, once Mike reaches the water sport auditorium, he grabs the announcer’s microphone to try to warn the currently-performing skiers.
They can’t hear him, though, as they’re being towed behind a rather noisy speedboat. However, the first two pairs of skiers spot the shark on their own. They tumble into the water in front of the reviewing stand, and reach safety when the shark continues on.
We soon see that it’s taken up pursuit of a line of eight woman skiers. Soon the shark’s fin is trailing right behind the oblivious performers. And I mean, right behind them. Which is…sort of weird. Given the placement of the dorsal fin on such an animal’s body, coupled with this particular fish’s size, that means the shark’s dangerous part—what scientists would call its ‘mouth’—is roughly fifteen feet in front of the skiers.
Part of the act, however, requires the skiers to turn around in unison. Whereupon they see the monster fin a mere foot or two behind them. They panic, naturally enough, and also plunge into the water. We cut to the classic Jaws’ Looking Up At The Thrashing Legs POV Shot™, which, tradition dictates, means the shark should be right underneath them.
Let me pause here to discuss the one element of Jaws 3-D that stuck with me during the entire twenty years since I first viewed it. However, this requires a bit of historical place setting, as well as some personal reminiscing.
At the time I saw this movie, I would have been approaching the age of twenty. The year, as indicated above, was 1983. I’ve been watching classic (and not-so-classic) monster movies since I was a wee bairn. I teethed my cinematic tastes on the old Universal classic horror films, followed in turn by the sci-fi drive-in fare of the ‘50s. By the age of twenty, at which I saw Jaws 3-D, my tastes were pretty well set.
I was not nearly as much of a fan of then-contemporary horror films. To be exact, I mean those made following 1968’s The Night of the Living Dead. (NotLD being the film, I’d argue, that constitutes the fault line between the classic horror era and the modern one.) In the main, if not without exception, I disliked the tendency towards cruelty and nihilism that marked that period’s horror films. This reached its acme, unsurprisingly, during the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, these being the heyday of the Slasher flick.
However, the single element of modern horror films that irked me most—and sadly, continues to do so in most horror fare produced twenty years later—was the way that everyone in the film cast would be bumped off save for maybe one or two characters. This was neatly summed up when Roger Ebert coined of the phrase ‘Dead Teenager Movie.’ (Of course, adults in such didn’t necessarily fare any better.)
As someone who enjoyed a more traditional definition of suspense—by which I mean not necessarily knowing at the beginning of every given scene that someone was due to suffer a bloody demise—I found this trope extremely annoying. As an example, for years this diminished my regard for Ridley Scott’s Alien, a film that used typically flimsy pretexts for sending its characters to their dooms. Harry Dean Stanton being sent after a cat, anyone?
As such, I never went to see Slasher movies. I missed seeing Halloween in the theaters, although in that case it was probably because I wasn’t yet of an age to see ‘R’ rated movies. By the time I was, when many of my friends went periodically to see the glossier such fare, such the as interminable Friday the 13th movies, I stayed home.
Those rare occasions when I was talked into viewing such fare only reinforced my feelings on the matter. I went to see Halloween 2, and it ended up being the only movie I ever walked out on. (I think this followed the loving close-up of a crying tot with a razor blade embedded in his mouth.) Another time, we rented a flick called Humongous, seeking some low-grade laughs. The film proved so stupid, mean, and joyless that a good dozen of us sat in uncomfortable silence as the cassette unspooled on the VCR. We were a seasoned group who never let the opportunity for a stupid pun escape us, but we were defeated by the movie’s sheer dreariness.
Being a committed nerd, of course, I pontificated at length on these matters whenever the opportunity presented itself. (As, in fact, I am doing again all these years later.) I was completely serious about all this and, I’m sure, relatively humorless.
The point of all this is the following: Despite years spent bitching about movies in which the cast was systematically used as mere body fodder, I finally saw a film that elicited exactly the opposite reaction from me, annoying with how few people it killed off. That motion picture, lest this has somehow escaped you, was Jaws 3-D.
Prior to this Melville-esque digression, we were discussing the film’s massive shark being directly under eight woman treading water in the middle of the Lagoon. Believe it or not, every single one of these women makes it out of the water alive. Not a bite mark among them. This follows the four other people who similarly found themselves floundering in the water but had escaped harm.
