Shark Kill (DVD)
Starring Richard Yniguez, Phillip Clark, Jennifer Warren, Elizabeth Gill
Directed by William A. Graham
Released by Wild Eye Releasing
Shark Kill first aired on May 20, 1976 and has barely seen the light of day since. I'd never even heard of this film prior to Wild Eye Releasing, a new DVD distribution company specializing in obscure 1970's telefilms, announcing their DVD release of it. Suffice to say, calling this film "obscure" would be an understatement. After viewing the film, I think I can understand why it has fallen into the cracks of obscurity.
Though not an outright bad movie, Shark Kill is rather uneventful, quite possibly the most tepid Jaws knock-off that I can think of. If the movie ever reached the level of suspense that the film's blaring scoring tries to convey or the shark ever appeared to be as menacing as it does on the DVD artwork, then this would have really been something. Unfortunately, the (stock footage) shark mostly takes a backseat to a very talky melodrama about two guys facing personal and financial hardship that killing this shark and collecting the bounty on its head will help them out of.
Rick Dayner is a free-spirited marine biologist currently working for an oil company in the process of repairing some underwater pipes near one of their rigs. Best I can tell, Dayner's job duties consisted of standing on the deck of a small boat over the area the divers were working so that he could play lookout and begin screaming for them to get out of the water when he spots a Great White Shark in the vicinity. Problem is, when he does just that, the divers don't believe that he's actually seen a Great White in these waters and ignore his warnings. They'll regret it shortly thereafter when the Great White attacks, killing one diver and maiming the other.
A $20,000 bounty is offered to anyone that can kill the shark, a sum too tempting to Dayner, who's a few thousand dollars away from being able to afford a boat all his own. With that boat he'll gain, as he puts it, "freedom to tell everyone to buzz off." Dayner certainly seems more than a little bitter about certain aspects of his life.
Joining him on his shark hunt will be cocky diver Cabo Mendoza, one of the oilrig divers that had mocked Dayner's Great White Shark claim. Now that one of his co-workers is dead and his brother, the other diver, is in the hospital permanently disabled, Mendoza too finds himself with personal and monetary reasons for wanting to kill this shark. He uses his past military experience to concoct his ultimate shark-killing weapon, something he calls the "Mendoza Cocktail," a floating improvised explosive device.
Dayner and Mendoza will go dibs on a small boat to go hunting for the shark. One little problem: they're hunting a 15-foot shark in a rickety 18-foot boat. Bigger problem: drunken revelers in bigger vessels are out on the water recklessly boating. After their boat gets rammed, Dayner and Mendoza find themselves in an Open Water situation, adrift in the ocean with no guarantee of rescue. Plus, that pesky shark is lurking about.
Like I said, Shark Kill isn't a terrible movie, but it is plodding, picking up in spots, but mostly just characters talking about their motivations, their longings, or their pasts. Jaws was a character driven tale, too; it also had better characters. Mostly you're left wondering when anything is going to happen, and when it does...
There's really only so much one can do when the shark in your shark movie is brought to life entirely via stock footage of a real-life shark swimming about. That pretty much limits what you can do with the shark, and Shark Kill doesn't do much. It's a while before the shark finally strikes and even later until it resurfaces. It'll later buzz them after they find themselves stranded in the ocean. Somehow their pathetic attempt to fight it off is enough to dissuade it from coming around again until the grand finale set hours later.
Though competently directed by lifelong TV director William A. Graham, the script from original Amityville Horror scribe Sandor Stern is fairly derivative and lacking in any real action for much of the film. Fortunately, the actors are engaging enough to keep even their so-so characters from being complete dullards. It doesn't hurt that the running time is a scant 75-minutes. Shark Kill is worthwhile more as a long lost curiosity than as one of the better examples of 1970's genre TV movies, a time period that produced many solid films that still hold up today better than this one does.
Now as much as I appreciate Wild Eye Releasing tracking down and making available prints of movies that barely exist, something Wild Eye's Wade Wells spoke about in my recent interview, I do feel they should have at least included some sort of disclaimer, if not on the DVD casing, at least a slide before the beginning of the actual film, explaining just how scarce this movie is and why the print we're about to watch is not of the highest quality. The picture itself is clear, but much of the colors are washed out, the picture quality possessing a constant beige-orangish hue. Plus, there were a few dropouts here and there (audio but the picture dips to black), and in the beginning, I couldn't help but notice some distortion at the very top of the screen you'd expect from a VHS tape with tracking issues. Again, I understand and accept that this is in all likelihood the best quality print of this movie you're ever going to find, but most people probably won't know that going in and might end up feeling cheated and/or turned off with getting a less than pristine print with no explanation. If they release any other ultra rare films in the future that suffer from the same problem, they really should consider including a disclaimer somewhere, most likely before the beginning of the film itself.
2 out of 5
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