A massive Great White shark devours a staff member at Florida’s SeaWorld then targets the infrastructure of its new Underwater Kingdom. Mike Brody (Dennis Quaid) and other employees, including Park Manager Calvin Bouchard (Louis Gosset Junior) and Marine Biologist Kay Morgan (Bess Armstrong), trap what they believe to be the culprit killer fish, with the intention of turning it into a visitor attraction, but the shark’s angry (and much larger) mother has other plans.
Arriving as part of an early 80s 3D revival along with horror sequels Amityville 3D and Friday the 13th Part 3, Jaws 3D ineffectively utilised the novelty device but sat on the silver screen like a gelatinous slap of sick. The technology enabling 3D to play on television sets wasn’t widespread at the time of the film’s release, so this second sequel appeared even fuzzier when transferred into 2D for home viewing. Its bleary, de-polarized construction arrived distorted, pallid and ashen, like viewing a film hung over, through the muted green glean of washing-up liquid and diluted raspberry juice.
Originally pitched by exec-producers David Brown and Richard Zanuck as a National Lampoons’ parody titled Jaws 3 People 0, to be produced by Matty Simmons (Animal House), penned by John Hughes and directed by Joe Dante. Universal Studios hastily stalled the project due to rights issues and Jaws 3 eventually surfaced as a “straight” sequel directed by Joe Alves (Art Director of Jaws 1 and 2) with a screenplay by Richard Matheson and Carl Gottlieb, based on an original story by Guerdon Trueblood. Trueblood’s original tale about a white shark becoming trapped in a lake, was apparently emaciated by Universal’s script doctors, who also insisted Martin Brody’s sons were written in, making the story seem even more desperate and nonsensical.
Roy Scheider went as far as contractually committing himself to star in Blue Thunder, to ensure he definitely could not be involved in the sequel. A wise move considering the outcome, because Jaws 3 is an unfathomably botched mess. Hack dialogue, bungled plotting and brain-achingly awful VFX (that one would imagine being able to induce aneurisms) are smeared across the screen as a feeble excuse for film-making for all to behold and vow never to again. But it’s all so notoriously appalling, a certain kitsch, so-bad-it’s-not-remotely-good-
The theme park in peril plot worked well in the Jurassic Park films and was incorporated to a greater extent in this year’s franchise reboot; Jurassic World. Even though a theme park was always at the centre of those Spielbergian spin-offs, it was a leap away from the Amity setting of the first two Jaws films, which already seeming stale by the second outing. But Jaws 3 has many more major faults. The SeaWorld setting and main character motives relating to their exploitation of the shark for entertainment, seem somewhat questionable today (and eerily reflect those of the film-makers), especially following Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s excellent documentary/ exposé Blackfish, revealing SeaWorld’s captive strategy.
Re-introducing Mike and Sean Brody, seemed like a desperate attempt to cling to the series origins, but as the characters were always played by different actors, they never really resonated as fundamental franchise facets. Yet the Brody boys became even more pivotal as the series progressed while better actors and characters like Martin Brody, Quint and Hooper were no longer involved. Jaws 3 introduces new supporting actors who waste space in forgettable background roles. The late Simon MacCorkindale’s film-making Oceanographer Philip FitzRoyce has “shark victim” written all over him, Louis Gosset Junior ambles looking lost and jaded. Lea Thompson (in her big screen debut) dots about in a bikini doing nothing much until her inevitable demise and Sean Brody (John Putch) is gratingly dim-witted.
3D home viewing was technically possible in the 1980s via the Japan pioneered stereoscopic VHD disc system which came with LCD glasses and a 3D adaptor, but this never took off in the UK. And so Jaws 3D dropped the “D” for its video release and became even more fetid in the second dimension. Appearing without its gimmick as the depthless, plastic cash-in it was pretending/ hoping not to be. This second sequel will always be remembered as a damp squid of the franchise. Famous by association and a part of the polarized 3D family of early 80s cinema stink bombs you can still smell to this day, but something much fouler was on the horizon.
Words: Dan Goodwin