Sunday, January 28, 2007

Films of Michael Caine #53: Jaws the Revenge

Cast: Lorraine Gary (Ellen Brody), Lance Guest (Michael). Mario Van Peebles (Jake), Karen Young (Carla), Michael Caine (Hoagie), Judith Barsi (Thea), Lynn Whitfield (Louisa), Mitchell Anderson (Sean), Jay Mello (Young Sean), Cedric Scott (Clarence), Charles Bowleg (William), Melvin Van Peebles (Mr Witherspoon).

Crew: Joseph Sargent (director and producer), Michael de Guzman (writer), Michael Small (music), John McPherson (cinematography), Michael Brown (editor), John J Lloyd (production designer).

Synopsis: A great white shark kills Amity police deputy Sean Brody just before Christmas. His mother Ellen also lost her husband to such a shark. She becomes convinced the shark is hunting her family. Ellen go to the Bahamas to visit her surviving son Michael, his wife Carla and their daughter Thea. Michael is a marine biologist doing research with his friend Jake. Ellen becomes close to a pilot called Hoagie. Jake and Michael encounter a great white shark at sea. Jake persuades Michael to help him study it. The shark almost eats Thea. Ellen takes a boat out to sea, determined to confront the shark. Michael and Jake find her, with help from Hoagie. Jake gets the shark to swallow a device that will give it electric shocks. Ellen rams the boat into the shark and it explodes …


Peter Benchley’s novel Jaws became a hugely successful film in 1975, grossing more than $250 million in the US. It spawned three sequels, but each one was less successful than the last. The third picture in the franchise, Jaws 3-D (1983), had abandoned the original cast and setting for a shark attack movie augmented with 3-D effects. In 1987 Joseph Sargent became director and producer for the next sequel, provisionally named Jaws 4. Sargent’s previous experience came from 30 years in TV. Writer Michael de Guzman was asked to develop a new story based on Benchley’s characters.

The $23 million film ignored the events of Jaws 3-D, instead focusing on survivors of the Brody family from the first two movies in the franchise. Lorraine Gary reprised her role as Ellen, while adult actors took the roles of her grown-up sons. Caine was hired to play Hoagie, Ellen’s love interest. News reports claimed he was paid £1-1.5 million for this supporting role, filmed over a few weeks in the Bahamas. In 1987 Caine told the Sun newspaper his teenage daughter Natasha had persuaded him to make the picture. ‘But I must admit there were three other attractions – the location in the Bahamas, the script and the money. This Jaws film gets back to the basic terror of the first Jaws films.’

Shooting began on location in New England during February 1987, with Martha’s Vineyard used to depict the Long Island resort community of Amity, as in Jaws. After a week the production moved to Nassau in the Bahamas for two months of location work.

On March 30 Caine won his first Oscar for Hannah and Her Sisters, but missed the ceremony because of filming commitments on Jaws the Revenge. ‘I only had a tiny part in it,’ Caine told Hello magazine in 2000. ‘I thought that I would be able to be in Los Angeles for the Oscars but the filming over-ran by one day so I couldn’t get there. It’s a terrible regret for me that I couldn’t be there to receive the Oscar in person. Instead I was spending that day on a picture which I’m told, because I have never seen it, turned out not to be very good.’

In April the cast and crew shifted to Universal Studios in California to finish shooting, with the production wrapping at the end of May. Jaws the Revenge opened in American cinemas just three months later, rated PG-13. The movie was savaged by critics and grossed just over $20 million. Caine was nominated as worst supporting actor at the Razzie Awards for his performance.

The original US ending had Mario Van Peebles’ character Jake killed by the shark, but this sequence was reshot for foreign audiences. New footage had the great white exploding and Jake surviving. In the UK the BBFC required 37 seconds of cuts before granting a PG rating. Jaws the Revenge tanked with British reviewers and audiences in August 1987, grossing less than $2 million. The film was released on VHS in 1988, reclassified as a 15 in the UK. For a 2000 re-release this rating was lowered to a 12. The movie made its DVD debut during 2001.

Over the years Caine has put forward various reasons for his participation in Jaws the Revenge. In November 1987 he told the Sunday Express his large salary had enabled him to appear in low budget British movie The Whistle Blower (1987). In his 1992 autobiography Caine said Jaws the Revenge paid for a terrific house to be built, even if the film was terrible. In 2002 Caine told a gathering of Screen Actors Guild members in Los Angeles he took roles like Hoagie because he was afraid of poverty and unemployment.

The subject of Jaws the Revenge still irks Caine, as he showed during an interview in the January 2003 Australian edition of Empire: ‘What pisses you off is when, as happened this morning, a person says, “Why did you makes Jaws 4?” That’s great! Of all the questions you could possible ask me, you decide to ask me about a film I was in for 10 minutes, 20 bloody years ago. That’s when the interview gets very short. If you’re going to talk about a duff film, at least talk about a picture in which I played the lead and was responsible for the bloody thing.’

Reviews: ‘Jaws the Revenge is mild and predictable, the very things an adventure movie should never be.’ – New York Times
‘The moment-of-attack sequences, full of jagged cuts and a great deal of noise, more closely resemble the view from inside a washing machine.’ – Variety

Verdict: Tiresome and pointless, Jaws the Revenge lacks all the qualities that made Steven Spielberg’s 1975 film such a success. This dull retread has no suspense, no surprises and almost nothing to recommend it. Logic flies out the window and never comes back with this story. A great white shark that stalks one particular family? From New England to the Bahamas? How the hell does it find them? Did Ellen Brody leave her forwarding address underwater? And why makes the shark explode at the end – embarrassment? The first Jaws film was fortunate its mechanical shark frequently malfunctioned, forcing Spielberg to merely hint at the terror beneath the waves. Jaws the Revenge’s shark must have worked fine because it pops up again and again and again, each appearance more laughable than the last. The film unwisely uses a few sepia-tinted flashbacks to the 1975 original, reminding you how much better that movie was. Caine strolls through a minor supporting role, adding nothing to this sinking ship. Don’t waste nearly two hours of your life watching this crap.

No comments: