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Review: Jaws 3-D (1983)

Jaws 3-D (1983)

Directed by: Joe Alves

Premise: The third film in the series. Sea World is about to reopen after an elaborate renovation that includes a sea water lagoon connected to the open ocean. A giant great white shark wanders into the park and preys on the guests and staff.

 What Works: 1975’s Jaws is the de facto shark film. That movie wasn’t entirely original—monster movies had long been a staple of Hollywood—but it was executed in a way that elevated the material into a perfect combination of populist entertainment and cinematic craft. The success of Jaws inspired an entire genre of killer shark films and among these titles were the Jaws sequels. But following the respectable Jaws 2, the series steeply degraded in quality. However, even the original Jaws was—at its heart—the kind of monster picture that would have played at a drive-in a few decades ago and one of the attractions of monster movies in general and the killer shark genre in particular is their unapologetically low brow thrills. Killer shark movies are frequently terrible but the best of them achieve a sublime schlockiness that is undeniably entertaining. In the Jaws series, the third film achieves that kitschy appeal better than any of its contemporaries. Jaws 3-D takes place at Sea World in Florida but it is a souped-up, not quite sci-fi version of the park. As imagined here, Sea World is located on the Florida coast and includes a salt water lagoon with an elaborate series of underwater tunnels in which visitors can view sea life. The movie was released just as stereoscopy was going through a resurgence (one that would end shortly after the movie’s release). The 3-D format required a particular lighting and photography style and this combined with the sci-fi-like setting, the odd special effects, cornball dialogue, and the colorful 1980s production design resulted in a motion picture that resembles a comic book. And that is precisely the appeal of this movie. Jaws 3-D’s mix of horror and adventure is satisfying B-movie entertainment. The picture moves along briskly with aquatic action coming at a steady clip, especially in the last half hour, and its faults have become charming with age.

What Doesn’t: Jaws 3-D is not good. The editing is inconsistent and the special effects are frequently laughable. But that’s the appeal of this film. However, other faults of Jaws 3-D don’t contribute to its fun. The story shoehorns in the Brody siblings from the earlier installments and the sequence of divers sneaking into Sea World to steal coral doesn’t make sense and is extraneous from the rest of the story. Jaws 3-D suffers the most from its stereoscopy. The movie was shot in 3-D but was converted to 2-D for home video and television broadcasts. The 3-D technology of the time had separate right eye and left eye images on a single strip of film. However, the conversion to 2-D only used the left eye part of the frame. As a result, the 2-D version of Jaws 3 has a poor image quality and the composite shots suffer considerably.  

DVD extras: The Blu-Ray edition includes a trailer and an option to watch the 3-D version of film.

Bottom Line: Jaws 3-D is not a good movie but it is fun in a specific way. This picture was—rightly—disparaged during its original release in 1983. But with time Jaws 3-D has become a camp classic and it is one of the best examples of schlocky killer shark entertainment.

Episode: #712 (August 19, 2018)