Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Bog (1979) review

Gloria DeHaven (Dr. Ginny Glenn/Adrianna), Marshall Thompson (Dr. Brad Wednesday), Leo Gordon (Dr. John Warren), Aldo Ray (Sheriff Neal Rydholm), Rojay North (Chuck Pierce), Glen Voros (Alan Tanner), Carol Terry (May Tanner), Lou Hunt (Kim Pierce), Ed Clark (Deputy Jensen), Robert Fry (Wallace Fry), Jeff Schwaab (The Monster)
Directed by Don Keeslar

The Short Version: What makes bad movies fun is energy, and BOG drinks a six pack of Monster. It's a throwback to 50s style scientists vs. nature gone amuck with a BOGGY CREEK-style backdrop. The cheap production manages to scrounge up a few old-Hollywood pros to bring that Creature Feature feeling back again. This extends to the debilitated effects work involving the crappie fish monster that's more Coela-can't than prehistoric aquatic terror. It's the spirited performances of its leads taking the morass material seriously that makes BOG fun in the muck; as opposed to a Hemorrhoid From the Deep.
Dynamite fishing awakens a centuries-old, lake-dwelling, humanoid fish monster that drinks blood and mates with human women. After the wives of two vacationing couples turn up dead, three scientists and the local sheriff discover the ever-growing pile of bodies is the work of an ancient monster from the Ice Age. They hope to capture the beast and stop it before it breeds even more monsters below the murky waters of Bog Lake.
Wisconsin is not only home to Ed Gein and good cheese, but homegrown monster pictures like THE GIANT SPIDER INVASION (1975) and BOG (1979). The former is a fairly well known cult favorite while the latter didn't even get theater play in the state it was shot in (till recently). Compared to other do-it-yourself filmmaking ventures, it's a surprisingly fun 85 minutes of el cheapo monster-in-the-lake horror.
One half 1950s science vs. nature flick and one half BOGGY CREEK-style swamp-dwelling creature feature, you'll feel a sense of deja vu in Carl Kitt's script. It's chock full of scientific-sounding gobbledy-gook, bridging scenes of monster attacks that vary in how big the Bog beast is. Don Keeslar's direction is also reminiscent of a 50s SciFi flick; although more in the vein of say THE BRAIN FROM PLANET AROUS (1957) than THEM! (1954).
Filmed at various Wisconsin locations like Lake Tomahawk, Harshaw and around Minocqua during the summer of 1978, BOG failed to attain the same level of cult status as its elder Wisconsin born n' bred brethren,THE GIANT SPIDER INVASION (1975). Whereas that movie got wider distribution and regular airplay on television, BOG was scarcely seen at Drive-in's in southern and southwestern territories from 1979 to 1983. Even more surprising, both Gloria DeHaven and director Don Keeslar were unaware the movie was even finished. The latter reportedly called it a day after the last shot was in the can. To the point, more people have seen Bigfoot than got to see BOG.
When this little aforementioned picture called THE LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK (1972) came out and was an unexpected smash hit, many more mysterious monsters began stalking the various woods and marshes across the country. It wasn't a Bigfoot, but the regional 'monster-in-the-lake' movies that surfaced afterward followed the same formula: a spooky lake surrounded by an atmosphere-thick wilderness; a cheap monster suit; and a bunch of non-actors to add local flavor. BOG had the benefit of a few past-their-prime Hollywood stars to beef up its marquee value, too.
Producer Michelle Marshall was a Completion Guarantor (a guarantee to financiers that said film will be completed and delivered to a distributor on the agreed-upon date) who, for around a decade, was also a movie producer. The guarantor and producer work closely together. If a film is going off the rails, the guarantor can take it over; but for reasons of good business practices, tend to leave it to the producer to get things back on track. However, since Ms. Marshall was also BOG's producer, she could get involved if she deemed it necessary. It's clear both time and money was in short supply on this movie. In one instance, Marshall reportedly dunked an actress under the water with her hand or foot to get the panicked reaction she wanted. Producer interference may have been the reason the director didn't hang around to oversee final edit of his picture.

