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Jaws 3-D (1983): Universal Actually Spent the Money to Upconvert This Mess?

Jaws 3-D (Joe Alves, 1983)

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I’ve been trying for half an hour to find the new Universal 100th Anniversary cover art on the web. I know it exists, because I saw Dave holding a copy of the box with my own eyes. But it’s still nowhere on the Internet…

During the 2012 edition of the Capitol Theatre’s yearly horror-thon Twelve Hours of Terror, I got to see Universal’s brand-new (as far as the cinema knew, it was the first theatrical showing in America) Real-D remaster of Jaws 3-D, commissioned as part of the Universal 100th Anniversary series of Blu-Ray discs. I was astonished—not by the realism of the 3-D, but by the fact that Universal would spend that much time, money, and effort on one of the crappiest movies ever made. Worse yet, thirty years later, it has aged very, very badly; my forty-three-year-old self saw a lot of flaws that my thirteen-year-old self missed.


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“You see, Dennis, once my career was as big as Baltimore. But now, it’s as big as this scale model of the movie that’s destroying my career as we speak.”

Plot: it’s another beautiful day at Sea World. Or it soon will be, because Calvin Bouchard (Louis Gossett, Jr., who won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for An Officer and a Gentleman a mere five months before the release of this film) has just spent millions creating the Sea World Underwater Kingdom, a massive installation in a lagoon aimed at getting people under the actual sea so they can see the real habitat of all these fish, rather than having them under a big fish tank. Just before opening day, the entire crew is in a fever trying to get ready for the grand re-opening. Needless to say, there’s a big shark hanging around to mess it up and throw any number of monkeywrenches into the plans of chief engineer Mike Brody (Dennis Quaid, whose recent run of stinkers obviously has a gold pedigree); marine biologist Kathy Morgan (Jekyll and Hyde…Together Again!‘s Bess Armstrong), Mike’s girlfriend; Sean (Skeeter‘s John Putch), Mike’s younger brother, still deathly afraid of the sea after the events of the first two films; and Kelly Ann (Back to the Future‘s Lea Thompson in her feature debut), who takes to Sean like a duck to… well, you know. There’s a subplot with a Richard Atttenborough-like nature show host (Death on the Nile‘s Simon MacCorkindale)…

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Fox News, in discussing Thompson’s career, said she was “perky” in this movie. I will not disagree.


…but like the rest of the plot, it’s secondary to the fact that this movie is an hour-and-a-half-long ad for Sea World. Did anyone stop to think that perhaps a movie about a killer shark that goes around eating people might not exactly cause the tourist dollars to flow? Obviously not, since the movie actually got released. And like most of the movies that appeared during the mercifully brief 3-D resuscitation that happened during the early eighties, they used the same ridiculous “hey, look at what I’m doing with this technology!” shots that act as nothing more than filler (hey, wow, that coral tentacle coming right out of the screen is cool!…for about five seconds, which is six times shorter than the shot itself lasts) one found in so many fifties 3-D movies without actually thinking about new applications of the technology; one of the reasons the newest 3-D fad has lasted so long is because directors are using it to make movies like Cave of Forgotten Dreams and Pina.

Entirely ridiculous, though the appeal of a young Lea Thompson in short-shorts will be enough of a draw for some folks. **

About Robert "Goat" Beveridge

Media critic (amateur, semi-pro, and for one brief shining moment in 2000 pro) since 1986. Guy behind noise/powerelectronics band XTerminal (after many small stints in jazz, rock, and metal bands). Known for being tactless but honest.

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