The Third Dimension is Terribly Awful.
Jaws 3. I can’t refer to it as Jaws 3-D, because I’ve never seen it in that format. Actually, the film title on screen says Jaws III, even if the all the artwork says otherwise. You know this film was originally going to be called Jaws 3, People 0 and was going to be a piss-take/parody? Great concept, and it would have been better than what we actually got. There was a fair amount of time between Jaws 2 and this, and in the meantime 3D had sort of taken off again for the first time since the 50’s, which meant the presence of a lot of horror movies with body parts coming right towards the audience. The best example of this was an eyeball being squeezed out of a head and – BOOM! IN YOUR FACE!! – in Friday the 13th Part 3, which I have seen in 3D because a few years ago Channel 4 had a whole weekend of 3D entertainment, albeit with the old crappy glasses, not the ultra-sophisticated ones you get these days. Amazingly, they showed Friday the 13th Part 3 TWICE over that weekend, a seal of recommendation for sure. Maybe they showed it twice because the public couldn’t believe the film really was that bad and had to double-check. Anyway, Jaws 3 wasn’t part of that weekend’s entertainment, which was a real shame, because I’ve always wanted to see this laughably silly, undeniably awful but strangely watchable turkey in its original version.
Say what you like about Jaws 2, at least it felt like it belonged to the same universe as the original. Same location, mostly the same cast, same composer…. it was nowhere near as great as Spielberg’s film, but it was cut from the same cloth, at least in terms of atmosphere. Jaws 3 on the other hand, barring the inevitable re-appearance of John Williams’ shark theme, does not feel like a Jaws film. True, we have two recurring characters (the two Brody sons), but they’re played by different actors, so no continuity sadly. We’ve moved from Amity Island on to the very real locale of Sea World, Florida. Now the notion of Jaws laying siege to a water park is fantastic, but the reality is isn’t so exciting. Most of the time Jaws almost bites people, but she keeps missing. Oh yeah, this shark is actually designated a gender for the first time, for this is the ‘mutha’ of a baby shark that our heroes capture early on.
Jaws 3 was the last in the series I got round to seeing. This is because it was rarely shown on British TV, at least not on the same level as the other three. I mean, Jaws 1 and 2 were on ALL the time. Even Jaws the Revenge, made four years after 3, seemed to get more screenings in the early nineties. So, the anticipation was unbearable. My sister had seen it at the cinema, when it was shown in 3D. She had enjoyed it as far as I remember. All I knew was that it was the one set in Florida’s Sea World, and that there was a scene where Jaws smashes an underwater observation tunnel with loads of tourists inside. Now that’s a worst-nightmare situation squared. I remember the excitement when ITV advertised an upcoming Saturday evening screening – the ads showed the fin in the water, and that was enough to get me quivering with excitement. However, the film itself turned out to be a bit of a disappointment – true, the screening was sure to have been cut given the 6pm-ish broadcast time, but it felt strangely bloodless, lacking in any kind of oomph. How did it all end this way? Let’s start from the start. The Universal logo here looks slightly different than it has in any other film, probably to emphasise its three-dimensionality. Nice.
As is the way it should always be, a Jaws film must start with a death. In the first one it was poor Chrissie. In the second it was two hapless photographers. The fourth one would keep us waiting a few minutes, teasing us with some on-land footage before delivering the goods. The third one? Well, the third one has Jaws MkIII eat a fish. A bit of a fish. That’s right, she doesn’t even eat the whole thing. The third Jaws shark (actually there are two in this film, but I can’t be bothered to differentiate them – one’s fake-looking and big, the other’s fake-looking and enormous) is definitely the pickiest and most fussy of all the lot. Her snobbiness may really get on your nerves soon enough. So in the first of the film’s landmark 3-D effects, the dead fish’s head floats calmly towards the screen. Some of the underwater visuals in this film are pretty good – there’s lots of aquatic life to gawk at, even if some of their movements look strangely sped up. After the fish head, we then get the second blatant 3-D effect, that of the film’s title rising from the depths of the ocean and RIGHT TOWARDS THE SCREEN! Also, get this, the title’s ‘mouth’ is open as it approaches us, SNAPPING shut at the last second! Brilliant! This is the kind of 3-D exploitation the medium was invented for. Now if you’re watching the 3-D version, the title will read as Jaws 3-D. However, if it’s the 2-D version, it’ll read as Jaws III, which is a bit odd. The second one wasn’t given the Roman numeral treatment, so why this one? It’s like Death Wish II being followed by Death Wish 3. Continuity, people, please!