Like the movie or not, Gloria DeHaven is a tour de force (as much as you can triumph in a low budget lake monster movie). She plays both the spunky, middle-aged lady scientist and the creepy hag in the woods who has a mysterious connection to the Bog Beast. Ms. DeHaven (who was also a singer) went from Hollywood musicals like BEST FOOT FORWARD (1943) with Lucille Ball and SUMMER STOCK (1950) with Gene Kelly and Judy Garland to being carried off by an amphibious monster with an affinity for human women in BOG. Doubtful she'd have ever viewed this film as noteworthy, but what is notable is that BOG is the only monster picture Ms. DeHaven ever starred in.
Although she had recognizable star status, DeHaven was never a major player in Hollywood. Regardless of the film's near nonexistent production values, her dual role in BOG (that most likely was done to keep from paying another actor) stands out among her colleagues that went from high profile productions to roles they would never have taken in their prime. Her enthusiasm as a scientist is better than this level just shy of the barrel's bottom usually got. And her primordial reading of Adrianna, the creepy lady in the woods, foreshadows the old witch Haggis in PUMPKINHEAD (1988). She capably gave director Keeslar his money's worth; in light of the limited coins budgeted for it. Sadly, Ms. DeHaven died in hospice care shortly after suffering a stroke on July 30th, 2016.
Her co-star Marshall Thompson had some leads in movies like GALLANT BESS (1947), the first cinecolor movie from MGM; and he co-starred with the great cowboy star and most decorated soldier of WWII, Audie Murphy in Murphy's biopic, TO HELL AND BACK (1955). Unlike DeHaven, though, Thompson was doing leading roles in monster pictures early in his career like IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE (1958), FIEND WITHOUT A FACE (1958) and FIRST MAN INTO SPACE (1959); so doing BOG was like slipping into an old shoe. Thompson would pass away May 18th, 1992 from congestive heart failure at age 66.

Getting Leo Gordon, one of the greatest movie Tough Guys, adds enormous appeal to the picture even though he probably only did a couple day's work on it. If you're familiar with Leo Gordon, you're probably a fan of BOG that enjoys the picture strictly for its lack of quality. Gordon was a familiar face in numerous westerns and thrillers, almost always playing the heavy on movies and television. 
For a spell he was a real life heavy after a failed armed robbery attempt put him in San Quentin for five years. He was the main villain in the pilot episode of GUNSMOKE, 'Hack Prine' in 1955 where he had a more lithe, but stout appearance on his 6'2" frame. He worked with Roger Corman both in front of and behind the camera; and made his presence known in John Wayne movies like HONDO (1953) and McLintock! (1963). THE NIGHT OF THE GRIZZLY (1966), appearing opposite Clint Walker, is another of Gordon's memorable bad guy roles. One of Hollywood's most rugged faces would die on December 26th, 2000 at the age of 78.
WWII vet Aldo Ray worked with many of Hollywood's major players and gained a degree of stardom himself, leading to some awards nominations. When his unpredictable and rebellious behavior cost him roles, his looks and no-nonsense attitude typecast him in macho parts, and particularly those of military figures. Some of his career highlights include BATTLE CRY (1955), THREE STRIPES IN THE SUN (1955), MEN IN WAR (1957), and THE GREEN BERETS (1968). His drinking problem began in the late 1950s and would take its toll on his career in the early 1960s. He was primarily relegated to exploitation movies in the 70s and 80s with roles in films like THE BAD BUNCH (1973), THE CENTERFOLD GIRLS (1974) and PSYCHIC KILLER (1975). 
His energetic role in BOG as the sheriff has a scene where Ray states he needs a drink after an encounter with the monster and shows him downing a glass of alcohol. He died February 19th, 1991 from throat cancer at just 64 years of age.

Ray was broke at this stage in his career, but he gives a good performance with the material he has to work with. Everybody does far better than expected for this sort of thing. A unique quality of BOG is in how it gives its aging Hollywood cast things to do normally afforded younger actors. During the finale, for example, Marshall Thompson  (53 at the time) and Leo Gordon (56 years old then) indulge in their Tough Guy personas of their younger days, showing they still had some pep in their step; going mano-a-monster against the slime-covered man-fish after it carries DeHaven away for an amorous interlude. 

Moreover, in something you never saw in the movies BOG sources from, the elder leads, Thompson and DeHaven (in her mid-50s at that time), have a middle-aged romance going on; even getting a mild love scene backed by an Anne Murray-style melody called 'Walk With Me' sang by Pat Hopkins. Playing at the outset and also over the end credits, the producers were possibly hoping for a minor hit and some radio play. The theme on harmonica and piano is heard at various points during the movie.

