Review Date: September 12, 2005
Released by: Creative Axa
Release date: 12/22/2000
MSRP: 4935 yen (approximately $45.00)
Region 2, NTSC
Widescreen 1.66:1 | 16x9: No
Looking back on the heady days of Italian horror in the 1970's and 80's, it's a bit depressing to realize that many of them are starting to show their age. With almost all the classics or near-classics being at least twenty years old, if not more, it's interesting to speculate just how cinematic history will judge the era's glut of "spaghetti nightmares". In particular, how will the innumerable Italian rip-offs of everything from Dawn of the Dead
(that latter category being the one the film we will be looking at today belongs in) look in another couple of decades? Only time will tell.
opens with a Coast Guard helicopter scouring the waters off the Florida coast. Locating the wreckage of a boat, the chopper dispatches divers who recover the body of a man. As the body is hauled out of the water it becomes apparent that this was no normal boating accident - the poor fellow's legs have been gnawed off! Meanwhile, oceanic researcher Dr. Bob Hogan (Lawrence Morgant
) is on a research vessel nearby making a survey of the area. He is shocked when he detects the presence of a massive and unknown underwater creature on his sonar.
Determined to discover what exactly the strange animal is, Hogan and his assistant Dr. Stella Dickens (Valentine Monnier
) turn to local electronics whiz Peter (Michael Sopkiw
) to help them build specialized equipment for the search. However, Peter's efforts are temporarily halted when he is roughed up in his workshop by a group of thugs who smash what he had been working on and then flee.
Stella and Hogan initially believe that the sea beast - which has continued to take victims at regular intervals - may be a prehistoric shark. However, as more is learned about the biology of the creature, and as other strange things begin to happen in this small town - including murder - the trail starts to point not towards the seas of ancient times but towards the West Ocean Institute, a nearby genetics laboratory run by the somewhat sinister Dr. West (William Berger
) and his assistant Dr. Davis (Paul Branco
), who may know more than they are telling.
is indeed a rip-off (a term distasteful to many, but accurate), and has never enjoyed a very good reputation amongst American viewers, primarily because the only official release it has yet received in the United States is a version going by the name of Devilfish
. As has been the case from time to time with foreign films throughout cinematic history, the American company that acquired Monster Shark
decided that they could improve on the product, and thus commissioned an extensive re-edit.
A staple of video rental stores during the days of big-box VHS horror releases, the Devilfish
cut has since gained considerable notoriety as a result of it being ridiculed on an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000
near the end of that show's run. Sadly, the American version deserved every mocking word the MST3K crew had for it.
By all appearances, the Devilfish
cut seems to have been edited by someone who judged himself to be quite a bit smarter than the Italians. He wasn't, and it shows. The biggest changes occur during the first half of the film, including the opening. The American cut opens with a scene of a couple on a boat being attacked by the monster, a scene that appears closer to the middle in the original version. After that there are numerous smaller changes. Scenes that are presented in their entirety in the original cut are instead broken up and awkwardly inter-cut with other scenes in the American cut. While this was presumably done to help the pace, it instead had the effect of completely destroying the flow of the original film. Even worse, the producers of the American cut somehow got a hold of crummy-looking special effects shots of the monster that were left out of the Monster Shark
cut and included them.
This DVD release presents the film in its original European version, and those who have only seen the American cut will be pleasantly surprised to discover that the original is far more entertaining and competently made. It is not and never will be a classic, but it is an okay little movie with some virtues. It remains a fun watch, even today.
Above all else, Monster Shark
is well paced, with director Lamberto Bava keeping the viewer engaged and interested for most of its duration. The story itself is standard Italian schlock, and the script is loaded up with disparate elements, including murder, the possibility of a corporate conspiracy and the inevitable romance between leads Michael Sopkiw and Valentine Monnier. Yet, each one of these elements serves the story as a whole and each one comes across as a functioning part of the complete film. There's very little "fat" to the story, and it remains an enjoyable movie that will have at least some appeal to those who love monsters, Italian exploitation, or Jaws
is presented in a non-anamorphic transfer letterboxed at 1.66:1. Though the lack of anamorphic enhancement hurts, otherwise this is an above average presentation. It is clear and crisp, and colors are vivid and bright, although this results in some oversatuturation of reds and yellows at times. Whatever film elements were used in the creation of the transfer, they were in excellent shape, with barely any damage on display and only a very minimal number of specks and blemishes. Night scenes are also well detailed. There is some grain on the image, but nothing so major as to be worth spending a lot of time griping over.
Two soundtrack options are included, one in English 2.0 Mono, the other in Japanese 2.0 Mono. The English soundtrack is serviceable, but not without problems. Though the dialogue and sound effects are clear and intelligible, a small number of scenes have fairly distinct popping and distortion audible, while in quieter dialogue scenes viewers who have astute ears will detect a consistent, if minor, amount of hissing present on the soundtrack. Though these problems are generally not distracting, they are a bit annoying when you do pick up on them.
This release also comes with Japanese subtitles which, thankfully, can be turned off.
There are no supplements on this release.
Those who are familiar with the atrocious American version of Monster Shark
can do no wrong in checking out this far superior version, which is an acceptable, competently made addition to the Italian Jaws
rip-off cycle. However, despite a nice-looking image, the high price and lack of anamorphic enhancement or supplements makes this release hard to recommend to all but the biggest fans of the film. The continued absence of this title from Region 1 release is no doubt something that will be corrected eventually, and fans may very well want to wait for that day to come before investing in their own copy of Monster Shark
NOTE: Some retailers of Japanese titles list this release under a renamed title of Jaws Attack 2
Movie – B-
Image Quality – B
Sound – C
Supplements – N/A
- Running Time - 1 hour 30 minutes
- Not rated
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English 2.0 Mono
- Japanese 2.0 Mono
- Japanese subtitles (removable)