"I've never seen anything like it in my life!" says Vic Morrow halfway through "Great White." Of course, after 45 minutes of de'ja viewed shark mayhem, he must be kidding.
And the filmmakers must feel it's been long enough since the visceral shock of "Jaws," because "Great White" is now on 17 area screens . . . and just when you thought it was safe to go back in the theaters.
(Actually, it may not be on those screens for long. Universal Pictures, distributors of "Jaws," succeeded Thursday in getting a preliminary injunction against Film Ventures International, requiring withdrawal of "Great White" from exhibiting theaters, cancellation of all advertising and a recall of all prints. Universal has sued Film Ventures over the new film and a trial is pending.)
Most of the elements are familiar: the Centennial Windsurfing Regatta that's vital to a coastal resort's business; an ambitious mayor (Joshua Sinclair) who's manipulating the local media in a bid for the governorship and refuses to close the beach down; a taciturn shark hunter (Morrow) and a likable shark-author (James Franciscus) who've settled in a town where a shark hasn't been seen in 30 years; juicy young kids (mostly with Italian names) who don't seem to grasp the fact that they're being eaten up.
Then there's a 30-foot shark who seems to enjoy playing with his food and who likes to knock all the windsurfers off their boards in a game of underwater pinball; he doesn't even eat them! This is a smart shark who traps a couple of guys in an underwater cave by piling up rocks at the entrance. This is a bold shark who seems unafraid to bite off more than he can chew, whether it be a boat, helicopter or a pier with half a dozen people on it. This is an agile shark with a bit of dolphin blood in him; like an Ivory bar in the bathtub, he spends a lot of time popping up halfway out of the water, begging for food. This is a nasty shark who, just before he sinks his teeth into someone, actually seems to gloat.
Add the obligatory underwater footage as Great White heads for his meals; every time someone steps into the water, there's little guessing about who's coming to dinner. Throw in a quick slide show about Great Whites. Mix up stock footage of a real Great White with a mighty mediocre mechanical Great White (trying unsucessfully to make them look alike). Enhance the muddy picture with a sound track that sounds like it was recorded underwater and, voila , you have, not a shark, but a turkey.
Selected dialogue: "She's gone surfing with the boys . . . must be a hell of a specimen . . . they found something . . . there's something funny here, I don't like it . . . there was nobody in the boat . . . Couldn't it have been something else . . . Good God . . . No explosion did this . . . there's too much at stake . . . No damn shark's going to ruin a whole year's work . . . I'm going for a swim. Who's coming? . . . nothing's going to happen . . . there's nothing to worry about . . . that's a mighty big fish down there . . . what if we don't find him . . . did we get him . . . it's my fault, I should have known . . . he's down there, I can feel it . . . Do you think this thing's going to work? . . . It's my shark! . . . Don't worry,it's just a fish . . . Damn you! . . . BOOOOOM!"
Admitedly, we've come a long way from "The Old Man and the Sea," but it seems a shorter distance between "Jaws" and "Great White." Unfortunately, it's all underwater.