Like its main cast, many of BOG's crew, sadly, have passed on; leaving many stories of working in the arena of low budget cinema lost to time. 
The director Don Keeslar, passed away in August of 2020. It was his first and only theatrical motion picture he directed. He did helm the Made For TV movie THE CAPTURE OF GRIZZLY ADAMS (1982) and television commercials. 
And like the director and others involved in the production, the writer, Carl Kitt, passed back in 1990 from ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis; or Lou Gehrig's disease)
Jack Willoughby, who worked on major movies like ROCKY (1976) and UP IN SMOKE (1978) as a camera operator, was also a cinematographer; performing the job as DP on BOG, but oddly billed as Wings. Possibly the pseudonym was due to him also acting in a producer capacity. Willoughby's regional monster picture roots extend to the earlier THE GIANT SPIDER INVASION where he was also the DP and an associate producer on that show as well. He died on June 8th, 2018 at the ripe old age of 101! 
One of BOG's two special effects men, Richard Albain, had a prolific career in low budget horror, television, and some big studio productions. He too worked on THE GIANT SPIDER INVASION in the FX department. He left this world back in May of 1999 at 76 years of age.

A farmer at the time, Jeff Schwaab took on the difficult task of lumbering around inside the indiscernible monster suit. Thirty years old at the time and standing 6'7", he does the best he can in a poorly made (but heavily slimed-up) costume that certainly fits the 1950s style of 'C' movie BOG is mimicking. You get a few decent glimpses of it, but the camera often cuts away too quickly for viewers to appreciate the intricate deficiencies of the suit (although it was reportedly very heavy). The filmmakers should've just embraced the fact they had a monster that was on a par with the stunt guys inside the trash bags in ATTACK OF THE GIANT LEECHES (1959) and wallowed in longer takes.
In keeping with the 50s monster movie vibe, the scientists devise a weapon to defeat the monster; in this case it's a Blood Scent Generator to lure the beast out in the open so locals can blast it with Rotenone--a toxicant that's basically an Oxygen Destroyer for fish. It's one of the best, if funniest, sequences in the movie. It's the first time the lack of money for even a moderately credible looking monster suit is visualized; and the first time we clearly see Jeff Schwaab walking around in it

For all its faults, BOG genuinely tries to be more than its budget allows. This is why it surpasses other similar, monetarily inebriated movies. In spite of its lack of theatrical exposure it's possible it influenced other, more well-known horror movies. The plot point of the monster being part fish, part man and part animal seems to have seeped into the script for PROPHECY (1979)--with its mutant bear monster that's supposed to be a variety of nature's creatures. Another plot contrivance is the monster mating with human women. This was used to graphic effect in the Roger Corman cult favorite HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP (1980).

BOG (1979) has a poor reputation, but fans that like the picture have solid affection for it. Todd Brown is likely the biggest BOG fan on the planet, managing to have tracked down the film's director and, back in August of 2018, set up a 40th anniversary screening at a local cinema in Rhinelander, Wisconsin; the first time it was being seen in its home state. You can read about the event he organized HERE.
A brief note about this blu-ray presentation: for years BOG had been on VHS labels in dry full-screen presentations. A very nice widescreen DVD arose in recent years; but this new HD version utilized on the Dark Force blu-ray is a welcome upgrade, particularly in the audio department as the soundtrack is crisp and clear.

A three week wonder, BOG is a gob of bad movie fun. It's THE GIANT CLAW (1957) of BOGGY CREEK successors; in that the cast takes everything with the utmost of seriousness even when the silly, crab-clawed monster takes center-stage. Even so, it's a fun regional throwback. If you don't find enjoyment in cut-rate cinema, though, you'll want to traverse more familiar waters and stay out of the BOG.

This review is representative of the Dark Force Entertainment blu-ray double feature. Specs and Extras: 1080p 1.85:1  anamorphic widescreen; HD transfer for the first time using the only surviving 35mm print; BOG press gallery; paired with co-feature MAKO: JAWS OF DEATH (1976); trailers; intermission/snack bar ads; Drive-in Mode; running time: 01:25:19

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Mako: The Jaws of Death (1976) review

