Shark!, a.k.a. Caine (1969)

Cinematográfica Calderón S.A.  Director: Samuel Fuller.

Creature Feature Bleachers Award: Worst Audio-Visual Quality.

Don’t let the Troma title card at the beginning of “Shark!” scare you away and cause you to destroy all of the video players, TV screens and monitors in your house.  Troma (responsible for such “films” as “Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead,” “Redneck Zombies,” and “Teenape vs. the Nazi Monster Apocalypse”) is simply the distributor for “Shark!”, and Troma’s trashiness fortunately does not impact the film.  In fact, “Shark!” is reasonably enjoyable– sort of a lesser version of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” or “King Solomon’s Mines.”  The film’s title and movie poster force me to concede that sharksploitation existed to some extent before “Jaws,” though I’d like to point out that this is really an adventure film that features a shark as a main danger element, rather than a sci-fi or horror film that focuses exclusively on the shark.  In any event, you’ll probably enjoy “Shark!”, provided you can actually see or hear the dang thing.

Caine (Burt Reynolds), a gun-runner whose luck has run out, finds himself in a coastal town in Sudan.  In order to gain access to their boat and a potential getaway, Caine agrees to do a little work for the Professor (Barry Sullivan) and his seductive assistant Anna (Silvia Pinal).  When he discovers that the pair are diving for something a little more valuable than fish, however, Caine wants in.  Things begin to heat up, and he finds out that not all sharks are in the water!

The DVD Cover

As so many other sharksploitation films do, “Shark!” begins very tediously.  The first 90 seconds of the film, in which a diver swims along the ocean floor, contain no sound whatsoever.  Up until the two and a half minute mark, we get only the sound of air bubbles and a dramatic chord to announce the shark.  At this point, you may be tempted to give up and go back to picking your bellybutton lint.  But wait!  It gets better.

One of the biggest redeeming qualities of “Shark!” is its genuine (and occasionally successful) attempt at humor.  Unlike the forced Laffs or funny-but-sad ridiculousness offered by other sharksploitation films, “Shark!” means its jokes honestly.  Some of them are quite good, and I found myself in the unfamiliar position of actually laughing where the filmmakers intended me to laugh.

The major problem with “Shark!” is its lousy audio and video quality.  When Troma got the distribution rights and put the film up for free on Youtube, they expended absolutely no effort in restoring the film, which was probably a little fuzzy to begin with.  I rather enjoy the pulsating jazz soundtrack that gives the the film vigor, but with the awful sound quality, the ensemble might as well have recorded their songs in a tin room near the shark’s lair on the bottom of the ocean.  The film’s visual aspects also suffer greatly from the poor quality.  To wit, you can’t tell what’s happening half the time.

The film's sultry make-out scene.

The film’s sultry make-out scene.

The film's intense fight scene.

The film’s intense fight scene.

The film's thrilling treasure-diving scene.

The film’s thrilling treasure-diving scene.

At one point, Caine wanders into the professor’s room and bothers him by turning on the light.

Evidently the only light in the entire hotel.

Evidently the only one in the entire city.

Then he bothers the viewer by turning it off again.

Nooo

Noooo!

The next scene contains one of my very favorite lines from a sharksploitation film.  The professor goes to hotel manager Latalla (Manuel Alvarado) for help dealing with Caine, but starts off by insulting Latalla’s immense corporosity.  He calls him a big blubbery whale, then continues with a hint of cunning in his voice, “and around every whale…[dramatic pause]… are his friends.”  Ah yes, the well-known saying about whales and their friends.  It’s as famous and true as the old aphorism that every tiger carries his own luggage with him, or that new bridges collect dust more quickly.

Huh?

As no trailer seems to exist, you may as well just watch the whole movie:

“Shark!” is also available on Amazon.

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