Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Film Review: JAWS 3-D (1983, Joe Alves)

Stars: 2.5 of 5.
Running Time: 99 minutes.
Tag-line: "ALL NEW!  The third dimension is terror.  ALL NEW!"
Notable Cast or Crew: Dennis Quaid (THE RIGHT STUFF, THE BIG EASY, ENEMY MINE), Bess Armstrong (MY SO-CALLED LIFE, HIGH ROAD TO CHINA), Lou Gossett Jr. (AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN, ENEMY MINE, IRON EAGLE), Lea Thompson (BACK TO THE FUTURE, CAROLINE IN THE CITY), John Putch (THE SURE THING, MEN AT WORK), Simon MacCorkindale (THE SWORD AND THE SORCERER, FALCON CREST).  Written by Carl Gottlieb (JAWS, THE JERK) and Richard Matheson (many episodes of THE TWILIGHT ZONE, THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN), Guerdon Trueblood (THE SAVAGE BEES, TARANTULAS: THE DEADLY CARGO), and Michael Kane (SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT II, SOUTHERN COMFORT).  Music by Alan Parker (WHAT'S EATING GILBERT GRAPE, AMERICAN GOTHIC) with "Shark Theme" by John Williams.
Best One-liner: "You're talkin' about some damn shark's MOTHER?!"

JAWS 3-D does not bode well from the outset.  Our first three-dimensional image, about one minute into the proceedings, is that of a decapitated, rotating, and still-jabbering fish head.  So this is how it's going to be, eh?

It was directed by first-and-last-time director Joe Alves, a former Spielberg production designer (JAWS, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND) who rather conspicuously never returned to the Spielberg fold post JAWS 3-D.

Loosely inspired by 1955's REVENGE OF THE CREATURE (whereupon the Creature from the Black Lagoon escapes and wreaks havoc on an aquarium), JAWS 3-D sees a baby Great White Shark wander into a Sea World and die in captivity, drawing the ire of its monstrously-sized mother who proceeds to wreak havoc on Sea World.  Obviously, Roy Scheider is not involved (he later said, "Mephistopheles... couldn't talk me into JAWS 3"), though Dennis Quaid and John Putch play his grown-up sons, the Brody boys.

I sorta think Putch (on the left) should've been Crispin Glover.

Amity (the Massachusetts locale of the first two films) gets a brief shout-out,

and occasionally Alan Parker weaves John Williams' iconic theme into his score,

but for the most part, this is a generic "shark attack" movie with as much to do with the first JAWS as ersatz Italian rip-offs like THE LAST SHARK.  Though ostensibly penned in collaboration by JAWS' original screenwriter Carl Gottlieb (who, it must be said, also wrote DOCTOR DETROIT) and Richard Matheson (mastermind novelist and screenwriter who brought us everything from the finest TWILIGHT ZONE episodes to books like I AM LEGEND, SOMEWHERE IN TIME, and WHAT DREAMS MAY COME), the original draft was supposedly butchered by uncredited script doctors and meddling studio execs.  Though many an author has made this claim after discovering a stinker on their hands, in this instance I'm inclined to believe them.

I also am somewhat puzzled by Sea World's wholehearted involvement, as they allow their park to host monster mayhem and severed limbs and assorted jaws-chompin'.  I suppose the Sea World employees are depicted as heroically selfless, and technically no patrons are eaten, but from my experience, it seems like some corporate lawyer would have tried to shut this down even if management okayed it.  There's plenty of shameless, promotional Sea World kitsch to go around, though:


We'll always have BLACKFISH, though.  (Seriously, you should watch BLACKFISH.)

I went into JAWS 3-D imagining that it would be tawdry, brutal, and nonstop shark-attackery, and on several occasions it lives up to this idea––for instance, when a formation of water skiers are victimized by Jaws, mid-show:





And this.  It can't all be this:
and while portions of the film (like the above) are pretty spectacular, much of it is comparatively lifeless, especially when it turns into a low-rent POSEIDON ADVENTURE mid-way through with a handful of patrons trapped in an underwater tunnel.

Without Shelly Winters and Gene Hackman, this is pretty pointless.  (Or without Rutger Hauer and Steve Guttenberg!)

That about sums it up.  But I don't want to leave you on a down note––on to my seven favorite things about JAWS 3-DEEEEEEE!

#7.  This man's t-shirt:

It says "LET A GARGOYLE SIT ON YOUR FACE."  While this probably refers to Gargoyle™ brand sunglasses (if true, what an ill-considered corporate slogan), I'm going to take it to mean something vaguely and frighteningly sexual, involving the 'ole "satanic sculpture salad-toss." 

#6.  This glorious and film-concluding freeze frame:

The celebratory dolphins have been clumsily matted in, so as to affect a third dimension.  It is plainly ridiculous, and I wholeheartedly approve.

#5.  This New Wave barmaid:

She's appears in more than one scene, but only once does she wear this wonderfully 1983 pink headbandin' ensemble.  If it weren't for the little things like this, the whole affair would feel very 70s.

#4.  Lea Thompson's sexy-crazy-eye.

