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Jaws is the best film ever made. Because of this, everyone and their cousins were inspired to make a shark movie. Some were either courageous enough or stupid enough to actually get their shark movies made. There are A LOT of shark movies. In spite of all my poundin’ and hollerin’ and screamin’, I am going to watch them all. I don’t know what will be left of me afterwards.
The Flick: Mako: The Jaws of Death (1976)
The Chum: Richard Jaeckel, Jennifer Bishop, Buffy Dee, Harold ‘Odd Job’ Sakata (actors), William Grefe (director)
Species of Shark: You’d think it’d be the shortfin mako shark (Isurus oxyrinchus), but you’d be wrong! Seems like “mako” is actually the Maori word for “shark”, so that seems to be how it’s being utilized here. The actual species we see throughout the film is the tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier).
The Meat of the Movie: You know what was a pretty decent movie back in its day? Willard (the original 1971 version, although I have a soft spot for the 2003 remake). It had an abnormally good cast and treated its story in a bizarrely serious fashion, considering it was about a social outcast who befriends an army of rats. And surprisingly, it ended up being a hit film, garnering a sequel that gave us one of the best songs ever about a boy who loves his rat buddy, Ben. You know what happens when something is popular? You guessed it: ripoffs! Director William Grefe had the snake version, Stanley, rushed out the following year. I can’t comment on that film (Ssserpent Cccinema? File away for future use) since I haven’t seen it, but it’s obvious that Grefe really dug the concept of humans with animal pals, because once Jaws landed, he went back to the well and gave the world Mako: The Jaws of Death.
That’s right, there is a shark version of Willard. Regardless of the film’s quality, this idea is an absolute good in the universe.
The film kicks off on a boat, where a trio of dudes are fishing for sharks. They hook one, but as its getting reeled in, some diver swims up and cuts the line. Meet our hero, Sonny, played by a beetroot disguising itself as a human called Richard Jaeckel.
After freeing his shark friend, Sonny boards the boat and starts laying the smackdown on these wannabe shark killers. He grabs some long hook thing and jabs one dude in the neck, tossing him overboard. With a few knocks on the side of the boat, he summons his shark amigo and the guy goes from human to strawberry jam in seconds. He does the same to one of the other meatsacks. The third guy? You don’t even see what happens to him. I think he just melts to death from sheer terror.
Sonny goes on a leisurely swim with the sharks, giving us an excuse for some opening credits. He then stops in at a local bar and grill to pick up some scraps for “the family” (that’s not an illusion to the Italian mafia, by the way) and has a nice chat with Chef from South Park, who gives him a beer and a hamburger.
Once he’s had his fill, Sonny heads home to his crummy little shack of a house, only to be greeted by a sleazy scientist and his two henchman, Pete and Charlie. As you may have noticed in The Chum section, Harold ‘Odd Job’ Sakata (that is actually how he is billed in the credits) is in this flick and he plays Pete. To think he’d be in a film that had something more ridiculous than weaponized hats. Also, I love that he is introduced eating what looks like a big piece of grass, and it’s supposed to be super tough and intimidating.
So, this scientist (who talks like the used car salesman version of Piglet) is all up in Sonny’s business about wanting to film a live shark birth. Sonny isn’t having any of it, so this douchefarm tells Sonny that the government is going to start placing bounties on sharks unless more research is done on them. Sonny reluctantly agrees to bring Matilda, a pregnant shark, to this guttershit on Saturday. On their way out, Pete, Charlie and Scientist Shitnozzle make fun of Sonny behind his back, claiming he’s probably the father of Matilda’s babies. Too bad these three didn’t watch the opening sequence. I have a feeling that the Day of the Jaeckel will be upon them by the picture’s end.
Sonny opens up a trap door in his floor that leads underwater, and this also seems to be where his “family” spends most of their time. He talks to Sammy, Matilda’s baby daddy, and tells him that he’ll bring him something nice to eat later. I hope it’s Shitnozzle sirloin. Sonny heads over to the Rustic Inn, which has a woman swimming around in a tank right behind the bar. This would normally be a big dose of weird, but then I remember that this film is set in Florida, and being a native of America’s flaccid phallus, I can attest that that kind of ridiculousness is par for the course.
Pete and Charlie are in the bar, drooling over the girl in the tank (her name is Karen) and acting like textbook creeps. Her husband and owner of the bar, Barney, walks in and starts complaining that no one is paying any attention to Karen’s act. I guess he’s just ignoring Pete and Charlie. And I don’t care that the actor playing Barney is credited as Buffy Dee, because that is most definitely John Capodice in a fatsuit.
Karen finishes her act and comes out to take a bow, when some cop plops down next to Sonny and starts talking to the bartender about this derelict boat he found. Oh, you mean the one that belonged to the guys that Sonny went all Punisher-of-the-Sea on? As the cop rambles on, Sonny makes one of the best “Shit, shit, shit” faces I’ve ever seen.
Sonny does the smart thing and gets out of there, but while outside, he sees Pete and Charlie accost Karen as she’s leaving. What does he do? Nuthin’! It’s not until he’s driving down the road and sees them attempting to rape her that he starts doling out some Jaeckel Justice. In the middle of this fight, an amazing piece of bad dubbing emits from Sonny that must be heard to be believed:
If it wasn’t for the fact that this film was made eleven years before RoboCop, I would assume Richard Jaeckel was doing his best impression of Toxic Waste Emil. I also love that his method of counterattack seems to be the Chicken Dance.
Somehow, Sonny manages to rain some pain down on Pete and Charlie, and in the aftermath, he realizes he’s running late to feed his friends. Karen rides along with him, joining Sonny on his trip out to his island (he has his own island? Sonny’s got life all figured out, man) to fill up the bellies of his shark companions. Karen notices that Sonny is bleeding from his fight with Pete and Charlie, so of course he needs to take his shirt off. This is when we get a good look at Sonny’s shark tooth medallion that he wears around his neck, and that means it’s time for some backstory!
Long story short: Sonny was in the Philippines and got chased by bad guys. He found himself at a river filled with sharks, and decided to swim through rather than stick around on the shore with the people who were shooting at him. The sharks didn’t attack him, but chomped on the bad guys instead. When he made it to the other side of the river, some shark-worshiping guru dude was all, “Hey, you’re an alright fella. Have this medallion that will make sharks your friends. And don’t take it off, because then they will eat you. Peace.”
Since this is the first time he’s ever shared his special sharky connection with anyone, Sonny gets a little excited and shows Karen how safe it is by taking a dip with his friends. Not weird at all, Sonny. He drops her off at home where Barney starts haranguing her about where she’s been all night. To top if off, this greaseball passingly asks her, “What happened? You been raped or somethin’?” When she tells him she almost was raped by Pete and Charlie, Barney laughs it off because those two are some of his best customers. His ticket to Chumville is now paid in full. Barney then goes swimming out in his net-protected spit of beach (that ain’t coming back around later) and tells Karen they need to do something to spice up her act. When his epiphany arrives, he runs back inside and laughs, which leads to this face that I believe speaks for itself.
Turns out Barney wants to put one of Sonny’s sharks in the tank with Karen. Don’t worry, there’s a protective sheet of plastic in there! Sonny is pretty hesitant, but Karen throws him the goo goo eyes and before you know it, Sonny is signing a bill of sale Barney had drafted up. Unbeknownst to Sonny, Barney has rigged some high frequency radio doohickey to piss off the shark and make it swim more aggressively. Can we just skip to the part where these people start getting digested?
At Scientist Shitnozzle’s aquarium, Sonny says goodbye to Matilda and promises to come back as soon as he hears she’s about to give birth. On his way back home, he spots a bunch of people crowded around a dead hammerhead that some guy is boasting about catching. Sonny does his best Jack Bauer on the guy and learns that the idiot didn’t catch the shark, but he did buy it already dead from two guys who were out killing as many sharks as they could. How much you want to bet it’s Pete and Charlie?
Sure enough, those scumbags are out killing sharks for what seems like the sheer pleasure of it. The absolute worst part is that a shark is really killed on-screen (Charlie murders one with a bang stick). This almost made me turn off the movie, but I powered on for you, dear Chewers. Thankfully, Sonny shows up and goes Death Wish on these asshats. First, Charlie gets a poetic death by getting a bang stick to his head.
But, it’s Pete who goes out in a truly grandiose fashion. Through the use of some off-screen magic, Sonny manages to fishhook Pete in his mouth and attach him to the back of the boat, and then lets the boat aimlessly drive into the nearby dock. Fuck. Yes.
