Bruno Mattei has become one of my favourite best worst directors. I have covered a lot of his releases before, gems like Violence in a Women’s Prison, Robowar, Shocking Dark, and Night Killer. All of these films have seen Blu-ray releases thanks to Severin Films, and their latest Mattei title is yet another glorious stinker: Cruel Jaws aka Jaws 5. Released in 1995, Cruel Jaws has been notoriously known as the film that “borrows” direct footage from Jaws and several other shark-related titles. In 2015, Scream Factory was going to package the movie together with Exterminators from the Year 3000, but due to potential legal issues, this never came to be. Now, years later Severin Films has somehow managed to work everything out and release the film, and not just in one cut but also the longer (roughly two minutes longer) Japanese version, cleverly titled The Synder Cut, due to Mattei using the alias William Snyder.
The plot for Cruel Jaws isn’t going to surprise anyone. It is pretty much an exact ripoff of the plot for Jaws. A shark – in this case, a tiger shark (the film shows several different species of shark but they specifically say tiger shark) – is killing people in the waters, and the local sheriff wants to shut down the beach, but the mayor and a bigwig don’t want to ruin the chance of making big money, especially with the big regatta coming up. Because they don’t heed the warning, the shark continues its rampage and lessons are learned.
Pretty much sounds like a Jaws ripoff to me, but what makes Cruel Jaws so special is the use of footage from other films spliced in with new actors chewing scenery. For example, the regatta scenes in the film are taken from another movie called The Last Shark, so Director Mattei just took two actors and placed them into the footage and hoped for the best. This happens a lot in Cruel Jaws, so much in fact that I’m not even sure that any of the footage Mattei shot actually had a shark present. A lot of the times the actors are just rolling around in the water pretending a shark is eating them. However, that does not mean Cruel Jaws doesn’t give you some memorable scenes. No, in fact, this film gives you one of the best scenes involving a boat, gasoline and a flare gun. The combination of acting, character decisions and special effects make for a scene that will leave you slack-jawed.
Cruel Jaws is not going to win any awards when it comes to the transfer. Severin Films tries their hardest to clean it up, but there are still lots of scenes with some really rough-looking footage. Most of the footage from other films is near VHS quality, but that sort of lends to the charm of the film. However, for the rest of the footage, there seems to be a weird overlay of vertical lines that appear very prominently during dark scenes. We also have some slight damage appearing on the screen at random spots. Personally, it doesn’t bother me enough to not recommend the Blu-ray. This is Cruel Jaws we are talking about after all. Audio is presented in a DTS-HD Master Audio Mono 2.0, and unlike the video, I didn’t notice any inherent issues rearing their ugly tiger/mako/great white shark-shaped head up. That clear bit from the Star Wars theme sounds amazing.
Extra features will appear to be on the light side, but, when you factor in the extra cut of the film, you can forgive Severin for only including two features. One is a 20-minute discussion with Rebekah McKendry who talks about the sharksploitation genre, yet oddly enough does not mention Cruel Jaws. The second feature is a 12-minute Skype interview with actor Jay Colligan who reminisces about making the film and he, of course, mentions that fantastically terrible boat scene. Last but not least is a trailer for Cruel Jaws.
- NEW remastered uncut in HD
- NEW The Snyder Cut – Unreleased Japanese Extended Cut
- NEW The Great White Way – A Study in Sharksploitation with Rebekah McKendry (HD; 20:37)
- NEW These Things Got Made! – Interview with Actor Jay Colligan (HD-ish; 12:00)
- Trailer (HD; 2:49)
My love of Bruno Mattei has only blossomed more after watching this travesty. Cruel Jaws is a terrible film, and stealing footage is never a nice thing to do, but screw it! I want to have fun, and Cruel Jaws is like that drunk best friend who comes crashing in at 3 in the morning with a bottle of Jack and a bag of coke screaming that a shark ate his ex-wife. Does it make sense? Dear god no, but damn the coke is good. Definitely pick up Severin Films’ Blu-ray release of Cruel Jaws. You will not regret it!