Another feature of...
Jaws: The Revenge
Jabootu's Bad Movie Dimension
If you keep slogging through life’s more unpleasant tasks, you’ll eventually see them through. This is a lesson I have recently relearned. I’ve spent the last several years—I’m pretty sure that’s right—reviewing the four movies that constitute the Jaws series. These sojourns have taken me from the Olympian peaks of the initial film to the Stygian depths of, well, this one. I’m just beginning the final leg of that epic journey, but I can see the sun stretching and yawning as its fiery pate edges over the horizon, bringing with it a new day. (Admittedly, I’ll probably spend this new day reviewing a Steven Seagal movie or something.)
Still, I’m not taking our current subject lightly, as it is marked by a rare distinction. The gulf in quality between Jaws and Jaws: The Revenge may well be the widest between any two such films in the entire history of cinema. This is not meant to be a hyperbolic claim. While I’m sure others can suggest competitors for this dubious crown, I’d be willing to defend our featured pair against all comers.
For instance, let’s look to the AFI 100 Best American Films list. Admittedly, that’s hardly a definitive reference, but it’s not a bad place to start. By my count, only the following films on that list have been by followed by sequels: The Godfather (#3), Star Wars (#15), Psycho (#18), 2001: A Space Odyssey (#22), The Godfather Part II (#32, just to be safe), King Kong (#43), Jaws (#48), Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (#50, and technically, it was a prequel), All Quiet on the Western Front (#54), Raiders of the Lost Ark (#60), The Silence of the Lambs (#65), The French Connection (#70), American Graffiti (#77), Rocky (#78) and Frankenstein (#87). (Actually, Bride of Frankenstein should have made the AFI roster instead, but what are you to do?)
Among the cited pictures, and not counting TV movie follow-ups (sorry, Psycho), only one film has a sequel within shouting distance of Jaws: The Revenge. That sorry cinematic progeny would be Rocky IV. I can actually see a reasonable debate over which one of the respective offspring was worse. I myself would still go with Jaws: The Revenge, but I could respect somebody arguing for Stallone’s Folly.
However, even putting that issue aside, I’m still going with Jaws: The Revenge as being the most unworthy follow-up. This is because I remain unconvinced that Rocky deserves to be called one of the 100 Best American Films. It’s certainly a memorable picture, but among the best hundred ever? In contrast, I fully believe Jaws to be worthy of that designation. Therefore, I maintain that the greatest gulf lies between Spielberg’s film and this one.
Jaws: The Revenge—they stopped numbering the entries at this point, despite it being a direct sequel to the initial two films—remains most famous for two points:
In defense of this film, which is not a phrase often associated with it, these elements were established earlier in the series. Following the climax of Jaws, in a replay of the similar scene in Steven Spielberg’s earlier Duel, we hear a dinosaur roar playing softly over Bruce’s death scene*. As well, the Mother Shark in Jaws 3-D is definitely heard roaring at one juncture, or at the very least growling.
[*Jaws aficionados refer to the film’s menace as Bruce, after the nickname the movie’s crew bestowed upon the mechanical versions of the shark. The sobriquet was purportedly in honor of Spielberg’s lawyer, Bruce Ramer. Thus, if we pursue a George Foreman-esque strategy where the various sharks’ names are concerned, it breaks down this way: Bruce (or Bruce I) in Jaws, Bruce II in Jaws 2, Brucette—the main shark is identified as being a mother, after all—and wee Bruce Jr., in Jaws 3-D, and Bruce TR here. I would have named the latter animal Bruce III, but I figured that might inspire confusion. Er, more confusion.]
Next we have the idea of a veritable parade of gigantic killer sharks, ones who spend their days harassing the Brody Bunch in a quest for vengeance following Bruce I’s demise. This concept was introduced in Jaws II. In fact, its promulgator was the series’ central figure, Martin Brody (Roy Scheider).
No, where Jaws: The Revenge earns its fame is in taking these vestigial elements and juicing them up to the point where they can no longer be ignored. The roaring in Jaws is only symbolic, after all. We know, because the shark’s already dead. In Jaws 3-D, meanwhile, said noisemaking was merely one further bit of comedy the movie provided. Sure, Brucette issued forth a roar of sorts, muffled a bit by the water. Yet it was a comparatively subdued one, and it didn’t really call that much attention to itself.
And even if the Martin Brody of Jaws 2 broaches a theory about the shark world possessing a Sicilian-like tenacity where vendettas are concerned, the notion is introduced, turned over a bit, and then dropped in pretty short order. It seemed that the writers felt they needed at least a fig leaf rationale to explain the appearance of a second killer shark, but ended up embarrassed by the one they provided.
So what explains, then, the ire and derision aimed at the current object of our gaze? It’s that the writer of Jaws: The Revenge seems to have combed through the previous chapters, cherry-picked the most idiotic elements they offered, and embraced them passionately. If a gang of beret-wearing cinema guerrillas had infiltrated Universal Studios with the aim of sabotaging one of the corporation’s tent pole series, the result probably wouldn’t have been this bad.
The Roaring Shark we’ll get to in time. However, the vengeance idea we can examine a bit before we even begin looking at the movie. After all, the film’s very title is Jaws: The Revenge. Lest the implications of this moniker somehow prove too subtle for the prospective viewer, there’s the film’s (in)famous tagline: "This Time It’s Personal." To be fair, this mitigates against any consumer carping on the picture’s vast stupidity. Frankly, if you watch a film with a title like that, you deserve what you get. Short of naming the picture ‘Jaws 4: Electric Boogaloo,’ I’m not sure how much more fair warning they could have provided.
As if to carefully construct a burgeoning wrath in the viewer, the film begins with what is probably its best sequence. Admittedly, that’s a classic example of damning with faint praise, but still. Following in the footsteps (finwake?) of its three predecessors, we open underwater with a shark POV shot. The film immediately draws on—and exhausts—our bank of good will by accompanying the action with John Williams’ classic shark theme.
The scene, veteran series viewers will quickly realize, takes place in the waters surrounding the island community of Amity. To be more specific, we’re right outside what appear to be the commercial fishing docks. As Williams’ music plays, we follow the POV shot as it swims along under the water, rises to a surface for a look see at the unsuspecting town, returns below again, etc. It soon becomes apparent that the POV shot is searching for something. Perhaps the beastie is wisely seeking a way out of the movie.
Swimming through the harbor’s surprisingly shallow waters, the still-unseen shark threads its way through the support posts holding up the various piers and such. Upon reflection, it seems unlikely that the massive creature revealed later could so easily insinuate itself in such tight quarters. For what it’s worth, though, the familiar shark theme is well employed. When the beast swims under the water, we get placid music, followed by a more dynamic arrangement of the music kicking in as the POV shot rises to the surface and looks upon the town.
As I noted, this is not a bad way to open the film. The rising and falling POV shot is somewhat novel, the camera work is nicely fluid, and the music reminds us why we paid (with our money, or just our time) to see this movie. This fuzzy sense of comfort, however, is quickly shaken when an ominous sign appears. It reads, "And MICHAEL CAINE as Hoagie." Sadly, Gene Hackman was apparently unavailable to take the role of Phil E. Cheesesteak.
Our unease deepens as we cut from this sequence to a close-up of a fish’s black eye. Is it the shark’s? No, ha ha, it’s that of a fish being sautéed in a pan. Welcome to the kitchen of Ellen Brody. As we’re still somewhat complacent, the film takes the opportunity to sucker-punch us with some major suckage.
We’re treated to a ‘cute’ scene between the now grownup Sean Brody* and his mother (actress Lorraine Gary returning for a third shot at the role, and made to look somewhat older than her fifty years to correspond to her prematurely grown sons). Sean is stealing bits from the salad while she’s occupied cooking the entrée, ho ho, she laughingly chastises him, what a scamp he is, etc. In contrast to the expert and genuinely warm domestic material provided in Jaws, this stuff seems cadged from a particularly lackluster sitcom.
[*Our current subject erases Jaws 3-D from the series continuity. In other words, the Michael and Sean portrayed here are completely different characters than the ones seen in that film. As I noted earlier, the film’s writer raided the worst elements of the prior films. As well, he neglected many of the better ones. For my part, I found the versions of the brothers introduced in Jaws 3-D to be much more interesting and likable than the ones presented here. Of course, by this time their chances of getting Dennis Quaid for the movie were presumably nil.]
The picture immediately begins its wrongheaded efforts to constantly remind us of the vastly superior first movie. I assume they had hoped that some of that film’s luster would rub off on this one. Well, guess what, you exhausted any credit you had in that direction by using the shark theme during the opening credit sequence. From here on out, you’re on your own. Your name got you in the door, kid, but now you’ve got to earn it yourself.
Sadly, having little faith in their own project (admittedly with some justification,) they instead continue to ride the Nostalgia Express. "You’re almost as sneaky as your father was," Ellen laughs with Joyful Exasperation. (Hey! His father! She means Roy Scheider from Jaws!) "He was the tomato thief of all time!" Aside from the prodigious wit displayed via this sparkling badinage, the line also provides a key bit of exposition. No, not that Martin Brody habitually picked at the dinner salad when his wife’s back was turned. I mean the fact that he’s no longer among the cast. Er, the living.
We learn that Christmas is approaching. Sean mentions his fiancée Tiffany, and he and Mom argue over how big of a tree to get. He wants a big one, she a small. He cuts his finger while slicing tomatoes. Ah, Life. This gag-inducing domestic lovefest is thankfully interrupted in the end by an Expository Phone Call. It’s from Michael and his family. The call is clunkily scripted so as to provide background information in the most obvious fashion possible:
Cut to Ellen, Sean and Tiffany strolling through the busy streets of Amity. Sean is wearing a police department jacket, having apparently followed in his dad’s footsteps by becoming a town deputy. The three of them warmly greet their neighbors on the street, just to remind us of how cozy a town Amity is.
Sean leaves to check in at the police department. We cut over there, and see a display photo of Martin Brody on the wall. I realize the whole point of centering the film around the Brody family is to take advantage of their history. Even so, all this is a little creepy. The shade of Martin Brody hangs over this film like Marley’s Ghost. It’d be nice to consider this film a homage to a great film character, but that’s definitely not the case. We’ll get into that later.
In an odd bit, the police secretary is still identified as being Polly. Polly was a character in the first film, who was mentioned but remained unseen in the second. The queer bit is that she’s here played by a different actress, one who in no way calls the earlier one to mind. If they couldn’t get the original actress, why bother? Only real Jaws buffs would know who Polly is, and it defeats the purpose of bringing the character back if someone else plays her.
Sean is just about to make his escape when a call comes in. There’s an old dock piling floating around in the channel to the harbor, and it has to be removed before one of the returning fishing boats hits it. The reason Sean is elected is that the other deputy is out trying to catch (ho, ho) cow-tippers. Polly also explains, "the Coast Guard is busy." Remember that.
Out on the wharf, the local high school band and choir are performing Christmas carols, apparently in preparation for an upcoming holiday pageant. They play and sing "The First Noel" as Sean dons his yellow slicker and takes a launch out into the harbor. (This craft seems suspiciously rickety, as if it were constructed of plywood. Just watch the way it rides in the water. In any case, we’ll soon see why this is so.) He sees the piling snagged alongside a channel marker.
The band and singers switch to "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing" as he approaches the marker. He leans over the water to attach a line to the piling when, suddenly, a shark head rises into view. In the first of the film’s habitual continuity problems, the water it’s in already foams with blood, despite the fact that it hasn’t attacked yet.
We get an extremely confusing series of extreme close-up shots of a gaping shark maw and Sean’s slicker and such. When he falls back, he finds that his arm has been sheared off. He screams in terror for help, but can’t be heard over the carolers. The ‘ironic’ juxtaposition of Sean’s brutal death with the tune and lyrics of the carol is altogether too twee for words. There’s nothing like a little artistic pomposity in your killer shark potboilers.
This is followed by a further string of really confusing flash-cuts, many featuring extreme close-ups of shark teeth. This might partly be because the logistics of the shark getting at Sean when the latter’s not leaning over the water don’t really make much sense. In the end, the boat’s smashed to pieces and sinks. Sean floats around briefly, still shrieking for help, before being dragged to his doom. The piling pulls loose, and we see that it’s covered with slash marks. The idea is that the shark transported it in its mouth and then lodged it against the marker so as to ambush Sean (!).
Let’s pause here. What’s amazing about this scene is that it actually seems designed to totally piss off hardcore Jaws fans. (Actually, if things had gone as originally planned, such buffs would have been tearing down the movie screens. We’ll get to that.)
I’ve mentioned before my (admittedly subjective) feelings about which movie deaths are objectionably mean spirited and which ones aren’t. It doesn’t really have to do with how graphic they are, or who the victim is, although often these are factors. The best way I can phrase it is, do the deaths seem organic to the story being told? Or do they seem to be included merely to gross out the audience? The demise of young Alex Kintner in Jaws, or the mom chopped up by her zombified daughter in Night of the Living Dead, fall into the first category. Sean’s death, however, is an example of the second.
In the end, I’ll have to paraphrase Justice Potter Stewart’s famous cop-out on defining pornography: "I know it when I see it." What I saw during the above scene was a purposely drawn-out and loving detailing of a character’s horrible death. Did anyone involved in this production think it would be a thrill for the audience to see Sean Brody get kacked this way? Perhaps I’m not representative of the breed, but I’ll tell you one thing; I didn’t enjoy it much.
Oh, and fans of the first film—or, for that matter, reasonably intelligent potatoes—might also object to the scene’s sheer stupidity. I mean, for Jabootu’s sake, the shark lays an ambush. Not a general one, either. It was gunning for a Brody. Let’s detail some of the various things it would need to know for this to be plausible:
There’s a lot more where that came from, obviously, but it’s enough to start with.
Allow me to bring up another subject. Whenever this film’s shark bites something, the result is huge geysers of bright red blood. That’s certainly the case here. It’s amazing how concentrated the stuff stays, not to mention the way it rises to the surface of the water in a huge bubble once spilled. Moreover, I’d have thought much of Sean’s blood would have stayed in the boat following the amputation of his arm, but I guess not.
We cut to the local mortuary, or something, where Ellen views Sean’s (thankfully offscreen) remains. Would they really need her to identify them? The guy grew up in the town and was a police deputy. This is a big Oscar Moment™ for actress Gary; after seeing the body, she stares, shocked, into the camera before withdrawing into a darkly-shadowed area of the room. It’s symbolic. Get it?
Cut to the Brody home. Ellen is out back on the beach, sobbing inconsolably. Meanwhile, Michael arrives in a taxi, along with wife Carla and daughter Thea. (I know Thea’s a little kid, but she sure seems to be taking her uncle’s death in stride. She doesn’t seem especially affected by her parents’ presumed grief, either.)
