BR: Cruel Jaws / Jaws 5 (1995)

November 10, 2020 | By

Film: Weak

Transfer:  Excellent

Extras: Very Good

Label:  Severin Films / Unobstructed View

Region: A

Released:  Sepetember 29, 2020

Genre:  Sharksploitation / Eco-Thriller/ Horror

Synopsis: Ridiculous “Jaws” rip-off has a great white attacking small town Floridians amid youthful jealousies, the local mafia, a regatta, and a sunken ship with a meh government secret.

Special Features:  Includes 95 min. Home Video Version / 96 min. Japanese release “Snyder Cut” / 2 Interview Featurettes: “The Great White Way: a Study in Sharksploitation with Rebekah McKendry” (20:36) + “These Things Got Made! Interview with actor Jay Colligan” (12:01) / Trailer.




After producing and directing a slew of sexploitation, exploitation, and assorted rip-off films since 1970, by 1995 one can argue Bruno Mattei’s reign as Italy’s Ed Wood, Jr. was coming to a close, at least within the theatrical realm, and Cruel Jaws was the first direct-to-video quickie Mattei made as the market for eccentric genre offerings from across the ocean were losing ground in multiplexes, double-bill second run cinemas, and drive-ins.

Frequent Team Rip-Off members Claudio Fragasso and Rosella Drudi (of Troll 2 infamy) were no longer his arm’s reach collaborators, and although little is known about the genesis of Cruel Jaws, in a recent / COVID-era Zoom interview, co-star Jay Colligan offers a few details of why Mattei’s entry in the sharksploitation realm came so late in the game.

After the success of Steven Spielberg’s Jaws (1975), any movie about a killer shark was game for producers – if not sharks, then giant octopus, masses of piranha, vengeful orca; and if not water-borne creatures, then reptiles, assorted insects, carnivorous slugs, buckets of worms, mean bears, sasquatch and / or yeti.

Action master Enzo Castellari directed Great White (1981), and as the sharksploitation genre was losing its last bubbles of oxygen, Joe D’Amato co-directed Deep Blood (1989); both are cited as sources from which Mattei used stock footage. Although Colligan says a real script translated from Italian did exist, none of the cast saw any real or mechanical sharks during filming, and Cruel Jaws was shot to accommodate footage bought from a production that had run out of money.

It may be that a chunk of Cruel Jaws was built around whatever footage was purchased from the unnamed distressed thriller – the finale, in which the mega-shark knocks ‘walls’ from a square-like sunken ship onto a trapped remaining diver as a detonator ticks away is rather suspect, and Colligan cites specific diving gear & swimming trunks certain cast mates had to wear to maintain rudimentary continuity – but no matter, because Mattei’s apparent goal was to get the basics for a PG film which would rent easily in video shops and play on cable channels.

The slick trailer augments the film’s action and inferred drama, but not unlike the deliberately ridiculous Mega-Shark vs. Giant Octopus (2009), the money shots are pretty much in the trailer, leaving wan lead-ups and abrupt endings for genre connoisseurs to lap up.


It’s Now Intimately Personal to the Point of Tooth-to-Skin Contact That’s More Personal Than the Last Time… Times Five!


At 95 mins., Cruel Jaws has the potential for tactile drama, but lacking the loopy finesse of Drudi’s recombinant rip-off scripts (Robowar being a high point; Shocking Dark being an absolute nadir), the written skeleton from which Mattei envisioned his cash-in to Jaws 4: The Revenge (1987) – itself a theatrical dud which probably enjoyed more views on home video and cable TV – Mattei’s ‘Jaws 5‘ opus was quite possibly written by severe novices; maybe scribes Robert Feen and Linda Morrison actually exist, but like the credited screenwriters, the tech crew and almost the entire cast, Cruel Jaws ended up being a one-time step into what many hoped was the first of several feature films.


Jealous studs and beach bunnies galore!


