2020 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 22: Jaws 3D (1983)

DAY 22. MURKIN: Something underwater or ocean related. It sure is dark down there, what was that?

If you are a regular visitor to our site, you may realize that we love shark movies. We have a whole Letterboxd list devoted to them. While Sam’s taste may veer toward the ripoff side of the Jaws equation, Becca’s heart is with the sequels, even Jaws: The Revenge.

After a career as a production designer — he built the awesome New York City model in Escape from New York — Joe Alves took his experience on Jaws 2 to make this one. Earning the 1983 Golden Raspberry for Worst Director, he went back to production design for movies like Starman and Freejack.

But this wasn’t even the movie the producers wanted to make.

David Brown and Richard Zanuck, the producers for the first Jaws films, brought in Matty Simmons, who produced National Lampoon’s Animal House, and Lampoon writers John Hughes and Todd Carroll to write a script called Jaws 3, People 0. With Joe Dante directing, it would have started with author Peter Benchley being devoured in his swimming pool. The studio didn’t want to turn what was fast becoming a joke into a joke and demanded another legitimate film. Brown and Zanuck responded by quitting the studio.

Richard Matheson was brought on to write this script, which was filled with studio demands, including needing to have Brody’s sons in the movie and a part for Mickey Rooney. The studio heads had never checked to see if Rooney was available so that shoehorning was all for naught. As for anyone from the previous films, Roy Schnieder said, “Mephistopheles couldn’t talk me into doing it. They knew better than to even ask.” He specifically took the movie Blue Thunder so that he would be unavailable.

“The third dimension is terror.”

Yes, in 1983, 3D was back, thanks to movies like Comin’ At Ya! Any movie in its third iteration — I’m looking at you Friday the 13th Part 3 and Amityville 3-D — were made ala Dr. Tongue, with things coming directly at your face.

Back in the days before Blackfish, Seaworld was a big name. Somehow, the producers were able to talk the brand — specifically SeaWorld Orlando — into being the location for this movie. I remember as an 11-year-old seeing ads all over the Cleveland park for this movie and wondering, “Why are they advertising something that scares everyone inside a place that is supposed to be making us happy?”

Young Mike Brody has grown up to be Dennis Quaid, who told Watch What Happens Live that this movie had the biggest cocaine budget of any film that he worked on. He told Andy Cohen that he was on cocaine in every frame of the movie. He and Kathryn Morgan (Bess Armstrong) are in charge of the park, which has somehow allowed a great white shark to swim on in and kill people, including some dudes who are there to steal some coral.

Louis Gossett Jr. is also here as Calvin Bouchard, the park manager, who for some reason is best friends with a hunter played by Simon MacCorkindale, which feels counter-intuitive to running a park that is all about the love of animals. Then again, knowing what we know about SeaWorld today, it all makes sense.

There are also two dolphin stars, Cindy and Sandy, who were not on blow but have a bigger role than many of the humans, including Kelly Ann Bukowski (Lea Thompson) and Sean Brody (John Putch). You have to admire the stupidity of someone who wants to ride in bumper boats when the deadliest predator known to man is on the loose.

Somehow, the stupidity continues to the point where a second and much larger shark gets in the park, which seems like the kind of thing that should get everyone fired and the park closed. There’s only one way to deal with this kind of thing: we gotta blow another shark up real good*. Luckily, the 3-D effect is here to show us this in graphic — and below-average even in 1983 — detail. You know how some effects look bad years afterward and you attribute them to the fact that the movie has aged? This looked bad in the time it took from filming to playing in theaters.

Ironically, this movie has a lot in common with Halloween III: Season of the Witch. Both of their original films were big successes in the 70’s that made their directors big names. Those directors didn’t come back for the sequels (well, Carpenter did reshoot plenty) and both were directed by the production designers of the original movies. They also moved the location and tried to do something different. While the Silver Shamrock caper is today much more well-regarded, Jaws 3D is still a joke to many.

By the way, for all the scorn through at Bruno Mattei for outright ripping off shark footage for Cruel Jaws, this movie had to pay a lawsuit to National Geographic for taking scenes from its 1983 documentary film The Sharks without authorization. Strangely, that makes me love this movie even more.

*Some of the entrails that fly out of the screen in 3-D are actually a brown leather ET doll.

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