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JAWS: THE REVENGE (1987)

[aka Jaws 4]

Come and get me, you son of a bitch!





  Director:
 
Joseph Sargent

  Starring: 
Lorraine Gary, Lance Guest, Mario Van Peebles, Michael Caine, Karen Young, Judith Barsi, Lynn Whitfield, Mitchell Anderson

  Screenplay: 
Michael de Guzman

Synopsis:  As Christmas approaches in Amity, Deputy Sean Brody (Mitchell Anderson) is kept from his family celebration by a report of a dock piling that has become snagged on a channel marker, posing a threat to the returning fishing vessels. Sean pilots a boat out to the marker. As he leans over the side to struggle with the tangled wood, an enormous shark lunges at him from the water and tears off his arm. Sean falls back into the boat, shrieking for help, but cannot be heard over the Christmas preparations in town. The shark attacks again. Sean is pulled into the water, then under it…. Michael Brody (Lance Guest), Sean’s marine biologist brother, flies in from the Bahamas with his wife, Carla (Karen Young), and young daughter, Thea (Judith Barsi). He finds his mother, Ellen (Lorraine Gary), in a state of near total collapse, and begins to fear for her mental condition when she claims that the shark deliberately sought out Sean because he was a Brody. Later, she demands that Michael give up his job, insisting that otherwise he will die like his father and brother. When Michael points out that his father died of a heart attack, Ellen claims it was brought on by fear. Unable to combat his mother’s obsession, Michael tries to convince her that no great white shark has ever been seen in the area where he works, that the water is too warm, but she will not listen. After Sean’s funeral, Michael manages to talk Ellen into accompanying himself and his family to the Bahamas. On the last leg of their journey they are flown in by a local character known as Hoagie (Michael Caine), who takes an immediate liking to Ellen. The holiday does not begin well, however, when first Ellen overreacts to Thea being near the water, then begins to suffer nightmares of her own death by shark attack. Meanwhile, Michael and his partner, Jake (Mario Van Peebles), get back to work on their research into conchs. Christmas arrives, but Ellen cannot shake her depression. She tries again to talk Michael into changing his line of work, but he continues to insist that it is perfectly safe. Even as he speaks, however, an ominous shape is gliding through the water towards the Bahamas…. As Ellen builds sandcastles on the beach with Thea, she is suddenly gripped by a terrible certainty. She stands staring out at the water, as if waiting for something…. With an effort, Ellen pulls herself together. She and Thea are then joined by Hoagie, to whom Ellen finds herself confiding her conviction that the shark that killed Sean is coming for the rest of the Brodys. Watching from his boat, Michael is disturbed by the sight of his mother in such close companionship with a comparative stranger. Michael and Jake get back to work, this time with Jake using their one-man submersible to hunt for conchs. Without warning, an enormous shark looms up near the submersible. Stunned, Jake can only speak numbly of “a big fish”. Over the radio, Michael laughingly inquires how big? His question is answered when the shark breaks the surface of the water in front of him, attacking the boat just where he stands….

Comments:  It is a truism amongst film reviewers that few things are more painful or more difficult to wring a modicum of entertainment out of than a failed comedy. Conversely, a serious film that fails can entertain in all sorts of unexpected ways. The Universal executives may have suffered a bout of cold feet and scotched the idea of Jaws 3-D being an outright spoof, but upon being treated to the sight of a appallingly superimposed model shark shattering to pieces with its snout a slab of animated glass or, better yet, by that of poor Bess Armstrong having to hold her fibreglass co-star upside-down in the water to indicate its death, it can be difficult to grasp that these moments were not intended to amuse.

Oh, it's personal, all right. Very, very personal....

And when it comes to Jaws: The Revenge, it can be even more difficult to accept that the idea of a spoof hadn’t raised its toothy head once again. Even the trailer seems to suggest so: the ominous music, the underwater POV shots, and then – that tagline:

This time, it’s personal.

A joke, right? Had to be. But then Jaws: The Revenge was released, and stunned movie-goers found themselves confronted not just by a film with a plot predicated upon one of the most ludicrous concepts in the history of motion pictures – namely, a great white shark with the honour code of a Mafia don, a V8 engine under the hood, and psychic abilities to boot – but by the realisation that they were being asked to take it seriously.

And in one sense, it’s just as well, because when you get right down to it, Jaws: The Revenge is a mighty hard slog. Its only virtue is the sheer idiocy of its premise. The film is as short on action as it is excruciatingly long on boring character scenes, and it boasts a body count to rival that of your average romantic comedy. But for all that, and however tempted you might be, when Lorraine Gary launches into her seventy-second straight Oscar-clip grief scene, to start reaching for the remote, in the end I think you’ll settle back in your chair and keep right on going; because let’s face it, how often do you get a watch a film about a psychic shark on a mission of revenge?

Also, the shark roars.

But then, you knew that, didn’t you?

After our Spring Break in Florida, Jaws: The Revenge returns the franchise to Amity – and, as it turns out, scrubs the events of Jaws 3-D from the timeline. (Curiously, in the wake of his girlfriend giving up her dream job as a marine biologist for his sake in that film, this one gives us a Michael Brody who is a marine biologist.) Accompanied by John Williams’ immortal theme music, the credits play over an underwater POV shot, which occasionally breaks the surface to scan the town. Sadly, this sequence will prove to the highlight – the artistic highlight – of the entire film.

