Shark Hunter

Even sharks tremble before the power stache
★★★
☆☆
Released: 
1979
Director: 
Enzo G. Castellari
Starring: 
Franco Nero, Werner Pochath, Jorge Luke, Michael Forest
The Setup: 
Badass shark destroyer seeks sunken treasure.
Discussion: 

This is part of the Grindhouse Experience Vol. 2 boxed set, which I perused, but turned out to be a little too expensive and got such poor reviews that I passed on it. Luckily my agents in the field were able to review the set and let me know that this disc, which also contains another shark/sunken treasure gem, Deadly Jaws, was the only disc in the set worth getting. So here we go.

We see during the credits that this is an Italian production, and immediately expectations of trashy quality are raised. We have shots of beaches while we hear energetic disco music, and soon note that the entire film, while in English, features subtitles in some kind of Scandinavian language.

Mike, the shark hunter, sits on a rock overlooking a beach. He has long blond hair held in place [VERY FIRMLY in place] by a braided headband that evidence suggests he never takes off. He also has a power stache, big bushy eyebrows, and smoldering blue eyes, all of which is exploited by the film. Now is a good time to delineate the differences between the common porn stache and the POWER STACHE, a distinction I fear is being lost in our increasingly follicile-phobic society. The Porn Stache denotes a certain horniness and expresses a generalized statement of masculinity, while the Power Stache denotes a man who says I WILL GRAB YOU BY THE THROAT--EVEN IF YOU SHOULD HAPPEN TO BE A SHARK--AND FORCE YOU TO ACQUIESCE TO MY OVERWHELMING MANHOOD. And that's what Mike has going here. I feel that anyone who watches this film will be able to effortlessly distinguish the subtle differences by the end. So Mike is sitting there, silent, stalking, when a hapless shark--captured in dark underwater dinge-a-vision--foolishly ingests the meaty morsel Mike has left out for just such a purpose. Seeing his buoy bobbing, Mike springs into action, as does the pulsing disco soundtrack, which you will have much opportunity to experience as the film wears on. Mike runs along the beach, and runs, and runs, until you're like "What's the point of sitting so far from your fishing line?" Like, maybe he thinks the shark will see him sitting like, within a mile of the rope line and quickly put the whole situation together? Maybe--I don't know, he's the shark hunter and not me. Mike grabs the line and pulls on it, has a little tug-of-war with the shark, causing you to think "Woah! He's going to drag that thing onto land with his bare hands!" But no, it escapes, at which point Mike leaps into a nearby boat and goes out to pursue that thing to the depths of hell, if need be. He chases after it, comes up alongside and spears the beast. More struggle, and finally he pulls the thing into the boat with his bare hands, firmly establishing his dominance over all toothy fishes who might aspire to his throne. I think he should just go for it and bellow while beating his chest like a gorilla, but that's not Mike. He's silent. He waits.

Next our scene shifts to a beachside cantina, where we learn that we're in Mexixo [oh, okay] and Mike is regarded as "the gringo," because he's American, and the locals respect him and leave him alone. He has a local girlfriend in Juanita. Into the bar walks a loudmouth fellow named Acupulco who loudly drops exposition for all to hear that he's from a big military ship offshore that has all this expensive equipment for... something or other. It's not for knitting, that's for sure. Mike overhears all of this, but is so silently smooth the revelation causes not a ripple to cross the silken expanse of the majestic power stache. But there's some other guy at the bar, playing darts, and Acupulco's inceassant yammering [his conversation has now moved on to topics related to his love of pleasure and romance, areas in which he boasts of a unique ability] has aroused his ire. He dispatches his thugs to throw the Loudmouth Lover out and--SUDDEN KUNG FU! Acupulco shows some slick moves but is soon outmanned, at which point Mike steps into the fracas and we discover that not only does he take down sharks with his bare hands, but he's an accomplished kung-fu master. I'll bet he whips up a mean lobster souffle with truffle-oil bearnaise as well. Frankly, I don't think there's much he CAN'T do. Having saved the ass of the talkative Latin Lover, he finds himself with a loyal sidekick. That no power on earth can make shut up.

Soon after, they are best buddies, and are out shark hunting. Only they don't shark hunt like you or I... if you or I shark hunted. Acupulco is driving a boat while Mike is PARASAILING, suspended 100 feet above the water, where he can effortlessly look down through the murk and discern nefarious sharks just waiting to hatch their evil shark plans. He yells down directions to Acupulco such as "Left!" to which Acupulco says "What? Eh? Left? You say Left? Okay, left it is. Left? Okay." and turns what seems like a full minute, and several hundred yards, past the original turn-off point, but somehow it all seems to work out. THAT'S how skillful these high-tech shark hunters are. When the moment is right--and NOT a second before--Mike unclips himself from the floating parachute, dives straight down into the water, where he takes off in pursuit of the offending shark. Now you might think a shark can obviously swim faster than a man. But you might be talking about an ORDINARY MAN. Not Mike, the Shark Hunter. He is fully capable of overtaking the shark in the water, comes up behind it, and grabs the fucker! We are then treated to footage of Mike WRESTLING WITH A REAL SHARK. Which essentially means he locks his arms around its waist and holds on while it thrashes. Eventually he stabs it and its curtains for man's mortal enemy. By the way, you might start to wonder "Sheesh, what does Mike have against these sharks, anyway? Did they steal his idea for a coffee shop roller rink? Did they bilk him on some real estate?" but later there are a few throwaway lines about how he sells sharks for a living. Yeah, at SharkMart.

