The Last Shark
A quiet, restful summer in the lazy coastal town of Port Harbor is abruptly about to end.
Year of Release: 1981
Also Known As: L'ultimo squalo, The Last Jaws, The Last Sharks, Jaws 81, Jaws Returns, Great White, Son Jaws
Running Time: 84 minutes (1:24)
Director: Enzo G. Castellari
James Franciscus ... Peter Benton
Vic Morrow ... Ron Hamer
Micaela Pignatelli ... Gloria Benton
Joshua Sinclair ... Mayor William Wells
Giancarlo Prete ... Bob Martin
Stefania Girolami Goodwin ... Jenny Benton
When a champion wind-surfer goes missing, a local reporter named Peter Benton takes his boat out to search for him when he encounters Ron Hammer, a crusty old sea dog. "It wasn't a floatin' chainsaw," states Hammer as they come across the chewed up sailboard. With warnings from Benton and Hammer the local authorities refuse to shut down the beach and instead opt to install shark nets. Naturally the carnage then ensues as the monster shark terrorizes the coastline.
The Last Shark, remindin' us that there're plenty of fish in the sea, an they haven't forgotten about that six pack holder you were too lazy to cut up.
An speakin' of aquatic assholes with axes to grind, I really don't know why I bother tryin' to save these people from themselves. I mean, I don't expect *gratitude*, but somethin' less than active hostility would be nice. Everybody's blamin' Billy Hilliard, Cleave Furguson, an myself for the annual crappie tournament at Lake Gunkamucka bein' cut short just because of a little explosion, but we had a damn good reason - an it involved 300lbs of unhinged catfish fury. Ever since we tried (an failed at) rammin' that auger through ole Crudfin's brain back in February, Cleave, Billy, an me've been more'n a little concerned that he might go apeshit an start eatin' toobers once it warmed up, so we finally sat down at Mack's Stacks of Manly Snacks last week to work out a plan to make 'im sleep with the dead mafia targets.
"Spoze we could just drag the lake with a tractor on either side, haul him out, and shotgun him to death?" Cleave suggested.
"Nah, bottom's fulla rusty metal that'd cut right through any net; never work," I says.
"Wha 'bow poivon?" Billy offered.
"Prolly work, but we don't wanna kill the whole damn lake," I replied, tryin' to restrain the snark.
"Well, what the heck do *you* suggest we do? Find a voodoo priest to raise zombie Robert Shaw?" Cleave growled.
I sure's hell didn't have a better suggestion, not after my auger scheme'd failed spectacularly, so I played a coupla games of pinball to mull it over, pawed at my chicken fried steak, an counted the dead flies on the strip over the grill until I thought I had the makins of a decent plan.
"You're insane, you know that right?" was Cleave's constructive assessment.
"Look, Duke Tankersley couldn't kill the sombitch, then Billy couldn't take 'im out with 40lbs of galvanized steel - so it stands to reason that we're gonna hafta quit fartin' around with this bush-league crapola an get serious, okay?"
Needless to say, they were just a teensy bit skeptical, but this really was our best option.
"We're gonna need your boat, Cleave," I nudged.
"Yeah, I gathered that," he mumbled into his palm with an eye roll that went so far back you could see his optic nerve.
We were all set to start preparation for our big fish fry, cept when I stood up I noticed Duke sittin' alone in the corner an went to see how he was holdin' up. Hadn't really seen 'im much since the New Year's party, but I guess that don't matter none on account of 'im bein' borderline comatose since his run-in with Crudfin a little over a year ago. Duke was playin' tic-tac-toe with the condiments when I sat down at his table, so I waited until the game was over an told 'im not to worry about nothin' cause come Saturday mornin', Billy, Cleave, an me were gonna turn that muddy menace into the Long John Silver's beer battered special. Only when I mentioned Crudfin his eyes swelled up to the size of urinal cakes an he just stared at me in silence for a good 17, 18 seconds, at which point he put his straw up to his lips an proceeded to blow bubbles in his Dr. Pepper til I got depressed an left. Now, I'd like to go on record as sayin' dynamite is not a toy, an that it should *never* be handled by anyone but a qualified demolitions expert - so the three of us watched a coupla Youtube videos until we were pretty sure we had the jist of it, an on Friday night I put Invasion of the Bee Girls up on the screen at the Grime Time to distract Delbert Biddle (he owns the lot next to the Grime Time) while Bambi Pankins' kids snuck over to his shed to borrow a stick for me in exchange for a tub of nachos. In hindsight I prolly coulda gotten those three little monsters to ice Crudfin for a ten spot, but there's no sense in dwellin' on the past. So anyway, we dumped Cleave's Glastron into the lake around 5 in the AM hopin' we could take care of our little problem before anybody even got there, but apparently Crudfin wasn't much of a morning pisces. We fished for about four hours, but the dirty booger refused to show his ugly, Lovecraftian face, an we were startin' think maybe the auger really had done 'im in after all. But right around 9:30 an enormous, dark mass broke the surface about ten feet offa port, an there he was, starin' at us with his one good eye, directly between us an the nearest shoreline, practically darin' us to try somethin'.
