Tuesday, September 17, 2013

L'ULTIMO SQUALO (1980)

IMDB keywords: surf champ, remake, rip off

Pretty boring keywords for a mighty boring movie.  L'ULTIMO SQUALO aka GREAT WHITE aka THE LAST SHARK has many aliases, like its fellow criminals.  It's derived its reputation from a lawsuit filed by Universal Studios that kept it out of US theaters and video stores for decades.  "Hey, you've got a shark in your movie and it's killing people, that's the whole story of JAWS!" said Universal and the courts somehow believed this.  Look, there are only so many ways that one can do a shark movie.  Unless you're doing SHARKNADO or GHOST SHARK, it's pretty much going to be a shark eating people in water.  You don't own the world, Universal!  


See what happens when you change the marriage laws?  These scenes of atrocity festoon the credits and ruin the good time promised by the bouncy, Eurotrashy L'ULTIMO SQUALO theme.  Don't worry, this guy gets offed in epic fashion by the shark.


Then buckle seatbelts for lots and lots of TALKING.  Let's spend twenty minutes meeting the characters!  Author Peter Benton is certainly not named Peter Benchley.  His wife Mrs. Benton is married.  And they have a daughter, Jenny, who seems fated to fall off every boat upon which she steps.  There's also a local politico, a camera crew there to cover a windsurfing regatta, and the best character: Ron Hamer, some sort of Scottish(?) grizzled fisherman.  SEE, UNIVERSAL, HE'S FOREIGN IN A DIFFERENT WAY!  THIS IS NOTHING LIKE JAWS!


The limitations of the budget are left out on the lawn for the neighborhood to see.  In a splendid meta moment, one of the camera guys says, "How can we show the shark?" and the other answers, "We'll just use stock footage, no one will ever know!"  L'ULTIMO SQUALO jimmies in very dark and grainy real great-white footage, including shots of a shark biting a cage when no cage has been introduced into the film!  The shores around whatever town this is are apparently just full of discarded shark cages.


FINALLY MORE SHARK KILLS!  This shark has a very ostentatious killing style and apparently especially dislikes mannequins.


This occurs during the town's windsurfing regatta, which is only the biggest event of the year.  Way to be a dick, shark.  And, yes, that is a Confederate battle flag in that shocked man's hand.  Italians know as much about America as we know about Italy.


Actually, according to Hamer, this shark isn't killing for food, just for the fun of killing. I was hoping that this would lead to the shark murdering people in creative Dr. Evil/CLUE kinds of ways and that actually sorts of happens in one scene, but then it's back to boring old biting.


Bet you miss that stock footage now, don't you?


The kills are really the only exceptional thing about SQUALO.  The very best one is hidden near the end, when the shark roars like a lion, then de-legs someone with incredible surgical precision.  Evidence here!  Spectacular, I grant you!  But it takes forever to reach this oasis and SQUALO isn't really a movie that gives you richly rotten dialogue to take the pain off the journey, so you have to sit through interminable silent underwater scenes and unconvincing conversations before the rubber shark pulls the legs off the fake man.  


I really think the Universal suit has caused this to be viewed in a better light than it really deserves.  This didn't make me feel abused, like BLUE DEMON, but even in the pretty-dire sharksploitation genre, there are better kicks to be had.  

RATING: 4

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