“It was a shark. It was a shark with a bite radius about a yard across.”
“Don’t be silly. That would indicate a shark of some thirty-five feet in length!”
[aka Jaws 3 aka Jaws III]
Director: Joe Alves
Starring: Dennis Quaid, Bess Armstrong, Louis Gossett Jr, Simon MacCorkindale, John Putch, Lea Thompson, P. H. Moriarty, Harry Grant, Dolores Starling, Liz Morris
Screenplay: Richard Matheson, Carl Gottlieb and Michael Kane (uncredited), based upon a story by Guerdon Trueblood
Synopsis: As Sea World prepares for the gala unveiling of its new “Undersea Kingdom” facility, a team of water-skiers practices its routine out on the open ocean, not noticing that a fin has broken the water nearby… The skiers return to the park, entering the huge, artificial lagoon by passing through a pair of mechanised gates, which begin to slide shut after them. Suddenly, the gates jam. Some workmen call for the park’s chief underwater engineer, Mike Brody (Dennis Quaid). Mike discovers that the gates have somehow been knocked off their tracks. He orders his men to secure them shut, even if they can’t immediately be fixed. He then heads for another section of Sea World, where his girlfriend, the park’s senior biologist Dr Kathryn Morgan (Bess Armstrong), is working with an orca. As the two talk, Kathryn learns from her assistants that the dolphins are behaving strangely, refusing to enter the lagoon. Mike and Kathryn leave for the day, intending to meet up with Mike’s brother, Sean (John Putch), who is visiting from Colorado. As they exit the park, they see its owner, entrepreneur Calvin Bouchard (Louis Gossett Jr), and the world-famous adventurer, Philip FitzRoyce (Simon MacCorkindale), meeting the press. As the sun begins to set, Shelby Overman (Harry Grant) dives down to inspect the damaged lagoon gates. Suddenly, he is viciously attacked… Later that night, after a few drinks, Mike and Kathryn walk on the beach, and Mike breaks the news that he has been offered a job in Venezuela. Meanwhile, Sean finds himself attracted to Kelly Bukowski (Lea Thompson), one of the park’s water-skiers, who tries to lure him into the lagoon for a swim. Elsewhere on the lagoon, two poachers are diving for coral. When his partner fails to surface, the other poacher begins to panic—and then is suddenly dragged beneath the water… The next morning, Kathryn has a training session with the dolphins, but finds them still skittish and distracted. Mike learns Charlene (Dolores Starling), Shelby Overman’s girlfriend, that he failed to return home the previous night. Discovering that all of Shelby’s personal possessions are intact, Mike becomes concerned about the possibility of an accident. He prepares to search the lagoon in a submersible, and Kathryn joins him. The two find nothing where the currents would have taken a body, and decide to search the lagoon’s “sunken galleon” attraction. They begin to move through it, only to recoil in terror as without warning, a great white shark slams into the side of the boat…
Comments: The lawsuit brought by Universal against Enzo G. Castellari’s The Last Shark following its release early in 1982 was on the basis not of plagiarism of Jaws and/or Jaws 2, as is often reported, but on the grounds of damage done to the entire franchise—implying that the courts accepted an argument in favour of a film or films that did not yet exist.
It may or may not have helped that a massive American corporation was picking on a relatively low-budget foreign import.
Another sixteen months passed before the film which was most intended to benefit from Universal’s injunction was finally released, and despite the removal from its path of this Italian obstacle, its journey to the screen was a rocky one indeed…
In fact, for all of Universal’s posturing, the film that became Jaws 3-D began life as a spoof called Jaws 3, People 0, with Joe Dante attached to direct and a screenplay co-written by John Hughes and National Lampoon’s Matty Simmons. Its premise was (irony alert!) the troubled production of Jaws 3, with its humour aimed predominantly at Hollywood and most of the “sharks” wearing designer suits.
Whether for this reason or some other – Steven Spielberg, his rejection of Jaws 2 notwithstanding, had some harsh words to say – executive producers Richard D. Zanuck and David Brown suddenly got cold feet; Brown later accounted for this volte-face by saying that making the second sequel to Jaws a spoof would be, “Like fouling your own nest.”
As opposed to producing Jaws 3-D.
As it stands today, Jaws 3-D attributes its screenplay to Richard Matheson and Carl Gottlieb, which is enough to make some of us want to curl up in the foetal position and weep. Matheson did provide an outline, one produced under protest in the face of an insistence upon the story featuring not just Michael and Sean Brody, but—the shark from Jaws 2!!—even though it had been comprehensively disposed of at the climax of that film.
(The mind boggles at the thought of what this already scarred beastie would have looked like after tangling with an electrical cable!)
In any event, by the time Jaws 3-D went into production, nothing was left of Matheson’s outline but the Brody boys. Carl Gottlieb had also come and gone; while from what I’ve been able to determine, the “story by Guerdon Trueblood” upon which the film is supposedly based bore a much closer to resemblance to 2003’s Red Water – or vice-versa – than anything we see here. The people actually responsible for the shooting script have since managed to do a sterling job concealing their identities, with only one Michael Kane copping a credit [sic.] for “additional dialogue”.
As a matter of fact, the across-the-board reluctance to participate that was the hallmark of the pre-production of Jaws 2 carried over to its successor, with Joe Alves, the production designer of Jaws and Jaws 2, ended up directing the third film chiefly, it seems, because no-one else wanted the job. And it was Joe Alves’ idea to shoot the film in 3-D.
I am not now, and never was – not with what I laughingly call “my eyesight” – in a position to assess Jaws 3-D as a 3-D film, but on the existing evidence I have a hard time believing it was ever other than embarrassing. Jaws itself is famously the way it is largely because Steven Spielberg had to find ways of keeping his defective model shark off the screen for as long as possible. In doing so, he ended up crafting a taut and suspenseful thriller, one charged with the terror of the unseen. The later films are at best pale imitations of their model with respect to their stories and characterizations, and unwisely succumb to the temptation to compensate for other shortcomings by giving their sharks much more screentime.
It is a peculiar characteristic of the Jaws franchise that, as time went on, the special effects, instead of improving with improved technology as you might anticipate, got exponentially worse. The original Bruce may have had his little mechanical and anatomical deficiencies, but he’s a work of art compared to his various relatives.
Jaws 2, as we recall with giddy delight, is highlighted by the moment when Bruce II lunges at a boat, his gaping mouth giving everyone a clear look at the machinery that was making him go, nestled within his hollow interior; while in Jaws: The Revenge (as we shall see in due course), the attack scenes are so carelessly blocked and edited, the various propulsion devices that animate the model shark are clearly visible throughout.
But it is Jaws 3-D in which the series’ shark effects hit rock bottom. There are two “real” sharks in this film, and both get a lot of screentime, and many loving close-ups—and if you can refrain from howling with laughter each time one of them wanders into view, you’ve got a lot more self-control than I have.
Jaws 3-D additionally boasts some of the most truly horrendous bluescreen work that you will ever see, and model work almost of the same, uh, standard. It is also painfully evident that this film’s budget didn’t stretch to shooting 2-D coverage for its 3-D effects. And while I don’t know how this film looked on the big screen, when it is played flat the visual effects are nothing short of abysmal.
It is no compliment to this film to say that it sits very comfortably amongst its 3-D brethren of the early eighties, all of which put much more thought and effort into figuring out what they can shove into the camera than they do into minor matters like story and characterisation. As long-term visitors might be aware, I have previously used [square brackets!] in my reviews to indicate specific instances of 3-D effects (for example, with Amityville 3-D); and I will do so again here, at least for the most eye-poking moments.
These days, most home video releases of this film carry the title Jaws III (including the DVD I’m working from), thus reneging on the promise of 3-D. The titles have not been otherwise altered, however, and feature that zooming red writing we’ve all come to know and, uh, love. The title itself actually breaks into two jagged pieces and then snaps back together like, well, jaws.