"Well, what the hell do we do now?" Cleave whispered.
"Stuff may not work just goin' off next to 'im, we gotta get 'im to swallow it," I mumbled outta the left side of my mouth.
"How we gon' make 'im eah ih?" Billy muttered.
"I'll get his mouth open, you just get it lit an stuff it in there. An you get ready to start the motor an get us the heck outta here, Cleave. You guys ready?" I asked.
They nodded, an I stepped down to the rear end of the boat, took my shoes off, dunked my feet into the water, an within about three seconds ole Slimy Whiplash's whiskers started moseyin' on over. The auger'd definitely put a hitch in his giddy-up - good thing too, otherwise he prolly woulda got a lot more'n just my sock when he came after me. Missed eatin' my left foot by about half an inch, an when I rolled back he jumped right in an joined the party, just like I'd hoped he would. Billy got the explosive into his mouth pretty easy, but gettin' 'im back into the water was another matter - took all three of us to shove 'im back out - cept before he could make splashdown his gut bucket slammed into the rail an caused 'im to burp the dynamite back up... directly under the boat. Blew a hole three feet across in the underside of the Glastron an ripped the rear end clean off - next thing you know we're goin' under faster'n Uncle Elroy's farm after a batch of retaliatory Chinese tariffs. We were basically done for by that point; chum, fish food - Crudfin was gonna need a bigger belly just to hold all that dead meat. But when I cocked my head back toward the bank to decide whether to fight it out in the boat or swim for it I saw 'im: Duke Tankersley, wadin' out into the water towards us.
"Hey! You slimy sombitch! Remember me?!" he roared.
Fortunately Crudfin'd had his bell rung pretty good from the shock wave, cause that gave Duke enough time to swim out to the boat while the marine menace was clearin' the cobwebs. Never saw a fish in a headlock before that, but Duke bit, punched, kicked, an stabbed with everything he had til Crudfin spiked 'im clear through the palm of his right hand an out the other side. Course, by that time the boat was just about gone, an the three of us didn't really have anything left to lose, so we dove on toppa the big bastard an proceeded to pound the tar out of 'im while Duke rammed the anchor through his gills, draggin' 'im down to the bottom along with Cliff's beloved Scimitar.
"Thanks Duke, we owe ya one," I sputtered once we'd finally made landfall.
"Nah, thank *you guys* for bein' so stupid. I might never have come outta that funk if you hadn't gone on this suicide mission," he grinned.
"Told you it was insane," Cleave reiterated as he pried a leech off his shoulder.
Too exhausted to throw any punches, I replied, "Get bent, Cleave."
Crudfin bobbed to the surface about an hour later, dead, finally. Cleave's workin' on gettin' 'im stuffed for Duke at no charge as we speak, an Wilbur Carnegie won the crappie tournament when an 11 an a half pounder flew into his boat after the dynamite blew. Apparently they ain't got any rules against that kinda thing. But yeah, whole damn fishermen's association's P.O.'d about havin' to end the stupid tournament a coupla hours early, like they'da just soldiered on or somethin' after Crudfin inevitably ate some snot-nosed kid ridin' a noodle float or somethin'. Buncha ungrateful assholes.
