DVD Review – Jaws III Director, Joe Alves; Executive Producers, Alan Landsburg and Howard Lipstone; Screenplay, Richard Matheson and Carl Gottlieb, based on a story by Guerdon Trueblood; Director of Photography, James A. Contner; Art Directors, Paul Eads and Woody Mackintosh; Editors, Corky Ehlers and Randy Roberts; Music, Alan Parker. Cast: Dennis Quaid, Bess Armstrong, Simon MacCorkindale, Louis Gossett, Jr., John Putch, Lea Thompson, P.H. Moriarty. An Alan Landsburg/Universal Studios Production. A Universal Pictures Release. Color (prints by Technicolor). ArriVision 3-D (2.35:1 aspect ratio). 98 minutes. MPAA Rating: PG. Released July 22, 1983. DVD: Released by Universal Home Video. Street Date June 3, 2003. $19.98 2.35:1/16:9. Dolby Surround. Special Features: Trailer (open matte). Reviewed by Stuart Galbraith IV Though not as supremely goofy as Jaws the Revenge (1987), a picture that needs to be seen to be believed, Jaws III has more than its fair share of absurd fun. Aesthetically the picture is an embarrassment, but in the summer of 1983 teenagers ate it up, and seen now 20 years later, it has become as much an artifact of its time as Beach Blanket Bingo was to audiences back then. Did I mention that it was originally in 3-D, too? The story is set at Florida’s Sea World Theme Park, with most of the action centering on park employee Mike Brody (Dennis Quaid), his biologist girlfriend Kathryn (Bess Armstrong), his kid brother Sean Brody (John Putch), and his water skiing girlfriend Kelly Ann (Lea Thompson). There’s little connection with the first two Jaws, other than the characters of Mike and Sean, but the story borrows liberally from other movies. Much of the story seems derived from Westworld, with guests and technicians trapped in an elaborate, underwater labyrinth when a Great White turns up in Sea World’s lagoon. Apparently some story elements also grew out of Universal’s aborted plans for a combined remake of the 3-D classic Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) and its sequel, Revenge of the Creature (1955), which likewise set much of its action at a Sea World-type park/laboratory. In Jaws III the Great White is annoyed that its baby has been turned into a park attraction, an idea lifted from Gorgo (1961). Sharks aren’t exactly known for their maternal instincts, however, and the two sharks in Jaws III are both phony looking and singularly un-shark-like in their behavior. In a lagoon stocked with myriad fish, would a Great White really vent its anger at Sea World by bursting and eating an empty rubber raft? In any case, Jaws III is a pretty clunky movie, and not the least bit scary. What worked so well in the first Jaws is not easily duplicated, particularly by 1983, when this type of story had already been imitated and parodied to death. Jaws was successful because it built its suspense with great care, and its makers were cagey enough to keep the shark off screen most of the time. Jaws III shouldn’t be criticized too harshly because it simply isn’t concerned with such matters. It’s not a movie, really, but a show – an attraction not unlike Sea World’s tacky “Undersea Kingdom,” or for that matter the 3-D movies currently playing at real Sea Worlds across the country. Even by 1983 standards the special effects were quite bad, though it’s easy to see why audiences would have responded so enthusiastically to the 3-D effects. As one might expect, there are plenty things thrown in the direction of the camera lens, which often results in a dreamlike weirdness for those watching the film in regular-D. Audiences, for instance, loved the pre-credits sequence, which concludes with a half-eaten fish head floating weightless in the murky Florida water gasping for air. And late in the film there is an effective scene of a hapless diver being eaten – shot from deep inside the shark’s throat looking out. As a 3-D monster movie, Jaws III deserves credit for delivering the goods. How is the Transfer? Jaws III was shot in an “over-and-under” single-film 3-D format called ArriVision. Essentially, the process was akin to Techniscope, using what were basically half-size frames for the left and right images. Added to this were the difficulties in aligning shots for proper 3-D perspective and shooting much of the picture underwater. The result of all this is that panned-and-scanned versions of the film have always looked absolutely dreadful. Universal Home Video’s new DVD is letterboxed and 16:9 enhanced, and the picture probably looks better than it has since it was new. The film is still grainy like films made in standard Techniscope, and the 3-D process resulted in many shots where the image gets fuzzy around the edges, while a few shots are simply and glaringly out-of-focus. On my 50-something-inch widescreen TV, however, these inherit flaws did not distract from my enjoyment of the film. The stereo sound is fine. Special Features None, except for an open-matte teaser trailer. Parting Thoughts None of the Jaws sequels are any good. Jaws 2 was an uninspired and generally boring rehash, while Jaws the Revenge remains memorable (and pretty entertaining, actually) only for its alarming ineptitude. By default, then, Jaws III is the best of the Jaws sequels. Compared to Spielberg’s film it sucks rocks, but as drive-in fodder, for its 3-D thrills Jaws III is reasonably enjoyable.