Night #13: The Last Shark (1981)


Directed By: Enzo G. Castellari

One thing’s for sure, it wasn’t a floatin chainsaw.”

Saturday’s usually seem like a good time for a creature-feature, so I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone and dip into the murky world of Italian ripoff cinema with this blatant retreading of Jaws, it’s hardly finger-on-the-pulse stuff being as it came some 6 years later.

What is there to say about the plot really? Just think about Jaws and strip away any memorable character, filmmaking prowess and a good script and you have this. As it is we’re back in a coastal town where a great white shark is killing the residents, all while a particuarly Italian looking mayor hungry for re-election isn’t having any of it.

It’s pretty amusing just how unashamedly this steals from the classic movie. Though there’s no Chief Brody we do get a a surrogate with author Peter Benton, surely a nod to author Peter Benchly. Fairing even more obviously is Vic Morrow as the Quint surrogate, complete with dubious accent. However the character here is called Ron Hammer, so it’s the one occasion I’ll give the win to the ripoff. His demise here is even lifted from the book so if nothing else it just seems like this was made by some really disgruntled fans of Benchley’s source material.

Oh, there’s also Italian disco. Lots of Italian disco. If you thought to yourself hey, I like Jaws but that John Williams theme really needs some synth added then you’ll go crazy for this one.

Needless to say, The Last Shark is cheap as hell. Like Jaws it saves its shark for the end, but until then our glimpses of it comes courtesy of slowed down stock footage. If you were one of those people who always thought the shark in Jaws looked cheap, how do you think it looked in an Italian knock-off? It has just one expression; surprise.

Sadly it’s just not as fun as it should be, though there is some hilarity to be found. One is in Morrow’s accent, which manages to sound both Scottish and Italian. Another is during the climax. In it our hero has the remote detonator to a bomb the shark has swallowed. He’s standing on the remains of a floating dock. Now sure, he could stay there and detonate the explosive, or he could scream “God damn you!” then heroically leap from the pier while hitting the trigger. I know it’s supposed to be a badass moment, but it’s like when you get a funny moment and decide to do a forward roll on your bed. Yeah, we’ve all done it.

Sadly, the story of this movie is more interesting than the movie itself. It was also released in the US as Great White where it did decent business before a lawsuit finally recognised that it steals from Jaws way too much. It was released in the UK as Shark and in Japan as Jaws Returns, which is hilariously shady. Then, in a final irony, it was ripped-off itself (Along with Spielberg’s original) when footage was used in the Italian movie Cruel Jaws some 14 years later. So, you know, what goes around comes around.


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