Mako: The Jaws of Death (1976)

Mako Associates.  Director: William Grefe.

Creature Feature Bleachers Award: Largest Belly.

This is a strange one.  Though it premiered only a year after “Jaws” and contains the operative word in its title, “Mako: The Jaws of Death” is decidedly not a “Jaws” rip-off.  In fact, this film’s plot falls outside of the usual Threatened Beach Town/ Freak of Science/ Treasure Hunt triad of sharksploitation plots.  For that alone, “Mako” should get a trophy.  To change things up, we get a protagonist who not only sympathizes with sharks, but couldn’t care less about his fellow humans.  Yes, he’s a homicidal psychopath, but I also hesitate to classify him as an anti-hero.  The humans in this film are all jerks, making its difficult to know who to root for.  In short, good luck trying to figure this one out.

While salvaging copper and gold off the coast of the Philippines a while ago, Sonny Stein (Richard Jaeckel) and his colleagues were attacked by bandits.  Stein escaped with his life and was given a special shark medallion by a local shaman.  The medallion allows Stein to communicate with sharks, sort of like Aquaman but without the orange shirt.  At the beginning of the film, Stein lives alone with his shark friends on a small island off Key West, Florida.  People notice Stein’s abilities and begin to take advantage of the special relationship he has with his sharks.  A scientist convinces him to lend a pregnant shark to a research facility in order to study the birthing process.  Local barkeep Barney (Buffy Dee) also borrows a shark for use in a new floor show.  But when Stein’s trust is repeatedly betrayed, will he ever be able to rejoin the world of humans?

A Poster for the Film

I could probably convince a lot of people to watch this movie if I mentioned that Buffy Dee goes topless in it.  I will say right now that the sight of Buffy’s ample bosoms hanging out in plain view is without a doubt one of the most memorable scenes of the entire film— one that will stick with you for a long time.  I generally avoid trying to be crude or lewd on this site, but if you’ve been looking for a Buffy Dee topless scene, then “Mako: The Jaws of Death” is definitely the film for you.

Oh, did I mention that Buffy Dee is a hairy, 400-pound Italian-American guy?


Oh my.

Seriously, if you thought Stephen Baldwin was bouncily chunky in “Shark in Venice,” you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.  The good news is, Barney’s propensity to unbutton his shirt is not a major part of the film, just a horrifyingly memorable one.



The film’s scientist, Mr. Whitney (Ben Kronen), is quite simply one of the worst actors I’ve ever seen in a shark movie.  It’s no wonder that Stein barely trusts the guy; every single word he says sounds insincere and evil.  I can’t blame Kronen’s acting too much, though, since the writers didn’t give him a lot to work with.  His part of the plot is easily the dumbest “SCIENCE!” moment we’ve had (and when you consider that Brooke Hogan played a scientist in “Sand Sharks,” or the premise of “Sharktopus” generally, that’s saying something).

Although he may have ulterior motives, Mr. Whitney supposedly wants to witness and record the live birth of sharks because no one has ever seen it before.  When Stein hesitates to lend out a pregnant shark, Whitney reassures him, “The more we know about sharks, the better we’ll be able to protect ourselves from them.  Look, the birth of a shark is the first step in understanding the entire life cycle of a dangerous creature.  Now how else are we going to find out what the best thing to do should be when a shark starts circling?”

Yep, Freudian psychoanalysis is the best way to handle sharks.

No wonder he goes crazy.

“Idiots.  I’m surrounded by idiots.”

So, yeah, that makes absolutely no sense.  By comparison, Barney’s use for Stein’s shark seems like the best idea ever.  Barney has a clear problem.  The rustic inn that he runs, creatively named The Rustic Inn, has a pretty lame floor show.  Basically, Barney’s wife Karen (Jennifer Bishop) dons a bikini and spins around in an underwater tank for the bemusement of the bar’s patrons.  Yet the act is inexplicably a failure and, to Karen’s surprise, only draws in a few drunken guys who want to objectify her for some reason.


Also, how does she breath?

In this instance, throwing a shark into the tank is probably the best thing you can do.  True, the tank is barely visible from the bar, Karen’s part is still lame, and the viewing window only measures about 4′ by 4′, but at least this gives the audience hope that she’ll be eaten.  (Simply saying “spoiler” at this point is probably sufficient, right?)

As a closing thought, I’ll just leave you with this.


Now run out and buy the movie!

The trailer is better than the film itself:

“Mako: The Jaws of Death” is available on Amazon.


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