Cruel Jaws | Varied Celluloid

Cruel Jaws

Posted by Josh Samford On September - 23 - 2010
The Plot: Deep in the heart of Florida, Dag Snerensen (Richard Dew) runs an aquatic zoo very similar to Sea-World. Unfortunately Dag is a little behind on his rent and the mayor is looking to take over his property in order to use it in the midst of a big property deal that will secure him a fortune. When Dag’s young friend Billy shows up with his new girlfriend, they let their love for marine biology shine through and the girls generally sit on the sidelines wondering what is going on. Thankfully these two experts are in town to join forces, because it seems that a crazed Tiger Shark has made its way onto their shore and is currently picking off every fun loving teen that hits up the beach. When the town has their annual Regatta (a fancy term for a boat race), the shark makes a special guest appearance. Now the mayor has no choice but to close the beaches and send Dag & Billy out on a mission to find one Tiger Shark!







The Review
The magical world of cinema is a landscape of varying hills and mountaintops. You often have the great mountainous peaks of artistic achievement that overshadow the valleys, where so many lesser films dwell on their very solid plain of existence. When you take a look a few miles down these great plains however, you can see a great crater. This is where you’ll find the lesser of the lesser-films. Then, at the bottom of that crater is another giant bottomless hole where you’ll find the abominations of all things good and decent. This is precisely where you’ll find the majority of Bruno Mattei’s film output, but more importantly this is where you’ll find Cruel Jaws. Although I had held Enzo G. Castellari’s Great White up on the top of a pedestal reserved for the greatest Jawsploitation films ever made, Cruel Jaws throws down the gauntlet of competition. For readers who are not familiar, Jawsploitation is the moniker held for a select number of films that have borrowed so much from Steven Spielbergh’s magnum opus Jaws that the only way to describe it is: wholesale ripoff. Also, the grading scale for a Jawsploitation usually works in negative numbers. Truly, there are few genres that reach such milestones of utter trash. Very few of these films ever come remotely close to having suspense or anything resembling “good” qualities. Great White had long been considered my favorite of the genre for how audacious and ridiculous it is, and although it pains me as a fan of Great White, I must admit that Cruel Jaws escalates the insanity by leaps and bounds.

Bruno Mattei delivers on every pitfall that his close friend Claudio Fragrasso made with Troll 2. The only reason Cruel Jaws hasn’t made it to the top of the world’s “best worst movie” list is simply due to its obscurity. A tragedy if there ever was one! The performances in Cruel Jaws are obviously amateurish and features a dominantly American cast who were likely as perplexed as those who had to read through the script on Claudio Fragrasso’s masterpiece. The language barrier could have been a dominating factor here, as every performance is universally over the top. The dialogue lends itself to being shouted, as its the only way the cast could have possibly eked any kind of inspiration in the words. I can simply imagine the confusion on set while watching, as our leading man Billy has to deadpan his way through such amazing lines as: “This had to be a Tiger Shark, its jaws have to be THIS BIG” which of course is followed by the actor demonstrating just how big the jaws were with his hands. As if this so called scientist couldn’t express the size of the jawspan with inches or feet, he has to revert to kindergarten degrees of measurement. Cruel Jaws is best described not as a movie, but a series of randomly bizarre demonstrations of poor filmmaking. Yet, for this very reason it becomes one of the most entertaining films you could EVER sit down to watch.

You could name a cinematic law and this film does its best to break it, guaranteed. If you’ve seen more than a handful of cheap horror movies, you’re familiar with “day for night” shots. This is a technique that is forgivable only when it is used sparingly. When it is used in a limited manner, it can remain almost unnoticeable. There are huge segments of Cruel Jaws that are unfortunately tinted with a blue filter in order to give the impression of night time even when the sun is clearly visible in the sky. You would think that after several minutes of this you would simply block it out of your mind. No, however, that is not the case. The silliness just keeps on coming after we get odd character moment after character moment. Odd things happen throughout this movie, such as Sherriff Francis dashing out of his office and making the weakest hurdle that any action film has ever seen. His leap over this tiny guard rail is supposed to speak “action” in the mind of the audience, but like most things in the picture it comes off as forced and oddly humorous. When the Hulk Hogan look-a-like that is Dag Snerensen unknowingly interrupts a group of saboteurs who were looking to poison his dolphin, he stumbles upon their pail of fish and realizes that these fish are poisoned… after SMELLING them. Apparently the saboteurs were using a poison that had an odor that was so prominent that it overshadowed the fragrance of dead fish. Not only that, but Dag somehow KNEW this particular poison and what it regularly smells like. Confusing, you betcha!

Did I mention that this film features the single most accurate description of a shark ever? When asked to describe the Tiger shark, the doctor approaches the situation from layman’s terms… and by layman, I mean from the mindset of a lunatic who has no grip on reality as he describes the shark in such a way: “Well, they’re sort of a locomotive, with butcher’s knives for teeth and all they really know how to do is eat, swim and make baby sharks.” Sort of like a locomotive? With butcher’s knives for teeth? I hate to continually harp on random scene after scene but that is all this movie really is. If you’re a fan of b-movies, when you turn on Cruel Jaws it should be like catching a glimpse of heaven. The movie is so much fun that I haven’t even mentioned how blatant its attempts at trying to rip off Stephen Spielberg’s Jaws are. There are actually scenes lifted directly from Jaws here! Do you remember when the fisherman caught that smaller shark in Jaws, the one that Hooper claimed was too small because of its jaw-span? That scene is here. Do you remember when the coroner told Brody that he believed the young girl on the beach had died from a shark attack, but after being pressured by the mayor he changed his tune and claimed that the damage could have been caused by a propeller? That’s here as well. What about that sequence where the mayor finally understands that he has to pay Quint to catch the shark after Brody puts the pressure on him and the mayor retaliates with that one line about his own child being on that beach as well? Uh huh. The funny thing is that they actually avoided having a Quint-like character in Cruel Jaws for some reason, despite his being one of the most beloved characters from the film. I mean, they even use the line “We’re gonna need a bigger helicopter!”, but they leave out Quint! Instead of a Quint-esque character being paid by the mayor this time around, we have the Sherrif, Dag and Billy pressuring the mayor into putting out a massive bounty… only for the three of them to go out trying to collect it. So, essentially the main motivation for our heroes is not to stop the shark but to collect the money in order to selfishly keep their Sea-World-esque aquatic zoo open. Are we supposed to actually LIKE these characters?

The Conclusion
My opinion on Cruel Jaws? It is poorly made. It is inept. There are few technical points that make this movie intentionally enjoyable. However, it is so incredibly entertaining that I honestly could not help but fall head over heels in love with it. If you are the type of viewer who does not get the mystique of “So bad it’s good” cinema, then avoid this like it were the black plague. However, if you like your Jawsploitation and you like it as dumb as a box of rocks – FIND THIS!



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Varied Celluloid is a film website intent on delivering views on movies from all genres. Started in 2003, the website has been steadfast in its goal and features a database of over 500 lengthy reviews. If you would like to contact us about writing for the website or sending screeners, please visit the about page located here.

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