#TBT: The Brilliant Travesty of Jaws The Revenge
Ron Seifried | On 02, Oct 2014“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!” Michael Caine’s infamous quote on his role in the forgettable Jaws: The Revenge, the third and final sequel to Steven Spielberg’s 1975 blockbuster classic, sums up what the franchise has become. Terrible to the point of brilliant, campiness. The other day, IFC ran a Jaws marathon and I was drawn to watch the third and fourth installment of the great white saga adventures with the Brody family. I watched the first three films in the theaters, but never got around to see the finale. Consider this one item crossed off the sequel bucket list. Ignoring all the plot elements in the previous Jaws 3-D, effectively making it non-canon, the 1987 film picks up several years after the hero sheriff Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) killed the great whites in the first two installments. Lorraine Gary reprises the role of Ellen Brody, Chief Brody’s widow, during the Christmas season on Amity Island with youngest son Sean (Mitchell Anderson), now a police deputy. After Sean is killed by a great white in the first few minutes, Ellen heads to the Bahamas with older son Mike (Lance Guest) his wife Carla (Karen Young) and young daughter Thea (Judith Barsi), where he works as a marine biologist with Jake (Mario Van Peebles). Michael Caine is the charismatic airplane pilot Hoagie, Ellen confides in her psychic feelings that this particular shark has a personal vendetta against the Brody family. The fast swimming Carcharodon carcharias manages to travel the 1000+ miles from New England to the Bahamas in less than 48 hours, one of many plot holes in project that probably inspired the recent phenomena of Sharknado. Jaws: The Revenge was Lorraine Gary’s first acting job since Spielberg’s 1941 eight years earlier. This also marked the second time Gary worked with director Joseph Sargent, the first being the 1969 television movie The Marcus-Nelson Murders, the pliot for Kojak and Spielberg’s inspiration to cast the actress in the original Jaws. Coincidentally, her husband Sidney Sheinberg is sometimes credited with discovering Spielberg. The growing popularity of paranormal films in the 1980’s seeped into the Jaws franchise, with Mrs. Brody’s belief there is a telepathic link between the Great White and the Brody family. As soon as a Brody steps into the water, the vengeful shark strikes. The widow also has the uncanny ability to experience sepia tone flashbacks of her late husband of memories she was never a part of. It is never made clear what the shark is seeking revenge for, or if it is a distant cousin of one of Chief Brody’s prior victims. But Michael still manages to tell his mother, “Come on, sharks don’t commit murder. Tell me you don’t believe in that voodoo.” The endless list of script doctors apparently wanted the audience to believe in voodoo. The fourth generation Great White did have the uncanny ability to navigate throughout a complex shipwreck maze in its failed pursuit of Michael Brody. The marine biologist manages to escape at the last minute (of course), and the mighty beast somehow needs to figure out how to swim backwards through the tight underwater tunnels. This scene takes place a few days after the death of Michael’s brother to a shark, another unanswered question on grieving the loss of a loved one. The prehistoric beast had the uncanny ability to roar like a dinosaur, boldly attack small airplanes and float on the water surface with its mouth full. Scientific facts be damned! This colloid masterpiece is from the same man who directed the original The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, but was primarily a TV director by the 80’s. The cinematography and exposition certainly resembles more of a movie-of-the-week than an actual feature film. Depending on which version you catch, there are actually two different endings to Jaws: The Revenge. Because of test audience’s negative feedback, a new ending was shot. One has Ellen crashing into the shark, with all aboard jumping into the water as the boat breaks apart. The second ending has the shark getting stabbed (yes, stabbed) by the bow spirit and then exploding (kaboom!). Inexplicitly, Mario Van Peebles character survives the death chomping of the shark and manages to escape the sharp clutches of the jaws, giving the film a happy ending. The happy ending cut is usually broadcast, while the other version can be seen on home video releases. Because of the reshoots, Michael Caine missed attending the Academy Award ceremony and collecting his first Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for Hannah and Her Sisters. The continuity errors are many, there is at least one hour without any shark attacks, the beast’s mechanics can be spotted, the story is bland as an afternoon soap opera and the great white explodes for no logical reason. Several nods to the original, including cameos by grieving mom Mrs. Kintner and Amity council board member Mrs. Taft , the filmmakers reverence is lazy storytelling in the name of nostalgia. Sargent takes it one step too far with the remake of the father and son mimic scene from the original, itself a onset improvisation, and crammed it into the endless dramatic narrative. The movie at this stage, is more of a melodramatic portrayal on how a family reacts to the death of a loved one than an actual horror film with a scary monster. Jaws: The Revenge is the unintentionally laughable entry of the series. It should be a study for students of film on how not to make a movie. Seminars should be given, exams taken and thoughtful discussions that examine the many, many issues that plague it. Although not a cult classic bad movie as Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space, Sargent and crew set out to reboot the franchise in a respectful manner as a tribute to the Spielberg classic. It is as comically bad as it takes itself seriously.