BASTARD PUPS OF JAWS: The Last Shark (1981)

Appearing under a variety of titles, like Great White, The Last JawsJaws Returns and L’ultimo Squalo, this movie made $18 million in its first month of U.S. release. Universal Pictures had been trying to block Film Ventures from even releasing the film in America, but the request was denied in U.S. District Court. However, about a month into the film’s run, federal judge David V. Kenyon ruled that it was too similar to Jaws and the film was banned from theaters. Guess what? He was totally right.

After watching a windsurfer surf his little heart out over the opening credits, we get to watch a Great White Shark ruin his fun by eating him. That’s when we make our way to the resort town of Amity — I mean, Port Harbor — where Mayor Larry Vaughn — sorry, I meant to say governor William Wells (Joshua Sinclair, Ice from 1990: The Bronx Warriors) — refuses to believe that a shark is attacking his beach.

That’s when horror writer Peter Benton (James Franciscus, Butterfly and the voice of Jonathan Livingston Seagull ) and shark hunter Ron Hamer (Vic Morrow, who has delighted us in so many movies, such as Message from Space) realize they gotta do something. In my wildest dreams, Hamer’s son will grow up to be the evil Hammer from 1990: The Bronx Warriors, another Morrow role.

The governor refuses to cancel the windsurfing regatta (you gotta regatta!) because he feels like that will hurt his political ambitions. Yes, in the bizarre universe of Italian shark movies, the windsurfing lobby is incredibly powerful. That said, Wells did put in shark nets, but all the splashing around makes the shark nuts, so it tears through the nets. The next day, as the windsurfers line up to compete, the shark appears to the sounds of the guitar from the Torso trailer and treats all these teens on their boards as if I’d treat a sushi buffet. And for dessert, may we recommend the governor’s aide? Mmm.

Benton and Hamer head out to sea with some dynamite, but the shark goes off Spielberg’s shooting script and traps them in a cave. While they’re figuring out why the shark would go into business for itself, Benton’s daughter Jenny (Stefania Girolami Goodwin, who is Ann in 1990: The Bronx Warriors, a radio operator in Moses’ group in Warriors of the Wasteland and would go on to be an assistant director on Empire Records and Super Mario Brothers) and her friends head out on a yacht with some steaks and a shotgun, which seems like the worst plan ever. The shark also stops the boat by using its own body to jam the motor of the boat, which seems patently ridiculous.

Of course, the shark yanks her off the boat and ends up eating her leg, which is done as tastefully as Italian scum cinema will allow. In the hospital, she screams at their father to kill the shark. In an attempt to finally get something right and make it up to Benton — his son was the reason why Benton’s daughter was out there in the first place — Governor Welles grabs more steak (was this movie endorsed by Italy’s beef council, who remind you “Manzo è quello che è per cena”?) and heads out on a helicopter with dynamite to blow up the shark real good. Of course, the shark messes up the best plans and drags the governor into the ocean, biting him in half and dragging his helicopter into the unforgiving ocean. This scene is both astoundingly satisfying and completely stupid, which is what I demand from every movie that I love.

Benton and Hamer try one more time to blow the shark up, because much like pro wrestling, Italian ripoff shark fighting also works in threes. This fails — this shark will not get any memos — and Hamer is killed.

There’s another shark hunter who decides to change the game by using spare ribs (the Italian National Pork Board would like to remind you “carne di maiale l’altra carne bianca”) and chaining them to the dock, but of course the shark won’t listen to reason and decides to drag every single person into the ocean and make a meal of the hunter, a cameraman and assorted rubbernecking beachcombers.

While all these shenanigans are going on, Hamer’s dead body floats on by and Benton (who is wearing a jaunty red wetsuit that seems like it would only enrage a crazed shark further and yes, sharks can see tones of colors depending on their species, I looked this up on Google because I really do care about the facts, dear reader) remembers that he has the detonator, so he blows his friend’s body up and takes the shark’s head with it. He then walks over and punches out a reporter played by Giancarlo Prete, who we all know and love as the hapless Scorpion from Warriors of the Wasteland!

It took four writers — Ramón Bravo (who also wrote Tintorera: Killer Shark), Vincenzo Mannino (who helped write Devil FishMiami GolemMurder Rock and The New York Ripper), Marc Princi and Ugo Tucci — to completely rip off the first two Jaws films. But it only took one director to create this carbon copy carnage. That man was Enzo G. Castellari and if you can’t guess by the related credits of the crew, he’s the man who brought us such magic as 1990: The Bronx WarriorsWarriors of the WastelandEscape from the Bronx and the original The Inglorious Bastards. He’s brought me such joy in my life and if IMDB is to be believed, he’s ready to bring even more, as he has a film called The Fourth Horseman in pre-production. This thing has to be a fever dream or a made up story, because it has Sid Haig, Michael Berryman, Bill Mosely, Kane Hodder, Franco Nero (as Keoma!), Fabio Testi, George Hilton and Gianni Garko (as Sartana!) in it. Sometimes, life can surprise you.

No matter what you call it, The Last Shark is anything but boring. You’re not going to see anything you haven’t seen before, but if you want to see b-roll footage, model helicopters and a shark that honestly may be better than Bruce was in the first movie (also it’s a shark smart enough to stop boats and grab ropes in its teeth so it can take out docks full of people), then this is the movie for you.

My only issue with this film: Castellari had not yet met Mark Gregory yet. If Mark was in this movie, I may have lost my mind. I mean, even more than I already have.

You can get this on DVD at Cult Action or watch it on Amazon Prime.

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