“JAWS: The Revenge” (1987) spits up a seasick finale to the JAWS saga…

“It’s Not Gonna Be Pleasant.”

As longtime readers of this site may already know, I’m a huge fan of “JAWS” (1975), which is (in my opinion) the greatest Steven Spielberg movie ever made. “JAWS” created the summer event movie; a phenomenon that continues to this day, even through the leaner, meaner COVID years of movie-attendance. While the first film is a true cinematic classic, the other three films in the series have been a case study in diminishing returns. In the 1970s, it was a very rare sequel that equalled, let alone surpassed its parent film, with “Godfather 2” (1974) being an arguable exception. Typically, a sequel was a quickly-made, lower-budgeted knockoff designed to squeeze a bit more nostalgia-loosened cash from audiences before a property died. Sadly, the JAWS franchise was no exception to this trend.

The troika of Quint (Robert Shaw), Brody (Roy Scheider), and Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) elevated this action-thriller to classic status.

The first “JAWS”, one of the most problematic film shoots of all time (perhaps equalled only by James Cameron’s 1989 film, “The Abyss”), featured a perfect triad of characters led Roy Scheider’s everyman Police Chief Martin Brody, along with intellectual ichthyologist Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) and blue collar shark hunter, Quint (Robert Shaw). These three, combined with a cast of both Hollywood actors and real-life Martha’s Vineyard locals, made the fictional community of Amity Island a very real place. As a result, we genuinely cared about these characters when they had their “shark problem.” The explosive finale (an admitted bit of physics-fudging) seemed to end Amity’s shark issue, until JAWS became a worldwide sensation, making a sequel inevitable.

Sadly, the JAWS sequels were textbook examples of diminishing returns.

Jeannot Szwarc (“The Night Gallery”) would fill Spielberg’s directorial shoes for “JAWS 2” (1978), a sequel that took the franchise into teen slasher-flick territory (pre-John Carpenter’s “Halloween“), unlike its “Moby Dick”-inspired predecessor. “JAWS 2” featured a disgruntled, contract-bound Roy Scheider returning as Chief Brody, along with a few others from the first film, including Lorraine Gary as Ellen Brody, and Murray Hamilton as Mayor Vaughn. This admittedly lesser sequel still featured some genuinely thrilling water sequences, with an appropriately ‘shocking’ finale, topped off by an all-new John Williams score. All things considered, “JAWS 2” had some very big diving flippers to fill, and it was never going to surpass its lighting-in-a-bottle predecessor. That said, “JAWS 2” is the last of the JAWS series to retain some feel and continuity with the first film. The remaining sequels became, in the words of Lewis Carroll, “curiouser and curiouser.”

And now for something completely different…
JAWS 3-D (1983) had a campy charm all its own, with various homages to B-monster movies.

“JAWS 3-D”, aka “JAWS 3” (1983) was directed by talented JAWS’ production designer Joe Alves, and went in a very different direction, following a now adult Mike Brody (Dennis Quaid) to his new job at Sea World in Florida, as well as his budding relationship with dolphin trainer, Kay (Bess Armstrong). A threat to the aquatic park arrives in the form of a 30 ft. mother shark, searching for her 10 ft. pup, which was taken captive for the amusement of Sea World attendees (a plot taken directly from the 1961 British Godzilla-inspired flick “Gorgo”). “JAWS 3” was designed to cash in on the then-popular 3D craze of the early 1980s; a trend that seems to have resurfaced every 20-odd years or so in my lifetime. I’ve only seen the movie in 2D, but the 3D moments are easy to guess (a harpoon flying directly toward the viewer, exploding fish remains billowing outward into the 3D cameras, etc.). “JAWS 3” was a B-movie in every sense, stocked with cliche characters and cartoonish villainy from Louis Gossett Jr. (who won an Oscar a year earlier for “An Officer and a Gentleman”) as a greedy park manager. There are interesting bits, but “JAWS 3” generally feels like something best enjoyed on “Mystery Science Theater 3000.”

“Shark still looks fake.”
You will believe a shark can roar…or, most likely, you won’t.

