THE LAST SHARK 1981 aka L'ULTIMO SQUALO aka GREAT WHITE
James Franciscus (Peter Benton), Vic Morrow (Ron Hamer), Joshua Sinclair (Mayor William Wells)
Directed by Enzo G. Castellari
A rampaging great white shark devours swimmers and anyone who gets into the water in the coastal town of Port Harbor. When the mayor refuses to cancel an annual regatta, a shark specialist and a local shark hunter get together to hunt down and destroy the monster before it kills again.
I don't know what it is with Italians and their propensity for ripping off popular American movies. What is even more perplexing is how brazen they are in interviews when they claim their movie was damaging to the success of the one they are ripping off. Such is the case of THE LAST SHARK from action film ace, Enzo Castellari. Coming from a family of filmmakers, Castellari is very dependable when it comes to delivering kinetic action sequences in both modern style (HIGH CRIME, THE BIG RACKET) and old school spaghetti westerns (7 WINCHESTERS FOR A MASSACRE, KILL THEM ALL & COME BACK ALONE).
But when he tries his hand at doing horror, he's fairly unsuccessful. His father did it with gut busting and gut munching gusto with the cult favorite, ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST (1980). When Enzo went for the jugular, his movie fails on most levels. While it's one bright spot is the finale, this Italian imitation is a laughable, note for note rip off of the superior JAWS (1975) and JAWS 2 (1978). As most people know by now, fraudulent producer, Edward L. Montoro (GRIZZLY, DAY OF THE ANIMALS) imported the film under his Film Ventures International banner. After a couple weeks in release Universal got a court injunction to get the film yanked from American theaters.
To hear those involved in this European production say it, Universal was scared of the thunder THE LAST JAWS was stealing from the first summer blockbuster that was JAWS. Now, when you do a comparison between the two movies there is no doubt that the Italian movie is inferior in all departments. How anyone could think Castellari's movie would be any serious competition for Spielberg's picture, or is even one iota of the craftsmanship of that seminal shark flick is beyond comprehension.
About the only major difference between the two is that in Spielberg's film, there is a genuine sense of dread and you rarely see the shark save for the end. In the Italian clone, they rub this lifeless model in your face at every available opportunity and it even roars! If seeing a runaway Thanksgiving day float pop out of the water wasn't enough, we get to hear it bellow loudly. The shark itself changes size from shot to shot. At some points it looks a bit like a rubber dolphin. In others it's stock footage of sharks of varying size. In one shot, it just sits there in the water and looks much smaller than the model that frequently pops out of the water during the last half.
Another difference is there is a bit more gore. People are bit in half, have their legs ripped off, etc. The mayor goes one step further than Murray Hamilton did in JAWS (1975). He decides to head out to sea in a helicopter to try and kill the shark. Instead, he gets eaten and causes the helicopter to be pulled into the water by the rampaging shark head. We also get a shot of the model fish pulling a model copter beneath the waves.
Quint (Vic Morrow) and Brody (James Franciscus) attempt to convince the mayor (Joshua Sinclair) to close the bea...no, wrong movie...Ron (Vic Morrow) and Peter (James Franciscus) attempt to convince the mayor (Joshua Sinclair) to stop the regatta before swimmers and daysailers are killed by the huge, fake, roaring shark head
You could go on and on about how awful this movie is. The performances are terrible and American actors Franciscus and Morrow (who have both seen FAR better days) attempt to keep a straight face throughout doing their best Brody and Quint impersonations respectively. I will say this--it's far more entertaining than JAWS THE REVENGE (1987), but not nearly as "good" as JAWS 3D (1983).
Castellari should have been ashamed of himself for this often times embarrassing piece of shit. But the JAWS clones didn't stop here. Others include Joe D'Amato's boring DEEP BLOOD from 1989 and Bruno Mattei's hilarious knee slapper CRUEL JAWS (1995) which uses stock footage from both Castellari's crapfest and D'Amato's sleep inducing chore. Other similar movies include Lamberto Bava's DEVOURING WAVES (1985) and two KILLER CROCODILE movies from the late 1980's. Ovidio Assonitis got in on the act with the superior TENTACLES (1976). That film, while not really a JAWS clone at all, often gets lumped in with those that are. However, if it weren't for the success of JAWS, it's likely we wouldn't have seen that, or been "blessed" with Castellari's celluloid disgrace.
THE LAST SHARK (1981) may never get an official US release on DVD, but it has been released pretty much everywhere else on the digital format. It recently saw a release on a Swedish label and also a nice quality release in its native Italy. No English options on the latter, though. It apparently was popular in Japan as it's been released there as have so many Italian exploitation non-classics in the same vein. I like terrible movies as much as the next guy, but when the director of movies like KEOMA (1976) turns in work like this, it begs the question, "Why?" You'll either love it, or hate. For die hard cheese mongers, approach with caution, it's got mold on it and I aint talkin' Gorgonzola.