The shameful 1982 film Great White (released overseas first in 1981) is somewhat infamous for having been pulled from theaters one week after release due to Universal Pictures suing the makers of this piece of shark shit for plagiarism of the 1975 masterpiece Jaws. This oceanic travesty is also known as The Last Shark as if to fool us that it’s not really Great White. Great White definitely shares one thing in common with Jaws in terms of cinematic quality-there is water in both films.
We can establish that the poster is pretty cool, but I assure you the poster lies! The shark most certainly does NOT look like that and there are no women or boobs the quality of the poster anywhere in this atrocity. While it’s easy to mock every aspect of Great White, let’s remember that it is actually a very good comedy. It also rips off Jaws, Jaws 2, Piranha, Orca and even Tentacles for God’s sake (you’ve really hit rock-bottom when you copy Tentacles but they sure as shit did in one scene) to name but a few, but I don’t usually have too many issues with a film ripping off another film if it’s at least entertaining and of some quality. Neither of these terms applies to Great White.
Here’s the trailer which actually includes some of the more embarrassing aspects such as an obvious toy helicopter, a dolphin swimming along (not a shark), a creepy folk singer in Uncle Sam garb and stock footage-and yet some people STILL went and saw this the one week it was out in 1982 instead of a night out at a Dexy’s Midnight Runners concert?
Were these morons who made the film paying homage to the legendary author Peter Benchley who wrote Jaws by including a character named Peter Benton? I hope to hell not. Did the hack Italian director (the great Enzo G. Castellari by the way) think a compelling way to start the movie was to film some muscle-bound douchebag wind surfing for 5 minutes to some hideous hybrid of Disco and Funk played on a Casio keyboard? Our moment of terror (aside from watching this meathead) is the idiot falling in the water and what looks like a chewed piece of styrofoam. I’ll spare you most of the wind surfing, but you can see the ineptitude of the “death” here.
There’s not much of a story here-there’s a town called Port Harbor where a whole lot of dudes with moustaches and flat-chested, ass-ugly women live, and there’s that lame-ass wind surfing competition which of course the mayor wants staged even though there’s evidence (apparently a fake-looking severed arm qualifies) of a shark. All, very original plotlines. And, when we finally do get a chick with big boobs-we see her running in slow motion to swim in the ocean with a bunch of other tools. And what happens? They all…swim! Also in slow motion!
The late Vic Morrow appears as Ron Hamer-a completely offensive knockoff of the character Quint in Jaws played by Robert Shaw. He even gives a speech and it’s a bad one. He also wears a mean-ass sailor hat to let you know he’s of the sea. He looks like something off of a soup can. His best work comes with his Irish/Scottish/American/Czechoslovakian/Icelandic accent which changes each scene and makes him sound like Scrooge McDuck. Morrow, the late James Franciscus (yes, that’s him from the 2nd Planet Of The Apes film among many others) and Joshua Sinclair (our stupid mayor badly dressed and looking like a $1.99 Sean Penn) all look like they’d rather be elsewhere here.
Great White has nothing, I mean NOTHING going for it. The music isn’t even 80’s Italian-porn quality, the acting is atrocious, the audio is pathetic (although it’s a benefit not to be able to hear what the actors are saying) and worst of all there’s the shark. At times we get a rubber shark and at others stock footage from the Baltimore Aquarium circa 1963. I swear they even used a fuckin’ dolphin in a few scenes! Look below and you decide. Seems fishy to me-ha ha!
The 35 foot shark (impossible by the way even on steroids) doesn’t look more than the size of a pool toy for kids half the time, but when they go for the big payoff with their giant mechanical shark, it looks decent…for about 5 seconds. After that, it just looks an amusement ride that got stuck with its mouth open. Also, it seems to move in just one direction-up. So, in other words, not much terror here. Trust me-this might look sorta cool, but it’s not. And yes, we have another dude in a terrible moustache. So, logic dictates this fucker should die, however it seems for him to die he will have to actually swim directly to the shark and jump in his mouth.
There’s a scene where a bunch of idiots (including a cowboy in Wrangler jeans who shows up as some sort of hero?) end up on a floating pier and really all it looks like is the shark wants some Jack In The Box for lunch with that big mouth. Either that or he’s showing off for any dentists in the crowd. Seems like a similar shot of the shark to the one above, yes?
The one who gets eaten in half in this scene is the TV cameraman who just has to get his footage at the expense of any victims. But oh, the irony! It is he who gets eaten as the camera keeps rolling! And, the scene again is amateur hour. As a matter of fact, as the loser is being eaten he looks like he’s much more terrified that his head is basically in another guy’s crotch. Oh yeah-he also has a moustache.