All of the credits during this opening have a really tacky, cheap faux-3D effect, but nothing else literally snaps at the viewer like the title does. Louis Gossett, Jr. gets the most impressive on-screen credit, as we discover he plays the role of ‘Calvin Bouchard’. I never understand why films showcase a certain character’s name like this – are we meant to give an extra special shit about this character? We then move above ground to see one of those water skiing human pyramid things in action – it looks very cool, I must admit. Throughout all of this the music plays, music not composed by John Williams, I must add. This score, although integrating Williams’ classic Jaws theme throughout, is the work of Alan Parker. Not the same Alan Parker who directed Bugsy Malone and Angel Heart. This new score is pretty good – not on the same level as Williams’, but pretty good. We find out that the script was co-written by Richard Matheson, who created I am Legend! What happened? Off day, I suppose. Also, the film was ‘suggested by the novel Jaws by Peter Benchley’, which comes off weird, like the inanimate tome itself was the one that came up with the idea for the film, which it didn’t. Finally, the director of this film is Joe Alves, who worked as a production designer on the first two Jaws films – this would be his first and only film as director. Thank God for that.
So Jaws is lurking underneath the skiers (one of whom is a flirty, boisterous Lea Thompson, a few years before she stared as Marty McFly’s mum in Back to the Future), and we’re hoping at least one of them might get chomped, or that there might even be a close call when the pyramid crumbles and they all end up in the drink, but there’s not even that. It just lurks, watching, edging a little closer, but mostly staying suspiciously still, something I didn’t think sharks could pull off without dying. To be fair, the sharks in this film get to do a lot of things they can’t do in real life, so should I bother nit-picking? Yes. Yes I should. Jaws decides she’s already filled up on fish, so we stay above ground and realise that we’re no longer on Amity Island, but in the very real location of Sea World, Florida, where a load of bored kids are being forced to pledge allegiance to the underwater flag or something, and the press are in town to cover the long-awaited opening of the Undersea Kingdom, the chief of which is Calvin Bouchard, who we know is a big deal because of the opening credits. In a moment of extraordinarily lax security, Jaws manages to sneak in the gates to Sea World, smashing the way in as she does so, which means everyone’s ripping in to the ripped, buffed Shelby Overman (great name) for screwing up the gates or something and that Mike Brody’s ‘going to be pissed’. Thanks for introducing us viewers to this guy by using his full name for no other reason than for us to go ‘Mike Brody!’ Er, which one was he again? He was the older Brody kid, the one who barely got away with a shark swimming right past him in the first film and then barely got away with another shark trying to kill him in the second one.
Bouchard can be seen stuffing wads of cash into his pockets before giving an interview to the press, so we know he’s corrupt, and if that wasn’t enough, there’s a barely heard reference to his ‘colourful past’ mentioned by his PA, so god knows what he’s been up to. One of the big draws of the day he reveals, is the appearance of Phillip FitzRoyce (‘with a capital R’), so that’s something to look forward to, I suppose. Mike Brody shows up in his third regeneration of the series, this time played by Dennis Quaid (poor man), and he orders his lackeys to fix the gate, but in work time, NOT overtime! NO OVERTIME!!!
Wow, all these characters are fantastic, aren’t they? Here’s another one – Kay (Bess Armstrong), Mike’s girlfriend, who is in charge (remember that) she likes whales and especially two dolphins called Cindy and Sandy, the latter two seeming to have some kind of psychic awareness that there’s a shark in these here waters. There’s functional dialogue between Mike and Kay, from whom we learn that the little Brody brother will also be visiting for a while. He was the one who did that cute mimicry with Papa Brody at the dinner table in the first one, and who saw lovely Marge get swallowed in whole before his very eyes in the second one. FitzRoyce, despite his Scottish name, turns out to be a none-more English toff who dresses like a Great White Hunter (which in effect, he will become), played by Simon ‘Manimal’ MacCorkindale, while his cockney ward Jack (given to saying ‘guv’nor’ and ‘mate’ a lot), is played by P.H Moriarty, in possibly the least threatening performance he has ever given. Lil’ Sean (third reincarnation played by John Putch) and Mike have their reunion, which has little to no emotional impact for us viewers because the filmmakers keep changing the bloody actors.
