Jaws: The Revenge (1987)
By: Paul Ryan on October 11, 2009  | 
DVD
Universal (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 2.35:1 (16:9 ehnaced). English DD 2.0, German DD 2.0. 86 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Director: Joseph Sargent
Starring: Lorraine Gary, Michael Caine, Lance Guest, Mario Van Peebles
Screenplay: Michael DeGuzman
Country: USA
External Links
Purchase IMDB YouTube
Many film franchises become victims of their own success. An initial box-office triumph creates high expectations for a follow-up (even if the original film doesn't lend itself to sequelisation, like say, Robocop, or Highlander), and the filmmakers find themselves often straining for credible story reasons to bring back beloved characters whilst trying to create bigger and better thrills for the punters. Naturally, this leads to the law of diminishing returns, and there is no better example of this than the Jaws series. The Spielberg original is still a genuine classic; suspenseful, exciting, and featuring three-dimensional characters you truly care about. With that film's huge commercial and critical success – essentially inventing the Event Movie as we know it today – Universal naturally went the sequel route, but Jaws 2, while quite watchable overall, suffered from the preposterousness of putting Roy Scheider's Sheriff Brody in pretty much exactly the same scenario as the first film. As the original film was arguably as much about Brody conquering his own personal fears – exemplified by his repeatedly-stated fear of the water – as it was about defeating a marauding great white shark, there wasn't any new ground for the character to explore the second time around. Still, it made money (if somewhat less than the original), and five years after that, we got Jaws 3-D - or 3 as those of us who've only seen it in 2-D know it as. By this time, it was all about the gimmicks, from the blatant 3-D trickery, to the unlikely scenario of Sheriff Brody's now-grown sons facing off against yet another killer shark. But again, it made money, though not as much as the first two…You see where I'm going with this.

So now we're up to a fourth film in the series and the studio still wants to use the Brody characters. You can just imagine some poor writer racking his brains to find some kind of vaguely-credible excuse to again have the same bunch of characters battling a rampaging great white, when in reality, the entire Brody clan would have moved to the Nevada desert by now. Still I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall at the Hollywood coke party where someone pitched the premise of a shark hunting down the Brody family as revenge for the death of the original film's shark. Well, the blow must have been really good that night, because as I live and breathe, that's actually, honestly and truly the premise of Jaws the Revenge.

Sheriff Brody is long gone, the victim of a heart attack (though Roy Scheider does appear in flashback clips from the first film), and his youngest son Sean (Mitchell Anderson) is now Deputy of the seaside town of Amity. Called out to investigate a crippled channel buoy, the younger Brody is – in the film's sole effective sequence - attacked and killed by a shark, as dockside Christmas carolers drown out his screams. His distraught mother Ellen (Lorraine Gary, who retired from acting immediately following this film) is convinced the shark killed him out of revenge. Surviving brother Michael (Lance Guest, replacing Jaws 3's Dennis Quaid), a marine biologist (though he was an engineer in the last film, but whatever) persuades Ellen to join him and his family at his home in the Bahamas. But wouldn't you know it, that shark that killed Sean somehow knows of Ellen's travel arrangements, and follows her the full 2000 miles from the U.S. Over the next, woefully padded hour of screen time, Ellen falls for larrakin pilot Hoagie (Michael Caine, at the nadir of the how-much-and-where-is-it-being-filmed phase of his career), while Michael attempts to study the shark with the aid of his rasta research partner Jake (Mario Van Peebles, sporting a woefully erratic Jamaican accent). Staggeringly, during this stretch of the film, there is not one shark fatality whatsoever. For a series based around people being eaten by sharks, this is a pretty serious miscalculation. When the toothy menace does finally chow down on someone, it's a bloody extra that we only got introduced to a few seconds ago, meaning we don't have any reason to care about them getting eaten. It's also - at least in this version of the film - the last kill of the movie. That's right, only two people die in the film, and one of them is an extra. Boo and indeed hiss.

Anyway, this second attack motivates Ellen to steal a boat and go after the beastie herself, with Michael, Jake and Hoagie in pursuit. Cue a shambolic final act of plot holes, poor editing, a character who by all rights should be dead but isn't, a shark that roars like a lion, and Caine climbing out of the ocean with damp hair but completely dry clothes. And then we get to the ending, where Ellen (armed with inspiring flashback footage of her late husband – despite having not been present for that scene in the original film) abruptly, and very confusingly, saves the day. I've watched that scene over and over and it makes zero sense on any level. Thanks to Youtube, I have had the pleasure (or something) of seeing the original ending to the film, which is clearer – if still pretty dumb – and the character who should be dead actually stays dead. But still, both endings are poorly directed and badly conceived.

Stuck with a moronic premise – and yes, I know the shark in Jaws 3 was also out for revenge of a kind, but that film is a Jacques Cousteau documentary by comparison - Joseph Sargent (an otherwise well-regarded TV director who also helmed the original The Taking of Pelham One Two Three) tries to deflect our attention by putting more emphasis on character interaction, but those scenes aren't compelling enough to pull the trick off. There are some nice nods to the original film (such as the brief appearance of Mrs Kitner), but the main reason anyone sees a Jaws movie is to see sharks attack people, and it's here that Jaws the Revenge is so woefully deficient. The pitifully low body count is one issue, but the shark (and how it is filmed) is an even bigger problem. The mechanical shark is woefully unconvincing, with obvious seams and internal mechanisms showing when it moves. Having it do very un-shark-like things like roaring and standing on its tailfin only emphasises this phoniness. Sargent unwisely shoots it with lots of bright light – even underwater – and lingers on it far too much. All of these problems serve to drag the film down to the level of any one of the many European Jaws rip-offs, such as Great White, except this film somehow cost twenty million dollars.

Tony Martin once skewered this film in an "Undiscovered Masterpieces of the Cinema" segment on ABC TV's The Late Show in 1993, and I personally have him to credit/blame for making my twelve-year-old self seek the film out on video. Martin's segment was very funny indeed, but nothing matches the sheer mind-numbing experience of watching the film in full. It's a pathetic finish to a once-popular series, but at least it does supply plenty of classic bad-movie moments.
Video
Crap film, great transfer. Having only previously seen this on VHS in 4x3, the film at least looks very nice in its original 2.35:1 theatrical ratio. Film artifacts are next to none, whilst shadow detail is excellent. Colours are rich and bright, and the underwater photography comes out especially well. Because this is Jaws the Revenge we're talking about, the downside to this - or upside, depending on your level of enjoyment of bad movies – is that the some of the film's most glaring goofs (particularly the studio water tank backdrop near the end) are even more obvious this time around.
Audio
Sound for the film comes in crystal clear English and German stereo. The German track has the added bonus of improving Mario Van Peebles' performance by giving him one consistent accent. Consistently German, that is…
Extra Features
It's unlikely anyone involved wanted to revisit the experience of making Jaws the Revenge, so all you get here are poor-quality, full-frame trailers for this film, Jaws 2, and Jaws 3(-D). The Jaws 2 preview pretty much crams the whole plot of the film into four-and-a-half minutes, while the other two are merely very brief teasers.
The Verdict
Every bit as crummy and idiotic as you've heard, Jaws the Revenge is a very sorry final entry in the series, but does at provide plenty of unintentional laughs. For what it's worth, the video and audio on this DVD presentation are tip-top.
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score

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