Richard Jaeckel (Sonny Stein), Jennifer Bishop (Karen), Buffy Dee (Barney), Harold "Odd Job" Sakata (Pete), John Davis Chandler (Charlie), Ben Kronen (Whitney), Paul Preston (2nd Patrolman), Milton "Butterball" Smith (Butter), Bob Gordon (Bartender), Jerry Albert (Ship's Mate), George Johnson (Captain), Ric O'Feldman (1st Patrolman), Luke Halpin (3rd Patrolman)
Directed by William Grefe
The Short Version: Richard Jaeckel in a rare lead role plays Sonny Stein, an outcast with a mystical connection to sharks. After a series of betrayals by fraudulent and immoral individuals, Stein's fin-ship with dangerous fish comes in handy to lower the human population in a seaside Florida town. William Grefe's uniquely off-beat do-over of his own WILLARD-influenced STANLEY (1972) ups the danger meter by diving head-first into the carnivorous waters to get striking footage of the apex predators. You won't find major studio, JAWS-level thrills, but fans of Drive-in movies and the wild and weird side of cinema will find plenty to sink their teeth into.

Sonny Stein is a hermetic man who acquires a telepathic link with sharks after he's saved by them while on a diving job in the Philippines. Stumbling upon an old shaman who is part of a shark cult, he gives Sonny a medallion that protects him from harm by the deep sea denizens. Sonny tries to lead a life of solitude in Florida; but ultimately ends up using his fishy friends to get revenge on the duplicitous individuals who have wronged him.
After the success of WILLARD (1971), there were several similar movies centered around outcasts whose only friends were of the non-human variety. There was William Grefe's STANLEY (1972) about a boy and his snakes; KISS OF THE TARANTULA (1975) about a girl and her spiders; KILLER SNAKES (1974), about a tormented youth and his reptiles, hailed from Hong Kong. Then there was JENNIFER (1978), a Canadian combination of CARRIE (1976) and WILLARD (1971) about a young girl with a telepathic link to snakes who uses them to exact revenge on her persecutors. William Grefe returned to the form with MAKO: THE JAWS OF DEATH in 1976; which was essentially STANLEY with sharks.

JAWS (1975) had just come out and the millions it made at the box office sent swimmers screaming out of the water; or kept them from going into it.  
What's unique about MAKO is that it was released at the height of JAWS-mania, and was an entirely different style of shark movie. Spielberg had an infinitely problematic mechanical shark; Grefe had real-life sharks as his stars. The shark in JAWS was a terrifying, mostly unseen maneater that gobbled up random victims in the water; while the sharks in MAKO are depicted as the victims of man--used for experimentation and exploitation, or the preferred catch of local fishermen for profit.
The 1970s (even more so than the 1980s) was a prime era for independent filmmakers. Low budget films--particularly the exploitation variety that populated Drive-in's across the country--often had little to no money to fully realize a director's intentions. Something like MAKO was shot during a time when movies were made entirely by hand; it was left up to the ingenuity and the creativity of the filmmakers wielding it.
Sometimes you come across a movie that makes you go, "how did they do that?" MAKO: JAWS OF DEATH is one such motion picture. If it were made today, it would largely be done with CGI. The way Grefe and his crew made the movie is nothing short of incredible (which you'll read about shortly in the director's own words).

In MAKO, popular character actor Richard Jaeckel plays Sonny Stein, a loner who is isolated from society. People have given him a lifetime of reasons to distrust them; so he finds solace in the company of sharks; and he doesn't hesitate to kill those who would maim or kill them. The key to his fin-ship with the cartilaginous species is a mystical medallion given to him by a Filipino shaman. So long as he wears it, sharks will never harm him. Two of his best friends are Sammy and Matilda. Sonny confides in them as you would a human friend. This sounds a bit silly, but it fits perfectly within the carnivalesque atmosphere Grefe's movie resides in.

When Sonny mingles in "normal" society after catching the eye of a bar dancer who does an aqua-maid act, he finds himself swimming with a different breed of shark. An unscrupulous research scientist convinces Sonny to let him study Matilda that takes a disastrous turn. Then there's the shady bar owner who wants one of his sharks to use in the underwater go-go dancer's act. And then there are two double-dealing shark hunters who help send the already murderous Sonny spiraling further into a state of revenge.

Arguably the film's greatest asset are the astonishingly well-filmed shark sequences; some of which look incredibly dangerous, leading viewers to wonder just how in the hell did they do it.

