Jimmy the Shark

Credit is due to Mako: The Jaws of Death for not merely recycling Jaws plotline. There’s no grubby politician senselessly allowing citizens into the shark-infested waters to protect profits. Jaws of Death is decidedly more gonzo.

Richard Jaeckel controls the sharks in this one. Mako they are not – rather, tiger sharks – at Jaeckel’s command because he holds an amulet (?) given to him by a witch doctor (?!) who saw him as worthy after swimming through local waters (?!?). It’s weird.

Jaws of Death is dreadfully dull and plodding

Oddly, Jaws of Death doesn’t even need that setup. Instead, it’s a late ‘70s conservationist film, only Jaeckel’s shark-saving local turns into the villain. He’s so dedicated to the cause, Jaeckel slaughters those who kill his beloved fish, sometimes by his own spear, others by feeding bodies to his aquatic pets. It’s all real, or rather, the sharks are. There’s no budget to support practical effects, so actors stage kills in pools with the real thing. Nifty, and even effectively edited.

Jaws of Death never finds a hero. In Key West, everyone is awful. There’s the plump bar owner: a stock, cartoonish, cigar-chomping business man willing to torment sharks to better his bar’s show. Hunters murder fish recklessly, then sell the carcasses. To finally settle this mess, two random cops appear, state they were looking for Jaeckel, and begin a chase sequence.

In pure exploitation terms, Jaws of Death hates everything. The government wants to begin bounty hunting on the hungry critters. A scientist crudely experiments on a pregnant shark in a gruesome, late twist. It’s all there to make Jaeckel’s character seem rational – trust no one, and therefore, he descends toward insanity. Expecting empathy for someone who turns into a slasher villain is a stretch though.

Wild as it is however, Jaws of Death is dreadfully dull and plodding. There’s no energy to the action, the story ludicrous, and the execution choked by budget. Some of the score sounds plundered from Godzilla vs Megalon, or at least copied. And, rather than celebrate conservationism, Jaeckel is staged as a kook at the outset, utterly despicable. The message then is leave the ocean alone. Humans need not interfere because we only make things worse – if not much worse than this movie.

Video

Arrow doesn’t note where they sourced this print. Assume it was someone’s basement, buried under overgrown fungus, and leftover from a fire. This after being run through a projector a few hundred times as evident by the cigarette burns showing cigarette burns.

So no, it’s not good.

Print damage is outright cruel to this material, scratching, scraping, and tearing the imagery. Dirt becomes a persistent pest. Given the lagging resolution, it’s likely Jaws of Death survives only as a 16mm print, because there’s no way this is 35mm. Chunky grain and dismal clarity exude grindhouse aesthetic. Appropriate, if ugly.

Color fades and saturates scene-to-scene. Certain elements seem focused, like trees or the red dress worn by Jennifer Bishop. The rest miserably fades, or the blown out contrast chews those hues into flat, mushy white. Pitiful stuff.

Audio

Prep for endless static and irritating skips. Puffy dialog pairs to a score that’s melting as it goes through a projector. Crude treble hurts the ears when anywhere near typical volume. Some lines barely remain audible. DTS-HD seems wasted when the source is so dire.

Extras

Splitting a disc with Naked Zoo and that film’s extras, Jaws of Death specifically offers a commentary from director William Grefe. He spends four minutes on an optional intro too. Both Jennifer Bishop and writer Robert Morgan speak in phone interviews about their parts in the production. Jaws of Death’s Super 8 version is included, and Robert Gingold looks at the evolution of this genre in a seven minute discussion. Trailers and galleries next.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Mako: Jaws of Death
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Movie

Jaws of Death hates everyone and everything, and while certainly different in the sharksploitation genre, it’s a dull mess.

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