In a really weird cameo moment, not only is Polly waiting in Ellen’s parlor, but so is Mrs. Taft, a recognizable recurring character in the series, as well as Mrs. Kintner* (!!). I suppose she might have mended fences with Martin in the years following her son’s death, and of course she might have wanted to comfort another mother whose boy was killed by a shark, but I thought her appearance here odd.
[*Neither Mrs. Taft nor Mrs. Kintner are identified, and they obviously appear here to give the series’ nerdier fans a bit of a thrill. That’s commendable, in its way, but I couldn’t help noticing that the movie’s end credits identify returning actress Lee Fierro as playing "Mrs. Kinter." (!!!)]
Michael is played by a curly-haired and bearded Lance "The Last Starfighter" Guest. He sort of resembles Zandor Vorkoff from Dracula vs. Frankenstein, minus the pancake makeup and echo chamber voice effect. For what it’s worth, Guest is not implausible as an older version of actor Mark Gruner, who played the role in Jaws 2. (As noted before, Dennis Quaid’s Mike Brody from Jaws 3-D no longer figures into things.)
Michael heads outside to comfort his mother. He’s soon concerned, however, when Ellen starts blathering about the shark. "It came for him," she asserts. "It waited all this time, and it came for him." Michael looks concerned, perhaps realizing for the first time what sort of screwball picture he’s found himself in.
Cut to the family preparing for dinner. Ellen insists on cooking, but drops a bunch of pans. See, this reveals the emotionally agitated state that lies beneath her carefully constructed facade. Bravo! Auteur! Auteur! The cause for her distress is soon revealed. "I want you to stay out of the water," she tells Michael. He looks vaguely confused. (One reason actor Lance Guest never became a star might be that he acts everything ‘vaguely’ here. He plays Michael as if the character is slightly doped up on cold medicine, and just a little slow.)
One perennial problem with the Jaws movies, and this one in particular, is that they feature a menace one could evade by moving to, say, Phoenix, Arizona. Therefore, both this and the prior film sought to provide Michael with jobs on or around the water. (In Jaws 3-D, the hydrophobic Sean was visiting Mike, placing him in danger as well.)
This version of Michael is a marine research scientist. He and his partner have just received their first grant, and so staying out of the water is not an option. He also finds his mother’s theories somewhat ludicrous, which you can’t exactly fault him for. "Sharks don’t commit murder," he notes. (Well, yeah, when you put it that way….) Ah, but look how wrong Dr. Elkins was in Jaws 2, when she told Martin, "Sharks don’t take things personally."
However, Ellen not only believes the shark targeted Sean, but she blames it for Martin’s death as well. "Dad died from a heart attack," Michael retorts. "He died from fear!" she exclaims. There’s more on this later that pushes the idea that the shark somehow hounded Martin into his grave.
What did it do? Make harassing phone calls where it didn’t say anything? Wrap threatening notes around rocks and toss them through the Brodys’ windows? Order stacks of pizzas to be delivered to their house? This is where the idea of moving somewhere else comes back up. If Martin had this pervasive fear that sharks were out to get him, again, there’s plenty of landlocked territory elsewhere in the county. Who could have blamed him after what he went through?
Mike assures her that they’re safe in the Bahamas. Great whites, he explains, don’t like warm water. There’s never been one spotted there. That doesn’t sound right to me. Most great white attacks happen off the coast of Australia. Aren’t the waters there warm? Somebody page Lyz Kingsley. Anyway, for the purposes of this film, great whites are sharka non grata down in the islands, mon. (Oh, wait, we haven’t gotten to Mario Van Peebles yet.)
Michael and Carla go for a walk on the beach, talking about Sean. "He was always tagging after me when we were kids," Michael reminisces, in perhaps an oblique reference to Jaws 2. Suddenly, overcome with rage and sorrow, Michael takes off running down the shore. (Wow!) My friend, the one thing you can’t run away from is yourself. Wherever you go, there you are.
This scene is followed by Sean’s funeral. For a film lasting a mere ninety-one minutes, this one sure can drag. During the ceremony, a sobbing Ellen suddenly smiles. We see a brown-tinted flashback to the scene from Jaws in which the five year-old Sean playfully mimics his Dad at the dinner table. Ellen did see this, but I couldn’t help wondering why the flashback was from the perspective of the film audience (complete with shifting camera angles), rather than from where she was standing at the time. And again, I’m not sure that reminding us of the first film is working to this one’s advantage.
As they prepare to return home, Michael, Carla and Thea beg Ellen to join them for a visit, and in the end, she capitulates. After all, if she didn’t the whole plot would fall apart. (Well, more than it does anyway, I mean.) As they take the Ferry to the mainland, Ellen breaks down again. Following this, we cut to the chewed-up piling the shark used to lure Sean to it, washed up against the shore. (?)
We next see the four of them sitting in a small plane of the ‘it’s pretty obvious this is a mock-up’ variety. When we cut to another camera angle, we see that the craft is being *cough, cough* piloted by Hoagie. Played by Caine, the role’s exalted status is indicated by the veteran actor having received fifth billing.
It’s a little surprising to see an actor of Caine’s stature in such an inconsequential part, but then he’s always been a working actor. The story is that he took the job because he’d just built a new house he needed to pay for, and because it offered a free vacation down in the Bahamas. In one extremely odd confluence of events, Caine appeared live via satellite from the set of Jaws: The Revenge to accept his first Oscar, a Supporting Actor statue for his role in Hannah and Her Sisters.
Caine, not exactly an unknown quantity in the bad movie arena, turns on the old charm and then cruises on autopilot. Unlike the hideous performances he provided in films like The Swarm and On Deadly Ground, Caine’s work in this picture isn’t among its problems. Here, as is more usually the case, he’s such a smooth presence that he goes down easily. Ultimately, though, he doesn’t help the movie much either. (On the other hand, though, why expect him to? Salvaging this picture would be a labor worthy of Hercules. The one involving the Aegean Stables comes to mind.)
Here Caine has a ‘cute’ scene wif adorable lil’ Thea. There’s nothing especially wrong with this stuff, but it doesn’t serve a whole lot of purpose other than to establish ol’ Hoagie as a right kindly soul.
On the limo ride to Michael’s beachfront home, the driver sings "The Christmas Song." I think the contrast between the seasonal ode and the starkly warm climate is supposed to be, uh, something. Ironic, perhaps. Comical, maybe. Once they arrive, Thea runs to join two other children on a swing set up on a pier. Ellen is disturbed, because, you know, the water and all. She yells for Thea to come off the dock. Carla, humoring her, calls Thea in, and the little brat starts arguing. Time for Ol’ Mon Switch to be making an appearance, I think.
Michael takes Ellen for a walk. He guides her to a barn behind their house, which has been converted into a studio. Carla, it turns out, does abstract metal sculpture for a living. Michael shows Ellen her latest piece. "She calls it ‘Tourist on the Loose,’ " he helpfully explains, since otherwise we might have mistaken it for ‘Turnip Army on the Veldt’ or ‘Abandoned Chevy Wins Presidency’ or ‘Pieces of Metal Randomly Welded Together.’
Ellen assumes a look of shock and loathing. At first I assumed this was her natural reaction to the piece itself, especially as it was one I shared. However, her reaction is really caused by the fact that the piece just coincidentally resembles a not-too abstract shark. Lest we’re morons, they have Michael walk to the front of the statue, whereupon from her view his head seems to be *gasp* within its jagged-toothed mouth. Man, that’s some sly foreshadowing there. Or, or, whatever it is.
