During all the years I’ve been hanging around the web, I’ve heard plenty about fan edits, but never took the time to actually watch one. I guess I never really saw the point. That all changed when I discovered Petr Harmy’s “Despecialized” STAR WARS TRILOGY. Yearning for the versions of the original films that I remembered (before the intrusive additions and subtractions made by George Lucas), I downloaded the films and was blown away, not only by the quality, but also by the insane amount of work that went into their creation.
Utilizing up to six different sources (Blu-ray, DVD, Laserdisc, 35mm, etc.), Harmy and a group of hardcore fans recreated, color-corrected, and then released the best versions of the original STAR WARS TRILOGY that you will ever see. Unless Disney finally delivers on their promise to release the untouched originals, this is the only way to watch STAR WARS, THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, and RETURN OF THE JEDI!
After downloading and watching these fan-made restorations, I took it upon myself to investigate the fan edit sub-culture further, which led me to its nexus: FANEDIT.ORG. Scrolling through the site’s database, I was simply amazed at all the various cuts that existed for the STAR WARS prequels and the MATRIX sequels, and was intrigued to see fan edits of THE WARRIORS (The TV Composite) and BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA (Engorged Workprint) as well.
But the one title that immediately caught my eye was JAWS! (a.k.a. My all-time favorite movie!) Dubbed “The Sharksploitation Edit,” this heavily altered version of Steven Spielberg’s career-making film is shorter, contains numerous deleted scenes (as well as scenes borrowed from other shark films and documentaries), a different ending, and replaces a large chunk of John Williams’ score. But does it live up to it’s promised grindhouse feel? And is it superior in any way to the Spielberg classic? Yes and no.
Rather than recap the film’s plot, I’m going to assume that you already know what JAWS is all about. (If you need a refresher on things, you can read my review for it HERE. If you haven’t seen the movie, then stop reading and go watch it right now!) Instead, let us focus on how successful “The Man Behind the Mask” was at turning this heralded classic into an exploitation flick. Overall, I think he achieved his goal of “grindhousing” JAWS.
The film looks scratched and beat up (a “MISSING REEL” card even makes an appearance at one point) and the level of carnage is jacked up here, thanks to inserted footage from JAWS 2, THE LAST SHARK, JAWS: THE REVENGE, and SPRING BREAK SHARK ATTACK. It certainly has the look of a grindhouse flick from the ’70s, and for the most part, it feels like it is one too. So the enigmatic “Man Behind the Mask” succeeded in that respect.
Though his intention was to make a fun alternate cut of JAWS, the end result is actually a lot less fun than the version we all love and know. Many of the the humorous moments and bits of dialogue have been excised, so the film is a bit darker and has a more serious tone. And some of the changes prove to be distracting enough to take you out of the movie, like the handful of purposely created audio “mistakes,” and the music.
Ah yes, the music. Some of John Williams’ score remains, but much has been replaced with a motley soundtrack that includes Lalo Schifrin, Metallica, The Beach Boys, Iggy Pop, and Manowar. (I’m sad to report that my favorite track from the JAWS soundtrack, “The Shark Cage Fugue” did not make the cut.) Some of the music actually works, like when “Surfer Girl” plays during the scene where the shark chases down a water skiier. But that’s not always the case as evidenced by the use of Iggy Pop’s song “Go For the Throat” during the film’s big shark attack sequence.
So you may be wondering at this point how “The Sharksploitation Edit” stacks up against its progenitor. Though it is still technically the same film, I have to say that without a doubt, the original JAWS is still number one! It’s funny, it’s exciting, it’s thrilling, and to me, it’s perfect in every way! “The Sharksploitation Edit?” Not so much.
But despite it’s missteps, this fan edit is impressive. The inclusion of footage from other shark films and from various documentaries is edited in fairly well, and it’s cool to see numerous deleted scenes incorporated back into the film. But the big thing I truly appreciated (other than the retooled scene featuring Quint’s haunting speech about the U.S.S. Indianapolis) was the altered climax of this film, which would have made Dino DeLaurentiis stand up and cheer.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!
I noticed some time ago that there seemed to be a bit of a (good-natured?) back and forth between the folks at Universal and the late Dino DeLaurentiis in the ’70s. In response to the mega-hit JAWS, DeLaurentiis produced ORCA in 1977, which has a scene where a Killer Whale kills a Great White Shark. The following year, Universal made JAWS 2, which of course, has a scene where some partying “teens” discover the corpse of a mauled killer whale washed up on a beach.
Taking this all into consideration, this fan edit’s creator inserted the aforementioned killer whale scene from JAWS 2 into his Sharksploitation Edit, and added in Orca sound effects during the famous JAWS sing-a-long of “Show Me the Way to Go Home.” (Said sound effects kick in just before our three heroes break into drunken revelry.) These little moments finally culminate into the mother of unexpected endings.
As Martin Brody fires a rifle at the oncoming Great White during the climactic struggle between man and nature, there is no explosion. Just as Roy Scheider finishes delivering his famous quote (“Smile you sonofabitch!”), aid suddenly appears in the form of a vengeful Orca! The mighty mega-dolphin (because killer whales aren’t actually whales) avenges its mate, and violently murders the Great White! This was a very pleasant surprise, and proves to be an intelligent, and well thought-out conclusion to this alternate version of JAWS.
In the end, JAWS: THE SHARKSPLOITATION EDIT is an interesting, but flawed, experiment in film editing. Though it achieves its goal of looking like a grindhouse flick, this fan edit removes/replaces a great deal of what made JAWS such a beloved film in the first place. And after two viewings, I have to say that this fan cut of JAWS is inferior to the 1975 classic it has altered. The creator’s heart was definitely in the right place (this would make a great double feature with THE LAST SHARK or CRUEL JAWS), but you just can’t top perfection!
Though it has moments of sheer brilliance, JAWS: THE SHARKSPLOITATION EDIT never rises above the original film. It neither ruins, nor enhances JAWS, but manages to find a comfortable middle ground and stays put. It will never be my preferred way to enjoy this particular film, but I’m glad I sated my curiosity, and hereby award this fan edit with: