Production Group. Director: Bruno Mattei.
Creature Feature Bleachers Award: Foulest Language.
While not an official installment in the “Jaws” canon, “Cruel Jaws” is basically what I imagine the real “Jaws 5” would look like, if it had been made in 1995. (Fingers crossed that they do eventually make a “Jaws 5”!) Many people refer to this film as a mockbuster of “Jaws,” but when you think about it, almost all sharksploitation movies are in some way “Jaws”-derivative, corny, and low-budget. Consequently, I take issue with the purported “mockbuster” status of this film. “Cruel Jaws” doesn’t really poke fun at “Jaws”; it’s just a crummy movie that plays off its popularity. And for that reason, it fits perfectly among the legitimate “Jaws” sequels.
Wily real estate dealer Samuel Lewis (George Barnes, Jr.) wants to force lovable Dag Snerensen (Richard Dew) into selling his lame aquatic park, but Dag insists on holding out. When a corpse shows up on the beach with signs of shark bites, Sheriff Francis Berger (David Luther) tries to convince Mr. Lewis to cancel the annual Regatta. Despite the testimony of scientist Billy (Gregg Hood), Lewis refuses to allow the mayor to cancel the event. Meanwhile, tensions flair between Lewis’s children: his daughter is dating Snerensen’s son, and his own jerk son doesn’t approve in the least. In fact, there are many more characters and relationships than you can keep track of. Suffice it to say, Dag, Billy, and Sheriff Francis must hunt down the shark that’s terrorizing the town.
“Cruel Jaws” doesn’t parody “Jaws” so much as it simply steals from it. Quite literally, in fact— Mattei lifted some footage from both “Jaws” and “Jaws 2,” as well as “Deep Blood” and “The Last Shark.” The film’s script also borrows liberally from the “Jaws” series. Take one of the central conflicts: the sheriff and the oceanographer can’t convince the mayor and business interests to close the harbor, since it would disrupt tourism too much. Furthermore, when Sheriff Francis gets a glimpse of the shark, he paraphrases Chief Brody’s famous line, saying, “We need a bigger helicopter.” (This exact homage/ rip-off can also be heard in “Dinoshark“). Finally, “Cruel Jaws” repeats a scene from “Jaws 3” almost in its entirety: two young lovers make out in the ocean at night, and are then humorously reprimanded by friends using a megaphone.
As if that much stealing weren’t enough, the film’s soundtrack freely blends the “Star Wars” and “Superman” themes. Seriously, just try not to sing along— it’s harder than you think. To boot, “Cruel Jaws” borrows a few characters from other places. Take, for example, the Blue Power Ranger. True, he never suits up or calls his Zord for help, but he’s the scientific mind on the team, he has glasses and usually wears blue, and his name is Billy, fer cryin’ out loud! I don’t see how anyone could possibly doubt that this is the Blue Ranger!
Since Billy can’t use his Power Ranger gadgets to save the day, he has to rely on help from a certain muscleman: none other than Hulk Hogan! Yes, years before Brooke Hogan enriched our lives with her stellar performances in “Sand Sharks” and “Two-Headed Shark Attack,” her father graced the screen under the pseudonym Richard Dew. Well, not really, but Richard Dew is actually a Hulk Hogan impersonator in his free time.
We’ve had some weird ideas about humanity’s ignorance of sharks before (the supposed fact in “Mako: The Jaws of Death” that no one has ever seen a shark being born), but “Cruel Jaws” has a pretty good contribution of its own. After the first shark attack, Sheriff Francis heads to Billy’s lab to get some information on the killers of the sea.
Francis: Billy, what do we know about sharks?
Billy: Well we know that they’re a sort of locomotive with a mouth full of butcher’s knives. And all they really know how to do is swim, eat, and make baby sharks. And that’s all.
Yep, the extent of humanity’s knowledge of sharks.
All things considered, “Cruel Jaws” could have been a much more unbearable spaghetti sharksploitation film. Italian director Bruno Mattei had some previous experience in the genre with “Monster Shark,” but he is better known for such films as “Cannibal World,” “Zombi 3,” “SS Girls,” “SS Extermination Love Camp,” “Mondo Erotico,” “Violence in a Women’s Prison,” “Women’s Prison Massacre,” and “Killing Striptease” 1 and 2. Fortunately for us, “Cruel Jaws” has no nudity, Nazis, or cannibals. Sadly, it also has no zombies.
The trailer is truly awful:
“Cruel Jaws” may be imported from Italy on Amazon.