Four years later came “JAWS: The Revenge,” aka “JAWS 4: The Revenge.” I haven’t seen the movie in its entirety since I rented it on laserdisc back in 1988. Despite the film’s infamous reputation, I wanted to give it a fair chance for this post-anniversary reevaluation, so I rented it from iTunes ($3.99) and streamed it in HD through our digital projector onto an 7 ft./2 meter screen. This was as good a presentation as possible, and in fact, the movie looked great.

I’ve learned, sadly, that great presentation doesn’t make a bad movie any better.

“JAWS: The Revenge.”

Written by Michael De Guzman and directed by Joseph Sargent (“The Taking of Pelham 123”), the movie opens on Amity Island during the Christmas season, in a departure from the summer settings of the previous three films. The Brody boys now appear to be in their mid-to-late 20s, with the younger Sean (Mitchell Anderson) following his late dad’s footsteps as a deputy cop in the quiet fictitious resort town of Amity Island (nee: Martha’s Vineyard, once again).

Note: Roy Scheider (“Chief Martin Brody”) makes an ‘appearance’ as a photo on the police station office wall in a publicity shot of the actor wearing his Amity PD uniform, taken for one of the first two JAWS movies. Martin is said to have died offscreen from a heart attack in the years between JAWS 2 and the current film. The character of Martin Brody was supposed to have been killed onscreen in the opening act, but that plan was scrapped. The Chief’s death was then given to son Sean, when Scheider adamantly refused to return.

“Michael, did you hear your brother, out of the water now–NOW!”
Lorraine Gary does her best; actor Mitchell Anderson (“Sean Brody”) would later become a restauranteur in real life.

Deputy Sean drops by to pester his mother, Ellen (star Lorraine Gary, reprising her role from the first two films), as she takes a call from her oldest son Michael (Lance Guest, of “The Last Starfighter”), who is a undergrad marine biologist working on a grant-funded study sea snail migration in the Bahamas. Michael lives with his artist/welder wife Carla (Karen Young) and their young daughter, Thea (Judith Barsai). Lorraine Gary is cooking fish (foreshadowing), as Sean teases his older brother over the phone. The dialogue of the cooking/phone call scene tries to capture the natural, overlapping ambience of the first movie’s dialogue, but fails to achieve it–sounding annoyingly cacophonous instead.

Note: Tragically, young Judith Barsai (1978-1988), who played Michael’s daughter Thea, was killed a year later in 1988, along with her mother, in an apparent murder-suicide committed by her father. I learned of this only recently, and it’s heartbreaking to see such a sweet-faced, vibrant little girl, frozen in time within the images of this film.

“This was not a boating accident! And it wasn’t any propeller, it wasn’t any coral reef, and it wasn’t Jack the Ripper.”

Later that night, Sean reports to the Amity police station, past the sounds of the local Christmas carolers’ practice, where he’s delivered a message from office mainstay Polly (Edna Billoto), requesting that he take care of a large log stuck in the harbor, which could obstruct boating traffic. Sean, being much more comfortable in the water than his late father, takes the police boat out into the harbor just beyond the Christmas lights of the town. Putting on his rain slicks, he finds the log and tries to dislodge it. A large, phony-looking prop shark smells the blood of a Brody on the water, and leaps up to munch on Sean’s arm. Sean screams towards the lights of the shoreline for help, but his cries are drowned out by the incongruous holiday merriment of the carolers…

Note: Aside from the darkness of the harbor, the underwater shots are still clearly lit using day-for-night–a longtime cheat for night scenes shot on the water, even with the first “JAWS”. Less forgiving is actor Mitchell Anderson’s supposedly severed arm, still clearly visible under his coat.

“Say mom…um, who chose The Byrds for Sean’s eulogy?”
Carla (Karen Young), Michael (Lance Guest), Ellen and Thea (Judith Barsai) are reunited for Sean’s funeral.