The film proper commences with a POV shot approaching a singularly unalarmed grouper. A flurry of activity later, and we get our first intimation of the quality of the impeding effects work, as in an awful bit of bluescreening, a [decapitated fish head – mouth still working!] drifts towards us out of a cloud of red paint.
Over this scene plays the film’s tentative score, composed by (no, not that) Alan Parker. I say tentative, because it keeps hovering between the re-use of John Williams’ classic music, and some original – and occasionally quite inappropriate – content. Here, accordingly, we get a few half-hearted daah-duh-s before the new material kicks in.
We then cut to the surface of the water, for our first glimpse of the entity that will terrorise viewers throughout the film: a team of trick water-skiers belonging to Sea World, of which we will see far too much as Jaws 3-D progresses. Calvin Bouchard refers to the team as, “My pride and joy,” so we can blame him.
(Much of this film was shot at Sea World in Orlando, Florida; although since that complex is landlocked and the one in the film is, self-evidently, coastal, they are obviously not meant to be the same place. The degree of cooperation, and the permission for use of all sorts of trademarks, is flabbergasting given that this film’s take-home message is that Sea World is a death-trap run by people willing to risk your life to make a profit.)
The film wastes no time introducing its other horror, as a fin breaks the water not far away from the skiers. Suddenly, there is a glitch in the routine and the skiers – including our secondary heroine, Kelly Bukowski, played by Lea Thompson in her film debut – plunge into the water. A lengthy underwater shot of thrashing legs follows, getting up our hopes that with some help from our fine finned friend, the threat posed by the skiers will be averted before it begins. Some engine trouble with the motorboat raises our hopes still further. But just at the last moment, the boat’s engine starts up and the skiers are towed to safety. Rats.
We see the fin following, however. As the skiers enter the huge artificial lagoon that will host most of the film’s action, a pair of mechanised gates begin to close behind them. They do not shut, though, but jam on something, which causes them to “jump their tracks”. Sea World, we learn, is just completing the construction of an elaborate artificial lagoon, which boasts an “Undersea Kingdom” of submerged walkways in its depths. Some of the associated workers see the problem with the gates, and decide it’s time we all met Our Hero: “Better get Mike Brody!”
Well, almost time. Elsewhere, the press is interviewing Calvin Bouchard, the park’s owner, played by an uncomfortably over-the-top Lou Gossett Jr. Bouchard is one of the film’s more misconceived aspects, which is saying something. He is – gasp! – rich; so it probably won’t surprise you to learn that he’s as close as we get to having a human villain.
(Universal’s staggering hypocrisy in lecturing the audience on the evils of capitalism while setting new marketing records with Jurassic Park would seem to have its first stirrings here.)
The Japanese hoped for the best, but prepared for the worst.
The problem is, whoever wrote Jaws 3-D couldn’t decide what kind of villain Bouchard was: he ping-pongs annoyingly between “self-made millionaire who will do anything for money” and “rich guy with far more money than sense”; between bad-ass and dumb-ass, if you like. Some throwaway dialogue along the way makes it plain that Bouchard is a highly successful, if not overly scrupulous, businessman, so the various acts of short-sighted stupidity that he is called upon to perform are both ill-considered and extremely irritating.
Bouchard is interviewed by a swarm of reporters about the opening of Sea World’s expensive new attraction, the “Undersea Kingdom”, a series of submerged walkways allowing visitors an underwater view of the residents of the lagoon. When asked if he has anything special planned for the occasion, Bouchard replies that one “Philip FitzRoyce” will be present, which draws impressed cooing from those gathered.
It is a mark of the script’s quality that it never bothers to explain just who this guy is, but leaves us to infer that he’s some kind of professional adventurer, who travels the world having his exploits filmed by his faithful retainer and loyal sidekick, Jack Tate. FitzRoyce is – in a wholly unnecessary and completely thrown away detail – “the 16th Earl of Haddonfield” (I thought Haddonfield was in Illinois?). He is also the film’s secondary human villain—or at least, he spends most of his limited screentime butting heads with Mike Brody and/or Mike’s girlfriend, so his chances of making it to the end credits are rather slim, I’d imagine.
(Oh, and by the way – [*snicker*] – “Philip FitzRoyce”!? Note to American screenwriters: real British aristocrats don’t always have poncy handles, you know; rather, many of the oldest families have fairly common surnames like Howard and Russell and – remember this one? – Spencer. And let’s not forget Christopher Guest, aka Nigel Tufnel aka Mr Jamie Lee Curtis, who is actually the fifth Baron Haden-Guest of Saling.)
“…and I assure you, the size of the paycheque had nothing to do with it!”
(Also, “Fitz”, in the context of a family as old as the Haddonfields must be, tends to imply illegitimacy…)
Okay, now it’s time to meet Our Hero, as we see the third cinematic incarnation of Mike Brody inspecting the damaged gates. Mike seems to have had somewhat of a growth spurt during the five years since his last sharky adventure, as he’s now played by Dennis Quaid. He sees that the gates can’t be fixed immediately, and orders them secured in the meantime. Apparently, his subordinates weren’t capable of thinking of that for themselves. Mike then takes off on his jet-ski, shouting back over his shoulder, “No overtime!”, which is a detail we might want to keep in mind.
Mike then catches up with his girlfriend, Dr Kathryn Morgan, the park’s senior biologist (as improbably young for her position as Mike is for his, so they’re very well-matched). Now, when you watch a lot of bad movies, you often find yourself wondering how particular actors got sucked into appearing in them; but in the case of Bess Armstrong, who plays Kathryn, there’s no mystery at all: she was offered the chance to spend a large proportion of her screentime interacting with an orca (we first see her riding on Shamu), and with dolphins, and with a simply adorable fibreglass shark. Heck, for I chance like that, I’d—I’d—I’d write a kind review of Jaws 3-D! Uh – if, that is, I looked as good in a wetsuit as Ms Armstrong does.
Some exposition follows, as we hear of Sean Brody’s impending visit, and learn that the park’s dolphins are upset about something, and reluctant to enter the lagoon. As Mike and Kathryn leave work for the day, they see Bouchard with FitzRoyce, the latter’s presence causing Kathryn to turn up her nose. (We later learn he’s the kind of wildlife photographer who prefers his subjects dead, presumably so they don’t move and spoil his shot.) Sean – cowboy hat ‘n’ boots ‘n’ all – then shows up; and after much hugging, the three young people depart.
Intelligent dolphins try desperately to send a warning, as Homo sapiens looks on befuddled.
Now, it was broad daylight when Mike ordered the lagoon gates secured – and warned his men there would be no overtime – but for some reason the sun has begun to set before anyone does anything about obeying him. We see one Shelby Overman preparing to dive – alone, and after dark? – not very likely. However, Overman does indeed submerge to inspect the gates and, after a couple of silly false scares, becomes our first victim.
(Actually, for a while there he looks like being our only victim—but that’s a complaint for later on…)
First Overman’s [mask!] sinks to the lagoon floor, and then we get a look at his [severed arm!] in a shot that would actually be pretty gruesome, if the bluescreen work with which it was accomplished wasn’t so miserable.
A pullback to the surface shows us the closed gates twice being hit by something, but Overman completed his task before the attack—and whatever attacked him is now trapped in the lagoon…
An extended character sequence follows, as Mike and Kathryn have a few drinks at a bar, and Sean (perhaps overly cute-meet-ly) pairs up with water-skier Kelly. Wonder of wonders, all this ain’t too painful. In fact, it’s really not painful at all. It’s not just that these four young actors put over their characters in a likeable, believable way, it’s that the film itself treats them fairly well.
First up, it’s rather pleasing to see a film centred on a stable relationship, when so many feel compelled to base themselves either on their hero and heroine coming together during a crisis, or on a dysfunctional couple re-connecting during same. Mike and Kathryn – Dennis and Bess, perhaps I should say – are a convincing couple, conveying a pleasing degree of friendship, as well as their evident love for one another: they like each other and have fun together. There is also the detail of Mike having a pet name for his girlfriend that no-one else uses: she’s “Kay” to him, “Kathy” or “Kate” to everyone else.
