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Great White (1981)

This Italian import like many of it’s kindred has received numerous titles upon release in various countries around the globe. I know it as Great White due to it’s very short North American release and the fact that I snagged an original film poster at the time.

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To celebrate the Beach Party Blogathon kindly endorsed by Speakeasy and Silver Screenings I settled upon a film that actually was pulled from North American theaters after Universal Studios sued the makers over the film for it’s outright similarities to Jaws and that films first sequel Jaws 2.

From exploitation director Enzo G. Castellari who also gave us the underwater themed The Shark Hunter, comes this laughable feature starring two well known American actors. Vic Morrow and James Franciscus.

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“There’s something fishy here and I don’t like it.”

Could the young actor with this line possibly have seen the model used in the attacks?

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Following the blue print set forth by the two films starring Roy Scheider this feature begins with a teenage windsurfer challenging the waves and winds while his gang of friends party on the beach. Sure enough the camera angle goes underwater looking up from a large predators point of view. It won’t be long before a large piece of the board is missing thanks to a toothy bite. The rest is academic.

This sets the plot in motion towards familiar territory. While Franciscus and Morrow search for the missing boy the teenage gang decide to join in. In a rather schlocky scene our leading men come across a chewed up boat much like Ben Gardner’s from the 1975 classic. No head with a missing eye but we do find a hole in the hull and a rubbery chewed up arm.

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Time for the town meeting and Vic Morrow sporting a terrible accent (Irish I think) launches into a poor man’s Quint speech warning the counsel they need to rectify this quick. Low and behold we have a rather shady Mayor who arranges for shark nets to be installed along the surf. There’s a windsurfing race that won’t be cancelled. Not on his watch. Our rubber model shark quickly pecks a whole in the net to allow easier access at dinner time.

Not only is this predator incredibly large but unlike Mr. Spielberg’s creation, this Italian knock off is overly intelligent. At least I think so. While diving below in the hopes of dynamiting the killer Morrow and Franciscus find themselves trapped in a cave thanks to the shark actually pushing rocks in their way. A bit later sensing food in the shape of teenagers it actually let’s it’s body get chewed up by a boats propeller to disable it. Maybe not so smart after all. Neither are the film makers with their inept model used for the underwater scene.

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When the daughter of Franciscus is severely hurt in the attack it allows Jimmie a chance to have his big dramatic scene at her bedside. At the same time the Mayor takes matters into his own hands catching a helicopter and with the use of a winch and a large piece of meat goes shark fishing from the sky. Unbelievable and don’t be surprised if things don’t work out to well. Let me clarify this. For the Mayor and the chopper, not the shark. Wasn’t there a chewed up chopper in Jaws 2?

With the shark on a feeding frenzy good old Vic has had enough. God bless him. He’s going in to the deep waters and do “what a man’s gotta do.” Like Quint he’ll be sure to get a rather up close and personal look at the jagged teeth of the large rubber head used by the production crew to create terror for the viewing audience. Franciscus in the Roy Scheider like role may have to step up to finish what Vic started.

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Shark movies are all over the place now it seems with the straight to video craze and cable films popping up every second week but I guess back when this one was released it was so obviously a twisted version of the two Universal scripts that steps were taken to protect their product. They shouldn’t have bothered because after one week at the theater word can travel fast and for the cost of a few lawyers Universal probably spent more on them than any income considered lost on the Jaws franchise.

It’s all laughably done thanks to the model shark mixed in with some stock footage that never comes close to matching. But then in the cinema of exploitation that isn’t really high on the list of standards. There’s even a pop flavored song over the final credits. Perhaps it’s to celebrate the big guys demise. Sorry, I didn’t mean to play spoiler there.

great white poster

If you’ve ever had the pleasure to watch Tentacles from 1977 you’ll appreciate my point on the cheesey model used in this tale of a big fish on a rampage chewing beach goers while two slumming American actors attempt to catch him thus having one heck of a fishing tale to tell their pals back in Hollywood where they hope to return someday and star in an A budget film once again. Whew out of breath there.

Since we’re talking beach films here’s a bonus link to yours truly on the island of St. Lucia talking about Frankie and Annette from a year ago.

10 Comments »

  1. I’ve never even HEARD of this movie! The plot does sounds suspiciously similar to Jaws. And I can’t believe you gave away the ending! (Just kidding!) You gotta hand it to the filmmakers, though, that is a great rubber shark head.

    Thanks for wading into the Beach Party Blogathon!

    • Back in my “yute” as Joe Pesci might say I was nuts about Jaws(some say I still am) so this film being released and then pulled was big news to me. Finally located a copy a couple years ago to experience the cheesssssse. lol.

  2. How hilarious. I just got a Blu-Ray of Luigi Cozzi’s Contamination to review and one of the special features is on Italian movies that “borrowed” from Hollywood blockbusters and yep, Great White gets a mention there. I missed this in the theaters back when it was released (for all of what, two weeks?). But I do recall some friends seeing it and not being all that impressed by that rubber shark.

    According to the documentary, Universal has quite a long memory as there was supposed to be a screening of Great White along with another film by its director that got shut down soon after the ad for it went live. Oh well. So much for getting this on a Blu-Ray at some point…

    Sine note: I just realized Cozzi was the foreign correspondent for Famous Monsters of FIlmland for years starting in the mid-60’s. He got the gig by writing Forry Ackerman and asking for the job! That and the other stuff on the disc made me respect the man all the more. I still can’t watch those Hercules flicks he did without cracking up though.

  3. The cheek of trying to emulate such a classic! But at least they went all-out on the budget – for a moment I almost thought that WAS a REAL shark in the water…

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