Friday, October 17, 2014

Grefe Counselor!

The Jaws of Death (Cannon Film Distributors, 1976)

Before the Camera:

Richard Jaeckel (The Dirty Dozen)
Jennifer Bishop (Horror of the Blood Monsters)
Buffy Dee (Super Fuzz)
John Davis Chandler (Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead)
Ben Kronen (The Wizard of Speed and Time)
Paul Preston (Ordinary People)
Bob Gordon (The Champ '79)
Jerry Albert (Little Laura and Big John)
Richard O'Barry (Hardly Working)
Luke Halpin (TV's Flipper)
Dan Fitzgerald (Police Academy 5: Assignment Miami Beach)
Bob Leslie (Nice Dreams)
Marcia Knight (Darker Than Amber)
Dete Parsons (Flesh Feast)
Dick Sterling (Barracuda)
Mal Jones (The Truman Show)
Jack Nagle (Sting of Death)
Don Sebastian (Super Fuzz)
Courtney Brown (Jaws: The Revenge)
Herb Goldstein (Miami Blues)
Milton 'Butterball' Smith (Stanley)
Harold 'Odd Job' Sakata (Goldfinger)

Behind the Camera:

Directed by William Grefe

Produced by Bob Bagley, William Grefe, Paul Joseph, Robert Plumb, and Doro Vlado Hreljanovic (<---wotta br="" moniker="">
Written by Robert W. Morgan, from a story by William Grefe

After the success of Jaws, sharks became big business. Books, TV shows, and movies all started going a little shark crazy. So, legendary Florida filmmaker William Grefe jumped in on the act with The Jaws of Death (aka Mako: The Jaws of Death). Although the title here is certainly meant to evoke fond memories of Spielberg’s classic – once you get past the title you find the movie is not really a Jaws ripoff at all – no community being threatened; no single shark making a local beach his own all you can eat buffet; no mayor crying about the loss of tourism; no hydrophobic authority figure forced to confront his fear to save the day. No, instead, Grefe brings the world a remake of his own 1972 movie Stanley, which was itself a ripoff of the popular rat movie Willard. So you go from Willard – loner boy befriends rats who he uses to kill his enemies; to Stanley – loner guy befriends snakes who he uses to kill his enemies; to this movie – with a loner guy who befriends – yes, you guessed it – sharks. And guess what he uses them for? Richard Jaeckal stars as Sonny, whose love for sharks is displayed in the opening scene, as he and a toothy pal take out a couple of shark hunters – the shark using his teeth; Sonny using a spear gun.

While we digest this, we follow Sonny home – so he can show off his built-over-the-water house with convenient interior trapdoor opening right into the ocean waters where he throws meat leftovers to his toothy friends and chats with them. We then travel around Florida with Sonny in his ramshackle truck so he can introduce us to the supporting cast. There’s the science geek at the local marine institute; he wants to “borrow” one of Sonny’s sharks for “observation” and scares Sonny with warnings that local authorities may institute a bounty on sharks if they aren’t better understood and soon – so Sonny “loans” him a shark. Local business owner Barney (Dee) has a bar where the main attraction is his own wife (Bishop) swimming around in a special tank with a big observation window behind the bar; he also wants to “borrow” a shark from Sonny to put in the tank with the Mrs with a secret clear plastic screen between them so that it appears she is swimming with the shark to his customers. This guy’s more canny, though: he gets Sonny to sign a release allowing him ownership over the shark. While all of this is going on, two thugs – including one time James Bond villain Sakata – are hunting the stuffing out of the local shark population – and they’re doing it as employees of none other than Barney. While Sonny works on getting the bite put on Charlie & Pete, he discovers the marine institute is vivisecting his pal; and Barney has put a radio transmitter in the tank at the bar – sending powerful hypersonic waves into the water to drive his pal into a frenzy but leaving the better half safe behind her screen. Sonny’s psyche can’t handle all this and the guy simply snaps. Now it’s open season on shark hurting humans, and those finding themselves having a Sonny day wish there was a brighter outlook for their future.

Sharks' eye view of Sonny's digs, with Mrs. Barney looking on.

Despite establishing Sonny’s credentials as a screen psycho with this opening scene, director Grefe works overtime trying to make the audience take Sonny to heart as a misunderstood hero. Every other character in the movie – EVERY OTHER CHARACTER – lies, cheats, steals, and gleefully chuckles about it. This scheme to make Sonny our hero doesn’t work, because no matter how nasty every other character is; no matter how slimy and underhanded and double dealing they are – Sonny is killing them dead. He’s a A-1 nutjob. But, the end result of this is, there are really no likable characters in the movie – not even ostensible Final Girl Jenifer Bishop, and that makes the movie a sleazy grindhouse kind of flick. As a result – I like this movie. It reeks with 70’s Florida ambience; Jaeckal is always a positive presence; the other actors are okay, and Harold ‘Odd Job’ Sakata is in it! And he’s credited in the film as Harold ‘Odd Job’ Sakata!

The poster up above and an opening credit both make much of the cast and crew going into the water with real sharks minus cages or other protective technology. Those ‘in the know’ icthyologically speaking indicate that the bulk of the shark action is handled with the use of nurse sharks, which are relatively docile and non threatening creatures. Whether that is true or not – it is still a production value (if a possibly unsafe and insane one) to have so many people hanging out with the critters without any protective gear. Past that – I can’t really say it’s a good movie per se, but if you like your movies kind of low rent and trashy, I can definitely recommend this one – if you can find it – beware the DVD releases – neither apparently are much of a presentation – both appear to be a VHS dub, with the added funk of one less generation of clarity allowing for maximum murk and soft focus. If you can find it though, check it out!

Let's Get Out of Here ?

Somewhere around 32:18, Jenifer Bishop has had a long night.

Eye Candy ?

Well, I think Jenifer Bishop might qualify under the right circumstances - but this movie is not the right circumstances. Sorry, Ms. Bishop.

Buddha Man's Capsule Review

Buddha Man says "The Jaws of Death is okay - but you won't
have to be pried away from your television by the Jaws of Life."

Thank you Mr. B to the M - until next post - you Can Poke Me With A Fork, Cause I Am Outta Here!

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