The French know a box picture when they see one!

(There’s a thought: all those critics who wag their fingers about POV shots that supposedly make the viewer identify with psycho-killers--- Anyone ever complained about this kind of POV? Because frankly, this is an identify-with-the-killer set-up I can really get into.)

The film’s screenplay, on the other hand, is a negative highlight, peppered with artificially constructed and delivered expository dialogue to fill us in on what’s been happening with the Brodys since we last saw them. Comparing the family scenes in Jaws: The Revenge to those in Jaws itself – or even to some of the interplay in Jaws 3-D – could just make you cry. Most importantly, Ellen Brody makes a past-tense reference to her husband, letting us know that Roy Scheider had the exceeding good sense not to touch this mess with a ten-foot pole. (“Mephistopheles couldn’t have made me do it,” Scheider famously replied, when questioned about his no-show.) Secondly, Sean Brody has grown up to follow in his late father’s footsteps, and is currently a local deputy. Thirdly, Michael Brody is now living and working in the Bahamas, and is married with a young daughter, as we learn via the following completely unforced and natural one side of a telephone conversation:

Ellen:  “I know it’s Thea Brody – how many grandkids do I have?...I know you’re five!”
Sean
:  “Ask the big doctor about his job! Tough life, you Bahamian beach bum!”

The following sequence further informs us that (i) it’s a few days before Christmas; and (ii) Sean is engaged to be married and blissfully happy; and if you don’t immediately recognise that something appalling is about to happen, well, you just haven’t watched enough badly written movies.

Sean checks in at the police station and is sent out onto the water to remove a snagged dock piling from the channel, to clear the way for the returning fishing boats. It has to be him who goes, because the other deputy (or the sheriff, they aren’t clear) is off checking on an outbreak of “cow-tipping”. (They have cows in Amity?) And the Coast Guard? Oh – they’re “busy”.

The Reproachful Ghost Of Christmas Past.

We get some mildly amusing “local colour” stuff here, as Sean passes by the rehearsals for the school Christmas pageant; or at least, it would be mildly amusing if it weren’t there merely to provide an ironic counterpoint to Sean’s brutal, bloody death. He stops his boat near the channel marker and starts leaning over the side to pull clear the troublesome piling, at which point we get….a POV shot.

Uh-oh. 

The shark launches from the water, which oddly is already churning with blood, and in a flurry of confusing editing, takes off Sean’s arm. His wound, presumably to compensate for the mess in water, noticeably fails to bleed. Sean shrieks for help, but cannot be heard over the incessant caroling from the town. The shark then attacks again, chomping a piece out of the boat and tipping Sean into the water. He is soon dragged under, screamingly unavailingly for help, and the boat goes down in sympathy.

This is an ugly, mean-spirited scene, which sits oddly in a film that manages, by its conclusion, to have produced a body count even lower than the maddening Jaws 3-D. Things could have been worse, though: the original scenario called for Martin Brody to be killed in this opening sequence---which just goes to show that the makers of this film understood nothing about its likely audience. Nor, for that matter, do we particularly want to see Sean being sacrificed in his father’s place; although, that said, by the end of Jaws: The Revenge we will have identified several Brodys whose sharky demise would be a cause for celebration.

Speaking of whom--- After a brief (and, I would have thought, procedurally unnecessary) identify-the-body scene, it’s time for some real pain and suffering – no offence, Sean – as the rest of the Brody clan flies in from the Bahamas.

Head of this section of the clan is Michael, this time around played by Lance Guest, whose---performance isn’t quite the right word---whose presence in this film prompts me to trot out that old joke about “dull surprise”. By the end of this film, Michael will have proved himself to be about sixteen different types of idiot which, given that he’s supposed to be a scientist, is offensive as well as exasperating. He comes accessorised by a wife, Carla, a “rising young artist”, with whom he seems to be completely incompatible, and a daughter, the aforementioned Thea, who obviously the audience is supposed to find irresistibly adorable – as do all the adults in the film, who laugh uncontrollably at her every cutesy-wootsie utterance.

How can he not see it!?

In fact, Miss Thea Brody (aged five) manages the not inconsiderable task of wresting away from Mario Van Peebles’ Jake the title of Character We Would Most Like To See Get Cacked By A Great White Shark; our sentiments being exacerbated, of course, by the knowledge that, this being the kind of film it is, we haven’t the slightest hope of our dreams coming true.

Anyway…. Michael, Carla and Thea arrive in Amity, and we notice that Thea seems rather bright and bubbly for someone whose near relative just fulfilled his manifest destiny. Michael goes through the house to where his mother stands by the water (!?) and tries to comfort her. And, lo – it begins:

“It came for him. It waited all this time, and it came for him.”

At the time Michael just lets this remark go, but later Ellen is more explicit: “I want you to get out of the water. I want you to give up that terrible job! I don’t want anyone in my family near the water ever again, never!”

Michael tries to convince Ellen that her belief that the shark specifically picked out Sean as a victim is – how shall I put this? – somewhat improbable, but Ellen won’t listen. Perhaps he should have framed his argument in words other than, “Sharks don’t commit murder.”

(In fact, Michael also uses the word voodoo. An odd choice, you might think, except that as Ken Begg revealed in his review of Jaws: The Revenge, one of the, uh, “explanations” for the shark’s behaviour offered in the alternative drafts of the screenplay was nothing less than a voodoo curse! Still – whether that version of the story could possibly have turned out any stupider than what they went with is moot.)

