The Last Shark, a.k.a. Great White, a.k.a. L’ultimo Squalo (1981)

Variety Film.  Director: Enzo G. Castellari.

Creature Feature Bleachers Award: Most Explosive Shark.

If you’re anything like me, you’re fervently hoping that this is actually “The Last Shark” movie ever made.  Sadly, we know that’s not the case.  The film was preceded and succeeded by a whole slew of awfully repetitive sharksploitation junk, which continues to be produced and released every year.  It never ends.  There’s very little to distinguish “The Last Shark” from the other films of its era.  In fact, it was so similar to “Jaws” and “Jaws 2” that Universal filed an injunction to have it banned in the United States.  While I don’t know all of the details, this act leaves me scratching my head.  Why, out of the 50+ schlocky “Jaws” ripoffs in existence, did Universal choose to target “The Last Shark”?  Sure, it should be banned for reasons of taste, but the movie isn’t much more derivative than any of the other sharksploitation films out there.

In the coastal seaside town of Port Harbor—a waterfront maritime community on the ocean—the centennial regatta is shaping up to be the biggest event of the year.  Mike Patterson is the local favorite to win the event, though he’s expected to get some competition from Billy, the son of aspiring politician William Wells (Joshua Sinclair).  When Mike disappears, however, the locals get their dander up.  Peter Benton (James Franciscus) and Quint-wannabe Ron Hamer (Vic Morrow) team up to get to the bottom of things.  Since they suspect a shark, they convince Mayor Wells to shark-proof the regatta.  Naturally the shark breaks through and wreaks havoc, prompting Peter and Ron to head out to sea to try to stop the beast.  Will they succeed?

The awesomely frightening Swedish poster.

Fans of “Jaws” (i.e. all people capable of receiving sensory input) will appreciate Vic Morrow’s take on the Quint archetype.  In my opinion, the crusty, older, vaguely Celtic loner character is one of the best elements of the sharksploitation genre.  Perhaps he represents the reassuring fact that there are indeed experienced shark-killers out there, living on the fringes of society and waiting to step in to protect us from sharky threats.  While Morrow doesn’t exude the sheer awesomeness of Quint, nor the masterfully obnoxious cantankerousness of Angus McSorely from “Sand Sharks,” he still does a pretty good job.


Okay, maybe I see SOME reason for Universal to take legal action.

Okay, maybe I see SOME reason for Universal to take legal action.

A particularly ironic subplot comes our way thanks to a news reporter in the film.  Charged with covering the centennial regatta, the reporter is ecstatic when the killer shark appears to liven things up.  While editing the footage for his segment on the initial attack, the reporter laments that it’s difficult to see the shark in most of the shots.  His cameraman suggests with a shrug, “Use a little stock footage.  Nobody’ll know the difference.”  The reporter huffily replies that this will greatly decrease the quality of the product, despite the fact that stock footage was used extensively throughout the movie!

Stock footage and a very, very fake-looking model.

Stock footage and a very, very fake-looking model.

And a dummy.  And supposedly shark-induced explosions.

And a dummy. And supposedly shark-induced explosions.

And whatever the heck is going on here.

And whatever the heck is going on here.

You have to give this shark some credit, though.  In addition to its ability to make things blow up for no reason, the shark is also considerably larger than any living species of shark known to humankind.  It also has the ability to shift its shape and size.  Not only that, but it is able to survive a prop to the back without sustaining any sort of lingering injury!

Just a small cut clean through the backbone.

You know, just a small MASSIVE CUT THROUGH THE BACKBONE.  Nothing to worry about.

If nothing else, “The Last Shark” is enjoyable for James Franciscus’s ridiculously red wet suit.  It’s not every day that you get to see a spaceman fighting a shark.

"You darn dirty shark!"

“You darn dirty shark!”

If you don’t want to commit 83 minutes to the film, commit 3 minutes to the trailer:

“The Last Shark” is available on Amazon.  Maybe.