Rating: ½

USA. 1983.
Director – Joe Alves, Screenplay – Carl Gottlieb, Michael Kane & Richard Matheson, Story – Guerdon Trueblood, Producers – Rupert Hitzig & Alan Lansbury, Photography (3-D) – James A. Contner, Music – Alan Parker, Visual Effects – Private Stock Effects, Visual Design Consultant – Roy Arbogast, Visual Design Coordinator – Philip Abramson, Photographic/Optical Effects – Praxis Film Works (Supervisor – Robert Blalack), Makeup – Alec Gillis, Production Design – Woods Mackintosh. Production Company – Alan Lansburg Productions.
Dennis Quaid (Mike Brody), Bess Armstrong (Kathryn Morgan), Simon MacCorkindale (Philip Fitzroyce), Louis Gossett Jr (Calvin Bouchard), John Putch (Sean Brody)

Plot: Chief Brody’s son Mike now works at a marine amusement park in Florida. A great white shark turns up, having managed to penetrate into the self-enclosed oceanarium confines, although Mike has difficulty convincing the management of its existence. A cocky British biologist, Philip Fitzroyce, arrives, wanting to capture it. Panic ensues when the shark emerges into plain view and starts attacking the guests.

This was the third of the films begun with Steven Spielberg’s Jaws (1975). The first sequel, Jaws 2 (1978), had been a big success too and so this was then made. [And it would be followed by a further sequel yet – Jaws: The Revenge (1987)]. For a time in 1979-80 there was serious speculation that this would be made as a spoof of the whole cycle to have been rather hilariously titled Jaws 3, People 0. But then the pitifully bad Western Comin’ at Ya (1981) became a big hit due to its being released in 3-D and heralded a brief 3-D revival fad. And so this version was quickly filmed in the 3-D process and named Jaws 3-D. (Although seen flat on tv today, it has been renamed merely Jaws III).

The directorial reins were handed over to Joe Alves, production designer on the first two Jaws films, who makes his directorial debut here. Alves gained some fame as a result of his work on the first two films and Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) and his debut in the director’s chair had been announced for several years, beginning with a highly intriguing sf project announced circa 1978-9 called Weather Wars. Alas with the flop and universal critical excoriation that Jaws 3-D received, Alves has never been heard from again as director and subsequently returned to work as production designer on films such as Freejack (1992), Geronimo: An American Legend (1993) and Drop Zone (1994).

The script comes from Carl Gottlieb, who co-wrote the original film’s superb script, and regular genre screenwriter and novelist Richard Matheson, responsible for The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), Duel (1971) and most of Roger Corman’s Edgar Allan Poe films, among numerous others. Alves and Gottlieb are the only personnel from the original involved in this exercise. Roy Scheider has had the good sense to bow out of the series at this point with his dignity intact and the script is improbably focused around his two now grown sons.

This is the worst of the sequels. Alves invokes little suspense in the action. He is an incredibly dull director. The difference between the good and the bad films to emerge from the various 3D fads was the difference between those that used the depth of vision to create atmosphere and those that merely used it as a gimmick to pop objects into an audience’s lap. Alas Alves belongs to the latter. Thus we see fish being fed, dolphins flipping and skeletons, shark snouts, syringes and harpoons popping out of the screen. The film comes with exactly the same novelty value as an oceanarium puts on its exhibits, highlighting stunt skiers, various fish stunts as though it were conducting an advertizing film for the real Seaworld. The time taken out for banal characterization scenes frequently slows proceedings to a standstill. The model effects of the shark are really terrible. The gap between what Spielberg achieved with the same material and Alves does are almost as removed in terms of style as it is possible to get.

Copyright Richard Scheib 1990