Ellen stands firm: “It picked out Sean! It killed your father!” Michael is forced to point out that his father died of a heart attack, but even that carries no weight with Ellen: “He died from fear! The fear of it killed him!”

Even Michael Brody wants to get away from Michael Brody. Understandably.

Uh-huh. Let’s try this pop quiz, shall we? Your two encounters with great white sharks (from both of which you emerged triumphant, let us not forget) have induced in you a state of pathological fear so great, it could – and ultimately does – induce a fatal heart attack. Do you: (a) move away from the water; or (b) continue living on a fricking ISLAND!!??

Of course, those of us who have stuck with the Jaws films, and suffered through their installment by installment deterioration, know perfectly well where the idiotic notion on which Jaws: The Revenge turns came from: Jaws 2, in which, yes, Martin Brody, confronted by the knowledge that a second great white shark had wandered into his jurisdiction, did indeed begin to wonder whether sharks go gunning for particular human beings – only to have that film’s marine biologist, Dr Elkins, put him in his place in a typical smug and snotty movie scientist way: “Sharks don’t take things personally, Sheriff!”

And Martin, if not quite convinced, nevertheless conquered his fear and did his job, because that’s the kind of guy he is. Was. Which the screenwriter of this epic seems rather to have overlooked.

And yet, you know, it isn’t the image, as ludicrous as it is insulting, of Martin Brody cowering beneath his covers as a vengeful shark plotted its revenge out in the ocean that most annoys me about all this. What I want to know is – who the heck is “it”??

I mean, this isn’t some superhero vs supervillain story, with the bad guy temporarily thwarted and vowing revenge at the end of each episode. In each previous film, the shark died!! So this isn’t the mate of the shark in Jaws, because she (or he) died in Jaws 2. And it isn’t the child, or even grandchild, of those sharks, because both of them died in Jaws 3-D, one from a grenade, the other from an even deadlier dose of human stupidity.

So what we have here is some distant relative, some third cousin twice removed, who nevertheless feels compelled to give up his peaceful existence and carry out a bloody (and inevitably fatal) campaign against a bunch of people he’s never heard of, in order to revenge relatives he barely knows.

Crimeny. It is the Mafia. Or possibly an Anthony Mann western.

The log....of DEATH!!

We make it through Sean’s funeral, and then Michael & Co. manage to convince Ellen to come back to the Bahamas with them. Because, of course, there’s nothing like a beach holiday to help someone get over a shark attack.

A beach holiday in the Bahamas, no less! – where some forty different species of shark  are commonly found in local waters. Moreover, this film’s assertion that there has “never been” a great white shark in the Bahamas is false – they are a rarity, but not unknown – as are the implications of the rider, “They don’t like warm water”. It’s more complicated than that: their distribution as much to do with the food supply as the water temperature, although the latter certainly does play its part. Great white sharks actually have the ability to regulate their body temperature, rather like warm-blooded animals; and while smaller sharks are more vulnerable to extremes of temperature, the larger a shark is, the less confined it is to the temperate zones – meaning that of all great white sharks, the freakishly large ones of the Jaws series would probably be the ones most likely to wander into the vicinity of the Bahamas.

But then, Michael Brody wouldn’t know that, because he’s only a marine biologist.

As the Brodys leave Amity, we are given an ominous close-up of a floating piece of wood, no less than the very piling that led to Sean Brody’s death; and here we are forced to accept something that, previously, our brains have been desperately trying to deny. You see, there are marks all over the piling; long, slash-like marks; the kind of marks that might be caused by….the jaws of a shark.

Yes. Yes, it’s true. There’s no point in denying it. Jaws: The Revenge does in truth ask us to accept that Sean Brody’s death was the result of a deliberate ambush laid by a shark.

And when you think about it, the ambush itself is almost easy to believe, considering what must have come before: that the shark knew who Sean was, and that he had returned to Amity and become a cop; that his job would compel him out onto the water; and that, assuming both his co-deputy and the Coast Guard were “busy”, he would be the one sent to, oh, I don’t know….try to free a piling that had somehow become caught on a channel marker, perhaps….

In other words – Jaws: The Revenge boasts the second stupidest back-story in the history of motion pictures, right after I Still Know What You Did Last Summer.

"I'm too old for this shit."

But, hey! – you know what? I can accept all of this. I can. The specialised knowledge. The diversionary tactic that kept the Coast Guard busy. The snagging of the piling on the marker. All of it. In fact, the only thing I’m having a problem with….

….is figuring out how the shark organised the cow-tipping….

Anyway, back to the Brodys. The final leg of their trip is on a light plane piloted by Jaws: The Revenge’s name guest star, Michael Caine….whose character bears the unfortunate sobriquet Hoagie.

Let’s stop for a minute here, and consider Michael Caine.

One of the odder things about the world of Truly Bad Film is the arbitrary way that a reputation can stick – or not. Hence you get someone like, say, Richard Burton, who with offerings like Bluebeard, The Klansman, The Medusa Touch, and above all Exorcist II: The Heretic, almost managed to obliterate the memory of the great achievements that had come before.

