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Film / The Last Shark

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"At the end of the day, The Last Shark gives the impression of Jaws misremembered. It all seems so familiar, and yet not quite right, as if the same events were taking place in an alternate universe."
Ed Glaser

The Last Shark (Italian title: L'ultimo squalo), also known as Great White (not to be confused with the 2021 Australian movie), is a 1981 Italian horror film "influenced by" Jaws.

It follows a small coastal town where an enormous shark wanders into the marina, eating one of the local teens who is friends with the daughter of the main character, Peter Benton (James Franciscus), and causing him and a trusted friend and shark expert, Ron Hamer (Vic Morrow), to investigate. However, even though the shark hasn't been sighted but is predicted to be the cause of the teen's disappearance, Mayor Wells downplays it so that the town can still hold their windsurfing regata. Naturally, the shark has plans of its own and it's up to Peter and Ron to try and catch it before it eats more of the townsfolk.

This film contains examples of:

  • Adaptational Nice Guy: Unlike the one-dimensionally callous Mayor Vaughn, Mayor Wells actually makes an effort to take precautions against the shark by installing safety barriers and in the finale even goes as far as to attempt to take down the shark himself. The Quint knock-off, Ron Hamer, is also played as much more rational and critical thinking, and doesn't go off the deep end and put everyone else at risk trying to kill the shark.
  • Alternate DVD Commentary: Given the Rifftrax treatment in 2016.
  • An Arm and a Leg:
    • Jenny gets her leg bitten off by the shark, but survives.
    • Wells gets both his legs bitten off and dies quickly of the blood loss.
  • Artistic License – Biology:
    • This movie did the roaring sharknote  thing six years before Jaws: The Revenge...
    • Plus, sharks only need to eat about 1-10% of their total body weight per week. Assuming this particular Great White Shark is between 1,200 and 2,400 lbs, it would only need to eat 1-2 people in an entire week (under the assumption the average person weighs 137 lbs). Instead, we see the shark gorge itself on several people in the same day. In the finale, he eats Chris, Wells, Wells' pilot, the cameraman (to be fair, he was bitten in half and not completely consumed), Riley, and is chewing on Ron Hamer's drowned corpse before Peter finally manages to kill it. The shark also ate Mike in the opening, so if this is the same week, that is way too many people for one shark to consume.
  • Ashes to Crashes: Ron's corpse is fed to the shark, because Peter knows the shark will be killed by the explosives inside of Ron's scuba belt.
  • Attack of the Town Festival: The shark appears and menaces people during the town's wind-surfing regatta. Bizarrely, the shark goes around knocking everyone off their boards, but not eating them. Only one person gets eaten at the very end of the scene, The mayor's aide, who was most vocal in his disbelief of the shark, and is killed by it with Laser-Guided Karma.
  • Berserk Button: Peter loses his cool pretty quickly after his daughter, Jenny, loses her leg in a botched attempt with the other kids to kill the shark. He begins an aborted Roaring Rampage of Revenge that Hamer finally snaps him out of after a strong lecture.
  • Bittersweet Ending: One area the film doesn't copy Jaws.The older film ends on a quietly upbeat note, The Last Shark ends with Peter having defeated the shark but at the cost of several lives, including his best friend, Ron Hamer, while his daughter won't recover for a long time either physically or mentally...When the Jerkass reporter is first to greet his return to land, bombarding him with questions about being a hero... Peter responds by punching him out. Then he drives off as sombre music plays.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Hamer tells Peter the "dynamite" he's carrying is purely as a back-up. It ends up saving both their lives once, when the shark creates a rockslide to trap them in an underwater cave, and again in the finale, when Peter feeds Ron's drowned corpse to the shark and remotely triggers the second batch of explosives he's carrying in his belt to blow the shark up.
    • Subverted with Riley. Riley makes a big deal about the specialized weapon he's carrying. He gets bumped in the confusion after the shark pulls the dock away and immediately loses it in the water.
  • Covers Always Lie: At no point is a gorgeous, bikini-clad woman on a flotation device being menaced by the shark.
  • Damsel in Distress: Peter's wife, Gloria, in the climax. She even goes full hysterical after the shark eats the sleazy cameraman.
  • Deuteragonist: Ron Hammer. It's Hamer who the mayor quickly hires as a shark hunter to eliminate the shark, and he's heavily involved off-screen in the attempts to protect the regatta. He also has traits of The Lancer.
  • Didn't Think This Through:
    • Seriously, did Wells for a second seriously think that he could fish the shark out of the water with just a helicopter?
    • The same goes for Peter's daughter and her friends taking the boat and a freaking shotgun and thinking they could kill the shark better than two actual adult shark experts.
  • Disposable Pilot: Wells' pilot, Bernie. He does Outlive his boss but the shark manages to get the chopper into his mouth and drag it under the water.
  • Dolled-Up Installment: The film was released in Spain, Brazil and Japan as a part of the Jaws series. Which is one of several reasons why Universal took the film's American distributors to court in a (successful) bid to have it pulled from cinemas.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Ron Hamer is a key player in the film for the first and second acts, and is a much cooler head than Quint ever seemed to be. He's rational even when Peter isn't, after his daughter loses a leg to the shark. It seems like Hamer and Peter are being set-up for a massive tag-team showdown with the shark...Only for them to encounter the shark near a sunken helicopter 20-30 minutes before the end of the film. Hamer gets caught up in some cables, the shark bites down on the cables and leaves the scene, and Hamer is unceremoniously dragged off underwater, where he eventually drowns off-screen, either from losing his air hose or when his oxygen tank runs dry. He does end up making an appearance in the climax, but it's as a drowned corpse that Peter ends up feeding to the shark to blow it up with Hamer's explosives belt.
  • Faux Action Girl: Peter's daughter, Jenny. She goes with her boyfriend and other windsurfing friends to "avenge" their friend Mike, who the shark ate in the opening scene, by hunting the shark with a shotgun, but all that happens is when the shark eats the bait they dangled over the boat, the pole gets yanked loose and knocks her into the water. The shark then proceeds to bite her leg off before her idiot friends can pull her back onto the boat. She survives, but Wells is furious enough to slap his son in the face when he finds out about it all, as they took his boat for their ill-fated revenge attempt.
  • Foreign Remake: Averted in theory but played straight in practice. While not officially a remake of Jaws, it follows the original film so closely that it may as well be considered one. This is ultimately what led to it being denied a theatrical release in America.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Riley spends a bit thrashing in the water to distract the shark from the others swimming for safety before trying to make it himself. He doesn't, but the people he bought time for do.
  • Hope Spot Wells pilot nearly get him out of the water in time, when he grabs the landing gear and the chopper lifts up but this he slips and falls back in, and when he makes it back again the shark is there.
  • Informed Ability: Both Peter and Ron are talked up as shark experts, but they both fail miserably in every attempt to catch the shark. To the degree that Ron gets drowned and eaten by it without even inflicting a single wound throughout the entire film. In their defense, both were facing a shark that was even bigger than the one in Jaws, and the two shark experts in that film were also hamstrung by the size of it and the fact that it was smarter and behaved in ways they didn't anticipate a shark could.
  • It Can Think: Basically implied. Ron and Peter try to catch the shark and find it just outside an underwater coral reef/cavern, mistakenly kill a different shark, and then the shark knocks the reef/cavern walls until their way out is blocked by fallen rocks and they're trapped.
  • It's All My Fault: Wells blames himself for Jenny's injury due to it happening on his boat, on an amateur shark hunt led by his son, even though he had no knowledge of it.
  • Jerkass: Bob Martin. He's extremely excited to get the footage of the mayor's assistant being eaten. Later, when his cameraman, Jimmy, is trapped in the open water on a dock with Benton's wife, the hired gun, and a few others, he orders Jimmy to keep filming. When Jimmy begs Bob to send help, Bob promises to do so...And then just sits there watching the feed. He's completely unaffected when Jimmy gets killed, and picks the wrong time to try to get Peter to do an interview at the end of the film.
  • Karma Houdini: Bob Martin He becomes more and more interested in the precious footage of the shark attacks. When Jimmy the cameraman begs for help when trapped by the shark, he promises it, but does nothing. He becomes solely focused on what covering the shark story will do for his career, and because he's hardly ever anywhere near the water, he avoids getting eaten. His only comeuppance is getting punched by Peter when he tries to interview him, and even without Peter's interview, has plenty of footage to advance his career.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Matt, the mayor's aide, takes over for the mayor as the doubting Thomas when Peter and Hamer are telling the mayor about the shark problem. His early denials cost him dearly during the regatta, when he's the only victim during the shark attack, despite a number of other people being seemingly passed over by the shark when they're in the water.
  • The Last Title: The title in both languages.
  • Mayor Pain: Played with Mayor Wells. He refuses to close down the beaches, but still authorizes heavy defenses to keep the shark away which include barriers (unfortunately the shark is not one to let this get in the way of its feeding). He also personall attempts a plan to capture the shark that, while lethally stupid, is still more of a personal effort that Vaughn did. The worst aspects of Vaughn's character are instead given to Wells' aide Matt.
  • Mythology Gag: The name of the protagonist Peter Benton is a nod to Peter Benchley, author of the original novel He's also a hybrid of Benchley and the other film's Matt Hooper and Martin Brody.
  • Never Trust a Title: Nothing implies that the shark in the film is the last of its kind.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Wells, Jr. decides to take Peter's daughter Jenny and two other friends out on his father's yacht to try and kill the shark with a shotgun. It ends with the shark not only eating the meat they tried to lure it with, it also bites off and eats Jenny's leg before escaping unscathed.
  • Noodle Incident: Peter is hesitant for Hamer to bring along explosives while hunting the shark, citing a situation that occurred which laid Ron up for 18 months.
  • Plot Hole:
    • After the shark eats the bait and pulls the inexplicably flimsy pier away from the dock, the people trapped on the pier scream for help...and absolutely no one in the entire marina or bay simply gets into one of the many boats nearby to go save them. Peter is the one who ends up stumbling across them while searching for Ron.
    • When Peter rescues his friends from the destroyed floating pier, the shark then keeps pulling it further away once he's on it. His friends and wife should have just driven up in his boat beside it once it stopped and gotten him off, but they disappear from the film entirely. There is no explanation why they didn't come save him.
