Color, 1995, 94 mins. 21 secs. / 96 mins. 15 secs.
Directed by "William Snyder" (Bruno Mattei)
Starring David Luther, George Barnes Jr., Scott Silveria, Kirsten Urso, Richard Dew, Gregg Hood, Norma J. Nesheim
Severin Films (Blu-ray & DVD) (US RA/R1 HD/NTSC), Cine Storm (DVD) (Germany R0 PAL) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)
A brazen cinematic patchwork that must be seen to be believed, this ridiculous sharksploitation stunner came from the marvelously consistent Bruno Mattei (under the pseudonym "William Snyder") during the final gasps of the Italian horror wave in the mid-'90s. Already infamous for his scrappy epics like Hell of the Living Dead and Rats: Night of Terror, Mattei had been getting more brazen with his imitations of Hollywood sci-fi and horror films in the '90s with outrageous offerings like RoboWar and Shocking Dark. However, this one takes it to a whole new level with shark attack footage pilfered from a variety of sources including the first three Jaws films, Enzo G. Castellari's notorious Great White (a.k.a. The Last Shark), and Joe D'Amato's Deep Blood, with plot elements from other films like Tentacles as well, all swirling around in a new story about a marine predator on the loose in a corruption-plagued seaside town.
During a nocturnal undersea exploration in Florida to retrieve some "top secret Navy material," two scuba divers named Paco and Jose end up turning into shark food along with their captain. Cut to a Winnebago shepherding Vanessa (Nesheim) and nautical researcher Billy (Hood) back to their hometown from some "sailing, tennis, discoing till dawn." At a water theme park they reconnect with the family owners -- little wheelchair-bound Susy (Urso), her widowed father, Dag (real-life Hulk Hogan impersonator Dew), and her older brother Bobby (Silveria) -- who have just been served with a one-month eviction notice by the reluctant Sheriff Francis Berger (Luther), at the same time one of the mangled shark victims washes up on the shore. Billy urges an autopsy to determine the case of death, and when a shark is indeed confirmed as the cause, the local powers that be (who have mob ties and want to take over Dag's business) aren't too thrilled about the financial losses at the start of tourist season including the upcoming regatta. As it turns out, this gigantic shark "with a mouthful of butcher knives" may have been engineered by the nearby military, and when the attacks start piling up and romantic entanglements ensue, our heroes have to put their lives on the line to stop it from chowing down on any teenager in sight.
Complete with slapstick seal comedy, a pair of friendly dolphins named Cookie and Daisy, crotch kicking, beach bullies, bad bleach jobs, baffling music choices (including a fanfare swiped from Star Wars), and glaring line flubs, Cruel Jaws really must be seen to be believed. The fact that Castellari's film had already run into major legal trouble back in the '80s was apparently no deterrent here as Mattei and company double down on the intellectual property violations here, and not surprisingly, this ended up heading straight to video in the few countries willing to handle it like Japan, Germany, and Sweden. That said, this isn't just a cut and paste job as Mattei delivers some highly original thrills of his own including an outrageous gag involving a flare gun at the one-hour mark that would've brought down the house if this ever played theaters.
In 2006, the film made its DVD debut from German label Cine Storm (as Shark Terror: The Beast) featuring a letterboxed transfer (with German, English, and Italian audio options) running 92m15s and featuring a pair of innocuous deleted scenes (1m38s) in German only. Later it was initially announced by Scream Factory in 2014 as a co-feature with Exterminators of the Year 3000, but that ended up falling by the wayside with that latter title coming as a standalone release instead. In 2020, Severin Films came to the rescue by giving Mattei's trashterpiece the red carpet treatment it deserves with separate Blu-ray and DVD releases along with a variety of bundle iterations and other swag options including a toilet decal, a bandanna, and best of all, a new novelization that ramps up the sex and violence. The film is presented in two viewing options, the Mattei cut (the standard theatrical version) and a longer "Snyder cut" (ha ha) billed as the "extra-violent Japanese cut," which... isn't actually much more violent but does incorporate that extra deleted footage. Surprisingly, these are completely different scans with significant variations in color timing and framing; see a few comparison grabs below, but if this is your first viewing, definitely go with the Mattei cut as it looks the best of all the available options and has superior pacing. Surprisingly, this one went all out on the audio front with a bona fide Dolby Spectral Recording track for the English audio (using live sound for the American actors), which is represented nicely here with a DTS-HD MA 2.0 track that decodes well to a very active surround mix; optional English SDH subtitles are also provided. Then watch the Snyder cut because you really can't have enough Cruel Jaws in your life. Also included is "The Great White Way" (20m37s), or "Sharksploitation: An Appreciation" as it's called on screen, with Rebekah McKendry covering the barrage of marine-themed nature attack films that poured out in the wake of Jaws' blockbuster success in 1975 including water-phobic fare like Tintorera, Piranha, Alligator, Devilfish, Orca, Ghost Shark, and The Shallows. Then "These Things Got Made!" (12m), a Skype interview with actor Jay Colligan, covers the film's production including the actors' attempts to grapple with the translated script, the despicable nature of his dolphin-poisoning character, the location shooting at Theater of the Sea in the Florida Keys, the highly dubious nature of some of the effects scenes, the attempt to release this as Jaws 5, and the desire to do "the best we could, whatever that was!" The lengthy, utterly shameless theatrical trailer is also included.
Severin Films (Blu-ray) (Mattei Cut)
Severin Films (Blu-ray) (Snyder Cut)
Cine Storm (DVD)
Reviewed on September 20, 2020.