Showing posts with label italian. Show all posts
Showing posts with label italian. Show all posts

Nov 19, 2020


“I heard you paint houses.”

“Yes, I do. I also do my own carpentry.”

A friend of mine once said that Martin Scorsese makes the same movie over and over, and I had to do everything in my power to avoid picking up a nice-looking pen off a bar and kick-stabbing him in the throat until he was a bloody mess on the ground. (I’m kidding.) (Or am I?) In a really superficial way, one could believe this was a sound observation: it’s not just because the most well-known portion of Scorsese’s filmography has taken place in the world of the Italian mafia (though relegated to only four films, including The Irishman), with a single detour into the world of Irish crime in The Departed, but also because Scorsese’s own style and techniques carry over from film to film, giving them an almost brand-like feeling. There’s the first-person narration, the “crime is awesome” montages, the Rolling Stones soundtrack, the gorgeous spot-lighting, the frenzied smash-cut editing, and an ensemble of familiar faces like Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel, the somewhat obscure Frank Vincent, and pretty much the entire supporting cast of The Sopranos. “I liked it the first time I saw it…when it was called Goodfellas,” a mid-90s SNL oddity known as David Spade once said about Casino. Gestating since at least 2008, The Irishman was predictably lobbed from the start with the same kind of shallow proclamations that Scorsese and De Niro were going to make yet another version of Goodfellas, even before a single frame had been shot. Once the film finally made its long-awaited debut on Netflix, twelve years after it was first announced, the camp was still split on what kind of film The Irishman was vying to be. Was it just another Goodfellas riff, or was it something decidedly different?

In case you haven’t deduced it for yourself during one of my typically elongated lead-ins, The Irishman is, indeed, something decidedly different. Is it about the mafia? Yes, it is. Does it involve a fair number of Goodfellas et al. cast members? Yes, it does. But where Goodfellas was a Scarface-ish allegory about opulence, power, and the eventual fall from grace, The Irishman is an Unforgiven-like examination of a misspent life immersed in dirty tasks for dirty people at the expense of one man’s family. That the film is headlined by an aging De Niro wasn’t just the result of the film being in pre-production for a very, very long time, but it’s also the point of The Irishman entirely. It’s about sin, regret, mortality, and legacy. And yes, De Niro, as one tends to do, has aged. For lack of a more respectful word, De Niro is now an old man. His elderliness has crept into his take on Frank Sheeran that both benefits and handicaps his performance, guiding him in his role of a soft-spoken, somewhat slowwitted boob eager to please his masters like a loyal dog, but which is also occasionally at odds with the visual technology being employed to shave decades off his real age. In a way, De Niro’s appearance and performance sum up the experience of The Irishman as a whole – still engaging, still artfully made by one of cinema’s remaining old-school masters, but maybe, perhaps, a couple decades too late.

Based on prosecutor Charles Brandt’s “non-fiction” book I Heard You Paint Houses (I say “non-fiction” because it was based entirely on Sheeran’s version of events, which many have claimed to be dubious), The Irishman is a sprawling epic where genuine history and possible artifice intermingle in ways that, regardless of the film’s ultimate dance with reality, is still a compelling story. The Irishman weaves a complex narrative of many characters, many conflicts, and many intersecting timelines. With a running time of three and a half hours, that’s not surprising. What is surprising is how quickly those three and a half hours go by. Surrounding the main cast of De Niro’s hired hitman Frank Sheeran, Joe Pesci’s mob boss Russell Bufalino, and Al Pacino’s Jimmy Hoffa is an extensive ensemble cast who bring to life many of Philadelphia’s crime figures, including infamous mob boss Angelo Bruno (Harvey Keitel), Felix “Skinny Razor” DiTullio (Bobby Canavale, sporting a “rescinding” hairline), and an unexpectedly excellent Ray Romano as attorney Bill Bufalino. (In a weird bit of my family’s history, The Irishman makes brief mention of crime figure Frank Sindone, who helped plan the hit on Bruno and was later found dead in an alley with three bullets in his head. My Philadelphia-born father once unknowingly shared a car ride with Sindone and others from the neighborhood and later described him as “pretty fuckin’ intense.” My father also had a cousin [for whom things didn’t end well] who worked at the Latin Casino, which is featured during Sheeran’s “Appreciation Night” after he becomes President of the teamsters’ local union 326. I keep telling him he needs to write his own book about 1970s Philly because he’s seen some shit.)

In a way, even though any film should consider a comparison to Goodfellas extremely flattering, The Irishman works much better as its own beast. The gliding cameras, the eclectic oldies soundtrack, the voiceover: sure, those things are all present and accounted for – but The Irishman is measured, calm, patient, and mature. It’s a film that stands on its own, of course, but it’s also an acknowledgement of the long and very successful careers of those who made it. It’s Scorsese touching base with audiences and gently reminding them that his on-screen mafia tales are what’s attracted the most eyes, garnered his best critical notices, and punctured pop culture in ways that many of his other films didn't. And let’s face it: Scorsese wouldn’t have gone back to this same well so many times if he, himself, wasn’t so fascinated with a life of crime. What began on a small scale in something like 1973’s Mean Streets, made with a guerilla-style, low-budget scrappiness, has culminated forty-five years later with The Irishman, a two hundred-million-dollar epic that likely hit more eyeballs in its first day on Netflix than did his 2016 Jesuit priest drama Silence during its entire theatrical run. Indeed, Scorsese trots out many of his trademarks, though the occasionally abrupt editing by longtime collaborator Thelma Schoonmaker is much more restrained, in keeping with The Irishman’s slower pace. Though Scorsese still falls back on voice-over from a few characters, now they directly address the camera like they’re confessing their sins to us, the audience. As for his new bag of tricks? Yes, the controversial de-aging technology, which landed with audiences in extremely polarizing ways. “It looked great!” versus “It looked terrible!” flooded reviews and talk-backs. Snotty backseat drivers uploaded their own “deep fake” videos to Youtube to show how it could’ve been done cheaper and with better results. But here’s the thing: the de-aging technology itself actually looks fantastic, removing the deep creases and weathered appearances of our charming older men. The problem, however, is that those brand-new youthful faces are then pasted over their still-old dumpy bodies, and the additional decision to have De Niro wear blue contact lenses to “look Irish” (even though he played an Irishman in Goodfellas and wore no such thing) only does a disservice to the millions of dollars spent on those faces. Despite what the actors and choreographers tried, old men can only move like old men, and when it comes time for De Niro to knock down and kick-stomp the local grocery store owner, he kicks like an old man, and it’s hard not to notice.

Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran is an atypical performance for the De Niro we’ve come to anticipate from a Scorsese film, but perfectly appropriate and in line with not only the real Frank Sheeran, but the work De Niro has been doing as an actor since the early 2000s. Throughout his collaborations with Scorsese, or during the “nod” roles he’d play after the fact that painted him as a mob boss of sorts, De Niro was always in a position where he wielded power and influence (or in the case of Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables, baseball bats). Audiences have spent the last several decades affiliating themselves with De Niro the boss, from Goodfellas’ Jimmy Conway to Casino’s Sam Rothstein. This time, however, he’s the bag man, the hired gun, the administrative assistant who just so happens to steal and kill. Hell, he’s not even comfortable pulling the car over unless someone else says it's okay. “I was a working guy,” Sheeran says early on before he made his way into the crime world, but even after that, he was still a working guy – it’s just that the things he did are what changed. Sheeran, as presented, is a pathetic figure, only finding worth in the eyes of the crime figures who want him around while barely making time for his own family. One gets the impression that De Niro, for the first time in his life, is actually wanted around, and it renders him a purposely toothless presence, putting him into certain situations to perform acts he doesn’t have the guts to refuse. When Sheeran retreats to an empty bedroom to make a private phone call he’s been dreading, it’s the most pathetic De Niro has made one of his characters look in his fifty years of acting – even more than his famous scene in Taxi Driver where he’s being consistently rebuffed over the phone by Cybil Shephard’s Betsy, whom, after a disastrous date, wants nothing to do with him. “What kind of man makes a phone call like that?” Sheeran later muses during one of the film’s final scenes. De Niro, the boss who stomped on Billy Bats’ skull, who tore through the pimp underworld to save a young girl, who refused to be knocked down by Sugar Ray Robinson, has become a spineless, subservient slave, and he was the one who let it happen.

Sharing the screen with De Niro for the first time since 1995’s Casino is Joe Pesci, who makes a welcome return to Scorsese and co.’s world, his last high-profile project being his good friend De Niro’s 2006 directorial project, The Good Shepherd. Let me just say this: he was incredibly missed, and he offers up the film’s best performance. Gone are the days of the volatile Tommy DeVito and Nicky Santoro. Though his Russell Bufalino is “the boss,” he exacts that title almost manipulatively in soft-spoken but firm tones. He never, once, goes big, mirroring De Niro’s more neutered approach, and it’s quite honestly one of the best performances in his career. But don’t worry! Al Pacino is definitely ready to take on everyone’s yelling for them. Speaking of, though Pacino offers a fine performance as Jimmy Hoffa, he seems to be playing just another version of Pacino instead of the real man; if we must compare, it doesn’t come close to Jack Nicholson’s take from 1992’s Hoffa, directed by Danny Devito.

Though The Irishman is about ugly things, it doesn’t glamourize them in the same ways as Goodfellas and Casino. In some respects, The Irishman feels like the thematic third part of a trilogy that includes those two titles. It’s the end result of long lives spent creating and depicting stories of crime, but also of the real lives that inspired those stories, the toll taken from living on the wrong side of the law, and that no matter what one’s calling in life may be, eventually, everything comes to an end. And if, at the end of your life, you’re haggling with the salesman over the price of your own coffin – when you’re the one making the arrangements for your funeral because your family won’t do it – you know that’s a life that was lived selfishly, cruelly, and deeply alone.

As much as I loved to see the likes of De Niro, Pacino, Pesci, and Keitel sharing the screen together again, it pains me to say that The Irishman could’ve been a flawless endeavor if our primary trio of actors had been relegated to playing the last two time periods depicted in the film, while falling back on younger actors for the previous two. (Hey! Like they did in Goodfellas!) Having said that, The Irishman is still top-tier filmmaking for everyone involved and showcases a director who, despite his age, has no intent on slowing down. 

[Reprinted from Daily Grindhouse.]

Aug 26, 2020


PALERMO – News of a ghost of a praying nun on the church of Santa Maria della Mercede al Capo bell tower has created a lot of buzz in Palermo. Hundreds of people gathered in front of the church. Some of them were there to pray, others just for curiosity. 
Everything started with the publication of a photo on social networks.

The ghost seen in pictures is most likely an optical illusion, but as every good ghost story, the history of the place seem to support the mysterious theory.

In fact, in the area there are the forgotten Catacombs of the Capuchin Sisters, built on top of an early Christian cemetery in 1732. The nuns used these catacombs for burials until 1865.

The crypt and the early Christian cemetery still remain unexplored. The entrance to the catacombs has been walled up, hiding hundreds of buried nuns bodies forever.

Is really the restless spirit of a nun wandering inside the church?

Story and image source.

Apr 21, 2020


The European cinematic movement of the 1960’s and ‘70s known as the giallo would eventually help kick start the slasher movement in the United States. And, like the slasher movement, gialli could often result in solid, respectable titles worthy of critical appreciation, but they could often vie for much less, wanting to offer their audiences nothing more than pulpy thrills and vapid, surface-level entertainment. That’s where Strip Nude For Your Killer lives. All the stalwarts of the giallo are there: the heightened murder sequences, the too-red blood, the overt sexuality, and of course, the mysterious, black-clothed killer. However, instead of a complex plot with lots of moving parts a la The Bird With The Crystal Plumage, Strip Nude For Your Killer offers a far less complex plot that’s tantamount to Agatha Christie by way of Scooby Doo: Someone is killing off the staff at a fashion studio in Milan and it’s up to photographer Magda (Edwige Fenech) and her boyfriend/also-photographer Carlo (Nino Castelnuovo) to find the identity of the killer before they’re next on the chopping block.