Cut to a shot of Ellen swimming alone in the beautiful, clear ocean waters. (Watching this scene make you more tolerant of Caine’s decision to appear in the film. What the hell, he got to go to the Bahamas, all expenses paid.) We get the standard Jaws Underwater POV shot of her lower half bobbing beneath the surface. Suddenly, there’s another elliptically cut attack scene, like the one in which Sean died, and her blood colors the waters.
Now, are you ready? IT WAS ALL A DREAM!! Man, what a bold artistic choice that was. Naturally, the scene ends when a heavily sweating Ellen bolts upright from her sleep, although at least she doesn’t scream "NOOOOOOOOO!!!!"
Cut to Michael exploring the Undersea Kingdom in a nifty motorized mini-sub. Over his radio we first hear the comic opera Caribbean accent of his friend Jake, played by future B-movie auteur Mario Van Peebles. Jake is ‘comically’ hectoring Michael for being slow, and his voice is processed through an echo chamber to simulate the radio effect. It makes him sound like a Jamaican Dalek.
We cut topside to see Jake standing on the deck of the team’s floating research station, which is basically a rusty old barge. I don’t want to surprise the hell out of you, but Jake proves to have dreadlocks. He continues to badger Michael, who’s currently tagging some conchs with radio locators for their project. Once the latter returns to the craft, they argue some more. (By the way, with his hair wet and the beard and all, Lance Guest is the spitting image of Robert Foxworth in Prophecy.) In the end they’re buddies again, and Jake hefts Mike onto his shoulders and twirls him around. Ah, those colorful Island folk.
The next day is Christmas. Jake and his wife Louisa have
joined the Brodys at their house. Ellen has another mood attack and walks
outside. Look, I realize this woman deserves her share of grief, but yeesh.
Michael joins her yet again, as ironically (or something) the others begin
singing *gasp* "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing." Ellen
implores Michael to quit working in the water and he refuses. (Haven’t we
covered this ground already?) "We know what we’re doing," he
maintains. "There’s nothing to worry about."
Cut to a shot of the shark as it presumably travels in their direction. You know, I don’t know how much more IRONY!!! I can stand.
This is our first good look at the shark, but all I can say is, "WTF?" I don’t know, shouldn’t animatronic shark technology have gotten, you know, better in the twelve years since the first film came out? I’m not kidding, this is the fakest-looking beast the series has yet offered. Nor do they even try to hide it, since the shark will be on camera and afforded loving close-ups through much of the remaining running (swimming?) time.
Next we see Thea and Ellen on the beach, working on an elaborate sand palace and enjoying a can of Shasta. Mmm, it’s filled with product-placementy goodness. Ellen ends up backing slightly into the water, whereupon she suddenly rears up and stares transfixed out into the ocean. We hear the Jaws shark theme. I know you’re going to find this hard to believe, and I don’t blame you, but take my word for it: The point of this is to establish a telepathic link between Ellen and Bruce TR. I swear.
The moment passes. Meanwhile, Hoagie comes rowing up in a boat. They all chatter ‘amusingly’ for a bit. Then we cut to the ketch that doubles as Michael and Jake’s decrepit research boat (as opposed to their decrepit research barge). The two are examining something through a microscope. Because, you know, that’s the sort of thing scientists do. Meanwhile, Jake is moaning that they’re out of money. So much for the grant Michael said they’d just gotten.
Jake suggests they can get a grant from the Navy. Michael refuses, because aside from looking in microscopes all the time, scientists are invariably peaceniks who scorn the Evil Warmongers in the military. "They put bombs on dolphins," he sneers. Look, I wouldn’t go around judging people who put out ‘bombs’ if I were you.
Coming up on deck, Michael spots Hoagie hanging out with his Mom. He grabs up some binoculars for a closer look. Back on the beach, Ellen is finishing a Deep Conversation with Hoagie. Luckily, we’ve managed to miss most of it. He encourages her not to dismiss her feelings, but understandably remains hesitant to accept her intuitions. "It’s coming," Ellen tells him. "I know it’s coming."
Anyhoo, and I doubt I have to spell this out, but Hoagie is meant to be a romantic foil for Ellen. He gives her that "Wow, what a woman" look, and then she charters him to take her on a plane ride. Soon afterward he’s shown teaching her to fly. (You’d think this is setting something up for later in the picture, but it isn’t.) This material isn’t exactly setting my interest levels aflame, but at least watching two old acting pros do their stuff makes the scene go down easily.
Cut to a Jamaican Carnival. They’re such a colorful folk, those Island people. Hoagie is showing Ellen the sights. OK, really, I think we get the idea. Could we move on, please? Thanks.
Cut to the barge. This time Jake is in the water and Michael’s the one busting chops. Suddenly, the shark slides up against the mini-sub*. "Holy sh*t!" Jake replies, and not without some justification. I mean, damn that thing looks all fake and rubbery. On the whole, though, Jake remains laughably calm. He radios up that he’s seen "a big fish." Michael is amused. "How big?" This, naturally, cues the shark to pop his head topside. (During this scene we’ll cut to Ellen, as she senses the shark’s arrival through their psychic link. Really.)
[*One aspect of the film that consistently drew jeers from critics is the shark’s having apparently traveled the sizable distance from Massachusetts to the Bahamas in what appears to be maybe three days. Indeed, that’s an, uh, impressive feat. The idea that the shark somehow manages to figure out where they were going was another such sore spot. However, as I’ve noted, I think the idea is that the shark and Ellen are psychically linked. Of course, in that case the explanation is arguably stupider than the plot hole they’re trying to plug with it.]
Michael dives backward, and the shark begins to munch on their barge. This affords us several more good long looks at the increasingly fake-looking beast. Having announced his presence, the shark descends back into the water. (Another continuity error: The shark leaves a pool of blood behind, despite not having attacked anyone.)
Jake comes up, all excited. "Now we can do some real research," he brays. I guess that’s what scientists do. Screw all those months of work on those boring conchs; there’s a big-ass great white shark out there. Michael is still shocked, but agrees. He only cautions that they mustn’t say anything to Ellen.
This leads me to draw two conclusions about Michael. First, he’s a friggin’ moron. Admittedly, before this his mom’s concerns have seemed pretty silly. Even so, when a bus-sized shark rises up, looks you in the eye and chews at your vessel before taking his leave, it might be time to take her a little more seriously.
My second conclusion is that he’s a king-sized, Grade-A prick. I know he’s a scientist and crap, but he’s also a husband and, oh, yeah, the father of a five year-old daughter. (Jake has a wife as well, but he’s a Crazy Island Mon, so what’cha gonna do, eh?) That should make him rethink his farting around with the shark. This is especially true given his, you know, family history with the things. Only a handful of people in the history of the planet have ever seen a great white shark this size, and Michael’s now seen three. Take a hint, doofus.
Even aside from Carla and Thea, however, there’s his mom. Look at what Sean’s death did to her. What if Michael also falls prey to a shark? It would literally kill her. I recognize that a man’s gotta do, etc., but this guy’s a truly selfish bastard.
Later, we see Hoagie dropping Ellen off after a night out. They’re laughing and obviously enjoying each other’s company, etc. Meanwhile, a brooding Michael watches them from his bedroom window. In a scene I really didn’t need to see, Carla attempts to divert his attention by winging her panties at him. Is this the best they can do? Here we have a Jaws movie 25% shorter than the original, and they have to include stuff like ‘love’ scenes to pad the running time? Blech. Ah, well, at least the film’s PG-13 rating precludes them from getting too graphic with all this.
