The Shark Hunter (1979)
Every now and then I need to forgo the Hollywood studio production and just wallow around in the cinema of what is commonly known and marketed as exploitation cinema. This Enzo G. Castellari film fits the mold and filled my need for an inept hastily filmed guilty pleasure.
It’s all rather ridiculous with Franco Nero hidden under a long dirty blonde wig who for some odd reason just loves to manhandle sharks. The film opens with Franco playing tug of war with a shark caught on the end of his fishing line. No need for gloves either as Franco goes about pulling the maneater in close enough to harpoon the beast.
With some funky island music over the soundtrack Franco gets into brawls in local beach side bars and teams with Jorge Luke to plan a way to bring 100 million dollars to the surface that he has located in a plane on the ocean floor. Turning up on the island is the mysterious Michael Forrest who seems to want more than just shark fishing lessons from Franco. Perhaps he’s after the sunken treasure as well.
As the plot unfolds it seems that Franco is a man with a past whose wife and son are long dead yet frequently revisit him in tormenting dreams. Catching on to what Forrest is really after he’ll also have local island mobsters to contend with as they are on to the sunken treasure and want there cut of the money.
When the mobsters put the muscle on Franco it only draws him closer to taking on Forrest as a partner with Luke. There’s sure to be gunfire and exploding boats as the men don there deep sea diving gear to get to the plane which is perilously close to sliding off an underwater cliff and plunge to greater depths and out of reach for any normal man.
As much as I like Franco Nero in film there’s something wrong seeing him in this dirty blonde wig. It just doesn’t fit the man who has that slick black hair in so many of his roles. Like many classic film fans in North America I am totally aware of who Franco is and yet I have only seen a small amount of his films. This is the 21st film by my count. His westerns and gangster films work best for me and while this has a gangland element to it, the shark hunting scenes come off as laughable.
Imagine a lone man in a rowboat who just dives off of it into the ocean to tackle a shark with a hand knife. If anyone can do it I am quite sure it would be Franco Nero but that doesn’t prevent the scene from being ridiculous. I also got a kick out of the difference in the size of the shark before the stunt man dived into the water (stock footage) and the actual creature he has a hold of by the fins.
Actor Michael Forrest is for me most associated with the Star Trek episode Who Mourns for Adonis from the original sixties series. He played Apollo who is odds with the crew of the Enterprise.
Director Castellari had worked with Nero previously on Keoma and the Death Wish like Street Law. Both of which I have seen. His name also resurfaced and got some mileage from the fact that Quentin Tarantino championed his 1978 film The Inglorious Bastards and of course borrowing the title for his war film.
As I mentioned above, this is easily marketed as exploitation cinema and it is in just such a collection that I came across it.