Meanwhile Overman tries to fix the gate and becomes the first human victim of Jaws MkIII. There’s a series of flash edits before we get the cool 3-D shot of Overman’s severed arm floating towards the screen, complete with protruding bone. Jaws appears to make an aggressive noise before the kill, which is impossible, but since this is one of the better moments in the film, I’ll let it slide. You’d better make the most of that nice bit of gore, as the film gets bogged down with bullshit between the Brodys, Kay and Mama McFly as they get pissed up on beers, chew the fat, play ‘stand-off’ and blah-blah-blah. I mean, this film is only an hour and a half (the shortest of the series before Jaws the Revenge came in at an even leaner running time four years later), we don’t have time for this shit! Sean fancies Mama McFly and they canoodle on the beach and we find out that the former doesn’t like the water, understandably enough. Also, Mike is probably going to have to travel to Venezuela because of his work. Kay understands. We don’t. Two muppets sneak out into Sea World territory to do something or another – they get eaten (entirely offscreen, very disappointing), as does their inflatable boat (the horror!), Mike and Kay play a dull prank on the smooching Sean and McFly (who uses her feminine wiles to completely cure Lil’ Brody of his longtime fear). All this stuff passes the time inoffensively enough, but we need FitzRoyce to liven things up the next morning as he walks in on some dolphin action observed by Kay.
FitzRoyce is a regular cad, a real twat, but he’s definitely the best character in the film, given great ham by Manimal. He’s also an old-fashioned chauvinist, rejecting Kay’s offer of help because he’s after ‘someone in authority’ instead, completely oblivious to the fact that she’s the one in charge. He gets a great moment when Kay asks him why he rammed a Japanese whaler all those years back (yeah, I know, who cares) and he delivers the response ‘because he got in my way…ruined my shot’ with such plummy smugness that I don’t know whether to hate him or love him. The cad also tries to wangle a dinner out of Kay but she’s not interested, much to his bemusement. Mike meanwhile has to take some bizarre verbal abuse from Overman’s girlfriend, who’s all pissed-off because he didn’t come home last night. Check this killer dialogue:
‘You can tell Shelby Overman for me he can take a flyin’ leap in a rollin’ doughnut on a gravel driveway, you hear?’
Er, what? Anyway, Mike and Kay reckon Overman’s hungover, but they still take the mini-sub out to look for him, and this where the special effects really start to look embarrassing. The super-imposed effects of the sub traversing underwater stick out like sore thumbs, as do the shots of Mission Control or wherever observing all the action through a window, which look really ropey. The worst bit is when the sub glides (I’m assuming this was meant to look graceful, given Parker’s sweeping theme) across the screen – only the front of it seems to disappear, becoming at one with the waves. Just watch it, it looks awful! Also, the amount of grain throughout this sequence is really noticeable. Something about the general rule back in the day of film’s inferior quality once it’s been put through the 3-D grinder and then converted back to 2D, or so I’ve heard – I’ve never seen a version of this film that looks above VHS quality. Mike and Kay exit the sub and look around the ‘sunken Spanish galleon’ where we get an indulgent shot of a phoney skeleton with its hand sticking right into the audiences faces! That’s the problem when films with as many in-your-face shots like these are screened in 2-D – they’re not effective at all, and this shot in particular seems to go on forever. Probably looked cool back in ’83 though, which is why this film really needs a proper 3-D overhaul on Blu-Ray. The dolphins have tagged along for the ride and one of them is trying to warn Mike and Kay in dolphin-speak that something bad is about to happen, but because this isn’t a wet version of Lassie, Kay shrugs this paranoia off, right before JAWS rams into the galleon, but get this – Jaws moves like a fucking battering ram. It displays absolutely no signs of life apart from the fact that some stage hands have simply pushed it forward, after which, and this is so, so good – it moves backwards in exactly the same manner. Now sharks can’t swim backwards, and if they would, they certainly wouldn’t do it the way Jaws does in this film. These shots are used along with actual shark footage, so Jaws changes appearance within the same sequence.
Mike and Kay panic and use the dolphins to help them get to the surface, all the while pursued by a maniacally laughing Jaws. Well, the laughing bit’s not true, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the filmmakers tried to get that to work. They barely make it, and in another ‘rewind, NOW!’ moment, Jaws smashes into the closed-just-in-time gates and folds back in on himself just like a bad shark model would (but a real shark wouldn’t). ‘What the HELL was that?’, Mike exclaims. To be fair, any scenes involving sharks are suspenseful to me, so even what we’ve just seen was kind of scary, but I’m an idiot, so there you go. Word reaches Calvin about the shark, so the question is what to do about it? Well, the first option would be to kill it (and film the killing too!). Kay is appalled, but she just doesn’t understand. Calvin and FitzRoyce clearly have a silent ‘women, eh?’ exchange as our clueless Kay tries to convince them to keep it in captivity rather than do it over, but even her boyfriend Mike wants the thing dead. After all, he’s seen sharks in action, and as we all know, sharks are MURDERERS. Top marks to Quaid for delivering a line that ridiculous with such a straight face. Bravo, sir! FitzRoyce also gets a good one in with the line ‘They die…magnificently!’
So beneath the waves we go again, but not before some gratuitous 3D shots of a hypodermic needle squirting tranquiliser juice right in our faces! FitzRoyce (complete with shark-bait orange wet suit with UK flag stitched onto the arm) is clearly loving the thrill of the hunt, and boring Mike Brody just doesn’t see the fun in all of this, thinking ‘Her Majesty’s attitude is far too cavalier. What a dullard. Oh wait, he was almost killed twice by those murdering sharks, so I take it back. One thing he and Kay do successfully insist on is NO GRENADES! Fair enough, because if they did get used now we wouldn’t get our explosive ending, so best to save them. There’s some oblique reference to Australia muttered by Jack when he starts moaning about not getting to use the grenades, but we don’t get to find out more about that, sadly, but we do get a bit when Manimal chucks the grenade into Mike’s terrified hands and Jack deadpans the reassurance that the pin has to be pulled for it to be dangerous. Wow, an intentionally funny bit! Our heroes set sail on what looks like a half-raft/half music stage, the kind Green Day died on when it sunk in The Simpsons Movie. Kay, FitzRoyce and Jack delve into the deep while Mike frets up above. Jaws attacks Kay by biting onto her backpack, but Jack gets the bastard with a knife, after which we cut to stock footage of a real shark. The fake one’s fin emerges above the waves and Mike goes for a crossbow shot but the bloody thing’s jamming or something – oh, the suspense! When he does finally get the thing to work, the spear goes RIGHT IN OUR FACES!! The spear’s attached to a weight which slows Jaws down enough for Kay to tranqulise it. Calvin, heartless git that he is, is only interested in knowing if the footage FitzRoyce took of the shark survived the incident. After FitzRoyce confirms the film made it – only then does he ask if everyone’s okay. Bastard.
Jaws, still knocked out, is laid to rest in a pool, but she doesn’t seem too animated afterwards – maybe sharks aren’t meant to be confined like this? She gets going after having some oxygen stuffed down her gob, and therefore is all set to be put out on display at Sea World like some damned circus freak. The next day sees the opening of the Undersea Kingdom, so cue more water-skiing action, some poor worker having to spend their shift dressed in a whale outfit and Brody still wondering what the hell happened to Overman. Remember him? Remember any shark victims? It feels like ages ago since Jaws settled on a victim, the picky git. Calvin then secretly decides to put Jaws out on immediate display, so buzzed he is by the amount of tickets he’s currently selling. This isn’t going to end well. Good, we need something dramatic, what with all these endless scenes of water-skiers water-skiing; it’s as though the film was an advert for Sea World or something, which it couldn’t possibly be, given that the attraction in question is depicted as a stalking ground for killer sharks. That’s not good publicity. Little Sean Brody hooks up with Mama McFly and she persuades him to ride the bumper boats – uh-oh. A tour guide who acts eerily kindly, like the Good Witch of the North, invites hapless tourists to the Undersea Kingdom itself, an underwater glass tunnel where you can see all the little fishies swim past. Now the idea of this is brilliant. The idea of a shark attacking this attraction is terrifying. I remember when I was little and I went to Southend-on-Sea and I heard there was an underwater tunnel like the one in Jaws 3. I was so excited, but the tunnel wasn’t actually under the sea, it was more like an aquarium in a basement with some goldfish in it. Before we enter the Undersea Kingdom a model of a sea serpent above the entrance sticks its tongue RIGHT IN OUR FACES!! The special effects in the underwater tunnel are endearingly awful, not at all convincing. The people, the tunnel and the sea outside all seem to exist on separate planes. Some intentionally bad effects come in the form of tentacles which come out of the sets and attack the guests, making the whole thing feel like a ghost train rather than an educational study on aquatic life.