Michael and his family fly up from the Bahamas to attend Sean’s funeral, with the minister (James Martin Jr.) eulogizing Sean with lyrics from The Byrds’ 1965 pop hit, “Turn, Turn, Turn” (!?), as the cast do their damndest to keep a straight face. Later, at the Brody home, we’re treated to two blink-and-you’ll-miss-’em cameos by original JAWS supporting actors Fritzi Jane Courtney (“Mrs. Taft”) and Lee Fierro (“Mrs. Kintner”). Michael’s daughter Thea doesn’t seem to understand that her uncle Sean isn’t coming back, and no one tries to tell her why, either. Later, during a walk on the beach together, Michael has a lovely dramatic moment (without dialogue) as he consoles his grieving mother–only to see the moment broken when she starts raving about avenging sharks targeting the Brody family. Oy vey...

Note: The one genuine moment of grief in the movie, and it’s quickly broken by the sound of De Guzman’s painfully bad dialogue. It’s bad enough De Guzman used “Turn, Turn, Turn” for Sean’s eulogy; that funeral scene sounded like the opening for a Saturday Night Live sketch.

“Show me the way to go home…”
Hoagie (Michael Caine) gives the Brody family a nice lesson in death-defying flying right after Sean’s funeral.

Michael invites his mother to visit with his family in the Bahamas, but she wants him to quit his career as a marine biologist, insisting that he could teach or anything else that’d keep him off the water. Dismissing Ellen’s ‘theory’ that the shark was hunting Brodys, Michael takes his mom on a privately-chartered plane down to the Bahamas. The plane is being flown by Michael’s pal, Hoagie (Michael Caine), a lovable rogue pilot with a gambling problem; sort of a poor man’s Han Solo with a cockney accent. Hoagie pours on the charm, showing young Thea how nearly crashing the plane and killing them all makes the houses onshore look bigger. Yeah, thanks for the life-threatening optics lesson, Hoagie…

Note: I have to say, at least the movie gets its money’s worth with Michael Caine. Whenever he’s onscreen, he broadly and unapologetically steals each of his scenes with the same expert thievery he showed in 1969’s “The Italian Job.” Whatever money he made (enough to buy his mother a house, apparently) was money well-spent. Caine, along with the balmy Bahaman locations, gives the film what little energy it has, even if pays for the party with threadbare production values later on.

“It’s only an island if you look at it from the water.”

More turmoil as Ellen once again makes her plea for Michael to quit his marine biology work. He assures her that great white sharks generally avoid the warm waters, like those of the Bahamas (not true, but sure). Ellen gets more of her supernatural shark premonitions, which, when explained aloud, sound like something out of a Sharknado sequel. Both luckily and unluckily for Michael, his easily-distracted mother soon puts her psychic shark-sense aside, when the affable Hoagie beams his charm her way.

Note: Poor Lorraine Gary really does her best to give a sincere performance in the film, but the inconsistently written character of Ellen Brody alternates between deeply-grieving mother to Merry Widow, with no subtle transition whatsoever. Between the dialogue and editing, Ellen leaps from one emotion to another like a jump-scare in a slasher movie. I realize the movie’s only 90 minutes, but couldn’t they allow some time for transition?

Product placement in action:
Director: “Hey kid! Make sure the Shasta soda can is visible to the camera…”

Helping granddaughter Thea make a sandcastle on the beach, we see fear creep into Ellen as the tide slowly washes in. Showing some of the same aquaphobia as her late husband, Ellen is concerned about Thea playing so close to the water. That is, until Hoagie shows up, and she leaves the little moppet to fend for herself…

Note: The movie establishes Hoagie’s gambling debts early on, and it’s reiterated later on, during a New Year’s Eve party at a casino, where he loses big at a craps table, so I understand Michael’s concerns that Hoagie may be looking for a sugar mama to finance his addiction. Sadly, this potentially interesting character arc never really goes anywhere, of course.

The Romulan Commander finally lets her hair down during a touristy moment in the Bahamas.

As Hoagie shows a heavily shoulder-padded Ellen the sights and sounds of the Bahamas, he manages to coax a few smiles and some dancing out of her, as well. It’s difficult to tell if Hoagie’s being sincere, or if he’s just trying to loosen the widow’s pursestrings, but at any rate, Ellen seems to be having a great time in his company. Michael, of course, notices the growing attraction his mother shows for the lovable pilot, drawing the ire of his marine biologist colleague and islander pal, Jake (Mario Van Peebles).

Note: Actor Mario Van Peeples, son of director Melvin Van Peebles (“Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song”, “Watermelon Man”), was a busy actor in TV & films before going on to his own directing career, and even playing his father in 2003’s biographical “Baadasssss!” The elder Van Peeples turns up in the role of “Mr. Witherspoon,” who emcees at Carla’s art unveiling later on in the movie. Unfortunately, Mario Van Peebles’ Jake is a walking-talking patchwork of Bahaman cliches, including an unconvincing accent that hovers in the neighborhood of Jar Jar Binks. Peebles’ Bahaman inflections sound more like something gleaned from movies and television, rather than reality.

“I am shark–hear me roar!”
Jake tags the shark with a homemade shark transmitter he rigs together in about 20 seconds.
Mind you, the research grant funding his work was to study the migration of sea snails on the ocean floor…

Meanwhile, we intermittently cut to Michael and Jake on their research vessel, diligently cataloguing sea snails on the ocean floor when Jake’s submersible is nearly rammed by the sudden (and surprisingly un-scary) appearance of the very same giant rubber shark that killed poor Sean back in the North Atlantic. A surprised Jake is soon back on deck, where he gets the idea to rig a transmitter to track the shark by its thumping heartbeat (a crude, foley-effect approximation of John Williams’ original shark theme from the first movie). Jakes attaches the transmitter to the shark’s gills (the worst possible spot) as it conveniently jumps out of the water. The transmitter is attached, and the two decide to deprioritize their (grant-funded) sea snail research in order to better study this great white shark–an entirely different field of study, but sure, whatever. Later, as Jake and his wife Louisa (Lynn Whitfield) celebrate Christmas with the Brodys, Jake’s loose lips almost let slip news of their little 25 ft. discovery, but Michael shoots him a look, and Jake realizes that grieving Ellen might not be too cool with their new field of study.

Note: Yes, the movie wants us to believe that this shark is the very same shark that killed Sean, and that it’s traveled some 1,350 miles over a few days just to chow down on some fresh Brody meat. The prop shark seen in the movie is also shown onscreen far too often to be effective as a lurking menace. I’m guessing from the amount of screen time that this newer shark prop worked far more reliably than the infamously troublesome prop of the original movie, but the tradeoff is that is also looks far less convincing, as well. Everything about the prop just looks wrong; the rubbery skin wrinkles badly whenever the snout moves, and its gills are perfectly symmetrical–the clear work of prop makers on a deadline, not mother nature.

“C’mon, baby. Daddy needs a new house…”
Ellen whoops it up as her new potential love interest loses big at the craps table.

The Brodys, Hoagie, Jake and Lynn ring in the New Year at the local casino where gambling addict Hoagie loses big at the craps table, yet no one seems to give a damn, though Michael is increasingly distracted by his mother’s attraction to the carefree pilot with money issues.

Carla and Michael look on with an odd mix of horror and fascination as Ellen is wooed by Hoagie.

Note: Once again, the bizarre inconsistency of Ellen’s behavior makes one’s head spin a full 360 degrees, like Linda Blair in “The Exorcist.” This is the same Ellen who was ready to grab her two boys and return to New York after son Michael nearly became a great white hors d’oeuvre in the first film, and now she’s having the time of her life at a casino in the Bahamas mere days after her youngest was killed by another great white shark. I realize people process grief differently, but after the sobs we heard from Ellen when the unconscious Michael was dragged ashore in “JAWS,” this imposter version of Ellen Brody just doesn’t feel like the same worrisome mother we saw only 12 years earlier.

“Come on, now. I missed getting my Oscar just to be here with you.”