I was amazed by my reaction to this. I had spent literally years complaining about movies that killed off characters like clockwork, and now I had finally seen one where the opposite is true. It’s not so much that the body count was so low—although at this point, an hour and seven minutes in, this super-sized shark had managed to kill one workman and perhaps the two thieves and the grouper (although certainly the baby shark was eating something)—but that it was hard to take seriously as a menace a big-ass shark who had eight people literally fall right on top of it into the water, but couldn’t manage to snag a single victim.
Following an insert shot of the really, really fake fin used earlier to indicate the smaller shark, which in any case doesn’t remotely match the one we just saw behind the swimmers, the Mama Shark magically Offscreen Teleports over to the (are you sitting down?) bumper boat area. Taking the attraction’s title seriously, she indeed targets a boat and bumps it. This, I hope you don’t die of amazement upon learning, is Sean and Kelly’s.
With two more completely helpless victims now thrashing in the water, the shark’s head bobs up, in what I believe in the only shot in the movie in which it rises up from the water. (That’s pretty lame, when you think of it. I think you have a right to expect more shark-bobbing than that in a Jaws film.) In any case, the shark knocks Kelly to one side, then drags her around underwater for a bit. Yet in the end, however, she only receives a gash on her leg and does find herself being pulled to safety. The angle of the wound, moreover, in no way corresponds to her position when she received it.
Having been denied sustenance once again (how the hell did this shark ever get that big if it can’t even catch one of a bunch of humans bobbing in the water?), the shark fin turns its disembodied attention to a nearby floating platform. The half-dozen people on it panic, and then, since the structure is rather unsafely constructed of balsa wood—a fact for which indisputable visual evidence is provided—plunge through its floor and down into the water.
Despite the complete absence of the shark, we do briefly see a cloud of blood at one point. Maybe the shark wounded another person, or perhaps someone got cut as they fell through the platform’s floor. However, we’ll be generous and say that of the six or so people who found themselves in the water with absolutely no avenue of escape, the shark actually managed to snag one. Admittedly, there is little direct evidence for this contention, but I’m actually starting to feel sorry for the old girl, so we’ll toss her a bone.
Another farcical moment occurs when Liz asks Kay if the tunnel connecting the Lagoon to the performing animals’ housing pools should be opened. See, prized porpoises Sandy and Cindy are currently in the Lagoon, too, and thus at risk. Kay sighs and orders the gate to remain closed, saying that they can’t allow the shark to possibly get through the tunnel. As she says this, they cut to the tunnel, confirming our impression that the passage is laughably too small for there to be even the remotest chance the shark could squeeze through it.
Mike sees off Sean, who’s going in the ambulance with Kelly. Meanwhile, Bouchard (finally!) uses the PA system to announce that the park’s being closed for the day. However, I was bewildered by the fact that actor Gossett chooses to employ here a thick Southern accent that he evinces at no other time in the movie. Perhaps the part was originally meant to posses such an accent. And maybe this scene was shot early in the production, before they decided that the accent Gossett brought to the table was too inane to use. That’s the only explanation I can think of, anyway. (Of course, then they should have just looped over the dialog in post-production.)
Despite the fact that it had to be ten or fifteen minutes ago that Bouchard ordered the underwater tunnels cleared, everyone we saw down there earlier still appears to be strolling around. Bouchard’s notice finally has them moving to the exits, but it’s too late.
At this point the film turns into a really, really cheap ‘70s-style disaster movie. The shark appears in a blaze of particularly suspect bluescreen effects and bumps into the tunnels, creating leaks that pressurized water pours through. Everyone screams like they’re in a Godzilla movie and begin to run for the hub at the middle of the tunnels.
Bouchard, meanwhile, orders the sector’s watertight doors closed. In even lamest disaster movie, one or two people would be trapped and drown, but here, of course, everyone reaches safety. There’s a ‘suspense’ moment when one set of doors won’t close because there’s water pouring through them, leading me to surmise that these weren’t, in fact, the best engineered ‘watertight’ doors ever constructed.
In any case, the end result is a bunch (well, maybe twenty or so) of screaming people caught in a small, sealed chamber, chest-high in water. I’m no engineer, as is obvious from my ignorant idea that watertight doors might be designed to close against water pressure. Moreover, I was naively surprised at the fact that the Control Room couldn’t activate a pump that would empty the chamber of water, especially as the power is still on. Also, a spare supply of oxygen seemed, to me at least, like it would have been a good idea. Shows you what I know.