It is an established scientific fact that killer animals do not care for arms…
The other thing that’s welcome is that the four young people are allowed to behave like young people, with no punitive outcome. You know—when you watch a lot of horror films, you see an awful lot of horrendous punishments dished out to the characters, often for the most petty of moral transgressions. Jaws 3-D, on the other hand, is willing to concede that a group of young adults might indeed be able to have a drink or two, party a little, and commit a few minor infractions, and yet still be intelligent and responsible people. Even Sean and Kelly getting hormonal with one another isn’t punished all that severely. It’s refreshing to watch.
Anyway, some time later and a tad the worse for wear, the four stagger out of the bar. Mike and Kathryn walk on the beach, and Dennis Quaid delivers some film-linking dialogue about his father, “That shark attack”, and Sean’s consequent fear of the water. (Are we really supposed to believe that Mike hasn’t told marine biologist Kathryn all about this already, or that she doesn’t already know all about the Amity shark attacks?)
We also learn that Sean is attending university in Colorado—which by my reckoning makes him the only Brody in four films to react to his selachophobia by doing something sensible, i.e., moving away from the freaking ocean!!
Unfortunately, this scene culminates with the introduction of a wholly unnecessary subplot involving Mike and Kathryn’s conflicting job offers: his in Venezuela and hers, once she finishes up at Sea World, at the prestigious Scripps Institute of Oceanography in La Jolla, California.
(Anyone who thinks it won’t be the female half of this couple who eventually sacrifices her dream job for lurrve hasn’t watched enough movies. Or, for that matter, seen enough of the real world.)
The main reason this film isn’t a total write-off.
Meanwhile, Kelly is using a bit of basic biology to lure the gun-shy Sean into the water; and if the film as a whole were less lackadaisical, we would probably better appreciate the irony of Sean being offered the lagoon as a safe swimming alternative to the ocean.
We are then given cause to wonder just how big this lagoon is – big enough to have discrete weather patterns, apparently – as we watch a couple of coral poachers going about their business elsewhere on it, surrounded by a fog bank. One of the poachers dives and doesn’t come up again. The second peers anxiously into the water from their rubber raft, and then is yanked overboard. And then the raft is pulled under as well for some reason (roughage?).
Throughout this scene, we have distantly heard our young protagonists laughing and shouting together, though some distance away, and as the second poacher disappears, Sean Brody says distinctly, “Oh, you’re dead!”
The next morning, after another nice character scene, we see Kathryn working with the [dolphins!] at the park. The animals are still jittery and unresponsive. Their poor performance draws a rude comment from the wandering FitzRoyce, who further remarks that he is, “Looking for someone in authority” – whereupon Kathryn informs him frostily that she is Sea World’s senior biologist. FitzRoyce looks incredulous, as well he might.
Elsewhere, Mike is learning the hard way that Shelby Overman is missing: the “hard way” being via a bizarre encounter with Shelby’s girlfriend, Charlene. As I say, Lou Gossett Jr embarrasses himself more than anyone else in this film, but Dolores Starling makes an impressive tilt at the title with this one scene; heck, with one line of dialogue!
Only one thing could have gotten Sean Brody into the water. Okay, technically two.
However, when Mike realises that all of Overman’s effects are intact (for some reason, the late Shelby liked to carry his passport, credit cards and driver’s licence around loose), he begins to get worried. Kathryn wanders in during these events, and the two decide to search the lagoon in the Sea World submersible.
My first glimpse of this contraption drew from me a cry of, “Hey! Cool! Thunderbird 4!”, but it soon transpired that I had done Gerry and Sylvia Anderson a grave injustice: nowhere in Thunderbirds will you see an effects sequence as awful as the one we suffer through here, as a toy submersible chuffs around in front of a painfully obvious bluescreen lagoon. You might also want to look out for the moment when the sub banks to the left, and part of its front section disappears!
Mike pilots the sub past a huge filtration pipe, about which he and Kathryn exchange some unconvincing dialogue. Indeed, given the realistic interplay between these two so far, it’s unconvincing enough to draw attention to itself. Dum, dum, duumm…
Shelby’s body isn’t where the currents would most likely have carried it, so Kathryn and Mike climb out of the sub in order to search the lagoon’s “sunken galleon”, thinking that the remains may have gotten caught inside. We get a few more pointless 3-D effects at this time, like a [fake skeleton!], its [bony hand!] jutting inevitably towards the audience.
As the two swim towards the artificial ship, Kathryn’s favourite [dolphins!], Cindy and Sandy, suddenly burst into sight. They dart around in a frantic fashion and chatter and shake their heads, doing everything they can to alert the dim-witted humans to the fact that something’s badly wrong, short of grabbing them by the collar and bellowing, “Get out of here, you morons! There’s a freaking SHARK in the lagoon!!” into their faces.
I can’t imagine why no-one wanted credit for the screenplay.
But neither Mike nor the animal-attuned Kathryn takes any notice of their odd behaviour, instead venturing into the galleon, where they are briefly menaced by a [Spring-Loaded Moray Eel!]. And then finally, it’s time for some onscreen shark action – and, oh my friends! – what action it is!
There are two sharks in this film. Shark #1 is.simply breathtaking. For once sensibly sized, about ten feet long (that’s a clue, for those of you who are paying attention), this…thing...does…nothing. I swear! It’s not just stiff as a board, it is a board. It’s made of fibreglass, or something similar, and it is completely inflexible, being moved around either by offscreen technicians or, occasionally, onscreen actors. Here it makes its first appearance by abruptly slamming into the galleon—and then departs the way it came, as if it just threw itself into reverse.
Now, I got to deliver a “sharks can’t swim backwards!” diatribe during my Deep Blue Sea piece, and I won’t repeat it here. In fact, the shark departing backwards is the least of our worries. It doesn’t swim; it is all too obviously jerked back, by some unseen stagehand. And then just to make things complete, they cut in some stock footage of a real shark, which for some unknown reason has been speeded up. Classic!
Our so-called heroes try to make their escape, but have to be rescued by the dolphins, who tow Mike and Kathryn away at a rapid pace. A mind-blowing piece of editing follows. (Poor Verna Fields must be rolling around in her grave.) First, Kathryn – who spends endless hours working with these dolphins, remember – loses her grip on her ride. (That’s girls for you, I guess.) A long shot shows her about halfway between Mike and the shark, at the surface of the water; she calls to Mike for help, but what she expects him to do is anyone’s guess. The next shot shows her about ten feet under the water. The very next instant, the shark is on top of her. And the next next instant, the dolphin has suddenly managed to interpose itself between Kathryn and the shark. This intrepid animal also contrives, in a split second, not just to distract the shark, but to twist around so Kathryn can grab it, and put a distance of about ten yards between itself and the fibreglass menace.
Bert I. Gordon would be proud.
Mike and Kathryn scramble frantically out of the water, and Kathryn shrieks for one of her assistants to close the gates to the dolphins’ pool. This leads to what is surely the most fondly cherished moment in Jaws 3-D. The dolphins make their way to safety, and the gates slide shut just in the nick of time, causing the pursuing shark to slam into them head-first—while this, in turn, causes the shark’s head to snap back into its neck!!
Up on the dock, meanwhile, Mike is shrieking, “What the hell was that!? What is it!!??” Hmm…guess he’s blocked a few things out over the years.
News of the shark is carried to Bouchard and FitzRoyce, who join Kathryn and Mike at the lagoon. Kathryn announces that it was, “A great white, exhibiting a typical feeding pattern!” – by which she presumably means it was trying to chow down on a Brody. FitzRoyce immediately goes into his “big white hunter” routine here, proposing to Bouchard that they could make a fortune by filming the killing of the shark.
(Ewww!! You sick bastards! Okay, I realise that this was a lot of years ago, and that the push for the protection of the great white as an endangered species was still in its infancy, but jeez Lou-ise! – can you imagine!? Well, yeah, I guess you can. On Fox, maybe – When Sharks Get Their Bellies Slit Open For The Cameras…)
Bouchard’s eyes start to gleam, and Kathryn hurriedly intervenes, pointing out the potential long-term financial gains of having the world’s only great white shark in captivity.