After some bullshit between Mike and Kay, there’s an announcement over the tannoy boasting the surprise attraction of the day – Jaws! Kay heads over to the shark, passing the cheapest ‘will this do?’ sign clearly put together at the last minute, hardly fitting for such a spectacular attraction – only the ‘Sh-sh-SHARK’ stutter of the text suggests any thought was put into this feeble promotional tool. In the only genuinely emotional bit of the movie, the helpless shark dies right there in the pool, clearly not suited to captivity. I know sharks are MURDERERS, but I really feel sorry for the poor thing – it was just minding its business, we capture it, we imprison it, and it gives up. Even FitzRoyce looks put out, but Kay offers a brutal ‘go ahead, photograph it’ sting right to his face. I like FitzRoyce. I hate Calvin Bouchard. Fucking shark killer. He’s the real murderer. I demand vengeance. Jaws MkIII, Part II is going to attempt to deliver it. Attempt, I stress. He doesn’t even kill Calvin. Sorry about the spoiler.
The Undersea Kingdom attraction seems to be a hit, but only before everything goes pear-shaped with the overdue reappearance of Overman, his savaged body drifting up against one of the windows, scaring the shit out of the guests – all but one, who takes it upon himself to push some poor girl RIGHT UP AGAINST THE WINDOW! What starts off as a good shock – Overman’s body is mangled to say the least – becomes absolutely hilarious when this sadistic fucker insists that this poor girl get a better look at the corpse. Next up is the scene that had to be trimmed in the UK for the film to get a ‘PG’ certificate (it would be released uncut as a ‘15’ on video) – Brody pulls back the sheet cloaking the rapidly retrieved corpse of Overman and in a grisly shot we see his face in full close-up, complete with bulging eye, torn skin, bad moustache and sea bug crawling out of his mouth! Brody holds back the puke and Kay inspects the body herself, where we get to see a severed arm bone and plenty of innards. Yuck.
Kay ‘Oh my God’’s her way out of the room (quite funny acting here) and meanwhile there’s some blocked pumps that Calvin won’t responsibly deal with, muttering some crap about switching pipes or whatever. Note the music that’s playing in the ‘Neptune Room’ where Calvin and all of Sea World’s finest are wining and dining is a muzak version of the film’s Triumphant Theme. I like it when films do that – James Bond films favour this, like when 007 walks into some seedy nightclub and someone’s singing the main theme on karaoke or something. Kay and Mike walk in on Calvin, FitzRoyce and Jack and try to convince them that the bite radius on Overman’s corpse had to belong to a HUGE shark, and in order to get the point across, Kay lays it out very, very clearly.
Kay: Overman was killed inside the park. The baby was caught inside the park. Its mother is INSIDE THE PARK.
