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No synopsis for Shark!.
For more about Shark! and the Shark! Blu-ray release, see Shark! Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on June 25, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.0 out of 5.
Starring: Burt Reynolds, Arthur Kennedy, Barry Sullivan, Enrico Maria Salerno, Enrique Lucero, Manuel Alvarado
Director: Samuel Fuller
» See full cast & crew
Shark! Blu-ray Review
Just when you thought it was safe to watch another Blu-ray. . .
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, June 25, 2013
Film is like a battleground.
Truer words were never spoken, at least when one realizes the speaker was Samuel Fuller, and that he was speaking them in a Jean-Luc Godard film. For all their manifest differences, Fuller and Godard were in a way brothers in arms. Both had decided left leaning political proclivities and both were out to make films their way, come hell or high water. They both regularly thumbed their nose at The Establishment, whether that be in the form of the political elite or, more commonly, studio executives. Godard seemed perhaps more preternaturally able to weather the storms of the film world than Fuller. Fuller's history is rife with conflicts, films being taken from his control, near knock down drag out fights with various bigwigs, and, ultimately, exile to a foreign land where he felt he might find a more appreciative audience (ironically, it was to France, which by that time had started rejecting many of Godard's more knotty pieces). Shark! is certainly one of the oddest films in Fuller's already pretty unique oeuvre, and it is to my knowledge anyway the only time that Fuller tried (unsuccessfully) to get his name removed from the final version. The film evidently saw release in some markets as Caine, the title Fuller apparently preferred, and it's perhaps a more honest reference to the lead character portrayed by Burt Reynolds rather than a hint to a post- Jaws audience that they're about to witness more marauding denizens of the deep dragging unsuspecting swimmers down to their grisly deaths. While there are sharks aplenty lurking about the watery climes of the film, Shark! is really more about the gruesome predators topside than it is about fearsome beasts below.
It's not hard to understand why Fuller didn't want to be associated with Shark!, for it is by and large an unfocused mess. Many of Fuller's films are not fantastic examples of elegant filmmaking art (though some of them come close), but they almost always have well structured screenplays, decently staged sequences and professional editing. In one way or another, all three of those elements are weirdly lacking—at least at times—here. The film seems to have been cobbled together by committee, with some really strange decisions, including scenes which end virtually in mid-sentence, only to be joined sometime later after some interstitial material.
Shark! seems to have been born under a dark star for any number of reasons, not the least of which is one of the stuntmen hired to do the underwater scenes on the film actually was killed by a shark. The film includes a brief laudatory note thanking the stuntmen during the credits sequence, right before Fuller's unwanted directorial credit. And in some ways, the underwater scenes are the most intrinsically interesting in the film, though they're few and far between. The longish opening pre-credits sequence features one of these segments, where we see a deep sea diver poking through various openings in a sunken ship, only to be attacked—none too realistically—by a shark (editing and rubber sharks can only achieve so much).
We then segue to gunrunner Caine (Burt Reynolds, then a recent émigré from television), who has an unfortunate run in with some Sudanese officials at a dusty desert checkpoint. When Caine attempts to outrun them, his truck is demolished and he's one of the walking wounded. He hitches a ride back to town, where he first meets a former doctor who's a sloppy drunk (Arthur Kennedy) and, ultimately, a supposedly well meaning biologist (Barry Sullivan) and the biologist's comely young assistant (Silvia Pinal), who are ostensibly doing deep sea research looking for a "super food" which will solve the planet's hunger problem. It was an employee of these two who we saw meet his fate in the film's opening gambit, and the duo are on the lookout for a new mark—er, helper.
Shark! is the one thing most would never expect of any Fuller film—dull. The actors try hard enough, and there are a couple of good moments (the best usually involve the young cigar smoking tot Caine befriends, a kid he nicknames Runt, wonderfully played by Carlos Barry). But whether do to lack of basic material (including technical aspects like decent coverage within scenes) or just some ham fisted editing, Shark! frequently lacks logic and even basic common sense. Once the real reason the scientist and his assistant are delving into the murky depths becomes clear (as if it were ever in much doubt), things pick up at least a little steam, as Caine finds himself in an increasingly precarious position where he's not quite sure who's conspiring with whom, and to what ends.
Speaking of ends, this film has what may be the most peculiar ending of any quasi-Fuller film. It's as if this same dimwitted editor decided, "Hey, I've done my time for the day, let's just end this thing here". If we accept Caine as a stand-in for Fuller himself, and the machinations of those around him as metaphors for the often insane bat guano of the film industry, it at least makes a little sense. Caine finds himself without friends, drifting in an immense ocean. He'd be high and dry if he weren't already so very, very wet.
Shark! Blu-ray, Video Quality
Shark! is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Olive Films with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.78:1. Perhaps a little surprisingly, once a few niggling concerns are overcome, things look rather good in this high definition presentation. While the elements may have faded at times, generally speaking the color is quite robust, with especially pleasing blues. Fuller opts for a lot of extreme close-ups (to the point where only portions of faces are visible), and in those moments, fine detail is excellent to exceptional. There are density issues throughout this presentation, which at times lead to a sort of quasi-flicker, but it's mostly limited to what would have been the first reel. As should be expected, the underwater footage looks quite soft in comparison to the rest of the film. Apparently the bulk of the film was shot in Mexico, while a second unit did some location shooting in the Sudan. This second unit footage is notably more ragged looking than the bulk of the footage, a problem which is further exacerbated by (once again) weird editing choices. The first establishing shots of the Sudan have some pretty serious stability issues, with the image vertically jumping just a bit, in a kind of quasi- tracking anomaly. This soon passes however, and though other Sudanese sequences also look relatively soft and grainy, there aren't any more major stability problems.
Shark! Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Shark!'s lossless DTS-HD Master Audio Mono mix is quite good most of the time, save for some stupid sound editing decisions, like the final blast of music that accompanies the "The End" title card, which is thrust into previously existing underscore. Dialogue and foley effects sound rather good here (some of the underwater sound effects are very well done). For you trivia lovers, the score includes a couple of fairly lamentable tunes, including one by Gary Geld. Geld wrote a number of great pop hits with his partner Peter Udell, including "Sealed With a Kiss" and "Hurting Each Other", and shortly after Shark! was released, Geld and Udell had a major Broadway hit on their hands with Purlie!, the musical version of Purlie Victorious. The musical snagged several Tony Awards and provided cast member (and Tony winner) Melba Moore with a huge hit with "I Got Love".
Shark! Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
No supplements are offered on this Blu-ray disc.
Shark! Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
It's hard to know what to make of Shark!. There are some interesting Fullerian touches scattered throughout the film, but they've been badly hobbled by some of the stupidest editing decisions imaginable, to the point where the story is hard to follow and continuity is next to non-existent. The performers all do rather well, all things considered, but this is at best a curiosity for Fuller and/or Reynolds fans. It's a sad fact that Fuller repeatedly lost not just the battle, but the war. This Blu-ray does sport generally excellent video and audio.
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