Jaws 3-D mishandles Kathryn here. You can’t keep a great white in captivity – or any of the larger sharks, for that matter – and she would know that better than anyone.
Behold! The Amazing Retractable Swiss-Army Shark!
The reasons for this are as yet unclear. Some people think that captivity plays havoc with the species’ exquisitely sensitive navigational system; others that whites, like terrestrial animals such as bears, need constant stimulation and a far more complex environment than an aquarium can provide in order to stay healthy; still others that, more simply, a large expanse of water is a fundamental requirement of the species. But whatever the reason, there has never been a great white kept alive in captivity for any length of time—although a heartbreaking number of them have died over the years in the attempt. (From memory, they did have one for a while at a zoo in San Francisco, but they let it go when its health started to deteriorate.)
So far from being eager to keep the shark, Kathryn should be against it all the way—except as the lesser of the various evils confronting her; as a stay of execution for the poor animal, while she figures out what to do next. But the material doesn’t really play that way.
Anyway, Kathryn’s ploy works: both Bouchard and FitzRoyce see the possibilities in her idea, and FitzRoyce volunteers to help catch the animal. For some reason, this has to be done immediately—that is, at night. FitzRoyce prepares an anaesthetic – ridding the syringe of air bubbles by shooting [the liquid!] directly at the camera – then begins arming himself with grenades. (Plot point! Plot point!)
Mike, already in a tiz over Kathryn’s involvement in the capture, intervenes here, furiously pointing out the consequences of an explosive device being detonated in the artificial lagoon, and Bouchard agrees with him. Reluctantly, FitzRoyce unloads, despite Jack Tate’s expostulations:
Jack: “For Christ’s sake, guv’nor! Remember Australia?”
You keep your stinking grenades away from our sharks, you pommy bastards!
FitzRoyce is dressed in a bright red wetsuit, intended to attract the shark (though sharks, in fact, lack colour vision), while Kathryn dons an anti-shark chain mail diving suit…which has a chance of protecting her from the bite of a great white shark that rates somewhere between “none” and “Buckley’s”. She is obviously, and sensibly, very apprehensive about the whole business, but (as she will do again later) she still insists upon it being her job. In fact, it is one of the nicer touches in Jaws 3-D that both Mike and Kathryn essentially stick to their own area of expertise, rather than becoming instant experts on everything, as happens in many films.
Kathryn and FitzRoyce, along with Jack, who’s filming as usual, enter the water; while Mike waits up above armed with a kind of a crossbow, loaded with a spear with a rope attached. (So much for Mike sticking to his area of expertise.) We then learn why they may have preferred to film this sequence in the dark, as Kathryn is attacked by—the Fibreglass Shark!!
Of course, it only grabs her air-tanks. FitzRoyce drives it off by bonking it on the nose. The shark – briefly reverting to its stock footage incarnation – withdraws – rapidly – then obligingly heads for the surface of the water. Its fin breaks through, and Mike pulls off a [*cough*] remarkable shot with his crossbow, the [spear!] travelling towards the audience (just ignore the wires, folks!) before hitting the fin dead centre; the rope has a drag float attached to it.
Under the water, Kathryn sticks an anaesthetic dart into the shark’s belly. She and FitzRoyce then head for the surface, and there’s a good Kathryn moment as, despite the terror and excitement of her experience, her first thought is for the shark, which we next see in a sling, being lowered into its recovery tank.
That’s the liveliest it’s been all film.
Kathryn and her assistant, who gives a general impression of being competent and reliable and smart and did I mention that her name is Liz? – begin “walking” the shark, keeping it moving until it (hopefully) recovers.
(Great whites are amongst the species of shark that need to keep moving at all times in order to keep water flowing over their gills and so avoid drowning; something this film draws attention to at some points, and blithely ignores at others. How long a white can survive without moving is unclear: there have certainly been instances of them recovering when cut free after being caught in shark-netting.)
Some time later, Mike shows up, complaining to Kathryn that he’s “lonely”. How long have they been walking the thing!? Kathryn is apologetic, but rightly shows no disposition to stop what she’s doing; so after a moment Mike calls Liz out of the water and hops in himself to take her place. He’s barely touched the shark when it abruptly comes to life: that “Brody-scent” must be powerful stuff!
The humans scramble out of the tank, Mike understandably panicky, Kathryn understandably ecstatic, while the Fibreglass Shark…just kinda lies there. Kathryn reminds her subordinates – they need reminding? – that nothing should be done to traumatise the animal.
Hmm…something tells me that the Fibreglass Shark is Not Long For This World…
The film’s most annoying sequence follows, as we waste endless minutes with scenes of Sea World’s grand re-opening. Guides, dancers, [Shamu!], and [water-skiers!], [water-skiers!], [water-skiers!] – aack!
After all this, uh, excitement, Jaws 3-D takes a moment to remind us of the fate of the unfortunate Shelby Overman, with Mike using a model of the lagoon to explain where he and Kathryn searched, and Bouchard bringing up that darn filtration pipe again. (Amusingly, Mike’s reply to Bouchard is an exact repeat of his earlier answer to Kathryn, when she asked him about the pipe. I think they’re trying to tell us something, don’t you?) Bouchard then wanders off with his dogs-body, Leonard, and learns from him that ticket sales are sky-high.
And then he has a brainwave – or his Supreme Dumb-Ass Moment, however you prefer to put it – and orders the shark put on public display, against Kathryn’s strict orders.
Let’s pause here a minute, and see if we can count how many different kinds of stupid this is—
- Sea World has had no time to prepare a suitable display tank for its prize. (Of course, given the nature of the Fibreglass Shark, it probably doesn’t want one, but that’s another matter.)
- There’s been no time to mount a proper publicity campaign (or to generate the inevitable merchandise), as you would want to do to exploit such a situation.
- The tank to which the shark is moved (about which, I shall have more to say in a moment) isn’t isolated, meaning they’re not charging any extra for people to see the animal.
- The park’s senior biologist has warned that any trauma could kill the goose and its golden eggs.
- Sea World is a success; it’s not like they need to boost sales, is it? Why wouldn’t they let the park’s re-opening and new exhibits draw all the people they can on their own, then use the shark to pull in a second wave of huge crowds?
A subtle metaphor for Universal’s opinion of its audience.
Kind of makes you wonder how Bouchard got so rich in the first place, doesn’t it? Oh, and one other thing: who moved the shark? And how could it be moved without Kathryn knowing about it?
But who wants to be worrying about these things, when we could be watching—water-skiers? [Water-skiers!], [water-skiers!], [water-skiers!!].
Sean meets up with Kelly, who drags him away to the bumper boats. We then get our first look at the much-ballyhooed “Undersea Kingdom” which, no offence to Sea World, really makes me appreciate Sydney’s two aquaria. We briefly follow three young girls as they enter the new attraction, passing through an entrance guarded by a sea serpent which looks rather like Ghidorah, and which sticks its [bifurcated tongue!] into the camera. The girls are menaced by a [Crappy Animatronic Moray Eel!], then a [Crappy Animatronic Octopus Tentacle!].
Cut to Mike and Kathryn, who are feeding [a dolphin!], and we are briefly threatened with having to listen while the two of them have “a serious conversation about their relationship”. Thankfully, Mike is paged, and then Kathryn hears over the park PA – the PA, mind you!! – that the shark has been put on display. Horrified, she sprints off.
One of Jaws 3-D’s most hysterical sequences follows, as we see the way the makers of this film think a unique attraction ought to be handled. First, the shark’s whereabouts are announced by nothing more than a tiny, hand-stenciled sign! Second, as I’ve said, they’re not charging visitors extra to see the animal; a few dozen people are simply milling about the most fabulous shark tank you will ever, ever see! Picture this, if you can: an above-ground pool (not a tank, in fact), about knee-high to an adult – waist-high to a small child – with no guard-rail, and about four inches between the surface of the water and the edge of the pool—on and over which, numerous visitors are casually leaning.