Still, we couldn't help but toot our own horns a little bit (after all, we'd accomplished what Robert Shaw couldn't in Jaws), so I figured a feast of greasy delivery pizza an a flick about a man-eatin' mechanical fish was in order. Now, I don't wanna getcha too excited about this flick so I'll try to keep the hyperbole to a minimum, but when Universal saw how awesome this thing was they sued Film Ventures International to prevent its release. True story - obviously they were afraid that this Enzo Castellari character was gonna expose Spielberg for the hack that he was, an they sued faster'n the President after an unflattering tweet. Just about hasta be the explanation, cause after all - how pitiful would you hafta be to stick it to an indie studio for pumpin' out a pale imitation of your blockbuster movie if it wasn't gonna end up the toast of the drive-in? Go ahead, think about it, I believe you'll find my explanation airtight, and utterly plausible. Admittedly, that's some mighty big talk right there, so without further ado, I present to you exhibits 1 - 3 in my case against Universal an their need to squash the little guy like a pack of Marlboros between a set of bolt-on boobies. First, even the most stalwart of drinkers has their limit, an Vic Morrow's looks to've been the Mediterranean Sea. Second, no man is an island - if he were, his friends could climb on top of 'im an avoid becomin' Great White goulash. An third, when there's a 35' shark bearin' down on ya, every last one of us is chicken of the sea.
The movie begins with this windsurfin' montage featurin' a buncha buff, macho dudes out shreddin' like Michael Cohen moments before his door got kicked in by the F.B.I., when along comes this beach blanket blender that cruises on down to the manburger stand now an leaves one of the poor saps with a lot more'n just his rock-hard abs bein' ripped to shreds. Meanwhile, James Franciscus is tryin' to type up a few last minute script changes when his daughter (Jenny) an 'er friend (Billy Joe) come home an tell 'im that their friend went surfin' now, without ever learnin' how, an they ain't seen hide nor perm of 'im since. So James an the kids go out in his boat to see if there're any seagulls circlin' the ocean an they end up runnin' into salty old sea captain Vic Morrow who's been growin' an Ernest Hemingway beard an learnin' to talk like Scotty from Star Trek to hide from the I.R.S., an once James pulls up next to Vic's boat Vic shows 'im the half a surf board he found that looks like Old Dirty Bastard's been usin' it for a toothpick an they both turn their jeans into wetsuits. James' eyeballs hadn't been this big since he attended a test screenin' of The Valley of Gwangi, so he an Vic haul boat back to town to tell Mayor McSleaze (Wells) about Dyin' Seacrest when the Coast Guard comes into port draggin' this slashed bottom boat that's only got one hand on deck on account of the other one bein' chewed off by an aquatic assassin. Wells could not give a shit if you force-fed 'im a five gallon bucket fulla Milk of Magnesia, but he's runnin' for governor on the smarmy douche ticket an plannin' a publicity stunt in the form of a windsurfin' regatta, so to ensure the safety of all the magnificent beach bods he buys up a buncha shark netting an assigns boarder guards to surround the perimeter an keep an eye out for illegal pisceans.
Unfortunately, nobody bothered to tell the shark that the netting is supposed to be him-proof, so he goes tearin' through it like Leatherface through a hippie teenager an once Dr. Johnny Fever starts the race the Great White drags this bowlin' buoy through the racers til every last one of 'em wipes out, ensurin' they'll save all their blood, save their blood for he. Then everybody hasta either pile onto Vic's boat or flop around in the surf like epileptic flounders while Johnny Fever's vessel gets hammered from below by a depth chargin' sharkpedo that sends 'im flyin' through the air like the Rocketeer, eventually comin' to rest in the waiting gullet of Shark Griswold. Needless to say, the rabble is P.O.'d, so Wells sends Vic, James, an Gloria (James' wife) out to kick some anal fin, only Vic an James end up runnin' into the shark at a busy intersection in this coral reef where they're stuck hummin' a coupla bars of Under the Pee. They don't call 'em wetsuits for nothin', folks. But anyway, when Vic an James refuse to swim outta the cavern to become Gnarly the StarKist Chewna's lunch he's royally torqued off, so he starts bangin' his head against the wall like The Sandman tryin' to open a 7200oz can of Budweiser til the ceilin' caves in an traps Vic an James in the cavern, forcin' 'em to leave the way they came even though their oxygen supply is so low that they hafta tighten the valve clear down to the "Flat Earth Society" setting just to make it out alive. Meanwhile, Billy Joe's decided to go work damage control for his dad by takin' out the shark, course as we all learned in The Legend of Zelda - it's dangerous to go alone, an since Jenny's dumber'n a bag fulla barnacles she volunteers to jump off the Tallahatchie Bridge with Billy Joe an ends up gettin' 'er leg gnawed off; maiming her horribly an ending any chance of 'er ever competin' in the Snow Angel World Championships.