An especially awful scene has one of the ugly chicks fall off a boat and get her leg bit off, though we don’t see it (Orca should also sue!). That’s bad enough, but when she ends up in the hospital her Dad (Franciscus) gives a laughable “rallying the troops” speech where she awakens. It’s meant to be compelling but it’s repelling! I’d also like to mention that the color of the water changes throughout the film at least 5 times which is truly artistic genius (too much chlorine or pee in the kiddie pool they used for filming?).
Another “big scene” has the mayor taking matters into his own hands by going out in a helicopter and hooking meat and fish guts onto it and lowering it for our friend to devour. Sounds brilliant, right? Wouldn’t you know he weighs down the helicopter (sound like Jaws 2 anyone?) and Mayor Moustache then falls into the ocean? The helicopter pilot lowers to pick him up but as he clings onto the rails he is half-eaten by the very awkward looking shark. And yes, his guts dangle for us. At least this payoff provides much-needed comedy, not that that’s what was intended. Again, this photo might look cool-but it’s abysmal in the film itself. Every one of us watching laughed at the guy gettin’ chopped in half. As we should have.
As if we hadn’t had enough ripoff scenes of Jaws, Morrow and Franciscus head out to slay the beast on their own in their boat, and wouldn’t ya know it there’s some horrendous dialogue between them as they try to chew up scenery but really don’t have it in them to do more than go through the motions. A pathetic exchange has Franciscus saying, “It’s my shark Ron, it has to be” and Morrow replies in his ever changing accent, “The ‘ell it is!” followed by some incomprehensible jibberish. Most disturbing is the tight wetsuits they are wearing, especially the red one Franciscus has on. Please don’t bend over, sir! Here they are bonding with some whiskey after a rough few minutes of stock footage.
Continuing the ripoff, Morrow won’t survive fighting the good fight. I forget what even happens to him, but does it matter? At least he has a moustache. Franciscus ends up alone on part of the pier fighting off the shark. Sound familiar to any Jaws fans that it ends up as one man versus the shark?
But wait-the lifeless body of Morrow floats right up in his wetsuit with explosives attached that he never got to set off (why didn’t the shark eat him when he ate everyone else? Ah, who cares?). So, ripping off Jaws that much further, we see Franciscus push the shark hunter’s body into the beast’s mouth-the only difference from what happens to Robert Shaw in Jaws and what happens here is that Morrow’s character is already dead. Or, more accurately, so is the dummy shown here.
And, of course, our great white friend takes the Grizzled Drunken Sailor with a side order of dynamite, eats it up and much like what happens to anyone after a late night eating at Arby’s drive-thru, he blows up. And, it looks so cheap, cheesy and lame it’s hilarious! We get to hear Franciscus yell “Damn you!” as he jumps for no apparent reason off of the pier as he detonates Vic Morrow and the shark. Why would you jump in the water that you’re blowing something up in? Why ask why? Amazing how the great white went from 35 feet to about the size of a sausage. I wonder whose sink they used for this shot?
Here’s a nice 12 minute chunk that gives you the appropriate lowlights from Great White. I recommend watching and laughing.
And, we end with our hero being followed by the grubby TV guy who doesn’t even care that his moustachioed cameraman has already perished and so many others, asking for an exclusive comment. Franciscus stops with his hideous wife and punches the guy! Yeah! You tell him man, that wasn’t a cliche at all! They drive off to some shitty song and the grade-school level credits roll.
A sequel where the washed-up band Great White fights the shark would be awesome. Or not. I would like to see a 35 foot shark devour these guys as they played the despicable “Once Bitten, Twice Shy” which would be ironic in a way.
So, what did we learn from watching Great White? That anything could get made back then and get released! Universal Pictures drew more attention to this joke than it ever deserved with the lawsuit, but at least they spared further fools from seeing it in theaters. I’m still glad I got to finally see it (as a present no less) after all these years as it is now on an official DVD in the U.S. for the first time ever. It was a birthday gift that will keep on giving. You will laugh-that I guarantee. That some people out there defend this film (read the reviews on Amazon.com) truly makes me weep for society.
1. Great White was only out for 1 week before the makers were sued by Universal Pictures and the movie was pulled from theaters. I can’t imagine it would’ve lasted much longer anyway.
2. There are wayyyy too many moustaches in this film, and they’re all really bad.
3. This piece of crap is known as L’ultimo Squalo in Italy where it should have stayed.
Great White (1982):
4 beagles out of 4 for awfulness
Q: Should you see Great White?
A: Yes! But 100% for laughs and nothing else-make sure you yell L’ultimo Squalo when the shark appears and drink lots of wine.