Featuring a short-haired Fenech, who was a popular face in a dozen films in the Martino Brothers’ oeuvre (Luciano, producer, and Sergio, director, which includes their classic All The Colors Of The Dark), Strip Nude For Your Killer is one of the trashier giallo titles to hail from this era. The level of violence on hand is fairly tame considering what other filmmakers were doing at this time (A Bay of Blood had come out four years prior and was far more violent), but where lacks in grue and gore it more than makes up for with its sexuality. Depending on your sensibilities, Strip Nude For Your Killer falls either directly within or hues very closely to soft-core entertainment. And you get it all: straight sex, lesbian sex, gross fat sex, and sex that, in today's standards, is probably rape. Fenech likely spends more time walking around topless than she does fully clothed (I’m fine with it), and everyone is either sleeping with or wants to sleep with everyone else.

There is enough intrigue established that you can invest yourself in the goings-on of the plot, even if that investment is limited to, “Gee, I wonder who the killer is?” Subtextually, there’s nothing else to grasp onto. However, simplicity of the plot aside, Strip Nude For Your Killer offers fascinating characterization. Fenech’s Magda embodies the responsibilities of the final girl, but while leaving behind the chasteness that usually comes with it. She is a feminine force who knows what she wants and is willing to play the bad girl in order to get it. Castelnuovo’s Carlo, however, is a malignant prick — pompous, shallow, misogynistic, and downright unlikable for nearly the entire running time. Complicating this a tiny bit is that he’s also the hero. Or, at least, heroically involved in trying to find the identity of the killer. It’s a bold move hinging your murder mystery on two characters who present atypical qualities from what we’re used to from the genre. They are essentially Sam Loomis and Lila Crane from Psycho, only they bang a lot. (Of course, I can always upend this argument by saying John Carpenter’s Halloween was still three years off, which would cement the archetype of the “final girl” and all the rules that came with it.) Still, making your heroes slutty and self-absorbed is a fun idea no matter if the filmmakers are circumventing expectation or not.

The killer’s presence looms large over the proceedings, although he doesn’t appear on screen very often. When he does, he’s clad in skin-tight motorcycle leather, complete with helmet, a design that would be used again in future gialli titles like Massimo Dallamano’s What Have They Done to Your Daughters? and Umberto Lenzi’s giallo/slasher hybrid Nightmare Beach a.k.a. Welcome To Spring Break. Director Andrea Bianchi, who would go on to direct the ultimate garbage classic Burial Ground: The Nights Of Terror, shows off minimal style, allowing his characters (and their nudeness) to do most of the work. The resolution to the story, preempted by the reveal of the killer, unfolds a little too quickly, forcing you to remember the opening that also unfolded a little too quickly, threatening an audience reaction of “Who?” when the motorcycle helmet is finally removed to reveal the killer’s identity. But none of this matters because the film ends-ends with one of the best, most tasteless “jokes” I’ve ever seen in any genre. Thanks, the Italians!

For every Psycho or Halloween, there are tiers of slashers made in the same mold that vie for a different experience. Strip Nude For Your Killer is the Friday The 13th: A New Beginning of the giallo movement. Its plot is inconsequential, its performers are happy to disrobe, and its characters are broadly painted archetypes who are all apparently sleeping with each other. Oh, and it’s trashy as hell. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with this — just know what you’re getting yourself into before you sit down to watch. (And if you’re already a fan of gialli, then you definitely should.)

Strip Nude For Your Killer is now on Blu-ray from Arrow Video.

[Reprinted from Daily Grindhouse.]

Mar 13, 2020


I don’t think John Landis is capable of making an out-and-out horror film free of black humor or whimsy. And that’s not to disparage the filmmaker at all, but when you look back over his career, it’s amusing to see he’s first known as a horror director, even though he’s only made a handful in the genre, and all of them are horror/comedy hybrids. Considering he’s the mastermind behind comedy classics like National Lampoon’s Animal House and The Blues Brothers (a top-five title for me), it’s not surprising to see Landis can’t help himself but look for the absurdity in the concepts behind his horror titles and magnify them to stand head and shoulders with the terror.