As Ellen’s whirlwind romance with Hoagie eventually reaches the smooching stage, as Hoagie confesses he wanted to kiss her, to which she awkwardly asks “Why?” Hoagie’s equally awkward response; “Because it would not occur to you why.” (??). This strangely written AARP romance is once again interrupted by Ellen’s Sixth Shark Sense, when Jake and Michael’s research takes a dangerous new turn…

Note: If nothing else, the weirdly-worded romance between Ellen & Hoagie at least gives us a few lovely views of the Bahaman beaches, almost like a middle-aged video for The Beach Boys’ “Kokomo.” While the film spectacularly fails as a horror/action/drama, it modestly succeeds as a travelogue for potential vacationers to come visit the Bahamas.

“Show me the tank! Blow up!”

The two researchers’ little yellow submersible is trashed by the returning great white, and a panicked Michael is forced to flee inside the wreckage of an old ship on the ocean floor. The massive 25 ft. shark somehow glides gracefully in and out of the wreckage as well (?) eventually circling around to an open side of the ship, where it is thwarted by a metal ladder that slows it down just enough for Michael to resurface super-fast (without getting the bends), where he climbs back aboard their rundown, privately-owned boat, the aptly-named “Neptune’s Folly.”

For a more effective 90 minute shark flick without all the waterlogged drama?
Check out 2016’s “The Shallows,” starring Blake Lively and directed by Jaume Collet-Serra.

Note: I’m once again amazed by the technical maneuvering of this shark prop, which was clearly more reliable than the first movie’s, but it just looks so damn phony that I wish they’d saved some of the meager $23 million budget for a sparingly-used but better looking prop, instead. These days, of course, the whole thing would be done using post-production CGI, like the shark seen in 2016’s admirably effective low-budget thriller, “The Shallows,” a nimble mix of “Cast-Away” (2000) and “JAWS”, with an earnest Blake Lively as a resourceful young med student on a very unfortunate holiday. Well worth seeking out for fellow shark movie lovers.

Jake does his part to promote the tourism trade, while he and a traumatized Michael hug it out.

Michael is then hauled back aboard the “Neptune’s Folly.” Both are sworn to secrecy over their on-the-side shark research, which doesn’t down so well domestically, when a visibly shaken Michael is forced to lie to his mother, wife, and daughter.

Note: We see Michael’s fears growing after the destruction of the submersible. Perhaps this too-close encounter of his reawakened the trauma Michael experienced from great white sharks in “JAWS” and “JAWS 2.” In the odd-duck sequel, “JAWS 3,” we saw an alternate-universe version of Michael Brody, who was working as an engineer at Sea World in Florida with a newfound Texan accent, courtesy of actor Dennis Quaid. In that film, Michael’s visiting kid brother Sean (John Putch) came down from college (not the Amity Police Academy) to visit. That movie’s 30 ft. great white shark even took a bite out of Sean’s girlfriend (Lea Thompson). However, none of these events from “JAWS 3” are referenced in “JAWS: The Revenge,” which deliberately eschews any continuity with its immediate predecessor.

Daughter Thea and daddy Michael tug at our heartstrings…

Later, over dinner, we see Michael and his daughter Thea playing the same imitation game that Michael’s kid brother Sean played with their father in the first movie. The point is driven home by sepia-tinted flashback footage from “JAWS” as well (which we also see in the movie’s climax). Ellen oversees the mimicry between Michael and Thea, and it reminds her of Sean’s loss. Michael is conflicted about whether or not to get back in the water again, but he keeps his inner conflict to himself…

Note: The music of the film, composed by Michael Small (“Klute,” “Marathon Man”) is nowhere near the level of John Williams’ Oscar-winning score for the first film. Like everything else in this movie, it feels decidedly made-for-television (back in the old days, when TV shows were generally considered inferior to theatrical movies). Small uses a few motifs from Williams’ score every now and then for punctuation (the shark ‘reveal’ theme, for example), but his newly-composed music, as evidenced in the dinner table mimicry scene, often sounds pedestrian and predictable.