I guess I just don’t understand Big Business.
There are, of course, various zoologists who claim that the great white shark poses no particular threat to human beings, and who dive amongst the animals unprotected to prove it. And the longer Jaws 3-D goes, the more it feels like the film was made by these people as a piece of pro-shark propaganda. It certainly features two of the least successful predators of humans that have ever graced our screens. Here, you’re just waiting for someone to exclaim, “See! See! You can stick your hands right in the water, and nothing will happen!”
Of course, this particular shark’s placidity might be a side-effect of its physical condition: the Fibreglass Shark chooses this moment to do what it’s been trying to do all along—and would have much earlier, if only those pesky stage-hands had left it alone: it floats to the surface of the water and rolls over onto its side.
Kathryn comes rushing up, demanding explanations of her subordinates who, we note, made no attempt to inform her of the shark’s move. Seeing the shark’s condition, she and her second assistant, Dan, leap into the pool – one of the reasons that pool’s the way it is, I imagine – and try to walk the animal, but to no avail.
It’s been painfully evident all along that this shark is incapable of any movement on its own, but here we get The Apotheosis Of The Fibreglass Shark as, to indicate that the animal has died, Bess Armstrong has to roll the thing over with her hands and hold it on its back!!
(As the icing on a particularly delicious piece of cheesecake, when the shark does roll over, we are able to observe that it is not anatomically correct: it’s missing the claspers so evident on the stock footage shark standing in for it earlier on. Kathryn has rightly been referring to it as “he”.)
Looking vaguely disappointed, the members of the public who have witnessed the tragedy file away. FitzRoyce, also a witness, does look upset at this outcome, which is odd given the whole slit-its-belly-open thing earlier. And where, one might ask, has that swarm of press people that was bugging Bouchard earlier on got to?
Kathryn climbs out of the tank. She is—depressed. Disappointed. No more. This is ludicrous. I know there’s some idiotic cinematic convention out there that dictates that “nice” women don’t get angry (or if they do, they must apologise for it later, no matter what their original justification), but there is no way that Kathryn would react to this situation just by getting a bit upset. She should be furious. Not just because of the shark’s fate, but because Bouchard’s disregard of her professional advice is a monumental slap in the face for her. Although Mike earlier became angry when FitzRoyce’s grenades threatened “his” lagoon, Kathryn never utters a word of umbrage about “her” shark. She barely reacts at all! – and certainly not in a professional sense. It must be a “girl thing”…
(Although it never really plays like it, I assume that one of the points of this incident was to goad Kathryn into quitting her job, thus settling the issue of her and Mike’s career conflict. And in fact, looked at objectively, this could have provided an unusually sensible solution, inasmuch as Kathryn could have gone to Venezuela for six months, then taken up her position at the Scripps Institute, with Mike joining her in California when he finished his own tour of duty. Because, of course, resolving the issue is left entirely up to Kathryn. Annoyingly, there is never the slightest suggestion that Mike might turn down his dream job for her sake – when he says to her early on that she should, “Just give up your life and follow me”, he’s not entirely joking – nor that their relationship might actually be strong enough to survive a temporary separation. Nope, it’s all or nothing: either Kathryn goes or Kathryn stays; no third option. And ultimately, the decision – no prizes for guessing what it is – will be made with a ridiculous lack of difficulty and heart-burning; as if long-term jobs at the Scripps Institute were just a dime a dozen…)
“Personally I think it’s a bad idea to juxtapose that fibreglass thing with shots of me.”
Anyway, Shark #1 having carked it, it’s just about time for Shark #2 to put in an appearance. We cut back to the three girls at the Undersea Kingdom where, for no readily apparent reason, the [mutilated corpse of Shelby Overman!] begins drifting up past the viewing windows. In a bizarre and inexplicable moment, someone shoves one of the girls up against the glass, pressing her face near that of the body as she screams in horror…
More idiocy follows. Despite the recovery of a dead body (how and by whom, we never do learn), no-one bothers to call The Authorities. Instead, Mike (?) comes to identify the victim. Ah! I do believe it’s the traditional “This was no boat accident!” scene!
We get a sharp reminder here (along with the choice to film in 3-D in the first place) that by the summer of 1983, Jaws 3-D was in box office competition with the slasher film, which had upped the ante on body-part horror: when, with trepidation, Mike twitches back the sheet, it is to reveal a grotesquely gruesome corpse, worms squirming in its mouth and a crab scuttling over one lidless eye. Eww!!
Mike reels away, gagging, but recovers sufficiently to name Shelby Overman. Kathryn then demands to see the body. Mike and another guy immediately intervene with a “Protect the wimminfolk!” gesture, but Kathryn argues that if it is a shark attack, she’s seen it before. The men reluctantly step aside, and Kathryn pulls the sheet right back, revealing that the corpse has a huge chunk out of its right side, and is also missing an arm. She doesn’t gag (attagirl!), but she does give a cry of horror, holding her hands about a yard apart. She then turns and sprints for the door, Mike in her wake.
…and Susie never whined to be taken to Sea World ever again.
Hey, remember that filtration pipe that everyone keeps going on about? Well, it’s about to get another mention. Turns out there’s some kind of obstruction in it. Hmm…wonder what that could be…?
Bouchard, FitzRoyce and Jack are in the underwater restaurant. (Amusingly enough, whatever they thought of the film itself, people loved this particular concept so much that Sea World went ahead and built it: Sharks Underwater Grill.) The three are smiling and chuckling together, which seems kind of weird in the wake of the death of the Fibreglass Cash Cow. There are some small sharks cruising around outside, and we learn that they are confined to this one section of the lagoon by a “bubble wall” which they dislike crossing. (Uh, remember that, folks.) Bouchard is notified of the problem with the filtration pipe, and orders it shut down.
Kathryn and Mike then come charging in, and Kathryn drops her bombshell. When she claims that Overman was killed by a shark with a bite radius of about a yard across, she is scoffed at, FitzRoyce arguing that this would imply a shark of some thirty-five feet in length…
So just how big do great white sharks get, anyway?
The fundamental difficulty with determining just how big the biggest great white might be is that the animals undergo significant post-mortem shrinkage, making official determinations next to impossible. Unofficially, the two biggest whites on record are the one caught off Cuba in 1945, which supposedly measured twenty-one feet, and a twenty-foot specimen caught off Prince Edward Island in 1988. Another twenty-foot specimen was found dead in fishermen’s nets off Mexico in 2009, while the biggest white to be caught, measured alive and released was just under eighteen feet. Surprisingly, this specimen was male: because of their reproductive burden, the biggest great whites are generally female, which is one thing this film gets right; accidentally, no doubt. The biggest known live shark today, a female which has been dubbed “Deep Blue”, is just under twenty feet.
So, Bess—just how bad is this film?
What this means in the present context is that the shark in Jaws 3-D is not only ten feet longer than the ones in Jaws and Jaws 2, but almost twice as big as the biggest one ever officially recorded.
I find it hilarious that the makers of these films don’t consider a twenty-foot great white – a shark three-to-four times longer than you are – anywhere near scary enough.
And we’re not done with the sharky idiocy just yet! Kathryn not only agrees seriously with FitzRoyce’s sarcastically delivered conclusion, she goes on to drop Bombshell #2: the second shark was the first shark’s mother!
This plot twist is by far my favourite aspect of Jaws 3-D, as it offers (unexplicated, admittedly) three different possible scenarios, each one sillier than the last.
- The mother shark entered the lagoon seeking quiet waters in which to give birth, and became trapped there.
- Mother and child were just, you know, hanging together, and both got trapped in the lagoon.
- The baby got trapped, and its mother, presumably having seen Gorgo one too many times, came rushing to the rescue.