We cut to a casino. Oh, yeah, this thing’s as lean as Lara Flynn Boyle. Jake is meeting Louisa there, and Michael, Carla and Ellen have joined him. Hearing a raucous voice, they turn to see Hoagie standing over at a craps table. A close-up reveals that he’s placing a bet of a good ten grand or more. He rolls snake eyes, though.
We next see everyone in party hats. It’s Louisa’s birthday and New Year’s Eve. They drink champagne and blow party favors. And…hey, isn’t there a shark or something in this freakin’ movie? What the hell? Blah blah. Jake forgets himself and almost mentions the shark. Michael glares at him significantly. Hoagie takes Ellen out on the dance floor. Michael glares at them significantly. He leaves the table (people are always pensively leaving the room, or the table, or whatever in this movie) and cuts in on Hoagie, then glares at his mom significantly as they dance. You know, I think the shark ate the wrong Brody kid.
Michael expresses his doubts about Hoagie’s character. Ellen promises to lay off about Michael working on the water. "Your brother’s death almost killed me," she confides, but she’s letting the shark vendetta thing go. Michael visibly struggles (emphasis on ‘visibly’) about whether to tell her about the shark. In the end, of course, he doesn’t. After all, we’ve still got nearly fifty minutes of movie left.
The next day Michael joins Jake on the research ketch. Jake is MacGuyvering up a transmitter that will not only allow them to track the shark, but also monitor its heart rate and provide other such data. They have a fight over whether to abandon their earlier project. Jake is hot to trot about the shark; Michael is no longer so sure. Michael prepares to end their partnership, but obviously doesn’t. Instead, we get a scene that uselessly eats up another four or five minutes.
This padding is required due to the structure necessitated by the film’s central plot device. Unlike the sharks in the earlier movies, Bruce TR isn’t randomly eating people. No, it’s here to kill Brodys. However, since there are really only two eligible Brodys to go around, the shark must be kept offstage for long periods of time. This wouldn’t be as much of a handicap if the characters we watch instead were more interesting.
Just as I was writing the above, and I absolutely crap you not, we cut to a scene where Carla and Michael are arguing because he hasn’t been taking out the garbage. You’re telling me, lady! It’s really starting to stack up out here.
This scene again continues for several minutes. Carla stalks into her studio and Michael storms after her. She senses that something’s bugging him, but again, it isn’t time for anyone else to learn about the shark yet. Finally, the sequence ends with the implication that they’re going to go have sex. "I always wanted to make love to an angry welder," he leers. Hey, buddy, should you ever want to get severely beaten by an angry audience member, give me a call.
Cut to the research barge. The crew is chumming the waters. (Hey, this could actually have something to do with the, you know, shark.) Jake, meanwhile, is about to lower some haunches of meat into the water. Then he leans overboard, kept upright by a line tied about his waist and anchored by Michael. Oh, yeah, that’s a good plan.
Soon the shark surfaces, and it looks more bogus than ever. Man, these effects suck. It disappears from sight. The haunches go into the water. The shark rises up and swallows them, still looking highly ersatz. Jake sticks it with a spear, attaching the locator/monitor to the rubbery beastie. After this, the shark sinks from view while waving its dorsal fin at the watching Michael. (Seriously.)
Cut to Ellen and Hoagie, the latter gabbing nonstop as usual. You know, if they had meant this movie to suck, it would represent one of the greatest artistic triumphs in human history. This is the scene in which the two finally reveal their feelings. "I have an irresistible urge to kiss you," Hoagie reveals. (I have an irresistible urge, too; one that will involve reacquainting myself with lunch.) He proceeds to do so, while I ponder the oddly high amount of macking this movie has for a killer shark flick. In any case, we’re treated to the hottest make-out action since Hepburn and Fonda went at it in On Golden Pond.
Cut to the ketch, which Jake and Michael are piloting out at sea. They are, of course, trying to locate Bruce TR. "Come on, you overgrown goldfish," Jake mutters. Ah, comic relief. What would we do without it? This leads to a truly painful long scene where Michael tries to question Jake about Hoagie while Jake ignores him and looks for the shark. Ha, ha, they have two different agendas.
I guess this is as good a time as any to mention the Jaws: The Revenge paperback novelization. In the book, Hoagie is apparently a drug runner. He reforms upon falling for Ellen, although I’ve read one reference indicating that he was actually a DEA agent. Presumably this notion was picked up from an earlier draft of the screenplay. This idea is bandied about here, but never really comes to much. Oh, except for helping to run out the clock.
By the way, there’s supposedly far goofier material in the book. We’ll go over that later.
In the end, they lose the shark. Jake vows to come back tomorrow. Cut to a shot of the shark cruising around underwater. This is a great shot. If you have a big enough TV, use the zoom feature on your DVD player to look at its dorsal fin. You can actually see the stitching that holds it all together.
Cut to Carla and Ellen, giggling over the kiss and all. It’s all, "Do you think he likes me?" and stuff. Blah blah blah blah blah. Hey, Bruce TR, get off your sharky ass and eat somebody, dammit. (Holy crap, I just remembered, I actually bought this friggin’ disc. $(@&*#$~!) By the way, I know I’m a prude and everything, but I really don’t need to see some young chick tell her mother-in-law "I am counting on a long, happy sex life," thank you very much.
Anyway, with that essential scene out of the way, we head back out to sea. The shark bursts from the water. Oh, wait; it’s only Michael having a nightmare. That’s the second $(@&*#~% time they’ve pulled that gag! You bastards!
Speaking of bastards, we cut to a typically morose Michael sitting in the kitchen, staring off into space. (Oh, no.) Sitting beside him is Thea. (Please, no.) Thea starts imitating her preoccupied father’s actions. (YEE-ARRRRRRRGH!!!) He sees her and starts playing along. Meanwhile, Ellen looks upon them and smiles wistfully. By the way, did I mention that I HATE THE PEOPLE WHO MADE THIS FRICKIN’ MOVIE?!
By the way, this scene would have been bad enough if they hadn’t actually shown a flashback of the scene they’re aping from Jaws back during the funeral sequence. But they did. Stupid movie.
Cut to Michael in the mini-sub. Now that we’re down to the film’s final half hour, I guess it’s time to bring the shark back into things. Jake exposits that they’ll spend half a day on the conchs, as Michael is presently doing, and then spend the remainder of the day looking for ol’ Bruce TR. To my complete lack of amazement, though, Jake picks up the shark on his oscilloscope. "He’s coming towards you, Michael," he warns. How the hell could he tell that from a wavy oscilloscope line?
Before he can make it back to the surface, the shark is on him. If I’m following this, the beast traveled three miles in about thirty seconds. Wow. We then get an extended sequence, complete with lots and lots of good looks at the sham shark, as it dismantles the sub without, somehow, getting to Michael in the process. Bruce ends up getting tangled in the mini-sub and Michael swims away. A chase ensues. So much for the shark’s recently portrayed super-speed. After evading the creature for a ludicrously long stretch, Michael conveniently happens upon a wrecked ship. He ducks inside.
(I don’t know what kind of mechanism they were using to move the prosthetic shark around. Whatever the rig is, it allows them to film the shark from angles not employed in the previous films. On the other hand, the shark keeps listing to its side. For all I know it’s designed to do that, but it doesn’t look right.)
Michael swims through various passageways. Hilariously, we soon see that the shark is following him through the tight confines of the ship. Since sharks physically can’t swim backwards*, this would mean that as soon as it hits a dead end, it’ll be trapped and eventually die. It would be like flipping a turtle over on its back.