Conversely, you get someone like Michael Caine, who has not only given great performances in a number of truly great films, but has also lent himself to a remarkable number of absolute stinkers: The Swarm, first and foremost, but also Hurry, Sundown, Beyond The Poseidon Adventure, The Island, The Hand, Blame It On Rio, The Holcroft Covenant, On Deadly Ground….and, oh yeah, Jaws: The Revenge.

Funny thing is, though, no-one ever seems to hold it against him, or to think of him as “Bad Film Actor Michael Caine”, still less “Bad Actor Michael Caine”; he’s just good old Michael Caine….who happens to have made a bunch of Very Bad Films. With some people, it just – doesn’t – stick.

Fortunately, there were no interesting people on this flight.

Sir Michael did, however, find himself in the middle of a uniquely humiliating experience early in 1987, when he finally landed a long-overdue Oscar (Best Supporting Actor, for Hannah And Her Sisters), and got to accept it via a live cross to – ulp! – the set of Jaws: The Revenge – to which he had been called back to do reshoots. A good sport as always, Caine took the awkward situation in his stride. His explanation for his involvement in this piece of nonsense is that he got a free holiday in the Bahamas, and was able to pay off his new house. Put like that, how could anyone blame him?

And it’s not as if any of what’s wrong here is his fault. Nor does he piss all over this wretched film, as an actor of his stature might consider himself entitled to do; one with a little less class, that is. Rather, he gives a lackadaisical performance quite in keeping with the idiotic tone of the film; one so very lackadaisical, it gives the impression of being entirely ad libbed. As I recall, my reaction upon a first viewing of it was to remark, “You’re just making this shit up, aren’t you, Mike?”

And who knows? Maybe Joseph Sargent did just turn Caine loose and let him get on with it. After all, by this stage of the production, he had a number of much bigger problems on his hands….

Hey, the Brodys! Remember them? They’re on their way to Michael and Carla’s, their driver serenading them on the way with a Christmas song. (In his review, Ken suggests that they were going for an off-kilter feel here, with the whole “Christmas in the sunshine” thing. Speaking as someone who rather too frequently has spent Christmas Day dodging bushfires, I didn’t even notice that something was supposed to be “wrong”.)

Thea’s first act upon arriving home is to dash out to play on a rope swing at the end of a dock, and Ellen’s is to have a major freak-out as a consequence. Trying to take her mind off things, Michael takes her out to Carla’s barn-like studio, where she works on metal sculptures that might charitably be described as “abstract”. There sits a piece destined for public display and dedication, Carla’s big professional break. Its official title is “Tourist On The Loose”, but it acts upon Ellen like a Rorschach test....

Ellen doesn't know much about art, but she knows an abstract shark when she sees one.

We cut from that to the sight of Ellen swimming alone in the sparkling Bahamian waters, and being gruesomely dismembered by a shark. This, I’m sure you’ll be astonished to hear, is Just A Dream.

And then we get to see Michael at work. And to meet Jake. How’s this for a tone-setting opening speech

“Will you stop farting around? Michael! What th’ hell you doing down there, hey? Listen, you remember what dey look like? Dey hard on the’ outside, chewy on th’ inside? Sometimes dey come wid a little grime attached? Move your ass, mon!”

In case you haven’t figured it out, Jake is the Odious Comic Relief. This realisation comes with the accompanying pain of knowing just how seldom OCRs get killed off. Although, as it turns out---

Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

The “they”---sorry, “dey” ---that Michael is in pursuit of is a certain species of conch, which he and Jake are supposed to be tagging in order to report their numbers, movements, breeding, and so on. This is the first but by no means the last, or the least, blunder that this film makes while depicting Mike Brody’s glorious career as a marine biologist. Suffice it to say, even if tags of the kind seen being deployed here worked reliably underwater, which they don’t, why would you bother with the expense and the trouble? THEY’RE SNAILS!! I’m pretty sure you could find them again and measure the distance they'd travelled by, oh, I don’t know---looking?

Upset about Michael’s, excuse the expression, sluggish efforts, Jake launches into an abusive speech that highlights a strange detail of the film (yes, another one), the various characters’ ongoing lack of consideration towards Michael. For instance, Carla, his loving wife, keeps asking him What’s wrong?, while Jake, his colleague and best friend, starts by referring to his trip to Amity as simply “going away”, goes on to complain about his demeanour upon his return, and caps things off by reacting to the presence of a great white shark in the Bahamas with a glee wholly untempered by the fact that his best friend’s brother died in a shark attack all of a week ago.

I think Jake requisitioned a little too much of his groove back.

Anyway, here the two of them patch things up; and then it’s Ellen’s turn to go on a downer, which she does in the middle of the Christmas present opening. She and Michael have yet another “I want you out of the water” argument, which climaxes with Michael uttering one of my all-time favourite movie lines:

“Jake and I are scientists. We’re almost PhDs. We know what we’re doing.”

Heh….

Heh, heh, heh….

Heh-heh-heh-heh-heh-heh-heh-heh-heh….

Heh.

But really, this is why I love this film. I reviewed Tornado! last year primarily to highlight its ridiculous concept of how scientific research is funded and conducted, and Jaws: The Revenge is even more absurdly misinformed. When Michael is first refusing to give up his job, we hear that he and Jake have “just got our first grant”. Shortly hereafter, Jake will complain that they have “three months left of work, and no money left to support it”. (Shouldn’t have blown it all on unnecessary radio tags.) Unenthused about sea-snails, he greets the shark’s appearance with a cry of, “Now we can do some real research!” Oh, some real research? And what would that be, exactly? And as for the snails, “We write it up, wrap it up, and hand it in.” Michael objects, “Look, my name goes on the report. If it’s a half-assed job, I don’t get my doctorate and neither do you.”

So, as I understand it, in this universe, you do a maximum of six months’ fairly casual and basic research (as freelancers, too, it seems: we see no sign of an administering university or, God forbid, a supervisor); you write – and jointly – a “report”; and, assuming you don’t do too half-assed a job, they hand you a doctorate. Well, well, well…. I’m sure all this will be of great interest to my many friends and colleagues who have devoted between three and seven years to the same pursuit.

                    soph·ist·ry

 [sof-uh-stree]
                 1. a subtle, tricky, superficially plausible, but generally fallacious method of reasoning.
                 2. a false argument.

Anyway, Ellen and Michael’s latest circular argument ended with him insisting, “There’s nothing to worry about.” Naturally, this is the cue for a cut beneath the water, and a confirmed sighting of Cousin Bruce. As he cruises towards the Bahamas, we must pause – again – to reflect upon the fact that the one aspect of this film that has drawn the most derision over the years – more, that is to say, than the opening ambush, or the notion of a shark carrying out a personal vendetta against a particular family, or even that of a shark establishing a telepathic link with one of its potential victims (oh, yes – we’ll get to that shortly) – is its suggestion that a shark could swim from Amity to the Bahamas in two days!!!

Hard [*cough*] to believe of any shark, but most of all of Cousin Bruce, who is, one has to say, looking a little ragged. You’d think over time that improvements in technology would also allow for improvements in such things as mock-up sharks, wouldn’t you? – but it is a strange truism of film-making that the later in a series a film is produced, the worse the effects are, regardless of the budget. (Hard as it is to believe, this thing cost more than Jaws 3-D.) The only exception to this rule that I can think of off hand is the Child’s Play films, which reversed the trend with a vengeance.

And as Cousin Bruce wends his merry way, Ellen is building sandcastles on the beach with Thea. Digging a moat, she backs into the lapping waves; and as soon as she touches the water she stops – and turns – and stares out to sea….

Seriously.

Hoagie then shows up, and Ellen ends up confiding to him her conviction that not only was Sean’s death not an accident, but that the shark in question is heading towards them. Hoagie takes this with a straight face, proving conclusively that Michael Caine is a very fine actor indeed. As the two stroll on the beach, Michael looks on disapprovingly from his boat, initiating a subplot that will lead precisely nowhere, but will establish Michael as a dick of the first order. Ellen and Hoagie then go for a joy flight in his plane and end up at a local festival, where they give new meaning to the expression “white person dancing”.

"Just keep thinking about the new house, just keep thinking about the new house...."

Now – I rather like the fact that the film is happy to shape a romance for two characters generally considered beyond the Hollywood cut-off age for that sort of thing – and I'd rather spend time with Ellen and Hoagie than Michael and Carla – but the fact remains that the Ellen / Hoagie / jealous Michael stuff is just filler in a killer shark film sadly bereft of killer shark action.

The problem, of course, is that we know this shark basically only wants to kill Brodys; and there simply aren’t enough Brodys, eligible Brodys, available. I mean, personally I’d be happy to see any or all of Ellen, Michael, Carla and Thea – especially Thea – bite it, but let’s face it, it ain’t gunna happen. If they had to go ahead with this idiotic storyline, they should have invented more Brodys, relatives of Martin’s, obviously, already established in the Bahamas, who invite their recently bereaved cousins for a visit. That might have worked. Or at least livened things up.

Back at sea, it’s Jake in the submersible, mon, when Cousin Bruce looms up rather comically along side him. (The film gives us a close-up here of the sharks eyea black button set in a foam-rubber socket!) Jake can only stutter about “a big fish”, allowing Michael to laughingly inquire how big? – and Cousin Bruce to answer by lifting his head out of the water and chowing down on the research vessel right at Michael’s feet. And once again, there is a blood in the water despite there being no attack. Frankly, I’m getting a little worried about Cousin Bruce’s state of health. As Michael stares in disbelieving horror, Cousin Bruce proceeds to munch on the remnants of the boat’s wooden side.

It is true, of course, that great white sharks chew on things in order to gain sensory information about them (unfortunate when the “thing” is a member of species Homo sapiens), but contrary to film-maker belief they don’t in fact preferentially supplement their diets with large slabs of wood.

Meanwhile, at the festival, Ellen suddenly stops dead in her tracks, staring into space until a worried Hoagie’s urgent voice brings her back to herself. In spite of having confided in him, Ellen now refuses to admit that anything is wrong, let alone what is wrong. Hoagie has a fair idea, though, and urges Ellen to “let it go”.

"My doctor recommended I get more fibre in my diet."

Jake gets out of the water and launches into an excited speech about the shark! – a great white!! – and in the Bahamas!!! – that, to be honest, I have some sympathy with; although his raptures about the “big, beautiful shark” in front of Michael don’t exactly register as the height of tact. Michael eventually responds with a plea that Jake not mention the shark to Ellen, which belatedly reminds Jake about, you know, that whole dead brother thing. In the end they both decide to keep silent, the one to have the opportunity of doing some real research, the other out of concern for his mother. And I’m sure the beachside community of which they are both members will have no trouble at all accepting those explanations, once they hear them during the inevitable coronial inquiry.

