The Last Shark [a.k.a. Great White] (1981)

Enzo G. Castellari

James Franciscus - Peter Benton
Vic Morrow - Ron Hamer
Micaela Pignatelli - Gloria Benton
Joshua Sinclair - Governor William Wells
Giancarlo Prete - Bob Martin
Stefania Girolami Goodwin - Jenny Benton

Genre - Horror/Thriller/Bad Animals/Sharks

Running Time - 88 Minutes

Port Harbor is an ideal little town by the coast that's made for beach activities. As a matter of fact, Governor William Wells (Joshua Sinclair) plans on having an annual regalia that consists of tourist attractions and teenage wind-surfing. However, this tradition is being threatened by the presence of a great white shark, who has been killing the locals. Of course, Wells feels the shark isn't that big enough of a deal to postpone the festivities [he thinks the murders are due to boating accidents in the area], thinking that containing the area will keep the shark away.

However, there are some that disagree with Wells. A heroic author named Peter Benton (
James Franciscus) and his gruff fisherman friend, Ron Hamer (Vic Morrow), believe the shark is a huge threat to their town and will continue to create chaos until it's stopped. Things escalate when both Wells' and Benton's children are attacked by the shark, making it personal for both men to get rid of the shark for good.


THE LAST SHARK, also known as GREAT WHITE in the United States, is one of the many imitators after the blockbuster success of Steven Spielberg's 1975 classic JAWS. However, THE LAST SHARK is the only one that was actually sued by Universal Studios [the studio that distributed the JAWS franchise]! In fact, Universal Studios actually won their lawsuit, which resulted in THE LAST SHARK being taken out of theaters after a week and has been banned in the United States since. The only way most people are able to see it are through bootlegs, video sites, or foreign home video distribution. It's pretty sad too, since THE LAST SHARK is one of the better imitators out there [better than both JAWS 3 and JAWS: THE REVENGE for sure]. It's not great cinema or anything, but it is memorable. Whether it's memorable for the right or wrong reasons, that's up to the viewer.

The story for THE LAST SHARK is pretty much stolen, I mean borrowed, from both JAWS and JAWS 2. There's a great white shark terrorizing a beach community. The main character joins a local fisherman to hunt down and kill the shark. The politicians in the area ignore all the signs, hosting a local festival that turns disastrous. Teenage characters get hurt by the shark - some of these teens being the children of several main characters. I could probably go on and on. It's the Italian version of JAWS, just with less interesting characters and not as good direction.

Honestly, I don't see how anyone would care for any of these characters. They're not really developed in a way that makes you want to root for their survival. The main character, Peter, is an author who seems to suck at his job since he patrols the area more than he writes. His courage and the fact that he sees things for what they are make him more likeable than anyone else in the film. But he's no Brody. Same goes to Ron Hamer, the gruff fisherman who wants to be Quint - but only gets halfway there. The fact that he's courageous and smart makes him likeable as well. Of course, you have the shady politician. But instead of the Mayor, you have Governor Wells, who denies the threat of the shark to host a party that will help with his campaign. Unlike in JAWS though, Wells does get more active - even having a memorable scene with a helicopter and the great white shark. The rest of the characters are pretty generic, especially the teens who just get in the way of things, thinking they're helping out the situation. Peter's wife is a non-factor [why was she even written into the script?]. And the reporters are story-hungry, create chaos, yet leave with an unsatisfying conclusion. Most of these characters deserved to be eaten by this shark, but they weren't. Eh.

That being said, I don't think the screenplay is terrible or anything. Nothing about it struck me as bad. The dialogue was fine. The way the three acts told the story was pretty decent. At least the screenwriter took the best moments from the first two JAWS films and copied them in a decent fashion. I can understand why Universal was so upset about the blatant similarities, but THE LAST SHARK is obviously inferior to both of those films. The studio really had nothing to worry about.

At least, unlike TINTORERA, THE LAST SHARK is actually a killer shark film. The shark attacks random people and eats them. The special effects are a mixed bag, to be honest. The shark itself looks totally fake. I think it was plastic or rubber or something. Its mouth never moved! Hell, the shark roars [so ridiculous] and the mouth never moves an inch! But at least the shark attacks are a blast to watch. Instead of just attacking boats or a dock, the shark has to blast through from underneath, creating an burst that causes characters to leap high into the air. I laughed each and every time the shark performed this.

THE LAST SHARK is a bit gorier than JAWS though. We see a bunch of severed limbs and even characters bitten right in half. There isn't much blood to go around, but I still liked these scenes as it made the shark more threatening.

I did have issue with the film's final moments though. Obviously, you would expect a JAWS ripoff to have an epic conclusion like the film its copying. Unfortunately, THE LAST SHARK has an extremely lame ending that makes you question, "That's it??" I was expecting an exploding shark, or some sort of messed up exit for this killer fish. But nope - instead of ending with a bang, it went with a whimper. Even one of the main characters is killed off-screen, and not much is really done with that fact. I mean, all that crap for nothing? Lamesauce.

The direction by Enzo G. Castellari is a mixed bag. The director of THE INGLORIOUS BASTARDS knows his way around making westerns and certain action cinema. But when it comes to horror, I wasn't all that impressed really. There are tense moments here and there, but it's hard to be afraid for these characters when you don't really care about them. Plus, the way the scenes are shot don't lend to suspense or fear anyway. Also, I admire the use of stock footage [if it works for your story, why not?]. However, the film in the stock footage really stood apart from the actual footage that Castellari directed, taking me out of the film a bit. Still, I liked how Castellari made both connect in a logical manner. And I thought the shots where the shark just blasts through things, sending its victims into the air before killing them, were filmed really well. It's a decently directed film that doesn't do that terrible a job trying to ape Steven Spielberg's JAWS and its sequel.

I also thought the score and the soundtrack were really cheesy. Synthesizer and folk music doesn't exactly make a shark movie "thrilling". Plus the shark theme as he attempted to kill made me chuckle at how non-threatening it was. But I guess that's part of the small charm with THE LAST SHARK.

The acting is decent. James Franciscus is a decent leading man, but he over emotes at certain points. Still out of anyone in the film, I'm glad he was the main hero as he looked the part and played to his character's strengths. Vic Morrow is probably the best actor in the film as the Quint-wannabe, Ron Hamer. While he changes accents every now and then [he's Irish in one scene, American in the other], he does carve out a convincing performance that makes you believe he wants to kill this shark for some reason. Joshua Sinclair played the selfish politician pretty well and got to have one hell of an exit. The other actors [some Castellari mainstays] are alright. But it's hard to tell sometimes with the dubbing. But I didn't think the acting was a distraction.


THE LAST SHARK/GREAT WHITE is a pretty decent ripoff or JAWS and JAWS 2 that feels like a Cliff's Notes version of the films, just with inferior direction and acting. Nothing about the film is all that special, considering how generic the screenplay, the direction by Enzo G. Castellari, and the acting are. Still, watching a rubber shark burst through things, sending people up in the air and then eating them, is pretty fun to watch. THE LAST SHARK is an entertainingly mediocre film that has a certain level of charm going for it. I'd take this film over JAWS 3 and JAWS: THE REVENGE any day of the week.

2.5 Howls Outta 4

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