Wait, wait, wait, some damn shark’s MUTHA??!! Yeah, you got that right, and she’s right outside! Everyone inside the Neptune room gets to see this miracle of nature, and of GUMS. Yes, Jaws MkIII, Part II is very gummy. Just look at her grimace! In fact, I’m going to start calling Jaws MkIII, Part II GUMS for convenience’s sake. Gums heads for the ski-park, so maybe all that earlier footage of water-skiers will finally pay off with some bloody death. Ha! Fat chance. Jack and FitzRoyce scramble onto the beach and try to get all the idiots out of the water – Jack even ends up socking some bloke in the jaw in the midst of all the confusion. Mint! Mike commandeers a golf cart or something like that and tries to use its pathetic top speed to get to the water skiers – he ends up capsizing the damn thing in a shocking example of driving. He proceeds on foot and screams at the skiers but everyone’s having such a good time and not paying him any attention, so in the end he looks like a nutter. Now, as farcical as some of these scenes are, with skiers wobbling and falling over or the priceless reactions as they see Gums moving in for the almost-kill, the simple sight of a shark fin speeding through the water is undeniably freaky – maybe it’s just me, but I just can’t help but find it scary. Nevertheless, the fact that Gums doesn’t kill one single skier as absolutely unforgivable. I want blood!!! She moves pretty slowly – probably the slowest shark ever. Maybe she just can’t get to anyone in time. She fails to dispatch anyone at the Bumper Boats either– merely getting away with a little chomp of Mama McFly’s thigh. She also destroys a raft with a load of potential victims on it, except she doesn’t even eat a single one. There is blood in the water at this stage, but I think that’s because one of the people cuts themselves on a broken slab of wood. Seriously. Things are getting heavy now – even the dolphins Cindy and Sandy, whom Kay has loved so much up until now, are treated as expendable. Sean heads off in the ambulance with Mama McFly, so that’s them out of the way. Calvin gets on the radio and assures the guests that ‘technical difficulties’ are the reason the Undersea Kingdom has to temporarily shut down, but Gums (aka ‘The Big Bitch’) is already on her way there to get a closer look at the hapless folk already inside. In one of the funniest moments of the film, a little girl goes ‘Daddy, Daddy, look at the fish!’ to which Daddy turns around and exclaims ‘HOLY SHIT!’ Gums rams right into the tunnel, and as I’ve said before, the idea of a shark attacking an underwater tunnel filled with people one hell of a scary notion. Again, she won’t kill anyone; she doesn’t even properly break the glass and enter the tunnel! The guests make it through to a separate room that’s already half-flooded, but they’re essentially safe, even though they’re still all panicky.
Now this is where I hand over to my good friend (and fellow film-commentary partner-in-crime) Mark for his perceptive observation on a particularly animated extra during this sequence.
I remember how excited I was when my mum said that Jaws 3 was going to be on TV Saturday night and I could watch it if I was good. I had at this point seen the frankly amazing Jaws and the really enjoyable (harshly maligned) Jaws 2 and could not wait to complete the trilogy. To be honest I only remember two things from that first viewing, that the 3D sucked (to be fair I am red/green colour blind so the effect was somewhat muted for me) and that the scene where the visitors to the park get trapped in the underwater tunnel had the funniest supporting player I had ever seen! Mutely looking around in all directions with the frantic air of a hyperactive squirrel he just stands out a mile. Even as the water tight doors close and the panic dies down still his head pinballs around like a dog trying to located a buzzing insect that only it can hear (the pained look of confusion on his face is frankly hilarious). Sadly we never get to hear any direlogue from ‘Frantic blonde man’ (that’s my descriptive, I couldn’t find him listed in the credits) or what happens to him after they all get rescued (it’s worth noting that he’s the first one out when the doors open, women and children first be damned!) but I like to think that he went home and calmed down over a nice cup of tea. Years later whenever I see Jaws 3 the 3D still sucks but I am happy to say ‘Frantic blonde man’ remains as brilliant as ever.
Thank you Mark! Intercut amongst all of the above action is some dull crap about rejigging the tunnels or something, I couldn’t care less, but I can’t help but notice just how uninvolved Mike seems to be emotionally – I mean, he’s there in the moment, wanting to save the day, but what about the bigger picture, the whole antagonism he must be feeling towards sharks in general? True, we did get that whole ‘sharks are murderers’ stance earlier, but here it’s almost like the first two Jaws films never happened. Oh well, at least Kay has now agreed to go with Mike to Venezuela. As for Gums, she needs to be lured back into the filtration pipe where she’s been hiding, and FitzRoyce can guarantee her return by tantalising her with live bait – now before you go thinking what a heartless git he comes across as, he is suggesting that he goes himself, along with cameras to capture the whole thing – what a star! He and Jack go under and release some blood capsules and make a racket to try and lure Gums to them – amazingly, their plan works, although FitzRoyce is still in the pipe with her. The lifeline supporting FitzRoyce then (in)conveniently snaps resulting in a bizarrely grinning Gums taking the poor guy whole in her mouth! Then, with the kind of crazy camera angles the film should have had more of, we are INSIDE Gums’ mouth with FitzRoyce inside as he’s crushed to a bloody mess! It’s not fair really- FitzRoyce was the only genuinely charismatic character in the film, and given who survives this film – Calvin, his Smithers-ish lackey who keeps holding off the press, all those water-skiers – it’s not on, although given his daredevil persona, I suppose it was inevitable he wouldn’t make it. Jack doesn’t take his loss at all well – screaming ‘GUV’NOR!!!!’ repeatedly into the abyss – he and FitzRoyce seemed genuinely matey and reassuringly free of class antagonism. Oh well.