Sonny then teleports to the Rustic Inn to watch Karen’s new sharkified act, and that’s when he finds out about the high frequency radio doohickey. He starts to wail on Barney, but Karen pulls him off. Sonny storms out and Karen calls him a dummy and a sickie. Sonny decides that he’s going to get all of his sharks back, starting with Matilda. But when he gets to the aquarium, he finds Matilda on an operating table and all of her babies are dead as well.
Let the revengeancing begin.
Sonny dumps Scientist Shitnozzle into a nearby shark tank and he is promptly feasted upon. Elsewhere, Barney takes a dip in his safely secured swimming area. With a couple snips of the bolt cutter, his safety net is rendered obsolete and Sonny sics a shark on him. A quick teleport and Sonny is slicing a hole in the plastic sheeting of Karen’s tank. After an embarrassing bit of attempted comedy by the bartender, the curtain opens on Karen in the midst of becoming fish food.
In what has to be one of the most misguided attempts at getting people to agree with your side of an argument, Sonny takes this opportunity to jump up on the bar and tell the screaming crowd not to put a bounty on sharks. Not the greatest way of winning folks over to the cause, Sonny. Some cops that are in the joint chase Sonny back to his shanty, and this is all while a hurricane is underway. Sonny opens his trap door and tells Sammy about Matilda’s fate, and tells Sammy that he has to kill as many people as he can so that people will fear sharks even more. He then says he’s going to come join Sammy. I gotta give it to Richard Jaeckel because he’s going for it here. You’d think he was auditioning for The Crucible or something. The cops wound Sonny and at some point, Sonny’s medallion is knocked off. Sonny leaps into the water and is eaten to death by his only friends. The last shot of the film is Sonny’s fallen medallion, because this is some deep shit you guys.
You know what would have made this film better? A pop single about Sammy and Matilda, their legendary love, and the sad fate of their children. Someone point me in the direction of the interdimensional portal that leads to that world.
Best Meal: This is the incredibly rare occasion where I have to bend the rules of this category, because the shark kills are overshadowed by Richard Jaeckel’s badass human disposal techniques. Pete’s fishing death is the obvious winner, but Charlie getting his skull perforated by a bang stick is also a pretty sweet comeuppance.
How the Shark Gets Sushi-ed: There are lots of actual dead sharks in the movie, which bummed me out big time. A hammerhead is strung up by a shitty tourist, Charlie actually kills a shark with a bang stick, and poor Matilda is vivisected off-screen by Scientist Shitnozzle.
The Mindless Eating Machine: A handful of what looks like dead sharks being moved around to appear alive, one brief shot of a motionless puppet head that’s used during Karen’s death, and everything else is live shark footage (I’m fairly sure. I couldn’t find any other info that claims otherwise).
Shark Stupidity: Since these are all real sharks, they all act like real sharks. The stupidity comes in when you realize they have a psychic connection with that NSA dickhole from Starman.
Hilarity Factor: Fair to middling. The movie is book-ended with some outrageous stuff, and there are a few unintentionally goofy character moments sprinkled throughout, but nothing incredibly noteworthy. Granted, the premise alone is silly enough, but that can only take you so far.
Sink or Swim?: I’m somewhat torn on Mako: The Jaws of Death. On the one hand, it’s a low-grade production with all the faults that come with the territory. The majority of the movie is boring and sluggish, with next to nothing worth recommending. And for a movie that’s all about siding with sharks, there’s way too many real shark corpses to make that philosophy hit home. On the other hand, the premise is so unique (for a shark movie at least) and the opening and closing bits of the film are genuinely fun, even if they are cheesy. I almost want to call this one a Floater, but that doesn’t sound very appealing. I guess I have to call it a Sinker, if only because the film is objectively tedious for most of its running time. However, this is a movie that someone should definitely remake. Much like the picture it’s ripping off, I think the remake would have a lot of potential and could even end up better than the original (not terribly difficult to achieve in this particular case). Plus, the idea of psychic revenge sharks is just too bonkers to let go to waste.
Next Time: Hey, the next Fin Flicks will drop on the week of Christmas! I should watch a shark movie that takes place during Christmas. Now, what shark movie do I know that takes place around Christmas? …Oh, no.
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