WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS!
After recently surviving UP FROM THE DEPTHS, I was eager to move on to another movie featuring finned fiends for the Vault’s 2016 Summer of the Shark celebration! My main hope was that I’d end up watching something that was, at the very least, a little less boring. So I randomly chose an old made-for-TV movie I had never seen before, called SHARK KILL. I immediately regretted my decision.
As SHARK KILL opens, divers are checking for a clog within the pipes of an oil rig off the California coast. Their constant banging attracts the attention of a fifteen-foot Great White Shark who swims towards the rig for a closer look. No one notices the shark’s fin slicing through the surface of the ocean, except for marine biologist Rick Dayner (Phillip Clark).
New to the job site, Rick attempts to tell the foreman that he saw a Great White, but is written off. Angry that his expert advice was ignored, Rick storms off and quits. But his counsel wasn’t completely ignored, as a few extra precautions are taken while the divers continue their work. However, the addition of an extra diver armed with a bangstick proves futile as the shark, attracted by the renewed vibrations, swims in for the kill.
Two divers die in the attack, but the third, Luis Mendoza (Victor Campos), is maimed, and loses a leg. Luis’ brother Cabo (Richard Yniguez) vows vengeance against the shark, and ends up forming an alliance with Rick. They rent a small boat, load up on explosives and bait, then head out to kill the Great White and collect the $20,000 bounty on the shark’s head. With Rick’s knowledge of marine animals, and Cabo’s military background, how could anything possibly go wrong?
Then Murphy’s Law kicks in as Rick and Cabo discover that their rental refuses to start and doesn’t have a working radio. Stranded and unable to call for help, the two would-be heroes figure they’ll sit tight and wait for help. And that’s when a much larger boat full of partying drunks decimates their vessel, leaving the would-be shark hunters bobbing in the middle of the ocean.
While they fight to keep afloat and stave off an attack by the hungry Great White, Cabo’s girlfriend Bonnie (Elizabeth Gill) alerts the Coast Guard. Patrols head out at daybreak, and it’s a race against time to rescue the two men before the shark makes a meal of them! Will they be saved, or will they become fish food?!
SHARK KILL originally aired on NBC on May 20th, 1976, in response to the overwhelming success of Spielberg’s JAWS. After its initial broadcast, this film seems to have quickly dropped off the radar until its (now out of print) DVD release in 2007 from Wild Eye Releasing. The video quality of the transfer aside (it is terrible and looks like it was taken from a second-generation VHS tape), the film, based on its own merits, is frustratingly dull.
The plot of SHARK KILL is essentially “JAWS Lite:” A shark attack shakes up a small town, shuts down production at an oil rig (in lieu of ruining Summer tourism), is hunted by two men from different walks of life (instead of three), and gets blown up during the climax. And since we’ve got a marine biologist, and a former frogman, all that this movie is missing was a Chief of Police with a slight case of aquaphobia.
The cast of the film is actually pretty decent, with both Richard Yniguez (Cabo) and Phillip Clark (Rick) putting in good performances. Both of their characters are quite likable, and its fun to watch them go from being at odds, to becoming best friends. But I do find it odd that after their ordeal, they ditch their girlfriends, then run off with each other on a boat they spent their shared reward money on. (I can’t decide if these guys chose freedom and friendship over romance, or were just closet homosexuals the entire time.)
The film’s main attraction (and the entire reason I’m reviewing it in the first place) is of course, the promised Great White Shark. Since this production probably didn’t have a huge budget, the film’s antagonist is portrayed by stock footage, and a very unconvincing fin. Still the stock footage is used to great effect, and edited fairly well into the scenes where the actors are supposed to interact with the shark.
In the end, SHARK KILL was not the forgotten gem I hoped it would be. Even at a lean seventy-six minutes, it was a total chore to sit through, and I doubt I’ll ever revisit it again. If you’re curious about it, you can seek it out (though it’s ridiculously overpriced at the moment), but trust me when I say that your time is better spent on other films in the killer shark sub-genre. Though it is a tad better than the previous film I reviewed, I can’t give SHARK KILL much more than: