Great White | Varied Celluloid

Great White

Posted by Josh Samford On April - 16 - 2009
The Plot: Within a coastal New England town, things begin to go a bit awry as a para-sailing competition is just around the corner. However, one of the best entries in the competition goes missing in the water. The only thing that is found of him is half of his board, bitten in two. A local man, who’s daughter was on the beach watching the missing teen, takes it upon himself to join up with a grizzled fisherman (Vic Morrow) to track down the beast at large, however the local mayor refuses to close the beaches (bet this is sounding kind of familiar about right now) due to the competition bringing in a lot of visitors and not wanting to disappoint. They attempt to ensure the safety of the sailors by placing up shark-proof netting around the beach to ensure the great white won’t ruin all the fun. Guess what? Our shark ruins all the fun. After snacking on a few teens, our every-man and his fisherman pal decide to take some action against the beast – but will this fish out-smart them all? I’m betting yes, but that’s just me.




The Review: Enzo G. Castellari is without question one of the most beloved directors by fans of Italian genre cinema, but at the same time remains an unsung hero to all but the diehards. Working in just about every genre of Italian cinema within the 70’s and 80’s, he has delivered his fair share of classics. He delivered post apocalyptic Road Warrior type flicks, Spaghetti Westerns, Macaroni Combat and Italian crime flicks with a regular quality. So, when hearing about Great White which was to the best of my knowledge a good Jaws ripoff, I figured it sounded like a pretty fun little ride. What I didn’t know to expect however was that I was walking into one of the silliest, craziest and what can I say, dumbest flicks I have ever had the privilege to see. There are bad films out there, the kind so stupid or so boring that you just want to kill the TV and find something constructive to do. There are good-bad flicks, the kind that are so goofy that they become entertaining because of how inept they are. Well, there’s also a third branch of bad-movies and that is the “so incredibly goofy it defies all coherent thought and logic” b-movie. Great White rests entirely in this third category. I personally found myself a little shocked to see this coming from Enzo who is usually fairly tight with his films and only goes over the top when it is necessary or bound to fit with the momentum of the film. Not the case with Great White as we start the movie off by going over the top and remain WELL past the boundaries of sanity throughout the entire course of the film.

Great White, The Last Shark, L’arge Squido or as my cousin and I like to refer to it (as well as our personal nickname for the Shark within the film) Italian Jaws – whatever you want to call it; well, it’s a special film. There’s no way I can sit here and write and try to convince anyone that this isn’t a bad movie or that there’s anything deeper within Great White than what is obviously on the surface. It’s pointless, you either like goofy flicks like this or you don’t. If you’re the type who loves an epic b-movie and throws on Ricky-Oh once in a while just to laugh at all the cheese, there’s a good chance you’re going to see exactly what it is that I loved about Great White. We’re talking about a flick that all but takes the original Jaws and just swaps around character names. It’s such a brazen ripoff, as only the Italians would have the gumption to do. When initially released here in the states, somebody must have thought no one would notice the eerie similarity’s and they actually pumped up a $4 million dollar ad campaign in order to support its release. It didn’t take long for the powers that be to file a lawsuit and essentially prohibited the film’s release. The audacity is just astounding, we have a Roy Scheider type character who is all-action this time around. We have a hero version of the Quint character, this time with an Irish accent (Vic Morrow with an Irish accent… wow) and the overall plan to stop Italian Jaws? Get in the water with him and throw a bomb in his direction. I friggin’ kid you not. So, without beating this one into the ground I’ll just go on record and say that Great White, it’s not a smart film. However, if you’re in the right mood or invite a few friends over, it sure is a fun one.

Sharks cannot swim backwards. For those of you not aware, they simply cannot. They don’t have the ability or strength to bend their fins back in the manner necessary that some bonier fish do, so in no manner can they actually swim in a backwards motion. Now, Great White isn’t the first shark flick to break this law of reality. If memory serves correct, one of the Jaws sequels actually had the shark backing up before flying into the screen. However, Great White defies all competitors and not only shows their shark (Italian Jaws) backing up – they show him backing up and ramming rocks in order to create an avalanche of debris to enclose our heroes in a underwater cave. That’s right, Italian Jaws uses tools. He is a methodical fish who plans, maps out and executes his own brilliant plans in order to take out any human being who steps foot in his water. He pulls docks apart by tugging on a rope underwater, he bites holes through nets and conveniently remembers precisely where he made his hole in order to navigate back through it several times and always knows precisely when to pounce. Italian Jaws isn’t all about brains though, he packs plenty enough brawn. To demonstrate his power, imagine a man in a small fishing boat floating along trying to escape the shark panic of the waters currently around him. Imagine our main fish, Italian Jaws, as he bolts towards this boat and comes up underneath – apparently swimming deep into the waters before turning around and bolting up towards the bottom of the boat and slamming into it – lifting the boat and the man TWELVE FEET out of the water! Italian Jaws performs the same trick when breaking through the floorboards on rafts and generally anything human are trying to float upon. The power of Italian Jaws can be compared to no other fish in the water.

What can I say? Great White defies everything. Lifting boats into the air like a kid smacking at a beach ball, plotting against his enemies strategically and using tools at his disposal – Castellari and company essentially had no plans of keeping this one rooted within any version of our own reality. I’ll give it to the man though, by and large for a low budget feature it doesn’t do a bad job in replicating a shark. There are a lot of obvious low budget moments such as a helicopter being dragged under water although obviously just a toy. The shark itself has two main appearances, they have the underwater shark which is apparently just a floating replica – which doesn’t look all that bad and of the three or four appearances it makes only looks really hokey once or twice. The other version of our shark appears to be a animatronic/puppet head which is a lot better looking and is more akin to Spielberg’s shark. The only problem with this version is how they bring it above water so much and for such long periods of time. Italian Jaws is known to pop out of the water for several seconds at a time, apparently just keeping a watchful eye (wait, what?) on the humans.

Keep an eye out for a ton of obvious stock footage, some taken at night when our scene is taking place during the day, as well as a lot of bad time sequencing during the final parts of the film. Such as our shark being out several miles in the water attacking one boat, then somehow being at the shore within the next scene – with no time delay shot to show that it took him any actual time to get there. This is Great White and no one said it was going to be an intelligent look at the world of shark hunting. I had such a blast with the film, I really can’t imagine any other response to it other than that. I’m sure the filmmakers were probably going for the fear that Jaws produced in so many, but by making the film as over the top as it is it simply became an entirely different beast altogether. It gets a four out of five (I know, my ratings are pretty weird) and I simply can’t imagine anyone NOT having a good time while watching. Search it out and find this bit of insane Italian genre filmmaking, you won’t regret it.

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  • Glad to see you reviewed this movie. I adore it, but I’ve never actually written anything on it. An absolute classic.
  • It’s just so much fun. Ever since watching it, I’ve posted on like four different forums about how psyched I was. It’s a shame we probably won’t be getting any kind of official release stateside.

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