Cruel Jaws [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Severin Films
Review written by and copyright: Anthony Arrigo (26th December 2020).
The Film

Bruno Mattei made a name from himself by liberally cribbing from numerous pop culture cinema staples and passing them off as his own “inspired” works. "Robowar" (1988) is a poor "Predator" (1987) clone. "Shocking Dark", also known as "Terminator 2" – before there was an ACTUAL "T2" (1991) – is a marinara mash-up of James Cameron’s "Aliens" (1986) and "Terminator" (1984). "Hell of the Living Dead" (1980) is a hatchet job of "Dawn of the Dead" (1978), complete with Goblin score (not that they actually composed anything original for Mattei’s film). In all of these cases it is clear to anyone who has watched popular American action and horror movies exactly what Mattei is doing – but he did so using his own footage.

The same can’t be said of "Cruel Jaws" (1995) – marketed as "Jaws 5" in some territories – because this is where Mattei brazenly pushed the copyright infringement envelope to the point Universal stepped in and sued. Utilizing footage from "Jaws" (1975) and "Jaws 2" (1978), as well as other awful Italian shark pictures such as "Deep Blood" (1989) and "Great White" (1981), Mattei assembled a Frankenstein’s fish of abysmal aquatic adventures to deliver this sloppy slice of cinematic chum. “Inept” doesn’t come close to describing this bottom-of-the-barrel time waister, but it’s the first word that comes to mind.

Hampton Bay is about to celebrate the town’s annual Regatta when a killer shark begins eating the locals. The mayor wants the celebration to continue without incident, of course. Meanwhile, the owner of a Sea World-type amusement park – who looks like Hulk Hogan without any of the muscle – is being bullied by mobsters to give up his property so a local businessman can capitalize on the location. Somehow, these stories and a few others culminate in an effort to kill the shark and save the town’s big event.

Whew, boy… where do you even begin? The mobster angle is pulled directly from the "Jaws" novel. The mayor is a thinly veiled facsimile of Mayor Vaughn (Murray Hamilton). The underwater park is aping from "Jaws 3-D" (1983). Oddly enough, there are even lines of dialogue taken almost verbatim from "Jurassic Park" (1993). The shots from "Jaws" and "Jaws 2" Mattei uses are purely for establishment and feel awfully pointless given their brevity. Numerous day-for-night scenes look like someone slapped a filter over a brightly-lit shot. There’s also a disturbing amount of footage using what appears to be a shark toy in an aquarium, mostly notably used during the big climax.

Speaking of the shark, the film clearly states a tiger shark is responsible for the killings. This after the film has already shown footage of a Great White, Mako, Tiger, and other assorted sharks. I didn’t go into this expecting consistency but, geez… Most of the shark footage is stock or repurposed but the stuff done by the Italian FX team looks like someone constructed a giant papier-mâché head and tossed it in the water.

Thanks to the black magic of Mattei’s editing, every actor in here that doesn’t share a frame seems like they’re in a different movie – and that’s because some of them are. I can appreciate a good/bad film when the filmmakers show effort and care was put into the process; this, however, is nothing but pure laziness every gruelling minute. The only thing “cruel” about this picture is watching it.

There are two cuts of the film presented here, "The Mattei Cut" (94:21) and "The Snyder Cut" (96:15), Snyder referring to Mattei's pseudonym of William Snyder.

Video

The 1.85:1 HD 1080p 24/fps image is touted as being “remastered” though given the multitude of sources and the already shoddy nature of Mattei’s lensing let’s say this is likely the best "Cruel Jaws" can and should look – and it honestly looks like shit. Even setting aside the issues that arise from stealing footage and color timing it to fit within Mattei’s vision, whatever footage he shot looks to have been kept in poor condition. Emulsion scratches are abundant and the picture looks like a bad VHS dub at times. There wasn’t a single shot that made me think “yes, this is HD quality”. I don’t fault Severin for any of this and the work they’ve done to “polish a turd” is commendable. I would imagine most viewers have expectations in check, as they should be.

Word on the ‘net is that Mattei’s cut looks better than the Snyder cut but I wasn’t willing to watch both for verification.

Audio

An English DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo delivers the audio and it’s more competent than the video quality, which is damning with faint praise. Dialogue sounds better than expected for an Italian film. The score is all over the damn place, though; zero consistency to be heard. I was astounded to hear, of all things, the "Star Wars" fanfare music ripped off multiple times. In a shark movie. Why? Subtitles are available in English for the hearing impaired.

Extras

“The Great White Way – A Study in Sharksploitation with Rebekah McKendry” (1080p) is a highly informative featurette that runs for 20 minutes and 37 seconds.

“These Things Got Made! – Interview with actor Jay Colligan” (1080p) featurette runs for 12 minutes, conducted via Skype due to the pandemic.

A theatrical trailer (1080p) runs for 2 minutes and 49 seconds.

Packaging

The single disc comes housed in a black Blu-ray keep case.

Overall

Releasing this as "Jaws 5" in some territories was fitting because that series was all about diminishing returns and I can safely say "Jaws 4: The Revenge" (1987) looks like a masterpiece next to this. Kudos to Severin for releasing such schlock with all their usual bells & whistles but this one did nothing for me.

The Film: D Video: C Audio: B- Extras: B Overall: C-

 


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