Fortunately Wells is out scourin' the ocean in his chopper an manages to get 'er to the hospital to be fitted with a peg, eye patch, an complimentary parrot before she bleeds out, but apparently he ain't content with havin' committed *political* suicide, so he flies back out to sea with a chunka hind quarter attached to a winch an tows it around the surface until Fu Manchew shows up an yanks both winch an Wells clean outta the copter where he ends up Once Bitten Twice Shy. Then the Flunkie Bunch go after Sharky Shark again an find what's left of the chopper, an so James an Vic hafta swim down to look for survivors who may've evolved gills in record time, only Vic ends up gettin' tangled in the winch cable an next thing you know the jaws with a cause show up, grab the cable, an drag Vic away for a decidedly ineffective water skiin' lesson. I don't mean to sound insensitive or anything, but Vic really just needs to steer clear of helicopters whenever possible. Anyway, while that's goin' on this douchebag shock jock's gone an attached a side of ribs to the pier to lure in the shark an score some video so he can get famous an go on Shark Week, cept that goes over like diarrhea in the hot tub when the shark rips half the pier off its stilts an drags a half dozen particularly unfortunate sonsabitches out into the ocean an proceeds to rock out with his dock out. Seems like a good place to leave off, but just so we're clear - one of the poor saps stuck on the raft of the daft is James' wife, so he'd best get his stuff together if he intends to go divin' for clams anytime soon.
Those Italian filmmakers man - if it wasn't nailed down, they were just about guaranteed to make a low budget clone of it, so it's hardly a surprise that they'd zero-in on Jaws as a potential money-maker. The only downside to cloning a flick like Jaws is that it was a damned expensive production, and back in those days you couldn't just pay some kid workin' at the Syfy channel to rig you up some CGI shark footage on his coffee break - so as pitiful as the special effects are at times, they were pretty much all-in on building a mechanical shark, and that ain't cheap. Fortunately, they probably recouped a lot of that cash when they sold the U.S. distribution rights to Film Ventures International. Unfortunately for FVI, The Last Shark is a rare breed of film that's such an obvious rip-off (and that's not a term I use lightly) that Universal sued for copyright infringement and won. Universal got this sucker pulled from theaters after having played for just one week, and that act was probably the first nail in the coffin for FVI since they'd already spent four million bucks on advertising. Normally I'm not big on studios gettin' bent outta shape about indie companies making low budget equivalents in an effort to hitch themselves to the gravy train, but this isn't even close - FVI was lucky Universal didn't take everything they had instead of simply having the film pulled from theaters. The similarities, both in terms of events and characters, are numerous and egregious (to both Jaws and Jaws 2), and FVI pretty much got what was coming to them. They would have done well to follow the examples of New World and Empire, because even though those studios borrowed liberally from popular titles of the era, they kept it within reason. Still, the late '70s and early '80s bore quite a few Beasts at the Beach flicks, and the fact that all of them were following the Jaws formula on some level doesn't diminish their worth in the least. Obviously none of the imitators come anywhere close to their original inspiration, but as fans of the Horror genre, the vast majority of us couldn't care less. There have always been A movies and B movies, and the rampant production of the B's in the glory days of the genre gave us more of what we enjoyed about the A flicks, without having to wait around for a major studio to dedicate millions of dollars. We wanted more aliens runnin' amok in space, more leather-clad lunatics terrorizin' the dystopian landscape, and more demon-possessed innocents launchin' partially digested culinary concoctions onto unsuspecting clergymen, and at the end of the day, it wasn't the A list movie producers that gave them to us - it was the little guys who knew a good thing when someone else created it.
But anyway, I suppose it's about time to take a look at these guys' Xerox skills and examine just exactly what Steve Spielberg was so P.O.'d about. Now, I've already said that the plot is little more than a Jaws knock off, but when people start throwing around the word "rip-off" I feel like some specific examples are necessary to back it up, so I'll run down some of the most egregious instances briefly: Vic Morrow's character (despite being inexplicably Scottish) is written as a carbon-copy of Robert Shaw and even looks a bit like him with the mustache and sideburns, sharks down a helicopter in the ocean in both this and Jaws 2, both flicks feature mayors who put up half-assed defenses to avoid canceling a major tourist attraction (in Jaws 2 the attraction is a sailboat regatta, here it's a windsurfing regatta), both Jaws and The Last Shark feature scenes involving bait tied to a dock wherein said dock is ripped free and dragged out to sea, and, of course, there's the endings, but I'm not gonna go spoiling those. Don't get me wrong, it steals things from Orca and Tentacles as well, but generally speaking, it's the first two Jaws flicks that get pillaged most frequently. That said, originality, while certainly beneficial to a movie's score, is not a requirement. The acting may well be the film's greatest asset, even though much of the supporting cast is Italian and difficult to judge due to the dubbing process. Vic Morrow is no Robert Shaw, but he pulls off an enjoyable impersonation. James Franciscus is also decent despite having little to no character development, and Joshua Sinclair comes across well as the slightly oily Mayor Wells who is almost certainly working to axe the shark for selfish reasons, yet still puts his butt on the line to do so. Pretty much everybody else in the flick is inconsequential, but the supporting cast is able to maintain the level of professionalism needed to warrant a passing grade.
Here's who matters and why: James Franciscus (Beneath the Planet of the Apes, The Cat 'O Nine Tails, The Valley of Gwangi, Night Kill, Killer Fish, Night Slaves), Vic Morrow (Twilight Zone: The Movie, 1990: The Bronx Warriors, Humanoids from the Deep 1980, The Evictors, Message from Space, Curse of the Black Widow, The Night that Panicked America), Micaela Pignetti (Flashman, The Card Player, The Church), Joshua Sinclair (1990: The Bronx Warriors, Hitch-Hike, Lady Frankenstein), Giancarlo Prete (Warriors of the Wasteland, Escape from the Bronx, Black Belly of the Tarantula), Stefania Girolami Goodwin (Warriors of the Wasteland, 1990: The Bronx Warriors, Sinbad of the Seven Seas), Don Devendorf (The House on Skull Mountain, Madhouse 1981), Bill Eudaly (The Return of Swamp Thing, Bleed), Massimo Vanni (Zombi 3 & 4, Warriors of the Wasteland, The Wax Mask, Shocking Dark, Sinbad of the Seven Seas, Rats: Night of Terror, Escape from the Bronx, The House by the Edge of the Lake), Ennio Girolami (Escape from the Bronx, Warriors of the Wasteland, Killer Crocodile 1 & 2, Sinbad of the Seven Seas, 1990: The Bronx Warriors, Tenebre, The Feast of Satan), John Morrison (The Spider Labyrinth), Paul Costello (Escape from the Bronx, Warriors of the Wasteland, Cannibal Apocalypse, Beyond the Door, Yor the Hunter from the Future), Andrea Girolami (Warriors of the Wasteland), Romano Puppo (Robowar: Robot da guerra, Fracchia contro Dracula, 2019: After the Fall of New York, Escape from the Bronx, Ghoulies II, The Great Alligator).