One thing this movie is REALLY hoping you do not possess is any kind of knowledge about sharks--if you have watched an hour of Shark Week on Discovery you are overqualified--as the movie rather ludicrously tries to pass off harmless bottom-dwelling sharks as maneating monsters. Look, they're SHARKS, okay? Nuff' said. But if you do know that these poor sharks just want to chill on the sea floor and mean no harm to anyone, one becomes aware that what you're watching is shocking footage of SHARK HARASSMENT, and the sad result of ICTHYOLOGICAL PROFILING.

One also has had much cause to note that many of the underwater scenes are so dark that a basic sense of what is happening begins to seem like a luxury. And that the disco music that comes on at regular intervals [there are long, aimless periods of Mike swimming or wrestling sharks while disco music plays] does not seem to mesh with the action of the movie or vary in the slightest with the various scenes--it is just DISCO MUSIC. That is all.

So as you're sitting there saying "I think I just watched a guy jump from a parasail into the ocean where he overtook and just wrestled a shark," which is often followed by "How did my life GET to this place?" We see Mike bring Acupulco in on his plan, which is that Acupulco will steal all the sensitive equipment that does... you know, that thing... and they'll use it to vacuum [I did just say VACUUM] up all the money in this safe that lies in the wreckage of this plane that lies 350 down on the ocean floor. Which, we are told, is a diving challenge. To add to the challenge, the wreckage is in three places, of varying depths, and only the deepest one has the money. Furthermore, in order to get there, they have to swim through this underwater grotto that has a swirling current, making it a perfect place for sharks to use for a little nap, since the current allows them to just chill but still be able to breathe. The stakes are high! But Acupulco is up to it with the thought of that big payoff, because he sees the good but poor people of Mexico and he just wants to build schools and hospitals! He just CARES! He doesn't want any of that money for himself--NO! So he agrees.

SPOILERS > > >
But! The nefarious forces of evil have emerged from the woodwork, all of them want that money, and all of them know Mike knows where it is. Among them are American Joe Donovan and nasty Mexican meanie Senior Gomez. The pretty boy guy who didn't like Acupulco's yammering at the beginning is after it, too. Mike has a habit of cockily removing his chewing gum and sticking it directly on the yuppie baddie's face. Then--SUDDEN FLASHBACK. It seems that Mike used to be a good clean suburban American, but then his wife and child were killed in a car accident, so he left his life and became a mercenary, and was ON the plane that crashed with the money, hence his knowledge of its location.

Now there's a few various scenes where the baddies try to follow Mike to find the location of the plane, but of course he's too smart for them. Then the yuppie baddie kills Mike's girlfriend Juanita, leading to a massive car chase that becomes a bottle-factory shootout that becomes a boat/plane chase. Around this time the shocking events of this film have made you question: Does Mike EVER take that headband off? He wears it from sea to land and back again, making one begin to wonder at the state of matters underneath, where his hair remains damp and compressed for long periods. Um, mold? Fetid rot? Parasite infestation? I know Mike is a big rough tough man who can take anything, but I don't think he needs to have biocultures growing in his hair to prove that.

So Senor Gomez determines the site of the crash, just as Mike is ready to set his plan in motion. Before this we have had several trips to the plane, which requires them to swim through the shark nap room, which I must say is a fairly effective idea. The sharks are just sitting there quietly on the sea floor [because they are harmless bottom-dwelling sharks], but you get the sense that they are keenly watching and could attack at any second. Anyway, somehow Mike attaches his vacuum to the safe in the plane, where all of the money lies dry as a bone, despite being in the crushing pressures of the ocean. Mike has been able to stick the vacuum nozzle in without letting any moisture in, and does literally suck all the money out, through a tube to the surface, and into a big white balloon at the surface. The bad guys find him and send their minions down, resulting in a big undersea fight and resultant shark attack, unfortunately so dark and incoherently edited that one truly cannot tell what is happening. Senor Gomez ends up on the wrong end of a spear gun, falls into the ocean and is instantly eaten by a shark waiting for just that moment. In here Acupulco his been killed, somehow--I forget. So it's just Mike and Donovan left, and the baloon with all the money is floating away into the sky. Mike hears Acupulco's words about wanting to build schools and hospitals for the poor indigenous peoples, and they shoot the balloon, scattering the money to the four winds! And even though they are far out to sea and nowhere remotely near land, all the money drifts all the way over to the local town, where it lands in the streets and the poor inhabitants pick it up and thank their fortune! Of course, Acupulco wanted to build schools and hospitals, and you know everyone here is just going to use the money for drugs and flat-screen TVs. But what can ya do.
< < < SPOILERS END

It was pretty good fun, and since you get this out of the Grindhouse Experience set, I don't think there's much danger of anyone approaching this with the wrong attitude. Not only do you have the semi-ridiculous figure of Mike and his Power Stache, but you have him diving from parachutes into the water to pursue sharks, and then the whole gangster/treasure hunting angle, and it's all quite amusing. It also has the decency to only be 90 minutes. So good fun all around. Don't miss watching the other movie on the disc, Deadly Jaws, which is a surprisingly similar treasure hunting story with menacing shark corpses [you'll have to see] and roaring octopi, and is also a fun time.

OH, one more thing: The star of this movie, Franco Nero, is now MR. VANESSA REDGRAVE.

Should you watch it: 

Yes, if all you want is silly fun.

Comments

Hey Scott, awesome review (and that last pic of Nero you put up was pretty hot too, let's be honest), just a head's up though, the review to Deadly Jaws doesn't seem to be on the site. Followed the link to read it and poof, twas not to be. Keep up the good work! :)

That review must still be on the old site... sorry!
The last pic, btw, is some random thug in the movie, not Nero...