Even though it has its “official” and incredibly shitty sequel, An American Werewolf in Paris, Innocent Blood feels more like the real spiritual sequel to Landis’ trademark An American Werewolf in London. Playing out like A French Vampire in Pittsburgh, Landis’ vampire romp hits similar beats: a lead character in a strange land dealing with supernatural powers and unexpectedly falling in love. (And along the way, people are viciously killed.) Gender is swapped this time out and vampire Marie is played as just a tad more villainous (she only eats bad guys, you see), but otherwise An American Werewolf in London and Innocent Blood are kismet.  

Despite Anne Parillaud’s shaky performance as Marie (the actor struggles to convey the right emotional beats through her heavy accent), she’s well cast as the vampire seductress because of how unassuming and atypically beautiful she is. Anthony LaPaglia as Joe does a serviceable job as the half-cop/half-mobster, but really, Innocent Blood is all about the bad guys, boasting mafia-film fans’ wet dream of a cast. Lead baddie Sal “The Shark” Macelli is played by none other than Robert Loggia (Psycho 2), who appears to be having more fun playing a bastard vampire than he did dancing with Tom Hanks on a giant keyboard. Joining him is the inimitable Chazz Palminteri and pretty much half the character actor cast of The Sopranos.

Innocent Blood is violent as hell — the scene with a recently-vampirized Don Rickles in his hospital room is still impressive all these years later, rivaling the infamous transformation scene in An American Werewolf in London. But despite the bloodletting and violence, Innocent Blood is often very funny — from the vaudevillian reactions to the ironic soundtrack to the most terrorized wife in all of cinema (played by Elaine Hagan). And of course it’s very funny…it’s a John Landis film.

Innocent Blood is one of Landis’ least heralded films, but it doesn’t deserve that whatsoever. Far better than some of the director’s other works (Beverly Hills Cop 3: yeesh…), it’s worthy of a reevaluation by horror fans and Landis fans alike. 

Jul 8, 2019


One of the most popular European cinematic sub-genres of the ‘60s and ‘70s was the giallo — a hyper-stylized approach to filmmaking pioneered by Italian filmmakers Mario Bava and Dario Argento, and largely credited as the inspiration behind the slasher sub-genre. Another movement also came to prominence during this time, spearheaded by European filmmakers less interested in depicting the ghastly crimes and more in the ensuing police investigations that looked into them—poliziotteschi: dark and gritty cop and crime thrillers that often offered the same kind of pulpy thrills and graphic violence, but in far less amounts. In American terms, films like Dirty Harry and The Laughing Policeman would fall under the poliziotteschi label, even though they were less graphic than their European colleagues. While poliziotteschi weren’t necessarily graphic with horrific imagery, they often could be.

Enter 1976’s The Tough Ones (aka Rome Armed To The Teeth – god I love Italian movie titles), directed by Umberto Lenzi (the giallo Seven Blood-Stained Orchids). Leaning back on the prior example of Dirty Harry, The Tough Ones tells your typical story of a police detective making it a personal mission to stop a killer while skirting “official channels” and “the book” in order to make that happen. Detective Leonardo Tanzi (the Frank Nero-looking Maurizio Merli) is that official channels skirter, furious with a system that coddles instead of punishes, and will absolutely, positively get his man -- by any means necessary. That man? The very Scorpio-ish Vincenzo Moretto (Tomas Milian), a hunchbacked slaughterhouse worker involved in much bloodier business than merely slicing cows down the middle, and who somehow manages to out-ooze Dirty Harry’s Andrew Robinson. (“I shat this out just for you,” he tells Tanzi at one point, holding up a bullet that Tanzi forced him to swallow in a total act of male dominance earlier in the film. Talk about having explosive poop! I’m sorry!)

