When I was a child of eight, my parents finally allowed me to watch the 1975 horror adventure Jaws. The film scared the ever-living piss out of me. So much so that I was afraid of a shark appearing in the swimming pool I took swimming lessons in. At the same time, it made me obsessed with sharks. I am sure others are the same way.
Jaws was such a huge hit, it spawned a franchise. Fortunately, it was a franchise that did not last too long, thanks to the abysmal 1987 film Jaws: The Revenge – a film that dared to tell us sharks roar when out of the water. The film is otherwise only notable for starring Oscar Winner Michael Caine, who later admitted the only reason he agreed to appear in the movie was for a free trip to the Bahamas.
Despite this, the most interesting and most WTF entry of the franchise came out four years earlier in 1983. Jaws 3-D was part of a brief resurrection of the 3-D film gimmick made famous in the 50s and 60s. The idea of a film about a giant shark attacking people seemed perfect for a 3-D film. However, the film we got was a turd.
Amusingly, this was not the first idea for a third Jaws film. Originally Universal hired National Lampoon to make a comedy called Jaws 3 People 0. It would not only be a spoof their own release, ala Airplane, but also Hollywood itself. Reportedly the movie was set to feature a naked Bo Derek, being chased by aliens dressed as sharks and Hollywood Boulevard director Joe Dante was on-board to direct it. Unfortunately, Steven Spielberg was less than amused when he heard the news and threatened to quit Universal. The project was immediately canceled.
Then, another idea was developed. A new script was produced based around the idea of a shark getting trapped in a freshwater river and winding up in a lake in New Jersey. I honestly think this idea is great, but it too was rejected in favor of what became Jaws 3-D.
SeaWorld Florida is about to open a new state of the art (for 1983) underwater lagoon attraction, that would have multiple tunnels to explore, views of the fish-filled tropical lagoon, a sunken pirate ship attraction, and an underwater 5 Star restaurant. Suddenly, it is discovered that the water being filtered in from the nearby Atlantic Ocean has accidently let in a great white shark. The media obsessed owner of SeaWorld decides to exploit this and, in the process, realizes that what they saw was only the baby shark, and the mama shark was trapped in there as well. Chaos ensues.
Not a great way to advertise SeaWorld, Florida.
The film was blasted for it’s horrible script and for wasting the talents of Dennis Quaid, Lea Thompson, Simon MacCorkindale (aka Manimal) and the fresh-off-of-winning-an-Academy Award Lou Gossett Jr., who plays the manager of SeaWorld and this film’s version of the idiot mayor from the first film. However, the film’s real claim to fame (or shame) is its possession of the worst special effects shots in cinematic history.
HBOMAX has all the Jaws films available for streaming. On a whim, I decided to revisit the film to see if it truly is that bad. I am happy to report that yes, it is indeed a bad film. That being said, it is also a damn fun unintentionally funny film, that I had a blast watching.
The script is poorly put together. The dialogue is questionable, but as questionable as wondering if it was originally a script for the 80s revival of Flipper that just was forcibly reworked into Jaws 3-D. The dolphins Cindy and Sandy (who also appear with a pre-Blackfish Shamu) are the main features in the film, due to SeaWorld synergy. I do not understand why SeaWorld felt putting dolphins and people in peril from getting eaten by a shark would draw tourists, but why not, eh?
The special effects are special indeed. Special as in deserving a cake that says “At Least You Tried.” There were times that when I was not laughing at how bad they were, I was making Sealab 2021 jokes that fit too well with this film. The blue-screen effects were so poorly done in many of the underwater lagoon scenes that you wonder if this was actually filmed for old-school public access television. And if the scene of the shark pausing to shatter the glass of the underwater headquarters does not make you laugh, the sight of a rubber puppet shark trying to show itself into said control area will.
Jaws 3-D is a largely undiscovered gem in the world of movie riffing, and I wonder why the boys at Rifftrax have not jumped on this one yet. Based on technical merit, story writing and story telling plus direction, this film is indeed a turd. The score I give would normally reflect a 1 out of 5 due to this. That being said, it is also a party film, especially if you are looking for a film everyone can laugh at with schadenfreude glee. It is so bad that it is now good. And fun. So it gets 2 points of redemption due to that fact.