Below is an interview conducted with William Grefe, the director of MAKO: THE JAWS OF DEATH. He was kind enough to give an hour of his time to discuss this picture and the details of its making.
Venoms5: I read you wrote the story for MAKO before JAWS. It's similar to your earlier movie STANLEY (1972). Did you base your story on that?
William Grefe: STANLEY was so successful, I figured I should come up with another animal movie. Since I was a skin diver and did some action direction on LIVE AND LET DIE (1973) where I did a lot of shark footage there, I came up with the concept of a man who loves sharks. What was interesting was I shopped the story around to distributors and investors and nobody would finance it. Then Spielberg came along with JAWS and everything, and I mean everything... Time magazine, Life magazine... everything was JAWS, JAWS, JAWS... biggest grossing movie at the time. When that came out my phone rang off the hook. I immediately got the money and started shooting. 
At that time JAWS (1975) hadn't been released in Europe yet, just the United States. So when I finished shooting I edited together a seven-minute promo reel and took it to Europe. We got advances from Germany, France, etc, and we got our money back before JAWS was released over there. I hadn't even edited the movie yet, just that promo; so I had to work like the Devil to get the movie edited and sent over to the European countries. With JAWS out, there was so much publicity on sharks so that's how my movie came about.

V5: Was it difficult filming the shark scenes? JAWS had a mechanical shark and you had real ones. Was this a much greater challenge than you expected?

WG: We shot in Bimini, one of the Bahamian islands, which is about 50 miles off Florida. We wanted to film there because it's very clear water and a beautiful area for underwater photography. The way we got the sharks is there's a big reef there; so every night we had about ten cement blocks with a log rope and a big shark hook and we'd get a snapper or some other fish and put it through their tail. We'd go back in the morning and there'd be one or two sharks on the hooks after the bait. They'd drag those cement blocks around till they got tired. We had a big casket on the boat we put them in and had to shoot oxygen into them. We used 10 to 12-foot tiger sharks. 
Down in South Bimini there's a little motel that had a big harbor. We rented the whole motel and the harbor. We wired off the entrance to the harbor and when we brought the sharks in we'd put big manila ropes around their tails. We had maybe 10 sharks swimming around in the harbor so when we needed them we used a gaffing hook as they swam by and hoisted them out and into the casket. 

V5: I didn't recognize any Mako's in the movie. Was there a decision to go with tiger sharks due to the Mako's aggressiveness?

WG: With a Tiger shark, when you grab them by the tail, they can't turn around to bite. We couldn't do that with a Mako. I called it MAKO JAWS OF DEATH because I didn't want it to be too similar to JAWS. The distributor ended up changing it to just THE JAWS OF DEATH. If it hadn't been for Spielberg, it probably wouldn't have got made, or been as successful as it was.

V5: How did working with sharks compare with working with snakes in STANLEY (1972)?

WG: Snakes of course are smaller to handle. When you get a 10-12ft Tiger Shark that's a pretty heavy load to haul around (laughs). There's one scene where three sharks are released. When we were filming that scene, one of them turned right toward me and I kicked him in the head. Their skin is like sandpaper so my foot got scratched up (laughs)
There's another shot in the movie with Jordan Klein, the cameraman. He was fantastic; a great, great underwater photographer. When you turn on an underwater camera it makes a buzzing sound. He was doing like a dolly shot following a shark. So when he turned the camera on one of the sharks turned and went right after him and Jordan put the camera right in his mouth and shot down his tonsils. That shot is in the movie. 
I ended up selling that footage to Walt Disney Productions and some German outfit for just that shot. That camera housing was at least 18 inches wide so that's how big that shark was; took the whole thing in its mouth. I give Jordan all the credit in the world, he just shoved that camera into the shark's mouth (laughs).

V5: Was that Richard Jaeckel swimming with the sharks in some of the scenes? It sure looked like him.