The Tough Ones is hard-hitting and angry. Everyone is angry at everyone else. Tanzi hates Moretto, who hates him back. Tanzi and the police chief share an equal and mutual hatred. Tanzi, at times, even seems to hate the very woman he’s dating (Maria Rosaria Omaggio), as she basically represents the liberal society that releases all of the criminals he arrests on a daily basis. Like other films from this time period, and especially with it being an Italian production, The Tough Ones is very much indicative of its era. It’s impatient and cynical like lots of ‘70s cinema, with the added discomfort of pure misogyny, perpetrated against every single female character, and often at the hands of our lead hero. At the worst of them is a random rape attack committed by a group of thugs, most of which is thankfully left to the imagination, along with a disturbing insinuation that, post-rape, the victim was additionally sexually assaulted with a tree limb. There’s more than one instance of a woman being slapped, or talked down to, or outright threatened – not a single female character walks away unscathed in some form or another. Most cinephiles already well versed in this era of filmmaking likely won’t be surprised or turned off by this, but for those of you just getting started, best prepare yourself now.

Most importantly, Lenzi knows how to stage exciting action sequences, with the standout being an extended car chase that directly leads into the finale. The chase never reaches the heights of the graceful automotive ballet Bill Hickman achieved during his stunt driving in the likes of The French Connection, Bullitt, and The Seven-Ups, but only because Lenzi wants the car chase to look manic, gritty, and very dangerous instead. Leading up to that is an impressive barroom fight, which sees Tanzi taking on a Van Damme level of henchmen and reigning supreme. (A punk gets his head smashed through the glass top of a pinball machine and it’s the most satisfying thing.) The shootout during the climax, also, gets that blood pumping – that fun, unrealistically bright kind not seen since Romero’s Dawn Of The Dead. Like most Italian genre flicks, the plot doesn’t fully gel, and the editing can sometimes make the film’s events hard to follow, but, like Bullitt, the plot of which is near incomprehensible, Lenzi’s visceral way of presenting the story and the action make up for the weak cohesiveness. 

From a technical perspective, The Tough Ones looks and sounds fantastic, lovingly restored for a 4K presentation. The release comes with both English and Italian audio tracks, along with English subtitles for the Italian track only. You can attempt to watch English with English, but the subtitles barely match; the intent is the same, but the dialogue is always different. (One of the best examples of this is when someone calls someone else a “dummy” onscreen, but the subtitles replace it with “proletarian,” which I found very amusing.)

As typical for a title from Grindhouse Releasing, this new edition of The Tough Ones comes absolutely packed to the gills with special content, not the least of them being a third bonus CD of the film’s soundtrack by Franco Micalizzi. Most viewers will likely start with the new interview with director Lenzi, which runs 55 minutes in length. Lenzi starts at the beginning of his career, talking about how he got started, along with his admitted comfort in working in the crime genre over horror, despite his having contributed several titles to the latter. But if there’s a must-watch supplement on this release, it’s the 90-minute(!) interview with Tomas Milian. He explores similar ground as far as his start in filmmaking and acting, but his interview begins with a deeply personal and sad account of his childhood at the hands of loveless and abusive parents. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be hooked on his every word following this stunning admission.

The complete list of special features included on this release is as follows:
  • Optional Italian language soundtrack with optional English subtitles
  • Audio commentary by Mike Malloy, director Of Eurocrime! The Italian Cop And Gangster Films That Ruled The 70s
  • NEW in-depth interviews with director Umberto Lenzi, actors Tomas Milian, Maria Rosaria Omaggio, Sandra Cardini, Maria Rosaria Riuzzi and Corrado Solari, screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti, and composer Franco Micalizzi
  • Special tribute to Maurizio Merli with appearances by Enzo Castellari and Ruggero Deodato
  • Vintage VHS intro by cult movie superstar Sybil Danning!
  • Original international theatrical trailer
  • Liner notes by Italian crime film expert Roberto Curti
  • Deluxe embossed slip cover
  • BONUS CD – original soundtrack album by Franco Micalizzi – newly remastered in stunning 24 bit/192khz sound from the original master tapes
  • LIMITED BONUS - Custom 30-Caliber Metal Bullet Pen – Strictly Limited to 2500 Units

The Tough Ones is now on Blu-ray from Grindhouse Releasing

[Reprinted from Daily Grindhouse.]

