Showing posts from 2008

Saturday Night Live (October 11, 1975): "Victims of Shark Bite" sketch

Last Saturday night (June 28th), NBC paid tribute to George Carlin, who died the previous weekend, by replaying the pilot episode of Saturday Night Live from October 11, 1975. Carlin, as a sure sign of his stature in the comedic world at that point in time, served as host for the show, and I was there. OK, not there in New York, but I did watch the show when it first aired.

I saw the first Saturday Night Live episode in a way that many would consider to be “on the sly". Owing to the fact that I was staying up incredibly late for an 11-year old, some would consider it that, but it really wasn’t that way. My parents, especially my Mom, let me stay up late on Friday and Saturday nights, and these late night vigils were aided by the very layout of our home in Eagle River. The parents upstairs, we three kids in our secluded basement fortress, with me spending some weekend nights in a sleeping bag in the playroom. Technically, I was supposed to shut the tube off at midnight (I begged an…

Hammerhead: Shark Frenzy (2005)

Hammerhead: Shark Frenzy (2005)
Director: Michael Oblowitz
TC4P Rating: 3/9 
Appearance: Mutant shark. As described in the film, a great hammerhead crossed with a human being that, incidentally, used to bang Hunter Tylo's character (the human being, not the shark. Don't be a sicko...)

I kept hoping a bucket would appear out of nowhere in Hammerhead: Shark Frenzy.

Not to catch the vomit that any discerning viewer would spew without pause upon attempting to watch this execrable exercise in shark terror. And not to catch any of the massive doses of arterial spray that douse the screen frequently within the film’s labored attempt to update The Most Dangerous Game by making the hunter a screamingly mad scientist whose weapon of choice is a mutant giant hammerhead shark-human being hybrid. No, the bucket is not for either of those reasons. The bucket is only for water.

I wanted a bucket with water to appear to see if the characters would react to it with the same fear that they apply to a…

TSFO Octopus Arm: Below the Sea (1933)

Below the Sea (1933) Director: Albert S. Rogell TC4P: 5/9 Appearance: Giant Octopus (of a species which doesn't occur naturally where this film takes place).
We get so used to modern special effects and buying the b.s. as to their effectiveness in filmmaking – when it really could not be further from the truth in most cases – that we tend to dismiss everything that came before. Modern audiences also like to scoff at what they consider “primitive” techniques. I would argue that those primitive techniques, however moldy they may seem to us, were often far more efficient at helping the director tell his story than many of the slicker, more recent attempts where the effects overtake the story itself. Overriding effects can make the films nothing more than mere spectacle, sapping any true feeling away from the proceedings (crappy studio-driven scripting, where the concern is more on pleasing focus group rather than let a storyteller spin his yarn, can also contribute in a major way). In an…

Goggle-Fishing Bear (1949)

Goggle-Fishing Bear (1949)
Directors: Preston Blair and Michael Lah
TC4P Rating: 5/9
Shark appearance: cartoon shark (undefinable species), able to roar and growl, no sense of humor.

So, who has it worse? Sharks in the movies -- where they are employed mainly to threaten the lives of the (usually) human characters in the film, or at the very least, imply that said characters are in mortal danger -- or sharks in cartoons?

Certainly, the answers is "in the movies," since sharks almost always end up dying onscreen for their sins, and in some films (in the dark, olden days of the industry), really dying for our entertainment. Their menace is perceived as far more real, naturally, and the potential harm to the reputation of sharks in the real world is that much more immense.

Cartoon sharks, on the other hand, not being flesh and blood, have a cakewalk. Or is that "cake-swim"? Sure, they show up, flash their pearlies, frighten the protagonist(s) and generally have a fine, evil…

Shark! [aka Caine] (1969)

Shark! [aka Caine] (1969)
Director: Samuel Fuller
TC4P Rating: 4/9
Species: appears to be a tiger shark in most shots, though it seems like it flashes to other sharks briefly here and there.
Downside: actual death of a stuntman used in the film.

Just before the opening credits end on this early Burt Reynolds starring feature, the following dedication appears:

"This film is dedicated to the fearless stuntmen who repeatedly risked their lives against attacks in shark infested waters during the filming of this picture."

The film then gives up the Samuel Fuller's name as the director, and within about half an hour, the viewer will come under the realization that Shark! (also sometimes known as Caine, the name of Reynolds' character) is perhaps in that small but not so intimate circle of the worst releases ever to be lensed by a renowned international filmmaker. That it is available enough for low-budget schlock house Troma to gain the rights and release it as part of their DVD …

Open Water 2: Adrift (2006)

Open Water 2: Adrift(2006)
Director: Hans Horn
TC4P Rating: 4/9
Shark appearance: quite surprisingly, in dialogue only -- and the constant implied threat that they may show up, which they never do...

I understand. Really, I do. I get the basic appeal when an Open Water or a Saw comes out, and the world flips out because, by and large, the genre films we had gotten for the brief period preceding the respective debuts of those films had been a soggy lot overall. Something slightly off-kilter from that with which we had been deluged seemed refreshing -- it's the reason why the world shat bricks when The Blair Witch Project went "Boo!," giving half the audience the chills, and the other half motion sickness.

Me? Open Water was indeed a breath of fresh air... for a very short while. But then a pair of completely self-absorbed lead characters brought me to the early conclusion that mere death by exposure, hypothermia and drowning was simply too nice a way out for these people -- so…