Joseph Sargent’s Jaws; The Revenge turns 35 this summer. Released on July 17, 1987, this film came out it what was inarguably one of the most epic summers for film in recorded history. The summer of 1987 was unique in that it had some of the most epic films regarded as classics today and sequels to films that loomed large like Beverly Hills Cop, Revenge of the Nerds, the “Beach” films from Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello, and the biggest of them all, Jaws. The original films were so good that it was nearly impossible that a sequel could equal them, so maybe those follow ups could just be fun.
Jaws: The Revenge wasn’t the first sequel to Jaws, and based on opinion, wasn’t the worst. It was fun though.
I remember thinking that this was the fist sequel that seemed to exist in the same universe as the first two films. I love Jaws 3D, but it’s more like the outlier in the series. There are no New England locales and no one from the previous films were cast. Jaws: The Revenge may have disregarded the timeline nuances established by Jaws 3D, but it was a reunion of sorts.
The first part of the film takes place in Amity during a typically frigid coastal northern winter. Sean Brody is different, but the re-casting of the Brody Boys gets a pass in much the same way as the Griswold kids. Polly from the police office is still there, and so is the town counsel woman whose husband complains about about a zoning issue, which happens just before the shark gets Alex Kintner. Speaking of Alex Kintner, Mrs. Kintner is here, too. It was a nice call back, and when I saw it in the theater, it was surreal to see these characters out of the template of the 1970s and existing into the 1980s.
Lorraine Gary takes center stage here. It was good timing because the summer before, Sigourney Weaver played a strong female protagonist in Aliens, and audiences didn’t have any problem whatsoever with it.
A few fun facts about Lorraine Gary: She was married to Sid Sheinberg who was head of Universal during the release of all four Jaws films. She is also Susan Ursitti’s (Boof from Teen Wolf) mother-in-law. Ursitti is married to Gary’s son, Jonathan Sheinberg. Gary is actor in her own right and did a commendable job on all three films. I don’t know if she regrets the eighties haircut though. It’s sorta like the female version of the mullet.
The cast includes some familiar faces, some new ones, and one Hollywood legend. Lance Goest was fairly fresh from the sleeper hit, The Last Starfighter. Karen Young, who plays his wife, Carla Brody, was most notable at that point for Handgun. Mario Van Peebles had not yet made his mark as an accomplished actor and director. He was famous mostly for being Melvin Van Peebles’ (who makes a cameo as the Mayor during the dedication of Carla Brody’s artwork) son, and a highly recommend film called Exterminator 2.
Michael Caine needs no introduction. Honestly, the filmmakers were probably shocked that they got him. He was fresh off Hannah and Her Sisters and would miss accepting his Oscar because he was filming this movie in the Bahamas. Sadly, Judith Barsi, who played Ellen Brody’s granddaughter, would be killed by her father the following year. She had previously voiced Ducky in The Land Before Time and just finished voicing Anne-Marie in All Dogs Go To Heaven before her death. All Dogs Go To Heaven was posthumously dedicated to her.
By all accounts, Jaws: The Revenge doesn’t even come close to the original or even the first sequel. It does, however, feel more like a Jaws film with higher production values than its predecessor, Jaws 3D. I have fond memories of it and will always watch it when it comes on. The dual costal locations from winter to tropical works better than I remember. Ellen is convinced that the shark is following the Brody family, and when she joins Michael in the Bahamas, the shark tags along. The high point is definitely the chase between Michael Brody and the shark. I would put that up against some of the best stark sequences in the series.
So, in celebration of probably the last Jaws film we will ever get without CGI, I recommend watching Jaws: The Revenge on its 35th anniversary.