This is as good a time as any to comment on Calvin’s inability to respect the shark’s presence – he keeps referring to her as ‘a damn fish’. I really wish he’d been eaten by Gums, he deserves it more than anyone, but Gums doesn’t know that, I suppose. Mike has finished fixing the underwater tunnel and Kay has joined him but so has Gums, having escaped from the bolted shut filtration pipe! It must have swam backwards to do this, and as we all know, sharks can’t swim backwards! Yeah, I only really knew that from the goofs bit on imdb, I admit it. Luckily Sindy and Barbie or whoever – the dolphins- distract Gums so that our heroes can swim back to Mission Control. Gums tries to stop them by lodging its jaw in the door, but she’s stopped from getting in any further. At least the guests in the tunnel can now escape, including ‘Frantic blonde man’, bless him!
However, nothing – NOTHING – in the film can prepare you for the infamous ending, the one that every single online review of Jaws 3 focuses on because it’s just that bad. Yep, it’s GUMS BREAKING THROUGH THE GLASS! Mike, Kay, Calvin, Calvin’s nephew and some other staff member are in Mission Control but something’s heading towards them. Slowly. Not swimming, because it’s moving without any kind of realistic movement – it resembles a jelly baby on a conveyer belt. It’s Gums. In slow-motion, Mike, Kay and Calvin look up and start to realise just what’s about to happen. Then, Mike screams ‘SHARK!’ or ‘SHIT!’ and Kay screams the scream of the damned and Gums just keeps moving forward. She reaches the glass, and it smashes in probably the worst special effect in any blockbuster movie, ever. Actually, that’s not fair – the surfing sequence in Die Another Day or The Scorpion King in the second Mummy movie are worse than this, but this one deserves some kind of special credit because it was so clearly trying to be absolutely terrifying, but just comes off as hilarious.
Mission Control floods instantly, the anonymous staff member gets knocked out and in his only act of heroism, Calvin picks her up and swims her to safety – his nephew doesn’t get so lucky. He’s picked up by Gums and crunched bloodily (well, the dummy version of him is) but NOT eaten properly. Why? Instead, his body is left to sink to the surface. Why is Gums so damned picky? Is she trying to lose weight? Well in this case it’s for plot reasons, as FitzRoyce still needs to be in the back of the mouth. As she tries to get at Mike and Kay (Gums is trapped in the hole of Mission Control, the back of its body moving in endearingly awkward stop-motion crookedness), we can see that FitzRoyce’s body is indeed still inside Gums, his hand with grenade (remember the grenades?) protruding. Mike and Kay fashion a hook and manage, after a few necessary bad attempts, to pull the pin out of the grenade, swim under cover and watch Gums EXPLODE! Of course, given that this is 3-D, Gums explodes RIGHT IN OUR FACES! Her actual JAWS are hurled out towards the camera, and bizarrely are given the freeze-frame treatment so that the audience can ooh and aah just that little bit longer.
Mike and Kay swim to the surface, the sun is rising, but where are the dolphins? Oh shit, don’t tell me they didn’t make it! Oh, they did. The last shot of the movie is one of the all-time bad closing shots, as Kay, arms outstretched, yells ‘ALRIGHT!!!!!’ and Cindy and Mindy jump out of the water, bookending the frame perfectly, yet rendered in weird 3D that doesn’t make them look like they’re really there, all the while Alan Parker’s Triumphant Theme brings it all to a crescendo. Oh God, please fade to black.
So that’s that – Jaws 3 is NOT GOOD, but I find it strangely loveable; Joe Alves has no knack of handling suspense or excitement, Dennis Quaid would have to wait a few more years before he become brilliant and compared to the first Jaws film (and even the second), it’s a joke. Yet it’s a joke I like revisiting – it’s a bad B-movie (although this particular B-movie cost twenty million dollars to make) but one I have a soft spot for. Guilty pleasure all round!
And here’s that hapless staff member dressed as a whale.