In this, her feature film debut, she plays a character named "Bukowski" and is intended as a love interest for the younger Brody brother.  She appears in your typical 'bikini babe' scenes and she punctuates her performance with pervasive crazy-eye.  I applaud this acting choice as it lends a oddly dangerous tension to otherwise banal scenes of romance, though longed for a twist ending where there was in fact no shark at all, but Lea Thompson murdering everyone while wearing a shark costume.  This could have been the FRIDAY THE 13TH, PART 5: A NEW BEGINNING of the JAWS series.  Alas.

#3.  The 3-D.  I watched this in 2-D, but it's extremely apparent each time a three-dimensional effect is offered to the viewer.  It is not quite as nutty as FRIDAY THE 13TH PART III, with its flying severed eyeballs and yo-yos in da face, but it has the aforementioned fish heads, floating severed arms:

hypodermic needles squirting yellow liquid in our eye:

The golden shower you didn't know you needed.

and the coup de grâce of, quite literally, JAWS 3-D:

More on this in a moment.


#2.  The sad, long journey of Oscar-winner Lou Gossett, Jr.

Poor Lou Gossett, Jr.  He just wanted to enjoy a nice beverage and bask in the glory of his Academy Award for AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN.  But I can see the future, Lou.  I'm looking into my crystal glass.  I see that you have an outrageous amount of acting ability, and yet I see...  I see four IRON EAGLES.  I see a FIREWALKER.  I see a straight-to-video LEFT BEHIND sequel.  Get out!  Escape JAWS 3-D before it's too late!!  Aieee!!!

The first time we see Lou, he's looking at a pyramid of water skiers through a pair of binoculars.


He lowers them, and we are privy to the following expression:

He knows.  He knows.  And it's too late.

In any event, Gossett is permitted to voice his disdain at one point, and using words from the script:

Don't talk to Lou Gossett about some damn shark's mother. 

You kept your dignity, Lou.  Hold your head high!  (Also, this film begins what should have been one of the great partnerships––Gossett and Quaid––who would wow us in '85 with the often overlooked sci-fi masterpiece, ENEMY MINE.)

#1.  The Sublime and Glorious Death of Jaws 3 (D).


'Nuff said.  Two and a half stars.  This may be controversial, but I say it's slightly better than JAWS 2, though not quite as delightfully nonsensical and trainwreck-worthy as JAWS 4: THE REVENGE.  Obviously, none of these sequels should be uttered within the same breath as their progenitor.

–Sean Gill

7 comments:

Jack Thursby said...

I'll admit Lou Gossett had a less than successful run after Officer and a Gentlemen but let's not sling muck at the Iron Eagle series. Those are some top quality flicks right there. I was so disappointed when I read Neil Blomkamp was making a film called Chappie and it turned out not to be a gritty reboot of the Iron Eagle series.

As for Jaws 3D. Yeah, I think you got it's number. Can't think of a worst 3D film though I'll admit my knowledge of 80s 3D is pretty minimal.

J.D. Lafrance said...

Now a movie spinoff about Gossett's character from IRON EAGLE I could get behind but only if John Milius wrote the screenplay.

Yeah, JAWS 3-D is pretty bad and your assessment of it is spot on. Not even Gossett can elevate this dreck, but, dammit, he tries! Give him an A for effort. He doesn't phone it in.

I had forgotten that Lea Thompson was in this and I'm sure she'd like to as well.

Roderick Heath said...

Yes, it's silly and debased from the great original, but I still have such fond memories of watching Jaws 3 as a kid -- I think of it today as one of the last true B-movies. The 3-D angle only highlighted that mood.

Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Hey is that thee Jack Thursby!

That was a positively hilarious breakdown of Jaws 3D.
Loved the post!

But listen, great cast - what happened right? Even Bess, I loved her.

But no, no no, it's not better than Jaws 2. Not a close call.
But I'm glad you enjoyed it more.

I do have lovely memories of the floating arm and fish head in the theatre.

What a disaster really.

Still, great review. In fact, better than the movie I think.

Sean Gill said...

Jack,
Don't get me wrong––I love the IRON EAGLES; I merely suspect Lou wasn't imagining IRON EAGLE IV while was accepting his Academy Award... Though I would love to see an analysis of the IRON EAGLE series as misunderstood prestige pictures.


J.D.,
Glad you enjoyed––and I think the world in general needs more latter day John Milius. And Lou Gossett definitely deserves an A for effort. He deserves all the A's!


Roderick,
I did not see this in childhood (or in 3-D), and suspect that the nostalgia factor for something like this would be high. I do have fond memories of the Topps Jaws 3-D trading cards, which even came with miniature 3-D glasses!

SFF,
Thank you for the kind words! I guess my major problem with JAWS 2 is that Roy Scheider looks so miserable throughout that it impedes my sense of fun... though I do really appreciate that they let Jaws eat a helicopter.

John Guedes said...

I'll see your JAWS 3-D and raise you a TREASURE OF THE FOUR CROWNS! Ah, the good ol days of cheesy 3-D movies. But have we really come that far? 3-D is still just as cheesy and gimmicky as ever.

Great post, great childhood memories with this one. Isn't there a scene where a severed head floats past the aquarium glass? Yeah that definitely gave me nightmares...

Sean Gill said...

John,

Glad you dug it––and yeah, there's a scene where part of a corpse (including the mangled head) floats by the tunnel window. You could definitely get away with a lot more in a PG movie back in the day. And, aw man, I really want to see TREASURE OF THE FOUR CROWNS. It's been on my Cannon Film/Indiana-Jones-rip-off to-see list for a while!