Craptastic Cinema: Jaws: The Revenge

Good day, I’m Julian André, and welcome to Craptastic Cinema.

I remember the year: 1987. That’s when I first whiffed the noxious odor. And it permeated the entire theatre. It smelt like week-old dead crabs. What was that stench, you ask? It was Jaws: The Revenge. Phew!

This is the fourth installment of the franchise. It should be noted that Universal sent out a press release lauding it as the “third film of the remarkable Jaws trilogy.” How on Earth could they forget about the incomparable Jaws 3-D? Well past watered-down, the franchise is now a water-logged mass of putrescence. A frightful flick. Not frightening, mind you. No, I wouldn’t use that word; unless I wrote something snarky like “it is frightening to think that someone actually green-lighted this.” In fact, there is absolutely nothing scary in this movie. No suspense. Not a cheap gotcha-moment. Nobody is terrorized. Jabberjaw had more people on the run than this shark. I recently re-watched it to make sure it was as craptacular as I thought originally. I was not let down. Hold my hand and let’s take the plunge…

It is Christmastime in Amity. Sean Brody is now police deputy of Amity and can best be described as a whiny bitch. He’s a smart-ass to his mother, the recently widowed Ellen (Lorraine Gary). He complains. He’s basically unlikeable. So when he reluctantly goes to repair a damaged buoy and gets his arm ripped off by a shark (who, in POV, is lying in wait for Sean!) we’re not exactly saddened. He kinda got what he deserved. Sean then stumbles to the ship’s rail where the shark leaps out and snatches him. It is during this scene that we discover why the movie is set during Christmas. The curious timing is merely a device to juxtapose a choir joyfully singing carols with a dastardly shark attack. Here, the Baptism scene of The Godfather was ripped off…just like Sean’s arm. Full marks! We are well on our way to Crapperville!

Enter other son, Michael. Not an engineer, but a marine biologist. OK, I guess we really are forgetting about Jaws 3-D. He comes up for the funeral to console Mom. She tells him “it came for him…waited all this time.” Who came for him? The shark that was blown up by her late husband, Martin? A relative? And why? It’s never explained. The director wants you to stop asking questions! And thinking. No time to grieve though—and, believe me, they don’t. The story must lurch its way forward.

Ellen—who is deathly afraid of water, mind you—is convinced by Michael (with wife Carla and annoying daughter Thea in tow) to fly en masse to…the Bahamas! Turns out this is where Michael has been working, tracking sea snails with fellow PhD biologist co-worker Jake (Mario Van Peebles), whose Caribbean patois comes & goes like the tide.

Enter Hoagie. Not the Philadelphia sandwich—though they’re both hammy. Hoagie (Sir Michael Caine) is the pilot who flies them into the Bahamas and is always conveniently nearby when situations arise. Hoagie—is it lunchtime yet?—is attracted to Ellen. Why, I haven’t the foggiest. She’s totally bipolar, one moment maniacally upbeat, the next crying and fretting. And when I say “crying” I do not mean seeing her physically weep; I mean her having a pained expression akin to not being able to pass a hard stool.

We pause for a bit of idiotic conversation from one of their dates:

Hoagie: I have an irresistible urge to kiss you, Ellen Brody.
Ellen: Why?

Did I mention that Ellen has some sort of strange shark ESP? Yes, she does. Really. But it gets better. Apparently this ESP/shark alarm happened when Sean got munched back in Amity and has gone off again in the Bahamas because—wait for it—the shark has followed Ellen there! Yes!!! The craptometer just went to eleven!

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"You say we're being tailed by a shark? That's the silliest thing I ever heard!"

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Michael and Jake are well aware a malevolent man-eating shark is terrorizing their island but decide its best to keep that info to themselves. Brain hurting yet? Just wait. Jake persuades Michael to forget about the sea snails for a while and track the shark instead. How? The two PhDs put their heads together and formulate this scientific plan: Tie a rope around Jake’s waist, lean him over a pier, and hope that the shark gets close enough for him to stab it with a heart monitoring device…but not so close that the shark eats him. No, I’m not kidding. And, yes, the plan works. Honestly, how can you not love this?

The next day they go out on their boat to try to follow the shark. Michael breaks out the SCUBA gear and is promptly chased around by the great white. The shark wants revenge…and this time it’s personal! But Michael manages to barely get away, and they return to shore.

Meanwhile, Ellen’s shark alarm rings again while at a beach reception for Carla’s—remember her? me neither—art installation. Thea has gone on a banana boat ride in the ocean and the shark chows down on her friend’s mom. (For the record, this is just the second killing in the movie so far and we’re nearly at the end.) There’s that constipated look again…Ellen has had it! She’s now on mission. She will go toe-to-toe with the shark for scaring her poor granddaughter. Ellen wants revenge…and this time it’s personal!

With furrowed brow, Ellen is next seen steering Michael’s boat on the open ocean.

Time out. Where’d she know where the boat was moored? Where is she going? What does she hope to do? Can she even drive a boat like this? Rest assured all will be answered. Or not.

Michael and Jake get wind of Mom’s impromptu excursion, track down Hoagie—I’ll have mine with mayo, thanks—and soon are in his plane (not sea plane) looking the ocean blue for her. What luck: they spot her! Hoagie lands the plane rightnext to the boat and they all clamber aboard. I know, I know—you have that quizzical look in your eyes and a sharp pain in your left temple, but no time to waste, there’s a shark on the loose!

Once on board, Jake turns into MacGyver and rigs up a contraption that can confuse the shark—I’ll call it the “bewilderbeast.” The bewilderbeast has two parts. One is a metallic box that has a strobe flash when switched on. The other is the transmitter that will do the shocking. Remember the PhDs’ previous plan? This one’s better still. Jake will shimmy his way out onto the bowsprit (the pointy thing at the front of a boat) and ram the bewilderbeast down the shark’s gullet when it gets close enough…but not so close that the shark eats him. The plan works! Except for the part where Jake is eaten:

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Michael wants revenge…and this time it’s personal!
Michael steers his way towards a man-shark showdown, furiously clicking the bewilderbeast on and off. Hoagie—yum!well…he just sits there. Ellen has a sepia-toned flashback of her husband shooting the original great white. There’s something very fishy about that…and it’s not the shark I smell. Then it dawns: she was not there when Martin killed Bruce the shark. How could she have a flashback to an incident where she wasn’t present? Oh, well. No time for pondering such inconsistencies because here comes the big scene!

The shark roars (literally) on a collision course with the boat, getting shocked the whole time, until it impales itself on the bowsprit, explodes, the boat sinks, and the crew is happily reunited with Jake, cracking jokes as they make for shore…the end.

Wait…what?!

Let’s take this one step at a time.

  1. I’m no ichthyologist, but I’m fairly certain sharks don’t roar.
  2. If bewildering the beast was such a success how could the shark make a bee-line straight into the boat?
  3. The shark gets impaled on the bowsprit. A bowsprit that is about ten feet above the water. So the shark hurled itself out of the water, thrusting it’s “chest” out so it could be killed. Hmm.
  4. The shark explodes. I’ll write that again. The shark explodes.
  5. The boat sinks…because? No reason, really. Just a good way to get all the characters into the water together.
  6. Jake is alive. So remember when Jake plunged the bewilderbeast into the shark and for his efforts was nearly halved, fully in the maw of the great white as it dragged him under? Well forget that. He’s ok. Just a flesh wound.

 

Absolute bollocks!

Wretched plot. Abysmal acting. Inscrutable editing and direction. It was even awarded “Worst Special Visual Effects” at the 1987 Golden Raspberry Awards. This movie’s got it all! No wonder Roger Ebert remarked that Jaws: The Revenge “is not simply a bad movie, but also a stupid and incompetent one.” I whole-heartedly agree. But let’s not end this review on such a sour note. I’ll let Sir Michael have the final word:

“I have never seen it, but by all accounts it is terrible. However, I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific.”

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Note: A good case could be made this film is genuine crap. Admittedly, moments of actual hilarity are few, especially compared to the ones that generate bemused disbelief. However, the cumulous effect of watching scene after scene of head-slapping incompetence both in front of the camera and behind does become perversely funny. Throughout its 90 minute running time one cannot help but laugh out loud at how it all—and I mean ALL— goes so spectacularly wrong. For that reason it is, indeed, craptastic!

I’m Julian André, humble scrivener, blogging exclusively for MovieFanFare. Until next time, I bid you a fond adieu!

Julian André

  • http://www.facebook.com/whatever41 Cynthia LaRochelle

    1 & 2 were good. After that I was ready to barf.

  • Matthew Coniam

    There are actually two different versions of this doing the rounds, with two different endings.
    The one that plays on British tv is the original version, in which the shark does not explode when it impales itself, but just thrashes about until it dies, hence the wrecking of the boat.
    The scene then abruptly fades, almost before the shark’s fully dead, and fades back in to the tag scene of Ellen leaving in Michael Caine’s plane. The official story is that preview audiences disliked this ending and so the climax was rejigged in a different version, which is the one issued on video. This is the one where the shark explodes after it hits the boat, courtesy of footage from the original Jaws and, as you rightly note, for no earthly reason whatsoever.

    There are a few other differences between the two versions.
    Version 1 features extensive glimpses of the hydraulic mechanism inside the shark’s hollow stomach in the scene where it follows Lance Guest through an old shipwreck; these have been tidied-up and edited out in version two.
    So clear and lingering are these shots in the first version that it seems like an unfinished work print rather than an accidental blooper.

    The other big change is the survival of the character played by Mario Van Peebles. The story is that preview audiences were unhappy with him dying so reshoots were undertaken in which he is seen to survive.
    My feeling, however, is that this is what was originally shot, then deleted, and then reinstated after the preview. This accounts, I think, for the dramatically suicidal haste with which the original version fades out as the shark dies, denying us all subsequent footage of the characters in the sea after the boat sinks, culminating in Van Peebles’ reappearance. Similarly, the dialogue in the tag scene about how his character needs to recuperate seems to me to be deleted from the first version, not added on to the second.
    What seems to have happened, therefore, is that for the second version the producers restored this missing footage, but also took the opportunity to change the shark’s death, not realising that the main problem with the original sequence was the abruptness with which it faded. The exploding finale is unquestionably worse: it is meaningless and ridiculous, and the abrupt breaks in visual and musical continuity, to say nothing of the inserted shots from Jaws, are painfully obvious.

  • Bubba Sawyer

    I tried to watch this on Space once, remebering the first time i saw it. It’s kind of like Halloween 5- it seemed really good in my memories, but was auful in reality. I hate how they do they effects with teh shark attack at the begining, where its just choppy shots of it snapping at him, and theres blood before he’s attacked. The end i remeber was the origional with the shark being impaled, then thrashing the ship apart- i have never seen the one where it blows up.

  • roy levering

    Jaws The Revenge/Montezuma’s revenge…same thing.

  • Blair Kramer.

    Michael Caine said that he often accepts a part when the location where the film is to be made appeals to him. I guess that’s why a great actor like Michael Caine has made so many God-awful films!

  • Joerg Adae, Stuttgart/Germany

    …I haven’t seen the movie, but enjoyed tremendously your hilarious recount of that flick.
    Thanks-Julian Andre

  • ken moodie

    The first movie of Jaws was super!everyone did a super job of it.the second movie of Jaws was good but not as good as the first.As for the others They were crap!Crap or trash or garage.they stink!

  • Gary Vidmar

    I don’t think Michael Caine could pass up working with Lorraine Gary, one of our great Hollywood princesses, who was married to an industry executive who probably had no hand in getting her the role in JAWS.

  • roger lynn

    I am sorry but I love this movie,,it is a guilty pleasure in fact until I went to a brews/clues at our local art movie house where I saw Jaws in august,,Jaws 4 was the only one I had seen in the movies.Jake dies in the original theatrical release..I hear with the new restored uncut it has his death like the original theatrical version…Michael Caine is good in anything

  • janet spink

    I know it is not the best movie. Everything said was true but, I still love those jaws movies for what they were. It kept the first one alive a little longer and they are in my movie collection for sure.

  • John Pinkelman

    Bollocks it is….

  • John Pinkelman

    Bollocks, it is…..

  • Alex

    Thanks, Julien, for a hilarious–and spot-on– review. You’ve made my day! Keep ‘em coming.

  • Dan O’Connell

    I always found it appalling that the shark went after a five-year-old girl-very poor taste!! I’m also certain sharks don’t roar! How did Ellen sense the shark’s presence? Did she take lessons from Yoda??

    Lea Thompson was SCORCHING in Jaws 3, but only the first two Jaws films still qualify as classics!!

  • normanb

    The shark’s roar sounded an awful lot like Spot on the Munsters. Both Universal titles…..hhmmm.

  • elginman

    There is one basic reason to film a sequel. M-O-N-E-Y. I think the moguls in Bollywood assume their next project will be as well accepted as the original. Never happen.