Release Date(s)1995 (September 29, 2020)
Studio(s)Europe Communications/Production Group (Severin Films)
- Film/Program Grade: D-
- Video Grade: B-
- Audio Grade: C+
- Extras Grade: C
Though released theatrically in Italy, Cruel Jaws (aka The Beast) premiered elsewhere on home video. Directed by Bruno Mattei, the film is notorious for lifting elements from other movies to fill out its story and its running time. A bargain basement narrative about an evicted father and daughter whose land will become beach front property for its sleazy owner (who will do anything to make it happen, including allowing the area to be exposed to a large shark roaming the waters nearby that’s killing off the locals), it’s not difficult to plug in all of the “Jawsploitation” elements.
Besides the story elements themselves, the film also makes use of footage from Jaws, Jaws 2, Jaws 3-D, Great White aka The Last Shark, and Deep Blood. Even lines of dialogue are lifted wholesale straight from the original Jaws, not to mention the score which uses the introductory piece at the beginning of Star Wars (attempting to mask it by going in another direction afterwards). In essence, the film is completely translucent, which is rather typical of Bruno Mattei’s other work as well. Because of this, Cruel Jaws has been hard to come by for many years. At one point, Scream Factory acquired the rights to it and had announced it as an upcoming title before pulling it upon the realization that they had bitten off more than they could chew.
Unfortunately, the most interesting aspect of Cruel Jaws is how much of a ripoff it is. The film itself is mostly dull. A generic “there’s a shark out there killing people and no one believes it” story is propped up by terrible actors giving terrible performances with terrible dialogue. But just when you begin to lose interest, something spectacularly awful happens that gets you back into it, fully dragging the film into “so bad it’s good” territory. However, watching the film alone is not recommended. It’s much better with a group of friends to get the most out of it.
Severin Films has somehow managed to release Cruel Jaws on Blu-ray in the US for the first time. Not only that, it is presented in two versions, The “Mattei Cut” and the “Snyder Cut”, both exhibiting their own visual characteristics (content-wise, there’s not much difference). The “Mattei Cut,” according to the back cover, is “now remastered uncut in HD for the first time ever.” What elements were used is unclear, though it appears to be pretty close to the original camera negative—perhaps an interpositive or internegative element. Low grade footage from the other films, particularly Jaws, is spliced in throughout. The bulk of the presentation is stable and clean with good color, and grain that’s fairly well resolved. The “Snyder Cut” appears to have been sourced from a print. In this cut, blacks are crushed and whites are sometimes too bright. There’s also obvious leftover damage, including scratches, speckling, and streaking. It also has slightly more information along the top and right edge of the frame. Both transfers also have their share of compression issues, but it’s only noticeable during darker scenes, particularly underwater.
Both versions of feature a separate English 2.0 DTS-HD audio track with optional subtitles in English SDH. The audio for the “Mattei Cut” is all over the place. It sounds like it was patched together from different sources. Sometimes it’s narrow or slightly one-sided, and other times wider with specific sound placement. The track for the “Snyder Cut” is more even and louder. Neither track is perfect, but since each soundtrack captures live audio and not overdubbing (uncommon for Italian films, even in the mid-90s), each track has a natural feel to it outside of obviously foley-sourced sound effects.
The following extras are also included:
- Sharksploitation: An Appreciation (HD – 20:37)
- These Things Got Made! (HD – 12:00)
- Trailer (HD – 2:49)
In Sharksploitation, film professor and podcaster Dr. Rebekah McKendry talks about her love for the genre and goes over the history of it. These Things Got Made! features an interview with actor Jay Colligan via Skype. In it, he talks about how he got the role of Tommy, what it was like to make the film, shooting it at the Theater of the Sea, and working with Bruno Mattei.
Oddly enough, Great White aka The Last Shark was shut down by Universal for being too similar to Jaws, yet Cruel Jaws didn’t suffer the same fate, despite using footage from the first three films in that series. Perhaps there’s hope for Great White. If Cruel Jaws can get a release on Blu-ray, anything is possible. For long time fans of this unusual film, Severin Films has given them a disc worth appreciating, leaving the film’s bootleg counterpart in the digital dust.
- Tim Salmons