It struck me funny while I was zoning out the other night and staring at one sheets, that in the nine plus years we've fielded fright flicks here at the Wop, I've yet to review a single film in the Jaws series, not even the original. Naturally, we've covered all the possible Italian Jaws rip-offs, and even other countries feeble attempts to cash in on Spielberg's 1975 summer blockbuster, but never their inspiration. Well, that gets remedied tonight, when we won't be assessing Steven's two hundred and sixty million dollar box office smash, which I coincidentally saw in the theaters the first time around, in case you were wondering, but the 1978 sequel, as helmed by French-American director, Jeannot Szwarc, the guy who previously directed things like nineteen episodes of Night Gallery and also William Castle's Bug (1975) . Seventy-seven million at the box office for lots of Roy Scheider, no Richard Dreyfuss or Robert Shaw, more mechanical shark, and significantly more groovy seventies parasail-crazy teens that wouldn't look out of place in an episode of Eight is Enough. Who doesn't want any of that, I ask you.
Down killock, ye nautical nerd (Keith Gordon)!
Some time after the climactic fishing trip that removed the original devil of the deep from the island's equation, Amity has returned to normal, preparing for the grand opening of a new hotel. Meanwhile, two divers photographing the sunken wreckage of Quint's boat, the Orca, are set upon by another huge great white shark. It also attacks a pair of groovy water skiers, horribly scarified by the boat's female driver, who inadvertently dumps gasoline over herself and sets the boat on fire while trying to avoid the monster's fatal bites. There's also a beached killer whale carcass with tell-tale bitten chunks out of it, the radius of which is more than slightly reminiscent of a problem predator the island's citizens once faced. Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) gets more of the same response as last time from Mayor Vaughn (Murray Hamilton), ultimately getting himself fired when the city council grows weary of his manic running up and down the shoreline with his sidearm drawn during peak beach hours, and inconclusive underwater photos that may or may not reveal the eye and mouth of a massive great white. Relax, Martin, you'll live longer.
Don't light the match until you're sure you're standing on all surviving prints of this movie first.
Brody's older son, Mike (Mark Gruner)(who's aged quite a bit considering the time that has passed), like most of the teenage islanders, even the nerds, is obsessed with parasailing while avoiding dragging his younger brother Sean (Marc Gilpin) along during efforts to impress Jackie (Donna Wilkes), the new chick in town. She rocks polyester and screams her fool head off with the best of 'em. Cue: Foolhardy aquatic youth ignoring the flaccid warnings of the local constabulary in favor of crisp waves and the twenty-something foot long devil lurking just beneath them, with a chip on it's massive pectoral fin. With Matt Hooper off studying on the Aurora in the Antarctic, and Quint's half-digested, exploded remains spread for a mile in every direction, Brody is forced to combat the scarred beast, who's eaten a helicopter, mind you, on his own this time around. There also might be the unlikeliest of underwater power lines off of ol' Cable Junction, of course, to turn the odds in favor of our favorite hydrophobic police officer, just saying. So keep an open mind for that, haha.
"Jeeezus, watch out for those hydraulics!"
At six, I was traumatized seeing the original in the theater, but by the time this sequel rolled around, I had matured into a nine yr old in Cheryl Ladd t-shirt and flip flops that regularly went swimming downtown at the Y. Mechanical sharks had been toppled from my scary shit list by zombies and indestructible serial killers by then. Besides the infamous on set dust-ups between Scheider and Szwarc, who opted to show the shark a helluva lot more than his predecessor Spielberg ever did, the film suffers greatly from a lack of dramatic flair that Shaw (and to a lesser degree, Dreyfuss) provided in the original, instead choosing the mainstream path of make out-mad teens and succumbing to phoned in sequel-driven hokum, as so many second efforts did in the decade to come. So, no U.S.S. Indianapolis speeches here. Hey, even if it was perfect, living up to Jaws (1975) is a near impossible order, when you think about it. On the scale, 2 earns just that, and stands as worthy Wednesday-fodder for killer fish fanatics everywhere. Worth a look.
Lay back, Holmes. I wasn't lookin' at your neck, man.