The Summer of '83: Jaws 3 -

The Summer of '83:

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  • Starring: Dennis Quaid, Louis Gossett Jr., Bess Armstrong, Simon MacCorkindale, John Putch and Lea Thompson
  • Written by: Richard Matheson and Carl Gottlieb
  • Directed by: Joe Alves
  • Studio: Universal Pictures
  • Rating: PG
  • Run Time: 99 minutes
  • Series:

The Summer of '83: Jaws 3

"You're talkin' about some damn shark's mother?"

By Rob Vaux     July 22, 2013

 No franchise in history went downhill so completely, thoroughly and embarrassingly as that of Jaws. The seminal original entry – truly one of cinema’s indisputable classics – produced not one, not two, but three of the crappiest follow-ups of all time. Most studios quit after one bomb of a sequel. Universal kept plowing forward like the ubiquitous great white shark, even after all hope, sanity and belief in a loving God had fled. Most of us simply pretend that there were no sequels. Unfortunately, denial can only take you so far.

Things were well and truly lost by the time Jaws 3 arrived, a fact that even the movie itself seems to realize. Director Steven Spielberg had long since split the scene and series regular Roy Scheider was so fearful of getting roped this one that he signed on for Blue Thunder in part because it gave him an iron-clad commitment somewhere else. Instead, the producers had Louis Gossett, Jr. – fresh off his Oscar win and eager to cash a check – and the dubious hook of 3-D to make up for a lack of, well, anything else.

This time, the shark shows up at Sea World, ready to menace dolphin and man alike in an orgy of breathtakingly awful  visual effects. With Scheider’s Martin Brody taking a powder, it’s up to his son Mike (Dennis Quaid) to carry on the family legacy of wantonly slaughtering every fanged fish he sees. He’s joined by his biologist girlfriend (Bess Armstrong), a British… um… guy of some sort (Simon MacCorkindale) and a bevvy of water-skiers, scuba divers, and men sporting mustaches that would do the Village People proud.

The story itself involves an imbecilic attempt to capture a young great white for study, though the characters doing so apparently can’t tell a real fish from a cheap rubber model. Neither does Brody who, despite working at the world’s most popular water park and growing up in a constant life-and-death battle with prehistoric monsters of the deep, still can’t parse the difference between fish and mammal. Jaws 3 spends an inordinate amount of time on their flat-as-a-pancake personalities, forcing us to wade through scene after ridiculous scene for the big sharktacular money shots we all presumably paid to see.

There’s a reason for this. You won’t see a cheaper looking monster in any film anywhere. And we’re including Ed Wood movies in that estimation.  Apparently, director Joe Alves just plopped himself in the pond on the Universal Studios tour and snuck in shots of the mechanical beast in between busloads of tourists. He then threw in some stock footage of real animals and superimposed  puppets before calling it a day. The 3-D effects are intended to be a balm for all of that, but even in the realm of drive-in quickies, this is pushing it.

The PG rating doesn’t help matters. Devoid of even the shabby thrills of a good gross-out, Alves basically throws up his hands and surrenders. You can almost hear him spackling one hastily-conceived shot up after another, stringing them together with the basics of continuity then releasing them unarmed to fend off our collective scorn. It doesn’t work. Nothing could survive such ineptitude, though Quaid recovered to have a fine career and a pre-star Lea Thompson escapes before being forced to take off her bikini top. The rest of the film is a bad joke, assembled with the skill of sugar-addled five-year-olds and somehow billed as a marketable summer release.

The worst part is… well, okay, there are a lot of worst parts. We can see how Spielberg did so much more with equally shoddy effects, and suspect a real filmmaker might have salvaged something from this. We spot the late Richard Matheson’s name at the top of the screenwriters’ credits and wonder whether his vision could have made a dent before the revisions started. We watch Gossett phone it in after his incredible turn in An Officer and a Gentleman and weep for the talent going to wanton waste before us.

But the worst part about Jaws 3 – the one that really puts the rest of it to shame – is that the franchise hadn’t yet touched bottom. As bad as this was, 1987’s Jaws: The Revenge took the train wreck even further, such that this living hell of a movie seems a heaven by comparison. A grim legacy for Spielberg’s masterpiece, one which clearly made too much money to ride into the sunset with any dignity. Jaws III stands as a living testament to how low a studio will stoop to generate a few bucks: one of the palpable nadirs of the summer of ’83 and indeed for moviemaking in general. 