[*Per the John D. Shedd Aquarium Website: "…like
other sharks, [great whites] cannot swim backwards or even come to an abrupt
stop, because their fins are not flexible like other fish. In order to go
backwards, they must stop swimming and fall backwards, using gravity to
Needless to say, this doesn’t happen. Nor does the beast have any apparent difficulty with several hatchways that seem way too small to accommodate his girth. I guess Bruce TR can Offscreen Teleport, because otherwise this sequence is completely nonsensical. Oh, and keep a sharp eye out for the shot where you can see under the shark as it glides down a passageway. If you look close, you can see the rail the shark is moving along.
Michael ends up hiding in a chamber. Suddenly the shark, which has somehow made its way back outside, crashes through the rotten wooden hull. Have I mentioned that this scene is completely ludicrous? It plays exactly like a slasher movie sequence where a machete-wielding killer chases a panting prospective victim through a deserted house. Is this what the Jaws series has come to?
If you watch closely when the shark comes through the hull and smacks into the ladderway, you can see the flaps that normally cover its internal machinery come billowing out for the impact. In any case, Michael escapes a bloody end when he opens wide the valve on his scuba tank. The pressurized air, and boy, there’s a lot of it, shoots him up like a missile. (Good thing the tank doesn’t just shoot out of his grip during all this, especially when he’s using one hand to twist the valve.) He surfaces right next to the barge—good thing he wasn’t directly under it, the impact would have killed him—and Jake and the others haul him aboard. Amazingly, he shows no symptoms of the bends, despite his incredibly swift ascent through what appeared to be a sizable distance of water.
That night Michael lays awake in his bed. He turns to stare at a bloody bandage on his arm*, then goes to stare into the bathroom mirror. I think he’s asking the man there to change his ways.
[*Jabootu Minister of Proofreading Carl Fink questions whether this is an oblique echo of Sean’s dismemberment. Possibly so, although it would be uniquely sly for this movie.]
Or maybe not. The next day, Jake arrives on the barge to find Michael donning his scuba suit. "You fall off the horse, you get right back on again," Michael explains. Yes, especially if it’s a horse that weighs six thousand pounds, has a giant mouth full of sharp, jagged teeth and wants to eat you. Jake, realizing that this is something Michael has to do (Wow!), stands aside.Our Hero (?) swims around a while as they milk the *cough* suspense. (Is this his plan? To swim around defenseless and see if the shark comes out and eats him?) There’s a cheap gag with a Spring-Loaded Moray Eel, but the shark is nowhere to be seen.
Following this, we cut to the beach, where they’re holding the dedication ceremony for Carla’s abstract shark metalwork piece. (Michael is missing this in order to bait the shark? Yeah, right. I guess he plans to die either way.) The establishing shot shows us the water as shot through the statue. Get it? It’s foreshadowing and stuff. Carla, meanwhile, is a little ticked at Michael’s no-show status, and pretty understandably so. How often does an artist get a big public dedication ceremony? Have I mentioned that I think Michael is a selfish putz yet?
By the way, the guy dedicating the statue is played by Mario Van Peebles’ dad, Melvin Van Peebles. Peebles’ radicalized black cinema and helped kick off the (ultimately co-opted) Blaxploitation genre with the crude but influential "off the pigs" flick Sweet Sweetback’s Baad Assss Song.
Thea is getting antsy, and asks if she can ride the ‘banana boat.’ This is a novelty water ride literally shaped like a banana, which you ride by straddling it. One of her friends is going for a ride along with her mom, so Carla gives Thea permission to join them. Ellen, of course, is nervous to see her granddaughter out on the water.
Sensing the shark, Ellen turns again towards the water to see the beast’s fin approach the banana boat. However, it’s too late. In what I have to admit is a fairly decent attack scene (although the slow-motion is a bit much and Bruce looks entirely as fake as usual), the shark rises up to grab the boat’s operator and slowly munch her to death above the waterline. I guess I should also point out that this is only the second death scene, and that it takes place well over an hour after the initial one.
Everyone else makes it safely to shore, Thea included. However, the shark has made its point. Really, that’s what the scene is supposed to be about. Of course, the whole situation is ridiculous. This is a shark, after all, not a killer whale. Ellen whips her head over to look over the water and spots the beast’s fin, which is actually seen signaling her. Striding determinedly over the beach, she commandeers a quite-handy boat and heads out to confront her fate. (It turns out that the vessel she grabbed was the research ketch, meaning that she must have actually headed back to Michael's to get it, although this isn't indicated by the editing.)
Michael comes home, apologizing for missing Carla’s ceremony. Seeing her holding their traumatized daughter, he asks what’s wrong. Needless to say, he’s a little nonplussed to learn about the shark attack. Carla and Louisa, meanwhile, are even less amused to find that their husbands knew about the shark but didn’t bother telling anyone. (Yeah, now that I think about it, it does seem like something the island authorities might have wanted to know.)
In fact, Carla’s a little bitchy about the whole "our daughter almost got killed blah blah" thing. Women. It’s always something with them. It’s about here that Michael notices the absence of both his mother and his ketch. He yells for Jake to join him and heads for a small motorboat. (Needless to say, at no time will we see any evidence of the authorities taking any action, despite the rather public demise of the banana boat lady.)
Ellen continues out to sea. On the way after her, Michael and Jake see Hoagie fishing in his rowboat. Once he’s been clued in, we cut to the three of them taking off in Hoagie’s plane. Michael takes the opportunity to suspiciously question Hoagie on what he does when he’s not giving plane tours. It seems a bit rude to interrogate the guy who’s whisking you out to save your mother’s life, but as I’ve mentioned, Michael is a bit of a prat. In any case, the issue is never resolved, so you wonder why the hell it kept coming up throughout the movie.
Meanwhile, the shark has found Ellen. The film again abuses Williams’ shark theme, but hell, at least we’re approaching the end of the movie. "Come and get me, you son of a bitch," she says. Yes, please, whatever. Just get on with it. Of course, it’s about now that Michael and the others find her position.
Noting the rather large (if patently artificial) shark harassing the ketch, Hoagie takes drastic action and lands the plane upon the water. I imagine this stunt ate up a good chunk of the film’s budget, and even so there’s a continuity error. If you look in the background of the shot as the plane approaches the water, you can see another boat sailing around. It’s not right on top of them, but it surely close enough that they could signal it for help.
Hoagie manages to get the plane down right alongside the ketch without killing anyone, although his craft quickly begins to sink. As if that weren’t enough, the shark decides to register his displeasure with their interference. "Get out!" he orders the others. "I’ll keep it busy." (??) Jake, however, notes that the shark will be drawn to the plane anyway. "It’s attracted to the electromagnetic impulse of the metal on it." Uh…OK.
This last bit, presumably, is meant to explain why the shark wouldn’t just eat Jake and (especially) Michael as they swim for the ketch. Hoagie, meanwhile, finds himself trapped inside the plane by the shark. The irate beastie levers its body atop the craft and forces it completely underwater, pilot and all. You know, I’m not entirely sure that Hoagie’s sacrifice was unintended. It might be that he believed this was the easiest way to get out of the movie.
The three grieve for a short while, with Ellen castigating Michael for bringing Hoagie out here. At which point, that’s right, Hoagie appears alive and well, climbing up onto the ketch. "How did you do that?" an amazed Jake asks. "It wasn’t easy!" Hoagie replies. Wow! That’s some great writing there! And if you thought his escape from apparent certain death was amazing, how about the fact that his clothes are completely dry when they haul him aboard.