WG: Yes, that was Richard. Of all the actors in the world I've worked with, Richard Jaeckel was the most cooperative, most professional actor of them all. I'll give you an example of the kind of guy Richard was. On the first day of filming, it was the worst day I've ever had in filmmaking. My whole plan was to use an Arriflex BL camera. It's a camera that doesn't make any sound. So Arriflex had just come out with the Arri BL. There was only two of'em in the United States then--one in Florida and the other in California. My initial plan was to use the Blimp because it was a handheld camera. Working on a boat is a nightmare because it's always rocking; and those other cameras weigh about 200lbs. 
So the assistant director comes in and tells me, "We just wiped out the Arri." And I said, "You wiped it out? What the hell happened?" He says, "The assistant cameraman had it on the tripod and he was putting the lens on and the magazine fell and when he went to pick it up the camera fell off the tripod and broke the housing." I was like, "Oh my God, what am I gonna do?" So I sent the camera back to the equipment house and they sent me that 200lb monster I wanted to avoid using in the first place (laughs). 
I had a handheld Arriflex but it made that buzzing sound so I figured I could use that for the scene by the dock where Johnny Chandler and Harold Sakata pull up. Richard was not in the first scenes we did. So now I'm back in the trailer rehearsing the other actors. The AD comes back in and said, "Bill, are you sitting down?" And I said, "Now what the hell is wrong?" He says, "We were bringing the boats in and it's low tide and they got stuck on a sandbar so we can't use the boats for 2-3 hours till the tide goes out" (laughs). So I told him to go get Richard Jaeckel. 
I told Richard we have this scene we can shoot with the handheld but where it makes noise we'll loop it later. Richard says, "No problem, Bill, no problem. I'll get into makeup and be right with you." So I go back to the trailer with the other actors while Richard is in makeup. The AD comes back again and says, "Bill... " And I say, "What the hell is it now?!" (laughs). He tells me Richard hopped up onto the prop truck to see his prop and split his head open. We had to rush him to the hospital and about 2-3 hours later Richard comes back with stitches on the top of his head. He insisted on working and did the entire movie with those stitches in his head. That's what a trouper he was. I've worked with so many actors who will say they need a week off for this or that and Richard just went right to work with an injury. We finally shot that scene and looped it. And that was the very first day of filming (laughs).

I didn't really start shooting till the other camera came back, so the rest of the movie I had to use that 200lb monster; on the boat and everywhere else, which I hated. It's ridiculous how big that thing is (laughs).

V5: How long did you shoot for? Was it longer than you had planned?

WG: This statement you'll never hear from anybody that's ever directed more than 20 movies. I have never been one day over schedule; I have never been one dollar over budget. I shot MAKO JAWS OF DEATH in fifteen days, and I did underwater shots in Bimini for one week. So I filmed a total of 20 days. My record is seven days of filming for DEATH CURSE OF TARTU (1966). 

V5: The scenes where the sharks are biting people--Richard Jaeckel has two on him at the end and the stuntwoman in the tank--how did you pull that off? Did you have the sharks teeth removed?

WF: What happened was we were in Bimini and we wanted to use a dead shark for the girl in the tank at the bar standing in for Jennifer Bishop. As I said earlier, back then everything was about sharks because of JAWS (1975). The crew told me we could make $10-$15 bucks a tooth for shark's teeth because everybody was makin' necklaces and stuff. They asked if it was okay to pull the teeth out and I told them, 'yeah, go ahead'. So the shark's on the beach and they pulled the teeth out. We took it to the pool with Gay Ingram, the stunt girl, and shoved it towards her and the damn thing was alive! That damn shark had been out of the water for 30 to 45 minutes and you can see in the movie where he grabbed the girl's leg. If we hadn't pulled the teeth out that would've been a serious problem. I was in the water and almost choked to death when that shark came to; we had to grab him by the tail and pull him off because he was gumming her to death (laughs). More people have commented on that shot and it's a terrific shot.

We used dead sharks for the end when they latch on to Richard. I didn't want to do any more harm to Richard (laughs). When I did STANLEY (1972) I offended Alex Rocco. You remember where he goes into the pool off the diving board? Alex came up to me and said, "Bill, I've been an actor for twelve years and I've never refused to do what a director tells me, but I'm scared to death of snakes. Is there anything you can do?" So I told him it wasn't a problem, that I had a bunch of rubber snakes I can do fast-cuts and edit around it. I had two or three snake handlers so when he went off that diving board they hit'em with about 10 or 12 real snakes (laughs). And he panicked, you know. And the soundtrack, when we were editing the movie where he's fighting off those real snakes he yells at me, "Grefe, you son of a bitch!" (laughs)

Alex won an Emmy for the comedy series THE FAMOUS TEDDY Z (1990) and he was on GOOD MORNING AMERICA in New York and they asked him if he ever had trouble on any movie he acted in and Rocco says, "There's this insane director in Florida who dumped real snakes on me..." (laughs) So I couldn't use real sharks on Richard; I had to use dead ones (laughs).

V5: Richard Jaeckel is one of my favorite actors. He's in so many movies and had so few leading roles and you gave him one.

WG: I loved him in THE DIRTY DOZEN (1967) and so many others. But again, Richard was the most cooperative actor; no ego, just ready to work, knew his lines. He was fantastic. I loved Richard. Unfortunately, he died too soon. He got melanoma, skin cancer. He was a California boy. He surfed all the time and got a lot of sun when he was young.
V5: What about Johnny Chandler and Harold Sakata?

