Welcome to the first installment of PopWatch Rewind, where we take a leisurely stroll through the great big Hollywood Video of the past. Each week, we’ll pick a different movie from years ago pegged to something recent. It won’t always be a classic film, or even a decent one, but it’ll always be interesting. We hope.
It’s just like a book club, except instead of Anne Rice and The Help, it’ll be Steven Seagal and Short Circuit. We’ll let you know what movie we’re planning on discussing a week ahead of time, to give you ample opportunity to watch it yourselves, then we’ll meet back here every Friday to talk about it. Of course, we’d prefer it if you saw it on VHS, but LaserDisc or Betamax is also fine.
Okay, let’s hit play, shall we?
In honor of the release of Piranha 3D, this week’s pick is that grand-daddy of screen-popping, big fish tales: Jaws 3-D. Starring Dennis Quaid before he knew better and Lou Gossett Jr. when he didn’t really care, this big bucket of chum isn’t the worst Jaws sequel, or the last, but it’s close. And if you fondly or not-so-fondly remember this movie, please by all means jump on into the comments section, the water’s fine.
Keith Staskiewicz: First off, I have a huge phobia of sharks. As a kid I didn’t live near the ocean, but I would still have these nightmares about people transporting a shark to an aquarium via helicopter. As they flew over my house, the buckle would break on the harness, and the shark would come flying through the air, living just long enough so that its mouth could continue moving as it shot through my bedroom ceiling. I had issues. But for some reason, the Jaws movies never really scared me that much. I think it’s because the sharks always looked so fake.
Darren Franich: I remember, when I was younger, being scared of Jaws, but weirdly, I remember being more scared of Jaws 3-D. I think it’s because in Jaws 3-D, the shark literally just pops up anywhere there’s water. There aren’t any rules. The bumper boats that the shark attacks in the movie look like they’re in about one foot of water! It really seems like, if you pour too much water into a bathtub, a shark will suddenly appear. I was really scared of pools and bathtubs for a long time after seeing Jaws 3-D. For some reason, this movie really got to me as a kid. Watching it now, it seems like a parody of itself.
KS: Which it actually almost ended up being. At one point producer Richard Zanuck and Universal wanted to make the third Jaws a spoof movie, like Airplane! Which is kind of funny considering that Airplane! starts with a Jaws joke. There was even a script written, by John Hughes of all people. It was going to be called Jaws 3, People 0, and would have been directed by Joe Dante, who did the original Piranha.
DF: Luckily Jaws 3-D is funny enough on its own. The whole thing takes place at SeaWorld, where a Mama shark is seeking vengeance for its baby. It actually starts off well enough. I’m going to come out and say that the first attack in the movie is pretty freaky. The sound effect they used is kind of terrifying, and they only show quick glimpses of the shark’s teeth and nothing else. So I was thinking that maybe they did learn that “less is more” thing from the first one. But then 20 minutes later they’re underwater in a sunken ship and suddenly a big fake rubber shark is knocking repeatedly into the walls.
KS: And with all the speed and grace of a four-year-old in a bathtub jamming a plastic shark into a plastic ship. Also, they have the shark swimming backwards, which it biologically can’t do, and it roars. It roars! Not as dramatic a roar as in Jaws: The Revenge, mind you, but still it’s still a shark roaring underwater. For me, Lou Gossett Jr. is easily the best part of the movie. He won his Oscar for An Officer and a Gentleman right before this came out, which is interesting because Michael Caine won one of his while filming the fourth Jaws. Gossett Jr.’s character has this great line where he says incredulously, “You talkin’ about some damn shark’s mother?” and you almost feel like he’s speaking for the audience.
DF: Let’s talk about the 3-D.
KS: Well, the real era of 3-D was originally the ’50s with Dial M for Murder and House of Wax and William Castle, but there was this resurgence in the early ’80s, essentially pegged to bad horror sequels. I almost feel like the trend came back solely because someone woke up in the middle of the night and had the realization, “Wait a minute. If it’s the third sequel, you can just add a ‘D!’” And thus, Friday the 13th, Part 3, 3-D. Amityville 3-D. Jaws 3-D.
DF: Unfortunately, you can’t really watch Jaws 3-D in 3-D anymore because the technology they used doesn’t translate well to home viewing. But it’s almost, in a funny way, more enjoyable in 2-D. If it were 3-D, I feel like I’d be annoyed, but instead it’s, “Why are you lingering on this floating fish head for 30 seconds straight?” For a brief moment it becomes very abstract and almost pleasantly surreal.
KS: My favorite use of the 3-D in the movie is when the shark gets killed, and it explodes into a visual pun. You see some viscera, but then two sets of bloody shark gums and teeth smack into the screen and hang there. And after a second you’re like, “Oh, right, Jaws.”
Next Week: So here’s your homework. Since Takers starring Chris Brown and Hayden Christensen as bank robbers will be out, we’ll return to the impossibly badass awesomeness that is Point Break. Patrick Swayze, Keanu Reeves, surfing, barely disguised homoeroticism, and ex-presidents with guns: You know you want it.