For some reason the engine compartment is taking on water. Hoagie jumps in and tries to affect some repairs. Meanwhile, Jake calls for Michael to join him below deck. "Take the transmitter from the radio and hook it to the strobe!" Jake explains. Michael doesn’t get what his partner is up to. "I’m riggin’ the receiver," Jake replies. "If it works, we get it inside that bastard and we set it off." As that makes absolutely no sense, Michael immediately catches on. "I got it! We rig an antenna on this, we’ve got a slave unit that’ll shock the hell out of him!" Whatever, dude.
Lest anyone in the audience is so scientifically illiterate that they’ve failed to follow this simple explanation, Jake continues talking. "If it responds to external electrical impulse," he technobabbles, "it might respond to one coming from inside it. Confuse him, drive him crazy."
Hoagie calls out that the shark has stopped registering on the oscilloscope. Everyone acts like this is a dire turn of events, although I don’t see why. Other than confirming that the shark’s in a three mile radius, I don’t see what use the thing is. Meanwhile, Caine is given some ‘comic’ dialog to leaven the ‘suspense.’ "Maybe he had a heart attack," he offers. "Too much bloody food. Humans are full of cholesterol, you know." Ha! Hoagie, what a card you are. By the way, did you know Michael Caine is British? That’s why he says things like ‘bloody’ all the time.
Preparing for the shark’s inevitable return, Jake attaches the shock device (or whatever the heck it is) to the end of a gaffing hook and—really—shimmies out onto the end of the ketch’s extended prow. I’m not sure why the heck you’d bother, since a couple of minutes ago the shark had thrust itself up out of the water and would clearly have been within arm’s reach from the deck.
The shark disappears. Suddenly, in a completely unpredictable turn of events, the shark surfaces, rises magically up from the water and snatches Jake into its mouth. This sequence, along with horrified reaction shots from the other characters, is completely portrayed in slow motion. Of course, we get the obligatory silent, slo-mo "NOOOOOOOOOOO!" from Ellen. The shark drags the profusely bloody Jake under the water. The scene ends with Michael yelling "Jaaaaaaaaaake!", a line augmented with an echo chamber effect. (Slo-mo. Echo effects. Man, the director of this pic was really on the cutting edge.)
Well, actually, that’s not true. There’s a shot of a still struggling Jake—man, that guy’s tough—beating on the shark as it hauls him along underwater. The best part is that, if you look at the scene closely (use the slow button on your DVD remote), you can actually see the rod that the shark is being propelled with!
A grieving Michael—well, OK, I may be projecting this emotion onto the blank slate that is Lance Guest’s face—heads below to collect the control unit for strobe that Jake managed to ram down the shark’s throat. (Oddly, the demise of each film’s shark involves something that has gone inside the respective beast’s mouth.) Meanwhile, things are getting even more dire, as the script says that more water suddenly comes flooding into the engine compartment.
Michael waits on the broken prow, control unit in hand. I think maybe he’s meant to remind us of Quint standing on the pulpit of the Orca, but I really don’t want to think about that too much, since it makes my brain angry. (Meanwhile, Ellen has a brown-tinted flashback of Sean’s death. Of course, she wasn’t there to see it, so…uh, never mind. Then she flashes back to the attack on the banana boat. She did see that, but oddly the flashback is again from the angle the audience saw it from, not from where she was standing.)
Using the control unit, Michael triggers an electrical shock—or some damn thing—inside their nemesis. The movie helpfully provides a nifty sound effect to indicate this, followed by the shark rising from and thrashing in the water and, that’s right, roaring hugely, like a movie dinosaur. Zap. Roar. Zap. Roar. Then the control unit fritzes for a minute, like how your car engine always stalls when a monster is attacking you from outside. Oh, no! Are they doomed?! However, Michael is a trained scientist, and so he repeatedly taps on the control unit’s outer casing. Yay, it works! (As if I care.) Zap. Roar.
Meanwhile, Ellen steers right at the shark. She has brown-tinted flashbacks from the first movie, of Martin aiming his rifle at Bruce I. (Of course, this is her ‘remembering’ something else she didn’t witness.) Shark. Determined Ellen. Flashback. Shark. Ellen. Flashback, of Martin saying, "Smile, you son of a bitch!" The shark helpfully raises its torso way the hell up out of the water, the ketch’s broken bowsprit impales the shark and…
Well, it depends. Originally, the shark died from being impaled upon the jagged spar. This was, I always thought, a pretty good ending. After all, you’d need something that would inflict a lot of damage to kill such a beast. Moreover, they’d already used electricity and explosions (twice) on Bruce TR’s predecessors. Therefore this always seemed a pretty good concept, at least to me.
However, the film was famously altered following test screenings. One change we’ll get to in a moment. Here we’ll deal with the first: The bowsprit impales the loudly roaring shark, and…the shark massively explodes for no reason whatsoever. Really. I swear.
There’s two problems with this. Well, OK, three. First, the explosion thing had been done before, and twice at that. Second, sharks in nature usually don’t blow up when they’ve been impaled with something. (If they did, shark fishing would be a lot more exciting.) Third…well, here’s the thing. Apparently the studio wanted the ending changed, but wasn’t willing to authorize more than $75 to film the new sequence. I’m not kidding, the effects here are literally atrocious. They cut in a small rubber shark impaled upon a terrible, unpainted (!) model of the boat, then immediately we get the gigantic blast that spells the beast’s end.
Luckily, the magic of home video allows us to view this in freeze frame, and believe me when I tell you that this bit features perhaps the worst special effects I’ve ever seen in a major studio film. In fact, if you advance frame by frame, the rubber shark is seen to blow up four times. Man, that’s movie magic at its finest. Then, then, they have the unmitigated balls to borrow from Jaws itself the footage of the original Bruce’s decapitated body sinking down through the water. Seriously. What can you even say about something that appalling?
The boat goes down due to the Recent Unpleasantness, with everyone ending up in the water. (This part was shot in a tank. Watch close and you'll see the 'ocean' splashing up against the 'horizon.') That’s when we get the second preview-mandated change. In a bit so stupid that I can’t come up with an analogy for how stupid it is, Jake pops up, bleeding but alive. Cue big swell of Triumphant Music. See, test audiences liked Jake and were disturbed that he got killed. So they substituted an alternative ending in which he’d survived, even if this was an utterly moronic turn of events.
See, there are actually more than a few different versions of the film. When the film was originally released, Jake died in the American prints but lived overseas. Then additional changes were made for the TV version of the movie. Finally, there’s the version used for the home video and DVD copies. (By the way, I don’t expect a super edition DVD for this film, but would it have killed them to dig out all the alternate scenes and cuts and put them on the disc as a special feature?)
Further changes are mentioned on the IMDB. Here are a couple of the better ones:
In any case, Michael helps Jake, while Ellen and Hoagie float on their stomachs upon a piece of wreckage. Of course, this is a steal of Jaws’ final sequence, wherein Martin Brody and Hooper do the same.
Cut to an airport. Everyone’s here to see Ellen off.
Hoagie is piloting the plane, of course, but sadly we never learn if he and
Ellen get together. Oh, wait, that’s not sad. I forgot that I don’t give
a flying fig. The plane takes off and we start the end credits, with four
minutes of the movie left. That means that the skimpy 91-minute picture
actually runs under 87 minutes. If you ever wanted to see somebody cram ten
pounds of crap in a five-pound bag, here’s your chance.
