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Friday, October 30, 2015

31 DAYS OF HORROR 2015-Day 30: CRUEL JAWS (1995)

"I'll get you, motherfuckin' shark!!!"
—crazed shotgun-wielding Mafioso.

There are JAWS ripoffs and then there is CRUEL JAWS, a USA/Italian-made marvel of copyright infringement that liberally (and illegally) cribs its shark attack footage from JAWS, JAWS 2, JAWS 3-D, DEEP BLOOD and even the infamous LAST SHARK, itself one of the most outrageously  flagrant ripoffs ever made. I was alerted to this work of patchwork art a few years back by my pal Mindless Kirby, himself already well-schooled in bad movies by the relatively early age of eighteen, and I could not believe there could possibly be a JAWS ripoff more in-your-face than Enzo Castellari's LAST SHARK, a film withdrawn after legal action was threatened by Universal Pictures. Seriously, there was just no way. But what I did not take into account was that there would be an Italian filmmaker possessed of balls big enough to actually — and very poorly — steal footage from all of the aforementioned movies, rather than merely lift the basic template of "gigantic man-eating shark terrorizes beach resort until hunted to explosive death by a disparate crew of pursuers." And, as if that were not enough, the film also "borrows" snippets from one of the most famous movie soundtracks of all time, specifically the original STAR WARS, and even lists JAWS author Peter Benchley as one of its scripters. (It goes without saying that he was not actually involved.)

Helmed by "William Snyder" — aka Bruno Mattei, the virtuoso behind such classics as S.S. EXTERMINATION LOVE CAMP (1977), PORNO HOLOCAUST (1981), CALIGULA'S PERVERSIONS (1981), VIOLENCE IN A WOMEN'S PRISON (1982) and RATS IN MANHATTAN (1984) — CRUEL JAWS follows the tried and true formula of the films it rips off and splices together, mostly drawing its plot particulars from JAWS and JAWS 2. Aside from the familiar narrative template, the story gives viewers a gaggle of disposable characters that are impossible to care about, and in most cases you'll end up praying for them all to end up as the next day's floating shark's turds. There's the nerdy shark expert, a Hulk Hogan lookalike with a cute and treacly little daughter in a wheelchair (who spends her time playing with dolphins and seals at her dad's low-rent aqua show), a pitiful pack of local bullies, one of whom is the mayor's son, and, of course, the corrupt mayor who pooh-poohs the shark attacks and refuses to call off the upcoming regatta for fear of losing tourist's bucks, and their performances are uniformly piss-poor. As the so-called story perfunctorily goes through the motions, there's also a jaw-dropping subplot where the mayor — after failing to call off the regatta, which ends up with the deaths of innocents and loses tons of money as a result — is called on the carpet by his previously unseen Mafia masters and told that they will send a pair of stereotypical goombahs to take care of the shark and claim the $100,000 reward. These two morons, suddenly and inexplicably expert at handling motorboats, set off onto the high seas to kick some shark ass, armed with various firearms. Needless to say, they are horribly killed almost immediately.

As the story nears the long-overdue finish line, it is eventually revealed that the shark is actually the result of a navy experiment that has been trained to attack any enemies within its home territory — in this case a sunken Naval transport — and that revelation adds nothing whatsoever to the plot or the viewer's interest. Oh, and while the shark is described as being of the Tiger variety, all of the stock nature documentary footage and stolen segments clearly depict Great Whites.

The film's soundtrack is replete with totally inappropriate music — mostly ten-years-out-of-date generic '80's-style pop that will make you want to put your head through the nearest wall — and the cinematography is often murky as hell, rendering much of the original footage quite dark, and the editing is often incomprehensible. But what makes this mess absolutely worth sitting through is its sheer nerve as a Frankenstein's monster of cobbled-together footage from other movies, and the jarring juxtaposition of it all is akin to reliving a bad tequila and cough syrup bender. From moment to moment, the shark morphs from live nature footage to a number of fake-looking animatronics and puppets, and when the shark is blown up at the end it explodes three times, each detonation culled from different movies. CRUEL JAWS is complete and utter crap and its shamelessness is Homeric in scale, but a film of this magnitude of outrageousness is a must-see for all followers of bad movies in general and lovers of ridiculous shark flicks in particular.

Packaging art for one of the film's DVD releases. This totally doesn't rip off the classic JAWS poster art because this image includes an explosion!

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