Mike and his crew work furiously on a ‘patch’ to fix the tunnel, which once welded into place will allow them to evacuate the trapped patrons. (As I noted before, no outside authorities ever make more than a token appearance here. For instance, we never see one even taking a statement from any of the principals.) Uh, wasn’t just one tunnel compromised? Couldn’t they open one of the watertight doors leading into another tunnel and get them out that way? Oh, wait. From what they describe, actually, I guess none of the watertight doors will open until the entire tunnel complex has been repressurized. Yes, that sounds like a flawless system, all right.
By the way, it’s pretty convenient that shark inflicted the sort of completely localized damage that could be repaired by welding a patch over it, isn’t it? (Still, as least it was polite enough to go away after inflicting just the correct amount of damage.) Oh, and in case you care, Kay offers to go to Venezuela with Mike, and after his job there is complete, he’s to follow her to her chosen destination next. Wow, glad that’s been taken care of!
Anyhoo, the Disaster Movie portion of the movie is pursued for a while. Flunky Leonard gives the Obligatory Press Conference on the situation, then we cut again to the cold, wet and terrified patrons trapped in the waterlogged chamber, etc.
FitzRoyce presents a plan to Bouchard on how to deal with the shark. His idea is to lure it back into the filtration pipe. Once it’s in there, the backwash gate (look, just go with it) will be closed, trapping the beast in these narrow confines. Meanwhile, a work crew can repair the damaged tunnel and free the trapped visitors.
The others, of course, wonder how he plans to get the shark back in there. He and Jack, he answers, will use themselves as bait. (Bum bum bum!) They’ll tie a line to the interior of the pump chamber and pull themselves along against the current, drawing the shark behind them. At the far end of the pipe is an access ladder. They’ll climb to safety, the Control Room will close the hatch behind the shark, and there you go.
As they prepare to implement their plan, Jack asks FitzRoyce to focus solely on luring in the shark, rather than filming its approach as well. Of course, worrying about such things violates the Adventurer’s Code. Besides, FitzRoyce adds, the film will make them a fortune. Does anyone not see where this is going? I mean, the shark’s got to kill somebody who’s an actual character. Right? Right?
FitzRoyce and Jack enter the water and take their positions. We see FitzRoyce tug once or twice on the rope he’ll use to evade the shark. "They’re testing the lifeline to see if it’s secure," a watching technician explains. That’s the kind of expertise a professional adventurer brings to the table, I guess.
This accomplished, the pair use sound and fish blood to attract Mama Shark. (If that’s all it took, couldn’t they have used an underwater speaker and released the fish blood remotely?) This works quite quickly and their plan goes into effect. Jack swims to a safe position from which he films the shark approaching the tunnel. FitzRoyce, for his part, begins pulling himself along the pipe, all while luring Mama Shark deeper inside. Once it’s all the way in, Jack closes the gate, trapping it.
With the shark safely contained, Brody is given the word to dive to the tunnel and proceed with his repairs. Meanwhile…man, this still pisses me off twenty years later.
See, FitzRoyce ends up getting whacked because the nylon rope he’s pulling himself along suddenly breaks. This leaves him at the mercy of the water pressure, the force of which shoots him right down the shark’s throat. Well, no, actually, that’s not what happens. Despite the fact that the pump is supposed to be on, propelling "a million Galleons" of water an hour, FitzRoyce floats in place with marked ease. In the end, though, he does go whole, and wholly, down the shark’s gullet.
Here’s the thing. I didn’t buy this two decades ago, and I’m not buying it now. This is one of the laziest bits of writing I think I’ve ever seen. I’m sorry, there’s no way a nylon rope just suddenly parts. It would have to be heavily frayed or something before hand. Which is what still bugs me. See, FitzRoyce is supposed to be a pro at this stuff. Moreover, he has an underling fully committed to his employer’s welfare.
The point is that people like this don’t go into the field until they’ve checked and rechecked their equipment. That sort of thing is pretty much what defines one as being a professional. Therefore this scene is as believable to me as, say, Quint going after the shark in the first movie, only to learn once he’s at sea that he’d forgotten to bring along those yellow barrels. This is some of the shoddiest writing I think I’ve ever seen, much less in a marginally expensive film.
In a bit so lame it’s literally laugh provoking, FitzRoyce’s pulls out a rather inadequate bang stick and uses it on the shark. (Yeah, don’t go for its eye or anything.) Needless to say, this has little effect, other than producing another low-grade 3-D moment when the stick is shoved at the camera. Then he beats on its nose with his camera. Meanwhile, I was wondering why he didn’t just swim over the shark’s head and away from its mouth. There’s enough room for him to do so, but not enough for the beast to maneuver after him.
Instead, as indicated, he magically ends up entirely down the shark’s throat. He tries to swim back outside, but the creature’s teeth keep closing, threatening to cut him in half before he can make his escape. (The inside of the creature, from which this bit is shot, seems to be made from foam rubber. The effect is like watching a particularly nasty episode of H.R. Pufnstuf.)
The remainder of the scene is confusing. There’s a cloud of blood, although whether it’s the sharks or FitzRoyce’s remains more than a little vague. I think the idea is that in his struggles, FitzRoyce’s scuba hose comes loose and he drowns while still swallowed whole.
Meanwhile, Brody is welding the tunnel patch in place. Kay goes to join him and provide whatever assistance she can, because, you know, she’s all empowered and self-actuated and stuff.
Topside, Jack has learned that FitzRoyce never made it back up and begins freaking out. Down in the Control Room, meanwhile, Bouchard orders the pump shut down, which would suffocate the trapped shark. "Are you sure?" a technician asks, despite the fact this is clearly the most logical plan.
Amusingly, the film’s suggestion seems to be that blowing the trapped shark up would be the more intelligent course. (Hell, why not nuke the beast and be done with it?) Bouchard is made to seem ‘cheap’ when he refuses to do so because the filtration pipe would cost millions of dollars to replace. Of course, this is the sort of movie where characters like Bouchard make the wrong call on every single decision they make. This one, naturally, will prove no different.
As noted before, great whites, like most sharks, can’t swim backwards. Mama Shark not only does so again, but somehow forces the gate open by brushing on it with her tail. Whatever. In any case, the result is that the shark is back on the loose. "We gotta warn [Mike and Kay]!" Bouchard exclaims. Wow, nothing gets past you, Slick.
Despite the warning signals, Mike stays at his post, as the patch is almost secure. Suddenly the shark appears. In one of the series’ genuine contributions to our knowledge of sharks, we hear the beast roar. (This trait was explored further in the following film.) Despite this, Mike only escapes because Kay is there to warn him. Good thing she decided to join him.
Our Heroes are saved when, and I kid you not, Sandy and Cindy the dolphins suddenly swim to the rescue. (By the way, remember that maybe victim I spotted the shark before? I’m taking it back. So far it’s gotten perhaps three entire guys on its own—and the first one it didn’t eat much of—and another who apparently swam into its mouth under his own power.) Mike and Kay escape, but it appears *gasp* that one of the dolphins gives her life in the breach. This occurs when the porpoise chooses to thrust itself right in front of the shark’s mouth. Yes, that’s a wise strategy, oh super-intelligent sea mammal.
There’s a vertical access tunnel leading up into the control room. Mike and Kay make it inside, but not before the shark gets some of its teeth between the outer hatch and the doorjamb. I looked at this a number of times, and the angle at which this could happen remained clearly impossible. In any case—and I don’t want to shock the hell out of you—Our Leads aren’t dealt a horrible death by what has to be one of the most ineffectual monsters in movie history. Instead, they get the door shut, pressurize the access tunnel and climb up to the Control Room.
"Have you pressurized [the tourist] tunnels yet?" Mike gasps. Upon being told that they have, he orders, "Then get those people out of there!" Apparently nobody had thought to do this yet, but Mike’s command is quickly obeyed. Soon all the trapped patrons are safe, their escape accompanied by a burst of Life Affirming Music. I know you’re pleased.
However, the danger (yawn) isn’t over yet. In one of the funniest process shots of the last three decades, the characters in the Control Room watch in horror as a rigid, unmoving model of the Mama Shark, bordered by a cartoonishly obvious bluescreen line, ‘approaches’ their position. They don’t even bother to use one of the props that can swish its tail. Even the novice moviegoers will quickly glean that the prop shark was suspended in a fixed position before a stationary bluescreen and then made to *cough* ‘move forward’ by the expedient of having the camera zoom in upon it. It’s a truly risible effect.
Lest we somehow get past that image with our mouth-curling muscles still undeployed, the filmmakers cannily provide close-ups of the cast’s horrified reactions, all of which are thoughtfully portrayed—I kid you not—in slow motion. This is right out of a Saturday Night Live sketch. Seriously, did anyone bother to watch this film before they released it to theaters? It’s hard to believe so.
With a raw reality seldom seen outside of a Terry Gilliam cartoon, the ‘shark’ smashes into the Control Room’s Big Window, which shatters in a bunch of 3-D animated fragments. Even the scale of the shark vis-à-vis the window is completely off. The last half hour of this movie is a veritable textbook of cinematic ineptitude.
Water floods into the room, although not quickly enough, since then all of our characters would be killed. Bouchard manages to swim an unconscious (certainly not dead, not in this movie) worker to safety. I assume so, anyway, although we never see him again. Meanwhile, the shark—get this—actually manages to eat one of the Control Room staffers. Admittedly, this involves the use of a visibly bogus dummy, but still, it’s an actual victim. Good for you, Sharkie.
Mike and Kay, meanwhile, are still in the room, having re-donned their scuba masks. The shark, bottlenecked in the window frame, of course caaan’t quite reach them*. This provides a contrast of special effects. First, we do get a pleasing shot or two of the giant prop head actually interacting with the actors. However, we also see the foam rubber shark’s body (the dorsal fin of which, naturally, completely fails to match at least two versions of it seen earlier) thrashing around in a miniature of the Control Room building.
[*Another nod to Carl Fink, who notes that with the shark’s body stuck this way, the animal should drown, as it’s not moving. Admittedly, it does still wave its head back and forth a little, but I don’t think that would suffice. I’m a little embarrassed to have missed that one, actually.]
Meanwhile, in what amusingly is an almost exact recreation of the shark death scene from the Euro Jaws knock-off The Last Shark, the two notice FitzRoyce’s body bobbing around in the creature’s Sid & Marty Krofft-esque throat. Helpfully, he’s holding in his outstretched hand one of the previously established Mills bombs.
Which raises two questions: First, how would FitzRoyce have died so suddenly that he wouldn’t have been able to pull the bomb’s pin? Second, how did his body end up back up by the creature’s mouth when we just saw it swallow someone else entirely? We do see another body floating around, but it doesn’t remotely match the one we just saw it chomp on. Although, I guess, that’s hardly conclusive with this movie. If that was supposed to be the munchee, then again, how is this thing alive? It can’t even manage to swallow food it just had in its mouth.
Anyway, after further mock peril of the "Whoa, the shark almost bit me that time!" variety, Mike manages to hook onto the grenade’s pin with a stick and pull it free*. Ka-boom-o!! The result is the fakest 3-D shot in the movie, in which fragmented pieces of the shark’s jaws (get it?) fling out towards the audience.
[*By the way, was this scene a berserk homage to the old Ideal Jaws game? It came with a plastic shark with a spring-loaded jaw that snapped shut on a timer. The object was to use a small plastic gaff to remove as many small toy objects from the shark’s gullet as you could before the time ran out.]
Our Two Leads swim up to the surface of the Lagoon, where they are silhouetted against the golden sunrise. (Oh, brother!) "What about the others?" Kay inquires anxiously. "Calvin is fine," Mike answers. How the hell would he know?
However, the film has one more thrill for us. Remember the
dolphin apparently killed by the shark before? Well, it leaps up from the
water, alive! (Cue Loud, Triumphant Music.) Yeah!! The dolphin’s alive!
Woo-Hah!! This leads, impressively enough, to the single worst effects
shot in the movie, as poorly-composited images of the two dolphins are
matted over the image of Armstrong and Quaid, upon which this snapshot is
captured in a freeze-frame.
All right!! Screw you, Jaws movies!! I took my punches, but I survived. I took the worst all three of you had to throw at me, and…huh? What’s that? ‘Jaws: The’ whatnow? You’re kidding. With who? Michael Caine?! $%@*#!~>.
Sigh. Guess I’ll see you back here again next week, folks.