“I’ve always wanted to make love to an angry welder.”
Another bon mot from the movie’s priceless screenplay (I’m sure you can find one on eBay).

We then get some material focusing on Michael’s artist/welder wife Carla, as she finishes welding together an abstract (vaguely tiburon) sculpture that is supposed to be representative of the Bahamas somehow (?). She yells at her distracted husband for failing to take out the trash–a pressing issue for a man who’s just lost his kid brother, no doubt. Their argument segues into her garage studio where she teasingly welds a blowtorch in his direction, prompting Michael to utter what is arguably the movie’s single best line; “I’ve always wanted to make love to an angry welder.” This is Lifetime Network Christmas movie gold here, folks. The two then kiss and make up, forgetting all about their angry rubbish debacle from exactly one moment before. Carla soon finishes her abstract art sculpture just in time for its dedication ceremony, where a “Mr. Witherspoon” (blaxploitation filmmaking legend Melvin Van Peebles–Mario’s pop) gushes on about how this single piece of artwork encapsulates the Bahaman tourist experience. Husband Michael, of course, is a no-show to Carla’s dedication ceremony, having gone full Ahab in his quest to study the shark…

Note: Studying sharks is, once again, a field of marine biology wholly unrelated to Michael’s snail migration research grant.

Lunch is served…

During the ceremony, fidgety young Thea begs her mother to let her play on a nearby banana boat with a small group of recreational sailors. After just the right amount of whining, Thea is finally given permission to get on the boat with the others, so long as she stays close to the shore. Well, of course, the boat drifts away, while a distracted Carla and Ellen listen to Mr. Witherspoon’s seeming endless dedication. Predictable as a Swiss watch, the shark swims right up to the banana boat, where it snatches a life-jacketed boater with rubbery teeth, right in front of Thea’s forever traumatized eyes. A fully-dressed Carla runs into the water to grab her shaken child to safety as the shark retreats with its bleeding, screaming lunch.

Michael eventually makes his way home, only to find his traumatized, speechless daughter in shock (just as he was, in the first movie). Only then, does he finally come clean with the fact that he and Jake knew about the massive great white shark days earlier. Carla is pissed-off by this revelation, even more so than she was about the un-emptied trash. Asking where his mother went, Carla vacantly tells Michael that she took off on the “Neptune’s Folly” in pursuit of the shark… as you do.

Ellen is menaced by the family shark, as Hoagie sets down nearby for an aquatic landing.

Ellen has had enough of the Brody family curse. As the movie’s infamous tagline (arguably more popular than the movie itself) says, “This time it’s personal.” Ellen takes command of the “Neptune’s Folly” (currently rated at nine knots) in order to confront the aquatic menace that has magically followed the Brodys from the frigid waters off of New England to the balmy waters of the Bahamas in just a few days. This prompts Michael to get ahold of Hoagie, in order to search for her with his plane. Upon finding her, he’ll land his plane on the ocean, where they can swim over to Ellen in waters owned by a deadly 25 ft. great white shark. That plan just makes all kinds of sense, right? Hoagie then spots “Neptune’s Folly,” and sets down on the water. Afterwards, his plane is pulled underwater by the shark. Fortunately, all aboard manage to swim to relative safety aboard Ellen’s boat–fully dry, of course.

Note: Not to rain on anyone’s fishing day, but the US Coast Guard does have jurisdiction over the Bahamas, and could’ve been mobilized as well. Last I checked, Quint wasn’t there to smash anyone’s radio…

“Aaaaaaaaaaaahhh, mon!

As the motley crew strategize on how to defeat the shark, Jake rigs together some large flashlights (not even kidding–they’re industrial flashlights) which will emit electrical charges that will apparently allow the shark to roar–despite a lack of vocal chords. Other than pissing the creature off, I’m not sure exactly how Jake’s taser-like flashlights are supposed to kill the oceanic leviathan, but, yeah, sure. As Jake and Michael set about their plan of irritating the shark to death, the shark leaps up on deck and knocks Jake overboard…

It’s just a flesh wound, I’m sure…

We then see Jake, or rather Jakes’s stuntman, clearly bleeding out in the jaws of a shark that just sunk a small airplane. The bloodied, barely-struggling stuntman of Jake is then submerged into what should be his watery grave. Not long afterward, the still-angry, still-hungry shark resurfaces yet again–sans Jake–and makes a run for the boat itself. This time Ellen takes charge, inspired by more sepia-toned flashbacks from “JAWS,” somehow remembering events she never witnessed firsthand, yet somehow reliving them with “Godfather 2” clarity.

