Posted: 06/24/2004

 

The Last Shark

(1980)

by Barry Meyer



The much sought after Jaws rip-off, banned from the American theaters. Check it out here.


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For this review of The Last Shark I would like to refer you to whatever old review for Jaws you can dig up, and then make the following substitutions:

Switch the locale Port Harbor from Amity
In place of Roy Scheider as the hero, put James Franciscus (and don’t worry about hurting Franciscus’ feelings, cuz he’s used to it, since he already replaced Charlton Heston in The Planet of the Apes sequel)
Then replace Robert Shaw (with his salty Irish accent) with Vic Morrow (with his sour Scottish brogue).
Take out the hyper, melodramatic Richard Dreyfuss and put in some melodramatic Italian hot mama in a Farrah Fawcett Sunburn wetsuit with the zipper half down.
Instead of a crotchety Mayor all anxious about a shark taking a chunk out of his tourist trade, have a suave Governor unruffled when his fancy wind surfing regatta is threatened.

Okay, so Jaws had a tuna net load of copycats that littered the theater floors like a box of spilled Milk Duds — Piranha; Tentacles; Alligator; Grizzly; Jaws 2 through Revenge. It’s just the Hollywood thing to do! But, The Last Shark takes the cake for being the most audacious Jaws rip-off ever. So brazen was Italian director Enzo Castellari with his rip-off, it’s almost as if he opened up the Jaws script and nonchalantly put in the above substitutions, and slapped a new title page on it.

No wonder Universal sued to have this film banned from showing in American theaters. And their lawsuit was so successful that you’d be hard pressed to even find an American video copy either. Why? They don’t exist! Since its banishment to movieland obscurity, Shark has become one of the most sought after movies among the fans of obscure cinema, who could only find this gem on the foreign market. Thank your lucky stars for companies like Midnight Video, who search out prints for obscure, hard to find films like The Last Shark, and stick them to DVD, making them easily accessible to the fans of cult movies.

Rip off or not, The Last Shark is worth the wait. No, it’s not a particularly good film. In fact it amounts to nothing more than a TV movie with a really cool Italian disco/horror movie soundtrack. It’s one of those bizarre anomalies … the good bad movie! Clearly, they didn’t have the budget available to Spielberg — and that’s a good thing! If they did, then all the fun would be taken out of the scenes where stiff-as-a-board mannequins are being chomped up or tossed about by the phoney looking shark. Ahh, the magic of low-budget cinema!

Barry Meyer is a writer living on the trecherous shores of the Hudson River.



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