As the sixties drew to a close and Burt Reynolds was on the cusp on super stardom, he turned up in this muddled thriller from the prolific Samuel Fuller.
When Barry Sullivan and Silvia Pinal lose a man to the jaws of a shark they are going to need a new diver…… cut to Burt Reynolds driving an old pick-up truck approaching a border crossing in a rocky coastal terrain somewhere in the middle east I suppose.
Burt plays a very Bogart styled character over the first half hour. He’s a gun runner who probably has a past that has led him to be divorced from his homeland and wander about over seas. He hides out in a little cafe run by a “fatman” and befriends a small boy. The local police inspector believes Burt’s passport to be a phony and bides his time before Burt is sure to trip himself up.
With little money in his pocket, Burt and his little pal create a scam together utilizing a watch that Burt sells while the boy picks the pocket of the buyer so they can begin all over again. It keeps them in food and drink while Burt attempts to find transportation out of his latest hell hole.
Supposed oceanographer Sullivan and his blonde lady Pinal hire Burt as a boat operator while diving the the deep. Burt clearly has his eyes on the boat until he suspects that Sullivan is not exactly up front on what lies beneath the waves. There’s treasure down there on a sunken ship and Burt wants in on the action.
Burt declares a partnership. “Happy Father (Sullivan). Happy daughter (Pinal). And a happy son-of-a-b–ch,” in reference to himself.
By this time Burt has already bedded Pinal and slugged it out with Barry for dominance in the partnership though Burt is a long way from actually trusting his two new partners who have no desire to share the gold bars they’re hunting for in shark infested waters.
Death and deceit are sure to await our trio of hunters and of course the double cross will be prevalent at the payoff in a scene I must admit to liking at the close of the film though I wish it was more professionally handled. Then again I wish the entire production was more professionally handled and better scripted.
Somewhat surprising since Fuller was involved. He’s credited with co-writing the script and the director’s duties. It comes as no surprise that he had a falling out with the producers and the film was more or less taken from him and not cut to his liking. In essence it becomes one of those movies you watch that you know had good intentions and a decent premise that just wasn’t carried out as intended in the finished product.
It didn’t help much when a stuntman was apparently killed by a shark during production and it seems as if that mishap was shamefully used in the promoting of the film.
No blame should be placed on Burt for the film’s shortcomings. He’s perfectly suited to the unshaven ex-patriot living day by day trying to muscle a dollar here and there. Legally or not. More than likely not.
So far I’ve left out the fact that Arthur Kennedy also stars here. I do this out of kindness as his role is strictly a cliched one as a drunken doctor who takes any payment in booze. It’s overacted and I felt rather embarrassing for the usually reliable Kennedy.
Shark! is easy to come across on DVD on many low budget labels but surprisingly turned up on blu ray from Olive Films in what is probably the best edition available for the Fuller cult and fans of “The Burt.”
For a bit of fun concerning Burt, click here to be transported to “The Burt Reynolds Starter Kit.”