Note: I suppose Ellen’s flashbacks to events she never witnessed firsthand could be explained away as stories that were told to her so many times by her late husband that she remembers them with crystal clarity herself. I can imagine the Brody dinner table, with drunken husband Martin going on and on about the times he exploded and electrocuted two great white sharks. Perhaps, after 30 or 50 retellings, those stories would become part of Ellen’s own memory as well.

Don’t ask, because I have absolutely no idea how a boat’s bowsprit can cause a shark to explode…

What happens next depends on which version of the movie you see; there are two distinct climaxes, and neither of them make any sense whatsoever. The US version I saw for this review (via iTunes) ended like so:

We see the shark leap up from the water, roaring like a tyrannosaurus (don’t ask), as it gets repeatedly zapped by Jake’s remote tasers. Ellen is running “Neptune’s Folly” at full throttle, ramming its bowsprit (the long pole out in front of sailing boats) right into the shark’s underside as it once again surfaces—inexplicably causing the animal to explode. We then see stock footage of the shark’s watery death from the first film. This is followed by the appearance of a bloodied, but still living Jake, who somehow resurfaces (a la Hooper) to rejoin the survivors; never mind that he was in the hydraulic press-like death grip of an animal that just sunk an aircraft, for chrissakes. We then hear Michael telling Jake he’ll be just fine, of course…

There is another ending that sees Ellen ramming the bowsprit into the shark without an explosion; this is a version I’d not seen until recently, when I began following the invaluable crew over at thedailyjaws.com:

A slightly less nonsensical ending to JAWS: The Revenge…

Neither version is particularly good, but at least the alternate ending above sees the shark dying without the nonsensical explosion. Maybe the studio got nervous when they realized their oceanic opus lacked the fiery finales of the previous three films? Who knows…

Note: A bit of trivia; the shark’s roar (yes, impossible for a creature without vocal chords, I know) was the same sound Spielberg used for the truck’s ‘death’ in the 1971 highway nightmare “Duel” (the finest road rage movie ever made), and can also be faintly heard at the end of the first “JAWS,” when the shark’s exploded remains fall harmlessly to the ocean floor. That roar came from a dinosaur foley effect created for “The Land Unknown,” (1957) which later become the sound effect of the Munsters’ pet dragon, “Spot,” on TV’s “The Munsters” (1964-1966).

“What day is this?”
“It’s Wednesday, er, it’s Tuesday, I think…”

The ending sees the Brodys being flown back to Amity, with Ellen and Hoagie parting ways–two ships in the night. The credits roll over shots of Ellen’s plane flying her home, her Ahab complex finally exorcised.

Note: I’d be remiss if I failed to mention the ocean water lapping directly against the cloudy sky backdrop during the film’s final scenes on the water. These were clear signs of hurried reshoots done in the Universal Studio’s water tank set, at the Universal Studios backlot. The tank is the same artificial ocean seen at the end of “The Truman Show” (1998) where Truman’s boat gently collides with the ‘sky’ of his artificial studio world. I’ve seen this outdoor tank myself, and it’s an exact match for those inserts shots seen in “JAWS: The Revenge.”

The End.

Summing It Up.