Jaws 3-D didn’t need to be such a disaster. The producers of the first two Jaws films, David Brown and Richard Zanuck, recognized how ludicrous it would be to trot out the killer shark idea yet again. Their idea was to make the third movie a spoof, ala Airplane! Their proposed title was "Jaws 3, People 0," and they believed this concept would allow them to wrack up a hefty profit while also allowing for a potentially good movie.
Sadly, the executives at Universal lacked their foresight. Considering that Airplane! grossed $83 million domestically (and a further fortune on home video), more than double what Jaws 3-D made. On the other hand, the idea of making a comical Jaws film was certainly achieved.
Let me play Devil’s Advocate for a moment, however. From any objective standpoint, Jaws 2 is clearly a better film than Jaws 3-D. The first sequel had a higher budget. Its director, Jeannot Szwarc, was at least more talented than the latter’s Joe Alves. Jaws 2’s various other technical aspects are uniformly more competently executed. John Williams provided its scored rather than the justly anonymous Alan Parker. The shark action is at least less goofy than the stuff seen here. Finally, it didn’t carry the flop sweat ambiance provided by this film’s reliance on a half-assed gimmick like 3-D.
Still and all, there’s more stuff I genuinely like in Jaws 3-D than in Jaws 2. In the end, I liked a number of this film’s characters, which is quite a bit more than I can say of any of the stiffs we met in the earlier chapter. As I stated more than once during this review, I would have liked to have seen a movie with the main four leads that omitted the killer shark and focused more on their regular lives. The idea of seeing a similar film based on the slice-of-life adventures of the kids we had foisted upon us in Jaws 2, however (and that includes its younger versions of Mike and Sean), fills me with the sort of loathing and dread one usually only encounters when reading an H.P. Lovecraft story.
The setting of this film was fresher than Jaws 2’s uninspired return to Amity, even if the performing animal and water skiing stuff was a tad overused. The cast is more appealing, although they are given less to do. Roy Schieder and Lorraine Gary in the previous film proved themselves skilled actors once again. However, they were inevitably less effective then they were in the first movie. The more obscure actors showcased in that movie, meanwhile, provided performances that might most charitably be described as forgettable.
Conversely, it’s the relatively unknown actors in Jaws 3-D who provide the most enjoyable performances. MacCordindale, an actor seen to best advantage in classical and period material, does what he can to liven up the underwritten role of FitzRoyce. Unfortunately, the task defeats him. I don’t blame him, however. After all, this is a film series that similarly foiled Michael Caine.
Gossett, meanwhile, is on autopilot. His performance suggests someone who spent half an hour each night memorizing the next day’s lines, then went out to find something interesting to do. You can’t really blame him, though. Bouchard is a useless, one-note character whose only role is to complicate things by constantly making poor decisions. It’s the kind of part an actor would get while guest starring on an episode of Murder, She Wrote, and Gossett provides work about on that level.
The film was immensely luckier in the players chosen to play its four romantic leads. In fact, if I were to complement anyone’s work on the production, it would be that of casting director Randy Stone. If you took any of the kids who played the teens in Jaws 2 and plugged them in here, the result would be a flop of (even more) epic proportions.
The actors not only act well, but act well together. Lea Thompson, appearing in her first real acting gig, is given the least to do. However, she’s quite believable in her burgeoning romance with Sean. For what it’s worth, she plays a minx surprisingly well for someone who become known for playing more wholesome roles.
John Putch, the actor playing Sean, has better luck. Like Thompson, his character is of the second banana variety. Even so, he not only gets to play off his romantic partner, but also shares a fair amount of time opposite the leads. He and Quaid make quite believable brothers, and perhaps more impressive is how well sketched his relationship with Armstrong is. They clearly enjoy each other’s company, yet don’t necessarily seem like people who would hang out together if not for being connected by Mike.
I can’t really say enough for Quaid and Armstrong. While I didn’t always buy her in her role of marine biologist—and that’s at least as much the script’s fault as it is hers—they are utterly credible as a couple. I do think Quaid’s the more talented of two, although he hasn’t always evinced the best nose for projects. Still, at least in the early part of the film (you know, before the sharks show up), Armstrong really holds her own.
In the end, the film’s incidental material ironically finds itself sabotaged by those elements that brought about the picture’s existence in the first place. Not so our next subject, however. If Jaws 3-D is a field of manure with a few roses poking through the ordure, then Jaws: The Revenge is…well, let’s just say you needn’t be careful of thorns.
-Review by Ken Begg