Later that night, we find Michael worrying---no, not about the honking big shark that seems to be following his family around, but about the company his mother is keeping. Hoagie eventually brings Ellen home, manfully keeping up the schtick that here counts as “characterisation” – that is, emitting an endless stream of anecdotes. We heard the start of one concerning head-hunters up the Amazon as he and Ellen flew off; here, we get a punch line involving flies and disinfectant. The only wonder is that he never makes an entire roomful of people break into guffaws with the line, “Now we can all get some sleep!”

(Regional joke, sorry. Actually, come to think of it, generational regional joke. Very sorry.)

Michael continues to glare out the window at his mother and her companion, until Carla distracts him up slipping off her knickers and firing them at him. Ew.

More filler, as our characters [sic.] see in the New Year. Ellen dances with Hoagie, and Michael goes all Hamlet on them. He’s trying to work up the nerve to tell Ellen about the shark. She, on the other hand, tells him that she’s over that whole silly shark-coming-to-kill-us-all business. I think what we have here is a failure to communicate.

And then – still more filler, as Michael and Carla have a spat over who should take the garbage out, which horrifyingly enough ends in Michael declaring that, “I always wanted to make love to an angry welder.”

Sex with an angry welder wasn't as much fun as Michael had anticipated.

Man, I wish that shark would get on with it!! He doesn’t, of course, but we do get something approximating action as Jake prepares to stick a transmitter into Cousin Bruce by – get this – attaching himself to the boat by a rope and leaning out over the thoroughly chummed waters.

They’re scientists, mon. They know what they’re doing!

Jake’s plan is carried through with an astonishingly lack of fatalities – rats! – and we instigate a thoroughly annoying “tracking the shark” bit that will be used in a futile effort to build suspense, as Jake’s equipment repeatedly craps out at just the wrong moment – that is, until one of our brainiacs taps on the side of the receiver. They’re almost PhDs, mon!

Here we make the surprising discovery that Cousin Bruce has a wobbly dorsal fin….and I’m not sure he isn’t supposed to be making the Carcharodonian equivalent of an obscene hand gesture at Michael as he submerges (which, by the way, he does like a submarine: straight down!). Our almost-scientists follow him for a while but then lose the signal, which prompts Michael to speculate hopefully that the shark has moved on. This is the cue for another of this film’s counterintuitively lingering shots of Cousin Bruce, with the camera travelling the length of his body. This time around we are not only gifted a startlingly clear look at the seam down his dorsal fin, but have time to absorb the fact that the fin is detaching from his body.

Sigh. Why is it that bad sequels always want to remind you of their good predecessors? Jaws: The Revenge, for reasons best known to Michael de Guzman and Joseph Sargent, serves up periodic flashbacks from Jaws (and in sepia, no less). During Sean’s funeral, we saw Ellen “remembering” how he used to mimic his father when he was a child; and now, here---

Yes, I’m sorry, they are going to do that; and it’s just as appalling as you might anticipate.

Cutting-edge special effects, circa 1987.

Back to the ocean blue, and Michael tagging some snails. You know – what he’s being paid to do. Jake assures him that if the shark comes within a radius of three miles, he’ll know it; so it’s no surprise when it instantly appears beside Michael. Actually, given a speed of three miles a minute, Amity to the Bahamas in two days is almost feasible. Cousin Bruce attacks the submersible, but Michael gets away – rats!

That last burst of speed must have worn poor Brucie out, though, as Michael then easily evades him – rats! – taking refuge in a wreck where he and his adversary play cat-and-mouse down the narrow passages of the ship. Michael finally gets away by opening up the air-valve on his scuba tank and rocketing to the surface….which puts us in mind of a similar escape in Jaws 2, which resulted in a severe case of the bends and a victim consequently unable to say he’d seen a shark. Consequences to Michael Brody? Zip. Zilch. Nada. Rats. I’d have settled for him coming up directly under the boat and slamming head-first into its planking but they don’t even give me that.

I must say, though, that the previous sequence is one of the high points of them film, because it grants us several unobstructed views of Cousin Bruce….and he is a shocker. Seriously, he looks like he’s made of carpet off-cuts; while during the pursuit through the wreck, we catch glimpses of the rails he is running on, the rod used to propel him, and his hydraulics system! He does have the ability to “free-swim” in the water, which is something, but any effectiveness is severely undercut by the fact that he lists from side to side as he moves. I suppose that Cousin Bruce never quite reaches the heights of his distant relative, The Amazing Retractable Swiss-Army Shark, but boy! – he does have his moments….

I haven’t said much about Carla Brody to date – chalk it up to lack of interest – but now it’s time for the dedication of her sculpture. It’s the biggest moment in Carla’s professional life – and where is her loving husband? Why, out on his research barge, of course, chasing that shark he still hasn’t told anyone about. He gives the, “When you fall off a horse….” speech here, which I’m not sure actually covers nearly getting munched by a great white, and it takes Jake – Jake, mon! – to remind him of Carla’s special day….which he chooses to ignore.

Ahem.

And indeed, at the beach we find Carla with steam starting to curl from her nostrils. She restrains herself, however, as she is introduced to the gathered crowd by a local authority figure who is played by a cameoing Melvin Van Peebles. (I guess the call of a free holiday suckered him in, too.) All the speechifying is too much for Thea, and she persuades her distracted mother to let her go and play on a “banana boat”, a long inflatable yellow thing that you sit on while it is towed through the water.

Anyone see where this is headed?

Ellen is among the crowd at the ceremony, and as Carla steps up to take her bow, she is looking instead out to sea….sensing something. Sure enough, a fin cuts the water right near the banana boat.

This is the best staged scene in the film, although still not without its amusing side. Great white sharks can and do lift themselves partially out of the water when attacking, but at one point here Cousin Bruce is clearly hovering in mid-air! On the other hand, someone is killed – the unfortunate woman in charge of Thea, rather than Thea herself, of course – which makes a whole two – count ’em, two – victims in this film! – the same body count as racked up by Brucette in Jaws 3-D, who patently wasn’t trying.

The rest of the banana-boat riders make it to shore, and as Carla comforts Thea, Ellen turns towards the open ocean, where Cousin Bruce is making that obscene fin gesture again, and her face sets in grim lines that let us know that---well, that This time, it’s personal!! She strides off, commandeering Michael’s own boat, and heads purposefully out to sea. As for what that purpose is, ya got me. I’ve never been able to figure out what Ellen thinks she’s doing here. Let’s give her the benefit of the doubt and say she’s just drawing Cousin Bruce away from the shore.

Hover-Shark.

Michael eventually arrives home, and it seems at length to have dawned on him that he’s likely to be in the shit with his wife, although exactly how much shit, he has no idea. He opens with an apology about missing the ceremony, but that has slipped down Carla’s list of priorities. (One gets the feeling that Michael will be hearing a word or two on the subject at some future time, however.) Carla tells her husband that, “Thea was attacked by a shark!” – which, strictly speaking, is true, although Carla doesn’t know it. Michael is dumbfounded – dumb something, anyway – and lets slip that he knew about the shark. Also – if only he’d realised (i.e. bothered to think) – that there was a very good chance of it coming after Thea.

Ooooh, Mikey….start looking for a good lawyer now, mon!

Carla mentions Ellen. Michael gets this “Uh-oh!” look and demands to know where she is. He then realises that his boat is missing and takes off. He and Jake set out in a small motorboat. They encounter Hoagie, out fishing, and the three end up searching for Ellen in Hoagie’s plane.

Jake tries to reassure Michael that Ellen will never find the shark – “We couldn’t!” “It will find her!” retorts Michael, upon whom the light has finally dawned. Hoagie reveals that Ellen had told him her belief that the shark was hunting the Brody family.

And believe it or not, Michael thinks this is a good moment to get pissy over his mother having a B-O-Y-F-R-I-E-N-D.

Dickhead.

Anyway, Ellen and Cousin Bruce have indeed found one another – sort of. Amusingly enough, after “sensing” her adversary’s presence all through the movie, Ellen is here oblivious to the fact that he’s cruising up behind her. When she does notice the fin cutting the water behind the boat, Ellen gazes grimly at her mortal enemy and mutters, “Come and get me, you son of a bitch!” Which – apart from being yet another painful Jaws rehash – again raises the question of what the hell Ellen is doing? Sacrificing herself for the greater good? If Cousin Bruce is hunting all Brodys, how would that help Michael, Carla and Thea? Gahh!

"An enormous killer shark is attacking my boat! I guess I'll stand here motionless looking slightly to its left!"

The three in the plane spot Ellen just as Cousin Bruce starts to attack her boat, during which Brucie bounces up out of the water in a manner rarely seen outside of False Bay, South Africa. Hoagie pulls off a stunt landing on the water and orders Michael and Jake to Ellen’s boat, insisting that he’ll keep the shark busy – presumably by entertaining it with a string of anecdotes. (“Ha, ha, ha! Good one, Hoagie!”)

Jake babbles something about the shark being attracted by the plane’s “electromagnetic impulses”, which I suppose is meant to explain why Cousin Bruce attacks the plane despite there being a nice, juicy Brody in the water. (I suppose they get some marks for originality, substituting a small plane for the helicopter that had been killer-animal film standard issue since Grizzly.) Michael and Jake make it to the boat, but the plane goes under….as, it seems, does Hoagie.

Swampland-in-Arizona time again, folks! And indeed, the other three have barely had a moment’s mourning – passed chiefly in Michael and Ellen swapping not unreasonable inquiries as to why each of them was stupid enough to come out there – before Hoagie is climbing in on the far side of the boat. The others demand to know how he got away and, to my enduring delight, Hoagie gives the exact same answer that John Agar did in Curse Of The Swamp Creature, when his character was asked how he could find oil without any equipment:

“It wasn’t easy!”

And by the way, check out Michael Caine as he “climbs out of the water”: he is perfectly dry! I guess a bad reputation isn’t the only thing that won’t stick to him.

"I ordered a helicopter, dammit!"

Actually, there’s an explanation for this even funnier than the moment itself. Much of this ending was reshot, some of it in a tank (as is only too obvious from the rigid “horizon” and unmoving “clouds” in the background), and in an attempt to replicate the vividly blue Bahamian waters, a certain dye was added to the tank – which turned both Lorraine Gary’s and Lance Guest’s hair blue! Observing his co-stars’ fate, Caine sensibly declined to get into the water.

The shark-hunters then try to leave (some shark-hunters!), but naturally the boat’s engine isn’t working. Jake’s shark-tracking equipment is, though. Jake then has a brainwave, and cooks up some sort of gizmo that – to cut a lot of incoherent technobabble short – can deliver strong electric shocks to Cousin Bruce, if only they can get it down his throat. However, while this device is being cooked up, Jake’s monitor stops registering the shark’s presence. This prompts a debate over whether the equipment has crapped out, or whether the shark has gone away.

“Maybe he had a heart attack. Too much fatty food! Humans are full of cholesterol, you know!” chortles Hoagie in the ear of a woman whose husband died of a heart attack and whose son was eaten by a shark.

The others rightly assume that Cousin Bruce is still around, and when he breaks the surface again, Jake prepares to test out his “zapper”. To achieve this, he attaches the gizmo to a pole and does exactly what Martin Brody, he of beloved memory, once sensibly refused to do: he climbs out on the prow of the boat. Cousin Bruce attacks again, swallowing the zapper. He also takes out the prow, and….Jake.

A moment’s silence, if you please. Or a moment’s wild celebratory cheering. Whatever.

We'll fix it in post, they said. No-one will notice, they said.

This, uh, tragic scene is rendered in slow motion, so we get very extended versions of Cousin Bruce hovering in mid-air again, and the others’ shocked reactions, including a big drawn-out “JAAAAAAAAAAAAAAKKKKEEEE!!!!” from Michael. We also get a lengthy underwater shot of Jake clamped in the shark’s jaws, in which we are apparently supposed to be so horrified by his gruesome fate, we are blinded to the control-rod jutting out of the shark’s side and dominating the right-hand side of the frame.

Ellen stares out at Cousin Bruce and starts having – I don’t know what else to call them – visions: of the attack on Thea – fair enough, she was present – and of Sean’s death, when she wasn’t – and of Martin shooting the original Bruce – ditto. Whether this is Ellen having psychic flashes, or whether this is Cousin Bruce “transmitting” images into Ellen’s head, I really couldn’t tell you; although I imagine my guess is as good as Michael de Guzman’s.

Michael grabs Jake’s newly-devised gizmo, which he uses to send a violent electrical charge at his enemy. And Cousin Bruce convulses, launching up out of the water again, and….and….

….roars.

As I think I’ve mentioned elsewhere, great white sharks can in fact vocalise. However – as far as I’m aware, they don’t actually sound like they’re auditioning to do vocal work in the dubbing of a Godzilla movie.

Previously, Hoagie ordered Ellen to take the wheel while he worked the pump, so that they could try to outrun Cousin Bruce. She takes the wheel, all right, but she ain’t running away, no sir. She sends the boat directly at the oncoming shark, both of them gathering speed. One more zap from the gizmo lifts Brucie up out of the water again (“Rrrrrooaarrrrr!!!!”). The jagged prow of the boat impales him---

(Snickering)

---and originally, this was Cousin Bruce’s death blow, skewered on the broken prow, while the impact of the collision shattered the boat and threw the shark-hunters into the water. However, since this wasn’t considered dramatic or spectacular enough, the ending was re-shot. As the film now stands, the jagged prow of the boat impales him---

---and the shark….

….uh….

….explodes!!!???

Uh. Yeah. Okay. The shark explodes. After everything else that’s gone on, why the hell not? The shark explodes.

And in fact, thanks to the wonders of crappy editing, he explodes four times. What’s more, even though Cousin Bruce is initially impaled from behind, with the prow entering his body just below his left-side gills (and the tracking device), the next moment he’s copping it square in the belly. My favourite part of this, however, is one fleeting shot, not much more than a single frame, that I’m very sure no-one was ever meant to see clearly....

Oh – and just to add insult to brain injury – Cousin Bruce’s sinking corpse is actually the shot from the climax of Jaws, when the original Bruce met his own grisly demise. Look carefully, and you can still see the shattered scuba-tank.

The [*snicker*] explosion tips Ellen, Michael and Hoagie into the water, and their boat sinks. They scramble to find wreckage to cling to, and as they do so, they hear a faint cry.

"We'll fix it in post!"

Oh, no! you shudder.

Ohh, yes, sigh I.

Yes, they did it. They failed to kill off Jake. Bastards.

The explanation behind this is that test audiences liked Jake and didn’t want him killed; so along with tarting up Cousin Bruce’s death, Universal ordered the ending to be retooled to include his highly improbable survival. Which prompts me to ask: (i) what kind of dumb-ass test audience saw this film!? – and (ii) you’re telling me that the biggest problem they had with Jaws: The Revenge was Jake’s death!!!???

(Although I do quite like Hoagie’s reaction to this turn of events: “Son of a bitch!” he exclaims. Amen, bro’!)

So the four of them make it out alive, and our last scene is Ellen flying off into the sunset with Hoagie (well….in Hoagie’s plane, anyway; they never do bother to resolve their desperately important romantic subplot), the last words spoken yet another anecdote from Hoagie, the one about the time he flew one hundred nuns to Nairobi…. 

And to conclude---well, perhaps I’ll leave you all with this thought, which I stumbled across while fact-checking a thing or two:

Sharks have a very small brain but, unlike humans, they probably use all of it.”
---Valerie Taylor

Well, that explains a lot.

Want a second opinion of Jaws: The Revenge? Visit Jabootu’s Bad Movie Dimension and 1000 Misspent Hours – And Counting.
 
 
----revised 08/09/2012