WG: I just loved Johnny Chandler. I used him in three of my movies. He did something for me that is unheard of in Hollywood. I was shooting WHISKEY MOUNTAIN (1977) and I was producing and directing. We shot that in the mountains of North Carolina. I was gonna use Neville Brand and I'm out in the woods shooting and the production secretary sent a PA out that Neville's agent just called and he's got pneumonia and he can't fulfill his commitment to the film. So I thought about it for a minute and I told the production assistant to go back and call Johnny Chandler and tell him I don't have time to send him a ticket. In Hollywood, no actor will do anything unless you send them a round trip ticket or their salary in escrow. So I tell the PA to tell Johnny I need him to fly here so he flew in and I picked him up and the next day I started shooting with him. He trusted me enough to do that. He was a real pro so I really liked working with Johnny. He did a wonderful job on that movie.

Harold Sakata was a professional wrestler. The way he got the part on GOLDFINGER (1964) was he was wrestling in London and Cubby Broccoli, the producer, happened to be watching the wrestling match and said, "Boy, he'd be good in my movie" . Harold was a real gentle guy. After MAKO, I had him at my house for three days as a house guest and my poor wife (laughs), he would eat a dozen eggs for breakfast so all my wife did was cook for him the whole time (laughs). He almost bankrupted me from feeding him (laughs). He was a real good guy. I wouldn't wanna get on the wrong side of him because he was a good professional wrestler. But a very gentle man. 

V5: Did you film the ending during an actual storm?
WG: No, we used swamp boats with the big propellers. We had two or three of those we used to whip up the water and the shrubbery to give the impression of a big storm. That scene where the guys are chasing Richard back to his houseboat and the boat flips over from the wind, that's how strong it was.

V5: Was there anything you had to cut from the movie to get a PG or did you want that rating all along?

WG: I don't know how we got a PG but everything is there that we shot. A lot of that was up to the distributor who did have to fight for the rating. Sometimes that kind of thing is taken care of with a payoff because you don't want to turn away young people from your movie.
Robert D. Morgan's script (based on a story by William Grefe) is surprisingly good; giving Jaeckel a complex, if disturbed, main character with a boat-load of eccentricities while surrounding him with a gaggle full of sordid antagonists.

The vastly underrated Jaeckel did virtually every genre during his long career, and is just as well known for his exploitation roles as his classier dramas and westerns; and not to mention his numerous television appearances. Some of his movies include: SANDS OF IWO JIMA (1949); 3:10 TO YUMA (1957); FLAMING STAR (1960); THE DIRTY DOZEN (1967); THE GREEN SLIME (1968); LATITUDE ZERO (1969); CHISUM (1970); ULZANA'S RAID (1972); PAT GARRETT AND BILLY THE KID (1973); WALKING TALL PART 2 (1975); GRIZZLY (1976); DAY OF THE ANIMALS (1977); MR. NO LEGS (1979); THE DARK (1979); STAR MAN (1984); BLACK MOON RISING (1986); DELTA FORCE 2: THE COLOMBIAN CONNECTION (1990). He was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor award in 1972 for SOMETIMES A GREAT NOTION (1971). 
Of special mention is his third appearance (four if you count 2-parter 'The Raid') on GUNSMOKE (1955-1975) in the season 20 episode, 'Larkin'. Jaeckel is Clay Larkin, a gunman who tries to stay alive the duration of the episode. It's one of the best things the actor did.

MAKO: THE JAWS OF DEATH (1976) is a 'B' movie, but it has some 'A' movie qualities, and is better than its reputation suggests. Whether you like the film or not, the maverick style of filmmaking it and other low budget movies were made with came during a time that will never be replicated. If you're a fan of Richard Jaeckel this is a rare opportunity to see him carry a picture. And if you're a fan of maneater movies, Grefe's film is the most unique in the school of sharksploitation cinema.
A huge Thank You to director William Grefe for spending an hour of his time to discuss the making of his movie.

This review is representative of the Dark Force Entertainment blu-ray double feature. Specs and Extras: Brand new 2K scan from the original, uncut 35mm camera negative; 1080p 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen; paired with main feature BOG (1979); trailers; intermission/snack bar ads; BOG Press Gallery; Drive-in Mode; running time: 01:33:22
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