Jun 20, 2012


Shitty Flicks is an ongoing column that celebrates the most hilariously incompetent, amusingly pedestrian, and mind-bogglingly stupid movies ever made by people with a bit of money, some prior porn-directing experience, and no clue whatsoever. It is here you will find unrestrained joy in movies meant to terrify and thrill, but instead poke at your funny bone with their weird, mutant camp-girl penis.

WARNING: I tend to give away major plot points and twist endings in my reviews because, whatever. Shut up.

Long ago, when the moon was high and the water was rising, a man named Bruno Mattei (R.I.P.) was born. His destiny for filmmaking greatness was carved in stone, but that stone, it turns out, wasn't stone at all - it was stinky, rotting cheese; and soon, Bruno began making the shittiest films you could ever imagine. Titles such as S.S. Extermination Love Camp, Porno Exotic Love, Porno Holocaust and Terminator II (but amazingly enough, not the Terminator II) were blazoned upon movie marquees. His films were hailed as exploitation trash, but gradually they developed their own cult following, as will anything incredibly stupid.

Bruno's masterpiece, Cruel Jaws, is something of a legend. Its title is whispered about on websites and blogs. Anyone who likes shark movies, or bad Italian cinema, has heard of its existence. And Cruel Jaws is unique, to be sure; not because of its plot, or of Bruno's presence, but because the film utilizes blatantly stolen footage from many different shark movies (the entire Jaws series, as well as The Last Shark and Deep Blood). The movie itself is a bold-faced rip-off of the original Jaws, and was even released as Jaws 5 in some foreign territories.

There are some out there who can look at a movie like Shark Attack or Deep Blue Sea and exclaim, "Pfft...Jaws rip-off!" simply because the movie is about sharks. Cruel Jaws is something much more than a rip-off, for it's a literal unauthorized remake of the first Jaws. Same lines of dialogue are spoken by their respective “characters,” only these new characters aren’t nearly as cool as the previous. Instead of Roy Scheider, we get a sweaty sheriff who plays second banana to the Richard Dreyfuss replacement, Wiener Man. And instead of the immeasurably cool and legendary Robert Shaw, we get a freakish-looking doppelganger of Hulk Hogan. Cruel Jaws also steals the disbelieving town mayor archetype. Peter Benchley even receives credit as a writer.

Drooping one step lower than you typical, half-assed shark film, the movie contains a mixture of stock footage, “original” footage, and the previously mentioned outright-stolen footage. Because this footage is so haphazardly smashed together, there is even a scene in which terrified onlookers point at a shark and scream during the day, and then we get a good look at the shark they are screaming at; a shark that's clearly swimming around in the dark ocean night.

Dag always laughs as he watches his crippled daughter
attempt to use the Slip-N-Slide.

The movie begins and we meet our the main protagonist, Dag, as he cavorts around in an obnoxious neon green hat and plays with dolphins at the aquarium he owns. Then we meet Dag's daughter, Gimp, who is paralyzed from the waist down and confined to a wheelchair. However, said paralysis does not prevent said girl from kicking her obviously functional legs out from under her when she swims.

Wiener Man, along with his frumpy girlfriend, show up to celebrate the town's upcoming regatta. The couple bears some untold relationship to Gimp, but this relationship is left to wallow in its own obscurity.

It's pretty much right around here, I guess at the eight-minute mark, that the movie begins to blatantly steal from Jaws, as Wiener Man describes spending "18 months at sea on a floating asylum for oceanic research." This same character will later go on to explain that, "All sharks do are swim, eat, and make baby sharks...and that's all." Granted, the boy may be a geek, but he's not the Lord of the Geeks: Richard Dreyfuss, who originally delivered this dialogue exactly 20 years prior to this movie.

As the film continues, the stock and stolen footage continues to contradict itself, showing both tiger sharks and great whites, but hey, who's watching? You're not.

And just when you might notice such a glaring error as that, a man who seriously looks like the former dirty dancer himself, Patrick Swayzee (R.I.P.), shows up, playing the smarmy son of the smarmy mayor and dirtily dances around the beaches with his beach bunny.