Option #3 needs no dismissal, of course. (Woulda been fun, though!) Option #2 is highly improbable: whites do occasionally hang out together, but the odds of mother and offspring doing so aren’t brilliant. Certainly they don’t keep company in the manner being implied here, with the female staying nearby to protect her young.
1983: when men were men, and computers were the size of a great white shark.
Yet strange as it might seem, Option #1 is actually the least likely. I can believe that a pregnant female might have taken refuge in the lagoon, but not that she produced a single ten-foot baby! Here’s the thing: whites, which are ovoviparous, generally have a multiple birth, producing anywhere up to fourteen four-to-five-feet-long pups. If a white gave birth in that lagoon, it should be swarming with young sharks!
Anyway, Kathryn’s startling pronouncement is the cue for Brucette to make her appearance. As you’ve no doubt surmised, she’s been hiding in the filtration pipe, the inference being that its water pressure is strong enough to allow her to breathe without moving; although why she’s been hiding is never explained; a well-developed sense of dramatic timing, perhaps. The pipe being shut down means that Brucette is forced out into the open, something she achieves by – sigh – backing out of the pipe…
Brucette isn’t quite as dismal as her offspring…which I guess isn’t saying much. She can move her tail from side to side, for one thing; even if this does cause her to list to the right, and even if you can see the mechanism working under her skin. Much more importantly, however— Well, allow me to quote from the review of Jaws 3-D over at Jabootu:
“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.”
Yes, it’s true; I admit it. The first time I saw this film, when Brucette first pulled back her lips I thrust out a finger, bounced up and down in my chair, and let out a squeal that could have shattered glass. Yeah, I know—sad, isn’t it? No, not just sad. Pathetic.
“Sure, I’ll smile! There’s no need to call me names.”
I should perhaps mention that my excitement was subsequently tempered by the realisation that Brucette’s gums were, all too obviously, made of pink plastic; while (in most shots, anyway) she only has a single row of teeth. Furthermore, it turns out that the budget of Jaws 3-D didn’t stretch to the construction of a thirty-five-foot model, so they just built the head to scale for use in some scenes, while re-tooling the model from Jaws 2 for the others.
Her cover blown, Brucette then decides to reveal herself to our human protagonists, which she does via some amusingly bad effects work. A POV shot cruises through that bubble wall we heard about earlier (so much for it acting as a barrier). Inside the restaurant, Mike looks up and reacts with shock, pointing out into the lagoon—where, though the miracle of appalling superimposition, Brucette is hovering.
The main characters scatter, while the other restaurant patrons scream in terror—raising an odd point: Sea World is a marine park, isn’t it? I mean, people are there to see the animals, right? Why, then, does everyone scream and run when they see this shark?
(Okay—I guess it’s because we’re in the world of the killer shark film, where all sharks have a passionate hatred of man-made structures and invariably try to destroy them, and where they use their incredibly sensitive snouts as a battering-ram.)
Bouchard heads for the park’s control room to order the Undersea Kingdom evacuated, while Mike, FitzRoyce and Jack rush towards the lagoon to get everyone out of the water. Curiously, no-one thinks to use the PA system. Deciding halfway there that he needs a form of transportation other than his own feet, Mike commandeers a small cart – a popcorn-delivery cart, no less – and putts across the park at about half the speed he was travelling under his own power.
In an hilarious sequence of events, Mike suddenly finds himself bearing down on two babies being pushed in dolphin-shaped fun-park prams. He swerves to avoid them (dashing my hopes of a low-speed re-enactment of Death Race 2000), finds himself blocked by a whole row of unoccupied dolphin prams, swerves again, and ends up deposited on the ground in an undignified heap when his cart tips over. And then he gets back to his feet and resumes sprinting.
He charges into the show area, interrupting the water-skiing display (yay, Mike!), and tries to call the skiers in (boo, Mike!). We get one of the film’s better moments here, as one of the skiers, being lifted horizontally by her male partner, leans right back—and sees a fin break the water behind her. Unfortunately, this is accompanied by one of the film’s dumbest moments, particularly after all that harping on the shark’s length. You see, her fin ends up immediately, and I mean immediately, behind the line of skiers —which means that not only should her body be disrupting the ski routine, her mouth is about fifteen feet in front of the skiers!
Well, a panic ensues, as you’d expect, and the skiers plunge into the water. An underwater shot shows the usual thrashing of legs and churning of water, and we wait for Brucette to make her move. And in fact, with a bloodbath at this point, a mass slaughtering of the skiers, Jaws 3-D might have gone some distance towards redeeming itself. But it doesn’t happen. In fact, not one of the skiers is so much as nipped.
Remember what I was saying about this film actually being pro-shark propaganda, being intended to demonstrate how small a threat the great white poses to humankind…?
The dangerous bit is over there somewhere.
Anyway, apparently as bored with the water-skiers as I am, Brucette cruises over to the bumper boat area, where no attempt whatsoever has been made to get people out of the water. This is where Sean and Kelly just happen to be. (Sean back on the water after a shark has been found in the lagoon!? You’ll pardon my scepticism…) The shark bumps into one of the boats – well, what are you supposed to do with a bumper boat? – which just happens to be the one with Sean and Kelly in it. They fall into the water. Kelly is briefly jagged by the leg and screams in pain and terror.
Brucette lifts her head out of the water here, initiating another panic. One small screaming group is stranded on a flimsy floating wooden platform, which the shark hits from underneath, sending them plunging into the water.
Credit where it’s due: FitzRoyce and Jack do a lot of good here, getting people to safety; and as people stampede to shore, they dive into the water. It is FitzRoyce who carries Kelly to safety. Not a single drop of blood falls from her leg on her way up the beach, and when the camera moves in we see that she has a straight vertical gash on her thigh that looks considerably more like a knife wound than a shark bite.
And round about now, I started to get an attack of sexual paranoia. This wasn’t a film featuring some pro-shark propaganda; this was, on the contrary, a film featuring the single most incompetent shark in the history of the world! – as well as the only shark in the Jaws series explicitly identified as being female. Hmm…
And then the penny dropped.
Brucette is female – so, naturally – she’s on a diet!!
The “drifting pier” scene, without which no killer shark movie would be complete. Apparently.
Which, in fact, explains not only her utter failure to cause a single fatality amongst the dozens of helpless swimmers thrashing in the water mere inches from her snout, but the bizarre nature of the few injuries she has inflicted.
Shelby Overman, for instance. His corpse is gruesome, yes, but it’s also surprisingly intact. It’s not mutilated, as we might expect; rather, it looks like it’s been skinned. And while the right arm is missing, we saw most of that floating around on its own earlier on. Very little, if any, of Overman has been eaten. We’re forced to conclude that Brucette just chewed on him for a bit before spitting him out.
As for Kelly’s injury, there’s no corresponding damage to the back of her leg. It’s not a bite, in other words, it’s a gash—as if Brucette did no more than run her teeth over Kelly’s thigh. Likewise, we hear in passing that other people were “wounded” during the fracas at the bumper boats, but on the visual evidence they might just as well have jagged themselves on the broken boards of the wooden platform as been bitten. If it was Brucette, she was tasting, but not eating.
Conversely, we have every reason (including the shallowness of the water) to conclude that the coral poachers were eaten by Baby Bruce.
All through this, Kathryn has continued to worry about the dolphins. (And given the degree of threat posed so far to Homo sapiens by Brucette, she is entirely justified.) However, she decides that they can’t open the gates between the lagoon, where the dolphins are, and the training pool, because they can’t risk the shark getting in, too. Which is pretty freaking stupid, since the linking tunnel is only about four feet across! Mind you, if Brucette carries on like this much longer, she’ll have have wasted away to the point where she could fit through.
This girl has just been attacked by a thirty-five-foot great white shark. No, really.
And actually, dolphins aside for the moment, wouldn’t isolating the shark in a small tank be desirable at this point?
Sean travels in the ambulance with Kelly, and that’s the last we see of either of them. Over the PA, Bouchard orders the Undersea Kingdom closed, without saying why, and the guides start moving the visitors towards the exits. As one group walks along a glass-enclosed walkway, a little girl points up at “the big fish”, prompting a cry of, “Holy shit!” and a stampede for the exit.
