Great White - A "Jaws" Rip-off!
As you know, I'm a huge fan of sharks (I watch "Shark Week" on the Discovery Channel religiously every year) and there's no denying that "Jaws" is the all-time heavyweight champ of Shark movies, let alone one of the greatest films ever made in general. But what about all of the other shark attack flicks out there? Sure, there was "Deep Blue Sea", which at least made a valiant effort to take the genre somewhere different. Then again, it also spawned a promotional song* by LL Cool J which included the lyrics, "Deepest, bluest, my hat is like a shark's fin," thus instantly taking away any shred of credit the movie might have earned itself.
Still, Deep Blue was miles above all the other shark attack themed films in terms of quality. There have been so many bad shark attack movies since the release of Jaws it's almost impossible to keep track of them. Some made for TV, others direct-to-video, others in small theatrical runs... the one guarantee you have with these films is that they'll generally suck. But while they may stink like some rancid chum that's been floating in the sea for far too long, there's often quite a bit of unintentional humor that goes with these bad shark attack flicks. Who can't laugh when they see the helpless actress swimming in the water, and then it cuts to some stock footage of sharks from a National Geographic documentary? Or how about the absurdly bad models and CGI effects that some of the "higher budget" Jaws rip-off flicks will use? These are the things that chortles and guffaws are made of.
With these things in mind, I plan on reviewing many of the bad flicks in a new series of cheesy shark attack film articles. Today I want to take a look at a movie called "Great White" - an Italian "Jaws" rip-off from the early 80's that also goes by the names "The Last Shark" and "Ultimo Squalo, L" (thanks to Pox for introducing me to it). This movie was actually pulled from theatres in the US when Universal hit the producers with a lawsuit because the movie was so insanely similar to "Jaws" and "Jaws 2". And honestly, out of all the bad Jaws rip-off flicks out there, none of them are more blatant about stealing the Jaws concept than this one if you ask me. While this movie doesn't warrant a full in-depth feature review article, there are plenty of scenes I'd like to touch on (primarily the actual shark attacks) because... well, they make me laugh real fucking hard and that's all the motivation I need to write about it. So let's get to it, shall we?
*note: my deepest, bluest, darkest secret is that I kinda love that song.
The movie starts off with footage of a windsurfer jetting across the sea as he does a variety of poses, the best of which easily being when he awkwardly thrusts his crotch out towards the camera. After time passes by, we get a shot underwater that moves up to the surfer real quickly (sans the classic "Jaws" music, guess they didn't have the balls to rip that part off) and then it cuts to a view of a bite chunk that was taken out of the board.
Shortly after, the bad orchestral synth-driven music sets in and the shark returns for another bite. But this time, it comes up from directly underneath the board instead at one of the ends. But there's one major difference between the way this shark attacks and Jaws...
When this shark attacks, THINGS EXPLODE! I mean that literally. You don't always see the shark, but you do get to see the windsurfer get sent flying in the air and there's even a loud explosion sound... because, you know... that's what it sounds like when a shark hits a surf board, right? Well anyway, you never see the shark, you just see the surprised windsurfer guy get pulled under and then the water goes still. What no blood!? If it was at night like when the girl in Jaws got attacked I could understand that, but this is in broad fucking daylight. You gotta at least show some blood in the water. Come on!
Later on, Quint, I mean... "Ron Hamer" is riding on his boat and finds a piece of the windsurfer's board. It's clear that he knows that no ordinary shark did this, it's the work of a great white! It's also clear (to the viewer) that this is no Quint, this is just some guy with a bad accent trying desperately to be like Quint (to his credit, Vic Morrow deserved better roles than this). I would also like to take this opportunity to note that moustaches were very popular in this movie. In fact, one of the only guys in the movie without a moustache is our hero character, Peter Benton (the "Brody" of the film), and he doesn't die. Perhaps some marine biologists should do a study on whether moustaches increase a swimmer's risk of being attacked by sharks. Hey, I'd be all for it. Finally, your tax dollars at work for a good reason!
With the big windsurfing race coming up, the town decides to take some precautionary measures by putting up an underwater fence in the area where the regatta will take place to prevent any sharks from getting in. But our shark is just too big to let some measly fence hold him back, so he busts a sizeable hole in it. However, when he does this, one of the fence markers apparently gets tangled onto his body, so now whenever he swims near the surface, you can see a red buoy marker floating above him. Gee, that's not like the Jaws movies where he's got the barrels floating above him at all!
Sure enough, at the windsurfing regatta, the shark appears as we see the buoy marker ramming into the windsurfers and knocking them into the water. The security officials realize it's the shark and tell everybody to get out of the water. Unfortunately, a security official, who JUST HAPPENS TO HAVE A MOUSTACHE, is about to kick the bucket. He sees the shark coming straight for him and just as he says "What the!?", this happens:
Another shark attack explosion! Only this one is even more ridiculous because it's so obvious that there's a dummy of our bemoustached buddy in the boat, rather than the actual guy. Just look at how his arms stay at his sides the entire time. This combined with the thought of a shark jettisoning an entire boat up into the air like that makes for some horrible horror hilarity. Man, I wish I could've seen this movie when it was in US theaters before it was pulled. That's just one of those moments you need to see on the big screen in a packed theater.
And hey, this time we actually get to see the shark, even though they cut away before you see the moustache man get devoured. It's clearly not as menacing looking as "Bruce", the shark from Jaws, but still not bad by rip-off standards.
A little later, some of the kids from town take a boat out and dangle a piece of meat in the water in hopes of getting the shark. Well, the shark does show up and goes for the meat, but what's hilarious is how quickly the footage changes from day (mechanical shark) to night (stock footage shark). Don't get me wrong, I love watching real sharks in action, but when you see them do it in a horror movie like this where the footage looks completely different, it's just laughable.
Anyway, being the idiots that they are, during all of the commotion, one of the kids gets knocked into the water and has her leg bitten off by the shark. You see kids? Never try to do the job of somebody who is older than you. Somebody who is older and who has a moustache. Moustache = professional. Got it? Good.
Fast-forward through some more stock footage 'n bad acting and we have the mayor guy hanging from a helicopter. If there's one thing that people dream about doing in an action movie, it's getting to be that guy who hangs off the landing gear of a helicopter. But what about taking it one step further? How about being attacked by a shark while hanging from a helicopter! That's right, it's time for some leg chompin' action!
Ok, Batman did it first (another rip-off perhaps?), but there's no denying that this scene is still awesome. In fact, it's pretty much the greatest scene in the entire movie. Not only does it actually show some gore for a change, but we get to see an obvious toy model of the helicopter crash into the water shortly after.
Perfection. Way to stretch those budget dollars, boys!
More time passes and a few more people bite the bucket. Actually, maybe the people are in the bucket and it's the shark who is biting it, thus killing all the people in it. Ok, there are no buckets in this movie, but more people die and it's because of the shark. The most notable of the people who die later on is Ron Hamer (the "Quint" of this movie), but he actually drowns underwater from being tangled in a cable as it gets pulled away by the shark. But wait, he had explosives on him at the time! I wonder if that could be pertinent to the story! You see where I'm going with this?
After the people brilliantly put bait on the end of a pier in an attempt to catch it, the shark takes the bait out to sea... and half of the pier with it. Once the people are stranded on the floating pier debris, the shark starts picking 'em off one by one. First it does yet another "explosion" attack from underneath the pier and bites a news reporter in half, then the shark eats a cowboy bounty hunter guy who thought he could kill it. I guess that's what you get for sending a COWBOY after a killer creature that lives in the OCEAN.
The best part about it attacking the cowboy however is how it actually ROARS at him before it eats him. What, you didn't know that sharks were descendants of lions? It's a fact. The shark apparently strips him too because we see the cowboys clothes hanging out of its mouth.
Peter Benton then finally comes to save the day. Just as he helps get the last person loaded onto his boat, Peter gets dragged away on the pier. Now it's just him versus the shark! But how can he take on this shark with his bare hands? LOOK!
By some measure of purely insane luck, Ron Hamer's body floats up to the surface close enough to the pier debris so that Peter can pull him up aboard. Keep in mind Ron died a while ago and in a completely different location, but hey, whatever helps them wrap up the movie, right? While Ron is dead, his body is still strapped with explosives and a remote detonator. So Peter does the only thing a hero in this situation could do: he grabs the detonator and feeds his bomb-rigged buddy to the shark.
As Peter watches his friend slowly get chomped by sharky, all the rage that he's kept buried down below for so long finally bursts out as he screams with all his might, "DAMN YOU!!!"
Then, for no apparent reason whatsoever he dives off into the water as he activates the remote detonator. I guess he was worried that flying shark guts might hit him if he stayed out of the water? Well anyway, the shark presumably explodes and Peter has saved the day. I say "presumably" because that almost completely pitch-black screenshot you see there on the right is exactly what you see when the explosion goes off. The only thing I'm able to make out are a few bubbles and some dark red in there. Sadly, no amount of adjusting the contrast on your TV can help it.
So there you have it, the big killer shark of the movie has a death scene that you can't even see! Wait, I bet I know why they didn't show it. It's because the bomb isn't what killed the shark it was something else entirely! I ran this scene through some high-tech imaging enhancement machines that are far beyond your comprehension so I won't get into the details about them. The following image is what was uncovered:
That shark took down many fine moustaches in the movie, so it's only natural that the godfather of moustaches would come get some payback. Give 'em hell, Tom!
For those of you who are interested in actually seeing this "Great White" flick, it was released on DVD not too long ago and I've heard there's a Blu-Ray version on the way. It's also been on and off Youtube for a while now:
Definitely a piece of cheesy shark attack film history that's worth owning simply because of the humor. And the moustaches. Whatever you happen to like about it, it's a fun sharksploitation flick that you can always watch whenever Shark Week rolls around on the Discovery Channel each year.
Oh, and the original poster artwork is pretty great too:
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