Among other things "borrowed" from other films would be, oh, I guess the theme from Star Wars that is changed at the very last minute so as to sound different. I find it baffling that the filmmakers, who clearly have no problem stealing whole screenplay pages and footage from other movies would be remiss to steal the infamous Jaws theme as well. I also find it baffling that I am even watching this movie.

The nerdy couple goes to a disco dance club where they meet up with some equally nerdy friends. One of their friends, a stupid girl, exclaims, "I wanna dance!" as she is already dancing.

Thankfully, the titular shark of cruelty attacks and the town goes apeshit. As per Jaws, people go nuts trying to kill the shark to collect the handsome bounty.

Wiener Man tries in vain to tell the authorities what they are dealing with: "A sort of locomotive with a mouth full of butcher's knives." Shockingly, no one opts to listen to the wiener who spouts odd metaphors.

This event will, unfortunately, see the end of Patrick Swayzee and his battalion of cracker friends. The shark breaches, trying in vain to reach that hunk of meat that's nestled in the nether regions of the stock footage, and Patrick falls in the water.

As Patrick is gobbled up, his annoying girlfriend shrieks wildly and douses herself in gasoline in some half-assed attempt to burn the shark. Random boy figures this would be a perfect time to take aim with his trusty flare gun, and he fires at the shark (in order to edit in stolen footage of a boat explosion from Jaws 2 that this scene is depending on to conclude).

You wouldn't think it to look at her, but Marcy was
fucking hardcore during street fights.

Our idiotic trio has had enough of this sharkery, and the nerdy biologist and Dag decide it is time to go mano-a-squalo. As the two prepare for their battle on the dock, Gimp blatantly stands to hug her freak father before he sets off on a shark-hunting extravaganza of stolen footage and retardation.

Brutish men, on hire from the corrupt mayor, set out after the crew to silence them regarding some bullshit reason. But gosh, in all that open ocean, how will these men ever find them? Perhaps they could use that map that our heroes conveniently placed out in the open. You know, the map that depicts an area of charted ocean that is circled in fat red marker, with "IT'S HERE!" scrawled next to a fat red arrow confirming their destination.

And since we're now officially in a cartoon, I can't help but wonder when they're going to load up their ship with anvils.

Meanwhile, Sheriff Berger has a sudden attack of genius. He grabs a hunk of meat, a large hook, and hops in a helicopter to fly over the ocean, dangling said meat on said hook. He thinks this will work. We know it won't. You can pretty much guess what happens next.

Shark wailed in heartbreak as Helicopter,
who was biting back tears of his own, fled ashamedly.

Sheriff Berger shouts, "We're gonna need a bigger helicopter," gets pulled down into the water, and is instantly eaten. Then the shark lowers itself into the water and FARTS. (Granted, it was merely escaping air that had been caught in the head of the prop shark, but that's erroneous. It FARTED at me.)

Our idiotic trio sets some charges below in the sunken craft (kinda like exactly how Deep Blood ended) and causes the shark to explode… three different times in order to incorporate stolen footage from three different movies.

And at the very clipped ending of the third explosion, Mattei actually has the audacity to recreate the famous bone-to-spaceship shot from Kubrick's 2001, only this time, with a shark-exploding-multiple-times to jumping-dolphins shot.

I know what you’re thinking: you’re going to hop on Amazon to locate your own, personal copy of Cruel Jaws, perhaps one that comes with a digital copy that you could put on your iDag. But alas, the film is not available in the US, due to Universal Studios' immediate lawsuit filed against the movie's release back in '95. However, for the more savvy Googlers, there are copies of it floating around in cyberspace like a terrible shark prop, just waiting for you to Paypal your way into its heart.

In conclusion, when you're at the video store, staring at the case for Jaws, and wondering if you really want to watch it again for the 217th time, I recommend you go home, jump on eBay, and bid on a Region 0 DVD for Cruel Jaws. Then you can sit there and wait and re-bid and wait and re-bid and then get outbid by the big nerd who is willing to pay a lot of money for a stupid shark movie from Italy.