Sunday, December 27, 2015

NIGHT OF THE SHARKS (1988)





Rated PG-13
Running time: 87 minutes

Directed by: Anthony Richmond (aka Tonino Ricci) - previous credits include Thor the Conqueror and A Man Called Rage.

Starring: 
Treat Williams as "David Ziegler". Previous credits include Dead Heat and Deep Rising.
Janet Agren as "Liz Ziegler". Previous credits include Eaten Alive! and Hands of Steel.
Antonio Fargas as "Paco". Previous credits include Cleopatra Jones and Foxy Brown.
John Steiner as "Rosentski". Previous credits include Yor, the Hunter From the Futre and Hunters of the Golden Cobra.

Night of the Sharks suffers from a slight identity crisis. It didn't take away from my enjoyment of the film, but it was evident throughout, It starts off as a killer shark movie, then switches gears to a goofy comedy with a barfight scene then switches gears again into a tropical thriller. The change in tone gives this movie that certain charm that I look for in a b-movie. The Italians were quite adept at throwing these types of films together. As for writing a script, I'm sure the writers sat around the table and thought "Wouldn't it be cool if (insert ridiculous scenario here) happened in this movie?". That happens a few times throughout the film.

James Ziegler (Carlo Mucari) has spent several years collecting wiretapped conversations that unscrupulous businessman Rosentski has had with important government figures, even as high as the President of the United States of America. He has put these conversations on some new form of media called a "cee dee". James is blackmailing Rosentski, letting him know that he will send these conversations to the Washington Post if he doesn't receive $2,000,000 in diamonds. Why diamonds? Why not cash? Doesn't he know how much of a pain in the ass it is to convert diamonds into cash? Just go straight for the cash, son. Rosentski sets up a plan to give James the diamonds, but plants a tracer in the stash so that the bad guys can follow him and grab him and the diamonds. James escapes, but not before just waltzing straight into a travel trailer driven by some woman named "Lona". They get along very well very quickly, which makes me question Lona's dignity. James has sent a copy of the "cee dee" down to his brother, David, in Mexico, who wants nothing to do with his scheme.

At this point, James flies down to Mexico but Rosentski's right hand man (Stelio Candelli, aka Steve Elliot) has someone blow up James and his plane. This movie applies the common film theory of The Bad Guy Knows Exactly What He Needs To Know To Gain An Advantage Even Though He Never Reveals How He Received His Information. James dies in front of his brother, who then vows to see the rest of the plot through. This is when we find out that why James preferred diamonds. The diamonds float to the ocean floor, where $2,000,000 in cash probably would have burned up in the explosion, therefore robbing us of a key plot point. The bad guys move on down to Mexico to hunt down David and this "cee dee" thing.

David and his partner Paco live on the beach as fishermen and tour guides. Paco is played by Antonio Fargas, who you may remember as "Huggy Bear" from Starsky & Hutch. David has a running feud with a shark they call The Cyclops, because it has one eye, see? Everytime someone steps in, or falls in, the water, the shark makes his appearance, as does the very good 80's synth score. The shark, much like the shark in Jaws: The Revenge, is..well.....it carries a grudge. It also growls underwater, which is something I wasn't aware sharks could do. One scene has the shark grabbing David's boat by a rope and dragging it out to sea. This shark is much more interesting than any of the human bad guys.

Rosentski has hired David's ex-wife Liz to go down to Mexico to convince him to just hand over the "cee dee". David and Liz immediately sleep together. I don't know about you because I've never been divorced, but is this common practice between exes? Anyway, Rosentski's men bomb the tour boat with the couple on it, but they jumped off before the explosion occurred, forcing them to swim to shore. The Cyclops makes another appearance again, as the film turns back into a killer shark movie in a scene that was rather jarring and seemed out of place. It should have transferred the bad guy heat onto the shark, but all it does is remove a character from the film that probably should have been left out to begin with.

The movie then becomes a jungle thriller, with the bad guys chasing David and Paco, and the good guys attempting to survive. Then it goes back to begin a man vs. shark movie as David swims to the ocean floor to retrieve the sunken diamond stash. The switch in tone just help justify this as a "charmingly good bad movie".

The acting is bad. The production is low budget. The screenwriting is all over the map. However, I couldn't help but get caught up in this thing. It's not the perfect b-movie by any means. What it does is give you reasons to watch. This could easily be riffed on an episode of MST3K, and just as easily could be viewed with yourself and some of your friends for 90 minutes with some solid brews nearby. The points I made are the reasons to watch this film.

Score: 3/5.

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