Then you've got a whole lotta credits for the usual gang of English dubbers, and they are as follows: Larry Dolgin (Acting roles: Leviathan, The Pit and the Pendulum 1991, Robot Jox, Ghoulies II. Dubbing: Endgame: Bronx lotta finale, Yor, the Hunter from the Future, 1990: The Bronx Warriors, Cannibal Ferox, Cannibal Holocaust, Nightmare City, Hell of the Living Dead, Contamination 1980, Zombie Holocaust, The Humanoid, Ghoulies II, Don't Torture a Duckling), Steven Luotto (Top Line, Rats: Night of Terror, Cannibal Holocaust, The Final Executioner, Extra Terrestrial Visitors, Escape from the Bronx, 1990: The Bronx Warriors, The New York Ripper, Cannibal Ferox, Nightmare City), Gregory Snegoff (Acting: Misery. Dubbing: Flight to Hell, The Blade Master, Godzilla 1985, Endgame: Bronx lotta finale, Cannibal Holocaust, Yor the Hunter from the Future, The House by the Cemetery, Cannibal Ferox, Nightmare City, Hell of the Living Dead, Zombie Holocaust), Susan Spafford (The Tomb, Cannibal World, The Mummy Theme Park, Touch of Death, Devil Fish, I guerriera dell'anno 2072, The Raiders of Atlantis, Yor the Hunter from the Future, Exterminators of the Year 3000, Warriors of the Wasteland, Pieces, Absurd, Cannibal Ferox, Cannibal Holocaust, Murder Syndrome, Anthropophagus: The Grim Reaper, Hell of the Living Dead, House on the Edge of the Park, City of the Living Dead, Contamination, Zombie Holocaust, Eaten Alive!, The Great Alligator, Zombi 2, Torso, Don't Torture a Duckling, Blade of the Ripper), Nick Alexander (Phenomena, The Raiders of Atlantis, 1990: The Bronx Warriors, The Scorpion with Two Tails, Yor the Hunter from the Future, The Last Shark, Nightmare City, Cannibal Apocalypse, Zombi 2, Contamination, Terror Express, Pieces, Screamers, Hitch Hike, Strip Nude for Your Killer, Deep Red). As far as mainstream roles go, Vic Morrow would likely be best known as Sgt. Saunders on Combat, and Bill Eudaly would probably prefer you remember him as Stonewall Jackson in the North and South mini-series.
The special effects are where things really start going sideways - because without exception, *any* movie like this one is going to live and die by its presentation of the shark. So here's the deal - they did build a life-size model of the shark (or at least half of it since I don't recall seeing a complete shot of it), and for the movie's budget it's really not bad. Not as good as Jaws, but very respectable under the circumstances. They also used a smaller rubber shark for some of the underwater scenes (where it tears through the netting, for instance), and it's nowhere near as good. But then there's a third version that's smaller still, and when *that* version is on screen you're usually looking at an aquarium with miniature backgrounds, where the shark looks to have been constructed from rigid plastic that's easily recognizable as being such. Of course, it goes without saying that there's a lot of stock shark footage on screen as well, but that's typical and even necessary for flicks like this because even Bruce couldn't truly move like a real shark underwater, but the bottom line is a lot of the shark sequences look like crap. Besides the shark itself there's not much to see - a decent severed arm, a terrible severed leg, and an extremely obvious model helicopter posing as the real thing.
The shooting locations are nice, with the majority of the shoot taking place on the island of Malta. Like most Italian movies it's supposed to be set in the U.S. (although that may only be our dubbed version), and while there are certainly a few scenes that belie that notion, they tend to stay away from city centers and other areas that would truly challenge the assertion. Beyond the beautiful beaches and tropical waters there really isn't a lot to speak of, but then those are the only locations that genuinely affect the atmosphere, so I'd say the location scouts earned their money. The soundtrack is overzealous to the point of being obnoxious for the bulk of the movie, and while this borderline frantic style is fairly common among Italian composers, this particular soundtrack feels like the musical equivalent of a 5-year-old on a sugar high. The energy level is so high for so much of the running time that when a scene comes along that actually necessitates an exciting track, it falls flat because there's little change between the tense scenes and the ordinary ones. Bizarrely, the only time it slows down is at the climax where it should be at its most intense, and that sequence features a catchy, eerie little piano piece that would have been far more appropriate earlier in the movie. There's also a decent '80s pop song that plays over the opening credits that bears a strong resemblance to Blondie's Call Me, but in general, the soundtrack comes on way too strong to be effective. Overall, the movie fails on a technical level (dragged down heavily by the soundtrack) and lacks the entertainment value necessary to overcome its technical maladies. Still, it's not terrible, and if you're a fan of the Nature Run Amok subgenre you'll likely find some redeeming value in it.