Now, again, if you were visiting an aquarium, wouldn’t you be thrilled by the chance to see an enormous shark close up? Not these people, apparently. And indeed, their terrified panic is made all the more bewildering by the fact that the film’s special effects [sic.] team forgot to composite Brucette into the shot.
But as it turns out, the stampede is all for the best: Brucette is a movie shark, after all, and in spite of her dismal record in whittling down the cast, she nurses the traditional hatred of man’s handiwork, and promptly slams her snout into one of the walkways—which immediately springs a significant leak. Top engineering job, there, Mikey!
Brucette hits a second part of the walkway with suspiciously similar results; and the screaming visitors flee the damaged sections of the tunnel as the water starts to pour in. In the control room, Bouchard orders the watertight doors shut (shouldn’t that be automatic?), and the terrified group finds itself trapped, up to its collective waist in water. Remarkably, it turns out there is no facility for pumping the water out, or even for opening the doors at one end of the section but not the other. The people are stuck until the damaged section is repaired. I just have to say again—great design, Mikey!
(By the way, a quick thumbs-up to the girl who plays the guide with the job of handling the frightened, trapped people. She does a nice job of conveying someone who’s in over their head – if you’ll pardon the expression – but doing their very best to look confident and in control.)
Mike and his team work frantically to build a patch for the damaged tunnel section. And, believe it or not, Kathryn chooses this of all moments to announce that – surprise! – she’s decided to turn down that job at the Scripps Institute and go with Mike to South America—adding lamely, “Maybe they could use some trained whales in Venezuela, huh?” Oh, yes, I’m sure they can, Kathryn; just as I’m sure that you’ll have no trouble in the future getting yourself a job just as good as the one you’re turning down; or that when you are in Venezuela, spending much time alone while Mike’s out on site, and feeling your career slipping away from you, the words “Scripps Institute” will never once pass your lips in an angry or resentful manner…
There’s a brief cutaway here to Bouchard’s flunky, Leonard, who’s stalling the press – hilariously, a question refers to a rumour about a shark! – because, after all, only a few thousand people have seen it – and then another to the trapped visitors – and then we meet up with FitzRoyce and Bouchard, the former outlining his plan for luring Brucette back into the filtration pipe and trapping her there, in order to allow Mike a chance to fix the tunnel. The pipe, fortunately, has a gate that can be closed once the shark is inside. And FitzRoyce being the devil-may-care adventurer that he is, he’s going to use himself as live bait. Temporarily live, anyway.
(A nice bit of detail here: FitzRoyce and Mike both refer the shark by a generic “he”: Kathryn calls it “she”.)
FitzRoyce and Jack enter the water. FitzRoyce takes up his position in the pipe, securing himself against the current with a life-line, and with a combination of banging noises and chum, Brucette is drawn into the pipe, with Jack closing the gate after her.
FitzRoyce then begins using the life-line to haul himself up and away from the dangerous [sic.] animal, until – ooh, shock of shocks! – the rope breaks. For no reason. Even though we saw him and Jack testing it before they started.
And so, after a lo-oo-ng wait, FitzRoyce becomes the film’s second onscreen victim—eventually. For all that the water pressure in this pipe is supposedly so strong that it is capable of maintaining the oxygen requirements of an enormous great white shark, FitzRoyce is not swept immediately into Brucette’s mouth by the current, but exhibits a remarkable freedom of movement.
First, he uses a [bang-stick!] on the shark, which seems kind of counter-intuitive: she can’t go anywhere, after all; that kind of treatment will just get her mad. Regardless, FitzRoyce then whomps Brucette on the nose with his camera (ditto).
However— Determined, apparently, to keep her record intact, Brucette still doesn’t attack FitzRoyce: rather, the water current finally carries him passively into her mouth! And so very committed to her Weight Watchers program is Brucette, she refuses to eat him even though he’s in her mouth. Instead, FitzRoyce jams in her throat while she works her jaws frantically in what at this point we can only interpret as an effort to dislodge him.
So not just on a diet: bulimic.
Anyway, although he manages to get a grenade out of his belt, Brucette’s throat convulsions finally squish FitzRoyce before he can use it. We get a squirt of blood out of Brucette’s gill-covers, and learn that the stories aren’t true: aristocratic blood isn’t blue at all; it’s pink!
Meanwhile, Mike is off fixing the tunnel with his [welding iron!], and Kathryn suddenly decides to join him, because, “He needs eyes in the back of his head!” Uh, why? The shark’s trapped, isn’t it? As least at the present moment…
Keep in mind that bluescreen effects look much worse when the image is moving.
Up on land, a grief-stricken Jack has learned of FitzRoyce’s death. When Bouchard hears of it, he commits his first sensible act of the whole film, ordering the pipe shut down so that Brucette suffocates—in theory. Instead, Brucette reacts not just by swimming backwards, but by making repeated backward charges! – which at length force the gate open.
Bouchard sees the escape on his monitors, and sends out a warning to Mike and Kathryn. Sure enough, Brucette knows when there’s a Brody in the water; and as she bears down upon this one—she roars!!
(Explain to me again about The Last Shark plagiarising the Jaws films…?)
Nevertheless, it takes a warning signal from Kathryn to alert Mike to the shark’s presence. Well, fair enough. I guess you wouldn’t automatically associate “roaring sound” with “shark”, would you? Mike has succeeded in fixing the tunnel, so he and Kathryn are free to flee; but yet again, they require assistance from—Cindy and Sandy, our heroic dolphins!
(Which is why the script needed them left in the lagoon, of course. You know—the longer this stuff goes on, the harder I’m having to struggle to suppress memories of those dolphins in The Simpsons, whose chattering was subtitled as a gleeful, “You’re all going to die!”)
Brucette makes a typically feeble attempt to chomp on Mike and Kathryn, before Cindy and Sandy rush in to the rescue. They chatter, and Brucette – who’s hovering again! – roars some more. Then, in an unexpected moment, it seems that one of the dolphins – Sandy, it turns out – actually does give its life for humanity. That, or it just decided to rub itself across Brucette’s front teeth for some reason.
Mike was later indicted for taking kickbacks on the glass contract.
Mike and Kathryn make a dash for an underwater entrance to the control area. They make it in, but Brucette catches up with them, and somehow manages to get a portion of her jaw inside (?), briefly preventing the door being closed. Mike and Kathryn scramble up into the control room itself. There, it turns out that the others are waiting for Mike’s orders before rescuing the trapped visitors!
This taken care of, we then get the kind of dismal effects sequence that can make someone a Bad Movie fan for life. Picture this if you can: Brucette glides towards the huge window of the control room; she somehow manages to do this without moving a single muscle.
Inside, the observing humans are so terrified, they are all compelled to start moving and screaming in slow motion, the latter with an echo effect. Then, as they begin – slowly – to run away (putting Jaws 3-D one up on Deep Blue Sea, at least, which not only shamelessly ripped off this sequence, but managed to make it stupider), [Brucette!] – still without moving a muscle – somehow contacts the window, which explodes into – [crappily animated fragments of glass!].
Despite what the pressure and weight of the in-rushing water must be, and the flying shards of glass, and the danger of electrocution, those inside are not killed or injured, except maybe for the female control technician. They are trapped and submerged, however, but Mike and Kathryn still have their air-tanks on, so they’re okay, at least. Bouchard is seen helping the female technician, although I don’t know where he’s helping her to. A male employee is not so lucky. I know you’re gunna find this hard to believe, but—Brucette kills someone!! Honest! I swear!!
As for her victim, he somehow manages to cry out, “NOOOOO!!!!”, despite being under forty feet of water, and in the process of being crunched by a gigantic shark.
I guess Brucette couldn’t swallow Simon MacCorkindale’s performance either.