Well… 35 years since its premiere, and sadly, this sequel hasn’t gotten any better with age; in fact, it’s laughably bad, which is arguably entertaining in its own right. Written by former TV movie writer Michael De Guzman, the movie feels very small scale, with dialogue that teeters between pedestrian (“I know it’s Thea Brody. How many grandchildren do I have?”) and nonsensical (“If I go any faster this thing will turn into a flying Cuisinart and we’ll all be diced into oblivion!”). Editor Michael Brown’s work has no rhythm or timing, unlike Oscar-winning editor Verna “Mother Cutter” Fields, who created an organic pulse for “JAWS” that Brown never comes close to achieving. The movie jump cuts between quiet character moments to the shark’s head suddenly appearing on-screen out of nowhere, with no sense of anticipation whatsoever. It doesn’t help that the movie’s prop shark, which is shown far too often, looks like a 25 ft. rubber bath toy.

Top to bottom: Grieving Ellen Brody takes a trip to the Bahamas–flown there by a charming rogue pilot named Hoagie–where she learns the same great white shark who killed her son Sean has somehow traveled there to menace her family. Yes, that is an actual idea for a JAWS sequel that somehow got the green light (!).

The most puzzling piece of this puzzle is that “JAWS: The Revenge” was directed by the otherwise talented Joseph Sargent, who clearly knew how to generate suspense and timing with “The Taking of Pelham 123.” His work in this movie feels as if he’s creatively coasting–just cashing a check, much like star Michael Caine, who at least admitted as much when asked about his involvement with the film. Star Lorraine Gary, in fairness, gives it her all, and it’s nice to see her character featured on the movie’s posters, but she’s sabotaged by a script where Ellen wildly oscillates from a grief-stricken, premonitory Captain Ahab into a wannabe Stella, getting “her groove back.” The other supporting performances are on a par with what you’d expect in an average Lifetime TV movie, but even the best actors can only do so much with De Guzman’s tin-eared dialogue.

Oscar-winner Michael Caine, being refreshingly honest about his motives for making “JAWS: The Revenge.”

With a pedestrian 1980s TV-movie feel, and a general lack of conviction from all involved, “JAWS: The Revenge” is both uninspired and uninspiring. The movie has virtually no suspense, let alone characters with which to sympathize or empathize. We see little of the expert craftsmanship we saw in the first two films, or even the B-monster flick campiness of the third. What could’ve been a fresh start for the JAWS series feels instead like a tired TV-movie rehash, set in a nice vacation spot for the cast and crew. Sadly, this movie’s bad reputation remains very much deserved.

The Daily Jaws.

The website for all things “JAWS”-related, thedailyjaws.com, has regular news, factoids, trivia, commentaries and interviews from all corners of the “JAWS” universe, including a 35th anniversary interview with the Brody boys, Lance Guest (“Michael”) and Mitchell Anderson (“Sean”) of “JAWS: The Revenge”.

Yes, even JAWS: The Revenge deserves a little love, courtesy of the good folks at thedailyjaws.com.

TheDailyJaws.com is also on Twitter, FaceBook, Instagram and YouTube.

Where To Watch.

“JAWS: The Revenge” is available for physical media purchase on DVD/BluRay from Universal Home Video and for streaming on Tubi.com, as well as digital purchase/rental from AmazonPrime, YouTube, AppleTV, and other sources (prices vary). It was also (briefly) available to watch on Universal’s Peacock.com streaming service, but that option appears to have expired for the time being.

Images: Universal Pictures, IMDb, TheDailyJaws.com.

10 Comments Add yours

  1. firewater65 says:

    Great write and a perfect review of the less than good JAWS: The Revenge. I won’t even qualify the 1975 as the best Spielberg movie. It’s on my shortlist as one of the best motion pictures, ever.

  2. While Jaws 3 was so bad it’s good, Jaws 4 was so bad it’s terrible. The only iconic moment was when the shark got stuck in the ship, which both The Little Mermaid and Finding Nemo spoofed.

    1. The 25 ft. shark prop’s maneuverability within the confines of that underwater ship set was oddly impressive, if absolutely insane.

      1. Must be why Disney loved it so much.

  3. strider72 says:

    FYI, *Turn,Turn,Turn* is basically a Bible passage set to music. So that funeral was probably quoting the Bible, not The Byrds.


    1. Good point. I just kept waiting for the guitars, tambourine, and keyboard to kick in…

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