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CaptAmerica04 7/22/2013 7:04:44 AM

One other important point about this film should be made to Hollywood execs:  this film is living proof that simply slapping 3-D on a film, just because you can (and regardless of how good or bad the technology for it is) does not make the film any better.

Davewriter 7/22/2013 7:06:07 AM

I think this and part 4 hat simialr opeing bits... allowing the shark to "see" one of the Brodys so that the finned fiend could remeber them for later.

Oh and to think I actually plopped down money to see this plopper.  DANG!  I'm not much for violence, but Damn, but I was ready to burn the movie theatre down.  Both in rage over what had been forced upon me, but to save unsuspecting others from the horror!

And the FX (a shame to call them that) were terrible.  I still have burned into my memory the vision of rubber "shark" dangling from a string - from the ending of the film.  I believe that Jaws 3D and Friday the 13th part 3D came out the same summer, and Friday 3D was actually a much BETTER film.

For both acting and FX!

DarthoftheDead 7/22/2013 7:30:27 AM

This flick is one of my guilty pleasure's, lol.......

DarkXid 7/22/2013 9:10:55 AM

 When I was six I totally had a thing for Bess Armstrong and Lea Thompson.

Hmm.   I still do...

nohater 7/22/2013 1:03:17 PM

 Rob, although there is no defending the low quality of the Jaws sequels, follow-ups don't get made based on how good the previouse films were. The Jaws sequels were made because the movies made money. Jaws 2 cost $20 million and mad $200 million. Jaws 3 cost $18 million and made $87 million. It's as simple as that.

ObiWannaJones 7/22/2013 1:08:17 PM

 I was a theatre usher in the summer of 83.  I could recite the lines to this crapfest.  The absolute worst scene (besides the floating forearm) is the floating shark coming at Dennis Quaid and Bess Armstrong and crashing through the observation tank window.  

Although there were a few 3D cuties in bikinis . . . 

nohater 7/22/2013 1:31:51 PM

 Rob, although there is no defending the low quality of the Jaws sequels, follow-ups don't get made based on how good the previouse films were. The Jaws sequels were made because the movies made money. Jaws 2 cost $20 million and mad $200 million. Jaws 3 cost $18 million and made $87 million. It's as simple as that.

bennyhill 7/22/2013 2:49:53 PM

 I dunno... I kind of preferred Jaws3 to Jaws 2.  I'm with DarthoftheDead.

jppintar326 7/22/2013 4:45:01 PM

Jaws 3 was boring.  Jaws The Revenge was stupid.  I take stupid over boring anyday.  The first movie was great and Jaws 2 is a better than you remember sequel.  Believe me, I have seen much worse sequels than Jaws 2.  Putting the shark in a confined park where the danger can be  minimized was not a good idea.  Still, I watch it to appreciate how much better the first two were.  I do the same thing with Superman III.

ObiWannaJones 7/22/2013 4:52:08 PM

 Tough one; Jaws the Revenge had Michael Caine desparate for a paycheck, ala Lou Gossett collecting a paycheck and trying to go for a Summer Blockbuster (dumb mistake, Mr. Gossett).  

To me, Jaws 2  is kind of like Superman Returns (Jaws remade with slight changes). Jaws is one of the greatest suspenseful horror movies of all time. In Jaws 2, we decide to have a pop up fried torso (instead of a float by head); then we fry Brucey Jr. by feeding him an underwater high tension line?  Lets see: Brody is soaking wet, has to shove the line into its mouth,  and have him clamp down with a Bajillion Watts of Edison's glory sizzling all around him in the open water. Brody isn't even singed. 
Jaws 3 - Rubber Shark floats into Sea World and terrorizes employees and park goers (actors who either can't act, overact, or just ad lib because there is no real script). I'll be damned if Shamu doesn't even notice.  Too bad; at least there could have been some real Fish vs. Mammal action. 
I'd have to give the win to Jaws 2. At least Jaws 2 had Roy Scheider.
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