Monster Shark (1984)

It was touch and go for awhile, but in the end Monster Shark persevered and got the win. Oh, I don’t mean he beat his human assailants. He got his prehistoric ass torched by an army of flamethrowers because we decided blowing him up wasn’t good enough. I mean that Monster Shark got more kills than the humans did.

Shockingly for a movie about an evil rampaging sea monster, the humans were killing each other at the same clip as that crusty old barnacle of a hideous beast was. It wasn’t until the very end when he wracked up a bunch of cheap kills during the final showdown that he pulled out the win.

Despite its reputation, I didn’t find Monster Shark so much the laughably incompetent shipwreck it was supposed to be , but merely a routinely average Italian exploitation movie from the 1980s.

Was it better or worse than its similarly themed Italian brethren such as The Great Alligator, Cruel Jaws, Killer Fish, Killer Crocodile, Killer Crocodile 2, Tentacles, The Last Shark, Deep Blood or Night of the Sharks? Let me put it this way, I’ve only seen about half those movies, and they run together in a big mess of frothy red water in my mind, but I’m pretty sure it was better than Joe D’Amato‘s Deep Blood, but not as good as Tentacles since Tentacles had Shelley Winters and Henry Fonda.

Monster Shark did have Michael Sopkiw whose resume pretty much consists only of four Italian flicks also including Blastfighter, Massacre in Dinosaur Valley and 2019: After the Fall of New York. Throw in Gianni Garko as the Sheriff and William Berger as a shady research scientist and you get the feeling that director Lamberto Bava at least knew who hire for such a project.

Though the movie tries to run a little mystery on us about what’s behind Monster Shark, the real mystery is how six different people were needed to come up with the script including Bava, Sergio Martino, Dardano Sacchetti and Luigi Cozzi, guys perfectly capable of churning out trash all by themselves!

It all gets off to a promising start though when a dude is rescued from the water and airlifted by the Coast Guard except that his legs have been chewed off! Possible shark attack, but something about the bites just isn’t right. Later at the Seaquarium the dolphins go crazy and try to kill their trainer while at the same time, her co-worker is out at sea hearing something very strange as his ship gets tossed about!

Meanwhile, a gal threatens to go public with something at the World Ocean Institute but gets fried when a hair dryer is chucked into her bathtub for her trouble. It’s supposed to look like an accident, but as the sheriff points out, who calls a cab and then goes and takes a bath? The sheriff also gains credibility when he later says they can’t let the monster eat the explosive bait because all the exploded cells could reproduce into more Monster Sharks and then “we’d be up to our ass in monsters!” But he loses all his credibility when he brags about winning a medal at the police academy for sharp shooting. You might have someone else mention you were the best sniper in Nam, but you never brag on yourself and not about what you did at police summer camp!

Sopkiw plays an electronics expert enlisted by the Seaquarium folks to help track Monster Shark. He has a sexy assistant he screws, but she double crosses him with the bad guys which leads to them breaking into his shop and busting up the equipment he was going to use to go after Monster Shark. So he uses different equipment. I would lament the idiocy of the bad guys’ plan here except that the plan they are using all this killing and property destruction in furtherance of is even more idiotic.

Towards the end of the movie, Bad Guy finally explains that Monster Shark was his creation. The future is the sea, he announces, and says that whoever can protect their part of the sea will be the winner and so Monster Shark was devised as some kind of guard dog I guess. It has tentacles like an octopus and the brain of a dolphin! And the teeth of a monster!

I was never sure just what he thought he was going to protect or how he was thinking he could ever control something like that, but then again he was the kind of moron who dubbed the project “Seakiller” and worse, had no problem wearing the exact same watch that his mistress also gave her husband!

That his identity is kept a secret for much of the movie also doesn’t make much sense since Bava goes to great pains to make us think it’s a different guy, but this other guy is shown constantly trying to get information on Seakiller but being denied access by the computer!

Monster Shark himself doesn’t have much to do other than to slap some people around with his tentacles every so often and more emphasis is placed on comparatively easier and cheaper scenes of guys on a boat staring at a primitive fish finder gizmo and looking at a white blip saying “he’s getting closer! 200 feet! 175 feet! Now he’s turning!” Wake me up when he actually decides to slop himself on board and we get unconvincing close ups of a mouth opening and closing mechanically.

With not nearly the gore as you would expect given its pedigree, Monster Shark is content to spend most of its time on the scientists and sheriff trying to figure out first what they are up against and second, what to do about it, leading to a lot more chatter than you would like and causing Monster Shark to only attack a few dimwitted boaters.

But even with all this talking, oddly there’s only a passing mention that Sopkiw’s assistant/girlfriend was killed offscreen and Sopkiw’s character doesn’t even seem to remember she ever existed, even at the end of the movie when he’s back at his shop minus the assistant and laughing about taking a vacation in the mountains with his new dolphin trainer girlfriend. It’s that sort of inattention to detail that makes you wish Monster Shark had a seventh writer to polish this chatty waterlogged floater up a bit more!

© 2019 MonsterHunter

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