    • When the regatta is held, Wells claims there will be boats with armed men aboard strategically placed outside the bay. When the shark attacks...they are nowhere to be found.
    • When Peter and Ron first go down to hunt the shark, there is some kind of communication between Gloria and Ron. However, his mask is the kind with a mouth apparatus and goggles, not the full face masks that allow one to respond with underwater mics. He can't talk back to her with the type of scuba gear he has, yet he is heard clearly responding to her while underwater. It is also not used again during the second attempt by Peter and Ron in which the shark drags Ron Hamer to his death.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Played with. After his daughter loses her leg, Peter becomes adamant about killing the shark himself, to the point of insulting Hamer when Hamer tries to intervene. It takes Hamer reminding Peter that it's not only a risk for both to be underwater if they run into trouble, he also has to remind him he's risking leaving his wife and daughter, who need him, behind if he gets killed. It does snap him out of his mental break, and later, when he's the only hope the community has, Benton is able to succeed in killing the shark with Hamer's explosives-laden corpse.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Ron gets dragged to his death early in the final battle against the shark, leaving Peter by himself to kill the shark.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Peter and Hamer. Peter is the nice-guy author and family man, and Hamer is the grizzled, hard-drinking shark hunter.
  • Stock Footage:
    • When not portrayed by an animatronic, the shark is represented by documentary footage.
    • Possibly used during the first scene of Peter and Ron diving to go kill the shark. Peter is wearing a very noticeable orange diving suit, but then the two divers we see are both in black. Clearly. And then it later cuts back in and Peter's suit is back to being the correct color.
  • Threatening Shark: Serves as the primary antagonistic force.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Subverted: To help out his father's re-election campaign, William Wells, Jr. decides the best course of action is to take out his father's yacht into the open sea, use a piece of meat as a lure, and, with Peter's daughter and two others in tow, attempt to kill the shark with a shotgun. It goes disastrously. The shotgun holder shoots at the shark with spread buckshot from a distance of more than 20 feet, while not shooting it at all while it's eating the meat right next to the boat. Wells Jr. avoids any physical harm, but Peter's daughter gets her leg bitten off after the pole they have the meat attached to jars loose and knocks her in the water. It's only them quickly being found by Wells, Sr. and Peter in Wells, Sr.'s helicopter that prevents Jenny from bleeding to death from her amputated limb.
    • Played straight with William Wells, Sr. He decides the best course of action is to hook a piece of meat to the winch of his helicopter, presumably to hook the shark and pull it out of the water to suffocate it. Since the shark is 30 ft. long, it proves far too heavy to lift, and after biting off Wells Sr.'s legs, it finishes the job by pulling the helicopter under as well, and killing Bernie, Wells Sr.'s pilot. To be fair, at the time, he does blame himself for the earlier incident, but his response was to participate in something that had no chance of being successful. Worse His son's last memory of his father is being slapped by him in Wells Sr.'s disappointment of him.
    • Also played straight with Riley. He stands on a flimsy dock with meat attached to it in an attempt to shoot the shark with a specialized gun. The shark easily rips the dock loose and pulls it into deep water, Riley loses the gun almost immediately in the water after being bumped in the confusion, and ends up making a semi-heroic sacrifice and being eaten.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Hammer, the film's Quint stand-in, has a lot of the traits of the Shaw character, and then some. He's also an experienced scuba diver and carries explosives when they're in the water with the shark. They save Hamer and Peter's lives when they're trapped in an underwater cave, and Peter uses them at the end to kill the shark. He's also much calmer and level-headed as compared to the Quint character in the other film, serving as a voice of reason several times. He never becomes super obsessed to the point of making mistakes in his efforts to kill the shark.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Bob Martin, in the early goings, seems to be a weak reporter, put upon by Mayor Wells, who expects him to jump at a moment's notice, edit footage at lightning speed, and orders him around like his own personal assistant. Later, Bob gets so wrapped up in getting footage to advance his career that when his own cameraman Jimmy is in danger, he orders him to keep shooting, makes no effort to help him and others that are at risk of being eaten, and isn't bothered in the slightest when Jimmy gets bitten in half.
  • Whatever Happened to the Mouse?: After Wells is eaten by the shark, no one reacts whatsoever. Given what a big deal he seemed to be in the town, it's utterly bizarre that his death is never addressed, not even by his son.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: Unless it's in some buried dialogue or in a background somewhere, it's never mentioned where this city is located. All we know is on a coast. The only indication that it's not the west coast is that Jenny mentions some traveling wind-surfers from the west coast possibly being a threat during the competition.
    • We see the Confederate flag in a couple of crowd shots, and the last shot at the end of the movie shows a car license plate from Georgia, so that might be the implication of its location. However, if it is intended to be the South, then there is a new problem: not one person in the entire film has a Southern accent. Seriously, not one. So it makes this even more confusing.