Emboldened by her success, Brucette then tries to reach Mike and Kathryn, but becomes jammed in the window frame—which, yes, does mean she should drown. And then we get yet another highlight in a sequence just chock-full of them! As Brucette struggles to reach Our Heroes, we see that FitzRoyce is still stuck in her throat!! And what’s more, he’s still clutching a grenade!
So Brucette could not possibly have eaten her most recent victim even if she was inclined to do so; clearly, he got spat out off-camera.
Mike snatches up a random metal rod, bends at at one end to make a hook, and starts trying to pull the pin on the grenade, with Brucette thrashing about, and the humans dodging her, and everyone generally trying to make things “exciting”. At one point, Kathryn swims over the snout of the shark, which hasn’t got room to grab her—rather making you wonder why FitzRoyce didn’t try that in the pipe. Anyway, Mike does finally hook the pin. He and Kathryn take cover, the grenade goes off—and Brucette explodes in a huge welter of blood.
And then the film kindly gives us one more – just one more – dreadful 3-D effect, as [assorted shark innards!] come hurtling towards the camera…
Astonishingly, the concussive pressure of the blast does Mike and Kathryn no harm whatsoever. They make it to the surface of the lagoon, where the sun is setting.
Kathryn, remarkably, inquires about the other humans first; though really, she’s not fooling anyone. Mike assures her they’re fine—how the heck would he know? Kathryn is then rewarded by having her real concerns answered: Cindy the dolphin suddenly appears. Kathryn celebrates, but then begins to call with increasing desperation for Sandy, who is ominously absent.
And then, just at the very last moment—Sandy explodes out of the water in a [joyous leap!]. Kathryn and Mike both wave their arms and cry out with excitement and relief; and Jaws 3-D concludes in the most appropriate manner imaginable, with the leaping Cindy and Sandy being [crappily superimposed!] over a shot of Kathryn and Mike. Whoo-hoo!!
Want a second opinion of Jaws 3-D? Visit Jabootu’s Bad Movie Dimension and 1000 Misspent Hours – And Counting.
Even that cast list is interesting. Lea Thompson’s first film role. Dennis Quaid in the same year as The Right Stuff and before Dreamscape (which I quite rate, though I’ll admit it has plenty of flaws). And Lou Gossett Jr will just reliably turn up and do what you pay him to do, for decades before and after this.
I think the “fouling your own nest” comment makes sense if you think of it in terms of the way that if you do a “normal” film and it fails, everyone makes excuses for you (unless you’re a woman obviously), but if you do a “weird” film, like making a parody or not fitting easily into a two-word description, and it fails, you are personally to blame and you may have serious trouble getting work until you’ve made a few generic successes.
I wonder whether this specific aspect of the Decline of Jaws could be traced to focus groups. “What did you enjoy most about the film?” “Oh, man, the shark scenes!” “Right, we’ll put more shark scenes in the next one.” Without realising that the reason you enjoy that bit is because of all the setup that’s gone to getting you in the right mood… More shark time on screen means less SFX money per frame even for the same budget. Or of course just slavish imitation without really understanding what made the original a success. Let’s not forget that even this film was highly profitable…
(Well, Christopher Guest is the Baron because his older brother is illegitimate…)
“How will the chain mail help?” “Well, there’s a very tiny chance that when the shark severs your leg enough of the links will survive to hold it on, so we can bury all the bits together.”
Ah, crabs, the ocean’s little vacuum cleaners…
Humans: the stone crabs of the shark gourmet dining world. Catch, nibble, release.
It’s a good cast. It’s a bad film. 😀
Oh, look—no matter how much I pay out on it, the reality is I watch this film regularly and certainly would have paid to see it back in the day, if only “seeing it” was possible. This comes back to the point the Rev was making re: Jaws 2—there’s no reason to watch that, but this is entertaining, if not always in the intended way.
I’ve seen footage of Valerie Taylor testing chain-mail like that—granted on a much smaller shark. It protected her from its bite, but she nearly got her arm shaken out of its socket.
That footage of Val getting her “damn 40 dollar glove” getting ripped off was one of many traumatising sequences in the 1982 National Geographic special on sharks, which probably not the most suitable thing for my grandma to give me for my fourth birthday!
Your grandma ROCKS!! 😀
I’ve always enjoyed that moment for its encapsulation of the Taylor marriage: “Just go over there and encourage a shark to attack you while I film it, will you, darling?”
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What the dolphins were really trying to say,
“So long, and thanks for all the fish”
If they were sticking around to save the humans, they can’t be that intelligent…
I thought I had learned an unfamiliar type of animal reproduction when I read that great whites are “ovoniparous.” After an unsuccessful search, I realized that your right index finger hit the “n” when your left forefinger meant to hit the”v.” Been there done that, says a guy who has typed his name as “Demmos” more than a few times.
Gaah! Fixed, thanks. 🙂
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Smashing work as always, my dear. This has one of my favorite jokes, the one about the “typical feeding pattern.”
This movie came on cable quite a bit when I was growing up. For a while it was the Jaws movie I saw the most times. Eventually the original surpassed it by a comfortable margin, when it started showing up on cable regularly years later. This one is probably still in 2nd place. (J:tR might’ve been if it’d kept the voodoo subplot and the body count of the novel.) I have seen this at least once with the 3-D active. You’ll be unsurprised to learn that the effects are so bad that it doesn’t really help things. To this day it amazes me that some of the better character stuff in the series is in this one, in light of how hilariously bad everything else is. I was also pleased with the lip thing, although I probably didn’t squeal. Imagining your reaction to it makes me happy.
I love that one poster that actually has the “breaking glass” moment in the center. Even as a relatively undemanding youth, that scene made me howl with unbelieving laughter. I also think that one Japanese poster on the left may have the world’s first picture of Ghost Shark!
TIL a new Australian colloquialism AND about William Buckley! Thanks, Lyzzy! 🙂
Well, I always like to be educational. 😀
Thank you for the info on the 3-D version. I’m not surprised to hear it—though objectively it’s astonishing that this thing was considered of acceptable standard.
It’s hilarious that while everything else to do with the sharks was so wrong, they tried to get that right!
Personally I’m most interested in the question of why there is a WINDSURFER on the Egyptian poster…?
Two divers go down to fix the gate, right at closing time, because some other crisis came up earlier. The shark takes them by surprise and devours the first diver, the second panics and strikes at the shark with whatever weapon is at hand, and the shark fatally bites the second diver in retaliation, but swims off afterward because it’s already fed on the first diver and was just defending itself for the second. No alarm goes out immediately, because “No overtime,” so everything was “yeah, go on home, we’ll finish up and log it tomorrow morning.” The families figure the divers were working late, so no one’s worried until the next morning.
There, I think that fixes a lot of problems, and it only took me three minutes to think up.
As an added bonus, not only does it up Brucette’s kill count by 50%, she actually EATS someone!
the shark fatally bites the second diver in retaliation, but swims off afterward because it’s already fed on the first diver
I don’t know what kind of weird-ass sharks you’re used to dealing with, but— 😀
Been a long time since I read a book or watched a documentary on sharks, so I was kinda spitballing on how to keep the plot-point corpse floating around. Would the shark go back to feeding mode? I was thinking that it would still be in defense mode for a while..
I would love to see a full (or reworked?) review/sporking of Deep Blue Sea. Because I think I know which window-breaking scene you’re referring to, and while it was hilarious, it definitely belongs in the category of “That’s not how this works, that’s not how anything works”.
You’re in luck! There’s one at Lyz’s old site, not yet updated for here with stills and so on but still worth reading.
“It was at this point that Deep Blue Sea and my willing suspension of disbelief announced their separation, citing irreconcilable differences. They’re signing the papers on Wednesday.”
Ahhhh, yyyyeah, but I’d really rather she didn’t. I’d always rather none of you did that. 😀
I’m getting to it, I’m getting to it, I promise!…though technically I should deal with a lot of Italian wackiness first…
(Speaking of which, anyone in a position to make me a copy of Cruel Jaws?)
Cruel Jaws (1995), Bruno Mattei? Give me a shout by email.