You may be wondering why, of all actors, I’d make this offer to Scheider. Admittedly, I’ve always enjoyed his work as an actor, but he really earned my respect with this picture. This assertion may have you wondering why all over again, since he didn’t appear in it.
Well, that’s why.
The fact of the matter is that the film was always designed to center on Ellen Brody. This seems an odd direction for the series to take, to say the least. Therefore it’s not too surprising that many suspect the fact that Gary’s husband, who was at the time the CEO of Universal Studios, had something to do with it.
In any case, Scheider was offered a paycheck, and probably a fairly hefty one, to do a cameo for this film. As originally written, it would have been Martin Brody, not Sean, who met his bloody end out in Amity Harbor. Scheider, to my eternal gratitude, refused. I’ve always assumed it was out of respect for the first movie. On the other hand, word is that he was forced into doing Jaws 2, and perhaps he wasn’t going through that hell again. In any case, sir, my hat’s off to you.
Only a lunatic would believe that fans of the Jaws series would want to see Martin Brody get killed by a shark, much less in order to have his death function as a set-up for his wife’s sunny Caribbean adventures. That, however, remains the film’s main problem. Even when they thought they might get Scheider back for at least a quick appearance, the film was always designed to center on Lorraine Gary’s Ellen Brody. She’s even given a star turn introduction. First we follow her hands, etc., and then we cut teasingly to her back as she raids the refrigerator. Finally she turns around towards the camera. Look! There she is! Lorraine Gary!
Making this set-up even more insane is how the film would have proceeded had Scheider taken the money and run. Ellen’s burgeoning romance with Hoagie here is merely annoying and uninteresting. However, watching her get even sort of involved with someone else so shortly after the brutal demise of her beloved husband would beggar description.
To this extent, the substitution of Sean makes more sense. Due to this change, Ellen is now established as having been a widow for some period of time. Therefore her relationship with Hoagie is only objectionable on the basis that it’s poorly written and generally boring, not because she’s out with another man before her husband even grows cold.
The script is dreadful, boasting plot holes so huge a 25-foot shark could swim through them. In the novelization, voodoo (!!) is used to explain the situation, as a priest insulted by Michael casts a curse on the family. That’s so stupid (not to mention old-fashioned) that it’s almost endearing.
However, here we don’t get even a stupid explanation. What’s the deal with the shark? Is it a relative of Bruce? A family friend? An independent contractor? (Hmm, I guess not, as then it wouldn’t be personal.) Bruce’s ghost, reincarnated? The shark does seem to do almost supernatural things on occasion, not to mention its apparent mental link with Ellen. Still, with a film this stupid, it’s hard to know what any of this ‘means.’ Do super-sized sharks have a pact of some sort? Maybe all the sharks were the fish equivalent of Masons and avenging fellow members’ deaths is part of the charter? Throw us a bone, here.
Lorraine Gary’s decision to end her eight-year retirement so as to appear in this movie was perhaps…misconceived. She’s OK here, although the constant scenes of her crying early on don’t help her much. She’s helped by rest of the cast, though. It doesn’t hurt that she’s acting opposite the entirely smooth Michael Caine, nor is she injured by the contrast to the drop-dead awful Lance Guest as Michael.
As for Mr. Caine, he’s often been a visitor to our site. Therefore I won’t rehash my thoughts on him. Let’s just say that, of the hundred-plus films he’s made, he’s starred in these:
As noted, Caine acquits himself fairly well here. He
certainly doesn’t add to the film’s woes; it’s just that there’s
just not much he can do to redeem it. I hope he enjoyed his vacation, and I
thank him for doing what he could.
Carla, Michael’s wife, was played by Karen Young. Two years later, she would play Roy Scheider’s inappropriately young girlfriend (the age difference was an issue in the script) in the baseball-themed serial killer movie Night Game. I think that was the last movie I saw in a theater just because it starred Roy Scheider. Ms. Young has apparently retired, as she has no further film or TV credits since 2000.
Louisa was played Lynn Wakefield. She survived this debacle and has sustained a busy acting career, remaining especially busy with TV appearances in such series as Boston Public and Without a Trace. ‘80s pop culture buffs might recall her as Danny Glover’s sister in Silverado. She also recently appeared in the forgettable Chris Rock vehicle Head of State.
The real culprit here, as indicated above, is writer Michael De Guzman. (Well, him and whatever studio hacks OK’d his obviously inane screenplay.) I’ve seen many a stupid film in my time, but this has to be one of the worst scripts ever made into a major studio project. Jaws: The Revenge was his first, and last, movie script, although he amazingly continued to find work writing TV movies. One can only hope he continues to be pummeled by Jaws fans whenever he meets one.
A greater mystery is the direction of veteran helmer Joseph Sargent. Sargent is a pro, and has many popular titles under his belt. Starting as an actor in the late 1940s, he moved to directing TV show episodes in the ‘50s. In 1966, he directed the fondly remembered Star Trek episode "The Corbomite Maneuver."
In 1970 he moved to the big screen, directing the minor cult classic Colossus: The Forbin Project. He still mostly worked in television, but did return to theatrical features with the truly nifty The Talking of Pelham One Two Three in 1974. The crime film provided Jaws actor Robert Shaw with one of his best screen roles. How somebody who makes a movie like that ends up hatching a complete piece of garbage like Jaws: The Revenge remains one of those eternal mysteries.
Later in the decade, however, Sargent made two notorious flops, Golden Girl with Susan Anton and MacArthur, a would-be Patton with Gregory Peck in the titular role. By the early ‘80s, Sargent’s occasional film work was with junk like the anthology picture Nightmares. Following that, he stuck with TV work for four years, a stretch broken when he made Jaws: The Revenge. I’m sure it won’t surprise anyone to hear that this represented his last theatrical feature. He did work with Michael Caine again when the actor played Stalin (!) in the mini-series World War II: When Lions Roared.
In the end, the one achievement you can credit this film with is that it finally drove a stake through an increasingly insane series. The most expensive of the four films at $23,000,000, the movie grossed about $20,000,000, meaning Universal probably saw not much more than half that amount.
The series has continued in other guises, of course. Deep Blue Sea could as easily have been released as a Jaws film. Meanwhile, direct-to-video and TV movies keep churning out similar fare, like the Shark Attack movies.
In the end, though, the property is just sitting there, collecting dust. Sooner or later, somebody will get it into his head, and perhaps with some justification, that the series died mostly because the sequels were so monumentally bad. As the years pass, and the stench that lingers over the series finally dies away, somebody will surely say, "Hey, how about another Jaws movie?"
Let’s just hope that they finally give the poor Brodys a pass.
The Critics Rave:
"I’m not sure who greenlighted this thing, but I’d bet they’re not working in the film industry anymore. Simply put, the script is awful—my seven-year-old daughter makes up better stories than this when she’s trying to avoid getting in trouble." – Mike Bracken, Culturedose.com.
"Zero Stars…Jaws the Revenge is not simply a bad movie, but also a stupid and incompetent one…The screenplay is simply a series of meaningless episodes of human behavior, punctuated by shark attacks…." — Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times.
"[N]aturally, the shark -- the same shark -- follows them, swimming all the way from Amity to the Caribbean. Unless of course he flew, which is the only way he could have gotten there in time." — Hal Hinson, Washington Post.
"The only jaws to watch out for in this film are yours, hitting the floor." — BBCi.
Minister of Proofreading Carl Fink clarifies some points:
Jabootu Shadow Minister Bill Leary offers the following observations:
More on sharks and cold waters:
-Review by Ken Begg