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You just never know what he'll review next!

Wednesday 27 March 2013

Burl reviews Jaws of Death! (1977)

Blub blub, hello, it’s Burl! Yes, I’m here to review a movie about terrifying underwater killers of death, one of the many pictures that swirled about in the wake of the mighty Jaws! The best of these by common agreement was Piranha, though ha ha, a stubborn minority will champion Tentacles! At any rate, this one is about orcas – but it’s not Orca, ha ha, it’s Jaws of Death!
And it’s probably not even the Jaws of Death you’re thinking of! That one was a most studious impersonation of the Spielberg picture, whereas this one only probably got made because of it! Otherwise it’s got absolutely nothing in common with Jaws except the presence of huge, toothy marine creatures and four letters of the title!
Jim and Erich are two young go-getters, very 1970s fellows, who are obsessed with proving their theories about the killer whale! Their field experiments seem to consist exclusively of playing synthesized whale cries from a keyboard sampler and out through underwater speakers! They meet up with another research party led by the avuncular slaphead Stan Waterman, a famed submariner, cinematographer and adventurer! The two teams join up and try to find the whales, while periodically a narrator pops out of the bushes, holding a microphone and looking like a member of Team Zissou, to tell us how frustrated everyone is! (The narrator, by the way, is played by Arthur "Monster on the Campus" Franz!)
Then there’s a climax: The whales appear and Jim kayaks out to them; but a mini-sub spooks the mammals and Jim is capsized! Will the mini-sub reach him in time? No, he flounders around in the chilly water and sinks out of sight! It looks like Jim’s a goner – but wait, a killer whale surfaces beneath him and guides the dazed researcher back to his craft! No, far from delivering death at any point in the movie, all these creatures do is save a life! So those of you hoping for a killer killer whale movie will have to go crawling back to Mr. Dino de Laurentiis, just like you always do! Ha ha!
Some would say that not much happens in this movie, and to those people I can only echo the hilariously Zen sea captain, who only appears in one scene and counsels “Patience, patience!” Ha ha, the fellows in this movie do plenty! Jim and Erich visit Stan’s boat, then later Stan visits Jim and Erich’s boat! They talk about how exciting it would be to see some orcas! They wrestle octopi quite a lot! They torment giant sea stars and chase fish around either by swimming after them or chasing them in the mini-sub!
It’s nicely photographed by James “The Wild Life” Glennon, and I really liked the horror movie score they used to try making us feel some kind of suspense about the mellow goings-on! This is one of those movies like Malibu Beach, where there’s no discernable narrative motion, and you just sit back and watch people do things and talk about doing them! But unlike Malibu Beach there’s an absolute dearth of ladies – you'll find more pulchritude in The Thing, ha ha!
I enjoyed this picture, and even though it never convinces as a documentary, which I think it’s pretending to be, it’s actually something better, some sort of mutant hybrid picture like that movie Sasquatch: The Legend of Bigfoot! I give Jaws of Death two and a half forehead wrinkles out of a possible ten million on Stan Waterman’s brow alone!


  1. Is there any way to watch it though?
    Lots of reviews for a documentary that no-one is showing or selling.

    1. I think it's pretty hard to find! I only saw it because a friend with connections gave me a bootleg tape! Still, it's got to be somewhere online, one would think!

  2. Hey Burl, Do you still have that bootleg by chance? I've been looking everywhere for a copy of this film. I'm currently developing a documentary about Erich and his marine conservation work. I'm interested in buying the bootleg off you or getting a tape made. This film could provide some excellent archive material for our story. Shoot me an email at marcuswidger@gmail.com if you can help. Cheers!