Colligan has great fondness for the experience, including Mattei yelling insults in broken English when the actors didn’t meet his needs, and there is a sense from the very nascent performances that most of them had fun. Older adults excepted, the twentysomethings were likely cast for the beach-friendly physiques rather than potential acting chops, and the roughness of their performances, peculiar emoting, and the glaring continuity between (likely) National Geographic stock footage and bits from the aforementioned films add to Cruel Jaws‘ innate scent de fromage.

Mattei’s editing (as Andy Lamar) is driven by impatience and a total disregard for pacing and continuity; there’s smash cuts, and then there’s Mattei cuts where characters leap from one distant scene to another in seconds because Mattei knows the only elements audiences want are taut bums in bikinis, shiny bare chests and biceps, and shark attacks. (It’s also possible connective scenes were filleted to keep the pacing as swift.)

Severin’s transfer of Mattei’s standard release / aka the ‘director’s preferred cut’ is both sharp and vibrant, with candy colours dialed up to striking neon saturation. The ever-so-slightly longer Japanese cut is less crisp and has contrast issues, but in fairness, it’s hard to spot any massive doses of the supposedly greater gore content; slivers of extra violence excepted, the longer Snyder Cut features the same discontinuous edits and transitional leaps.

Besides a tacked-on prologue about divers trying to reach a wreck holding government secrets, the story wades through familiar Jaws and Jaws 2 scenarios: local beach activities aren’t curtained and a regatta isn’t postponed in spite of much protestations by crusading / irritating marine biologist Bill Morrison (scene-smirker Gregg Hood); and the local marine park has lost its lease and is set for imminent shuttering, leaving owners Dag (actual Hulk Hogan impersonator Richard Dew), son Bobby (Scott Silveria), and wee wittle Susy (Kirsten Urso) potentially in financial ruins.

The regatta organizer’s prickish son has eyes trained on Billy’s squeeze Vanessa (Norma J. Nesheim), but he wants to beat Bobby to a pulp for having eyes on sister Gloria (Natash Etzer); meanwhile, dad is in cahoots with the local mafia, two rival hunting parties head out to stop the shark, plus sheriff Francis Berger (David Luther) attempts to kill the man-eater with a shotgun from a helicopter.

To Mattei’s credit, the film does move from one tepid kill to another, but lacking any budget for even pyrotechnics, the stock footage cheats us of quality shark footage and gore; repurposed footage from the Castellari film is used for sudden explosions, and when no set models were available to set afire, there’s just a quick zoom to the actors, some fire tickling their visages below the camera, actress Sky Palma screaming, and a Mattei cutting to the stock ka-boom.

If there was any original music, the synth bubbles by credited Michael Morahan and source songs are pretty terrible; Mattei eventually scraps the pop music for stock needle-drop cues which espouse more than a bit of John Williams’ orchestral grandeur, swiping the Star Wars fanfare with regularity.

Even with the credited one-timer audio editors, it’s not hard to suspect Mattei may have done the audio edits himself, as they too suffer from sudden shifts and disappearing elements. The soundtrack’s Dolby SR mix (!) is very bass-friendly, but Mattei doesn’t do much to thicken the audio mix and soften his hard edits.

Those who cherish the ineptitude of Fragasso and Drudi’s Troll 2 will most definitely relish the borderline amateurishness of Cruel Jaws, but non-fans of the non-sequel to Troll (1986) may be similarly underwhelmed, if not frustrated by Mattei’s direct-to-video quickie that’s not that many notches above his AliensTerminator flavorless meatball Shocking Dark; whereas that debacle consists of deadly dull master shots and stolen dialogue, Cruel Jaws at least glows with colours undoubtedly strengthened by the bright Floridian sunlight.

A helpful extra on Severin’s disc is the lengthy sharksploitation examination by genre specialist Rebekah McHendry, who covers its sudden canonization after Jaws, and the rip-offs and variations that followed in cinemas, home video, and TV.

Bruno Mattei’s final theatrical works include the giallo Legittima vendetta (1995), and Body and Soul (1997) under his English nom de plume Vincent Dawn. Between 2002-2007, Mattei directed 15 direct-to-video productions before his passing in 2007 at age 75.



© 2020 Mark R. Hasan



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