Combustible Celluloid
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With: Burt Reynolds, Arthur Kennedy, Silvia Pinal, Barry Sullivan, Enrique Lucero, Carlos Barry
Written by: Samuel Fuller, John Kingsbridge, based on a novel by Victor Canning
Directed by: Samuel Fuller
MPAA Rating: PG
Running Time: 93
Date: 10/08/1969

Shark! (1969)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Unkindest Cuts

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Director Samuel Fuller was enraged when he saw what the producers had done to his "good little adventure movie," which was originally entitled Caine. He tried to have his name removed, but to no avail. What remains is indeed a mess, though it does have hints here and there of Fuller's talent and vision.

Burt Reynolds stars -- in one of his earliest movie roles after a career in television -- as Caine, a gun-runner who finds himself trapped and penniless in a dried up little Sudanese town (Fuller filmed it in Mexico). There, he meets Prof. Dan Mallare (Barry Sullivan) and his daughter-figure Anna (Silvia Pinal), who has a habit of lighting cigarettes and sticking them in men's mouths. Dan and Anna preparing to dive in shark-infested waters to get at the wreck of a sunken ship. They hire Caine because he's "expendable," though their motivations seem to change around from scene to scene.

In his autobiography, Fuller outlines a little of what his original movie was like, and only bits of it remain here. It's a jumble, with the order of scenes making little to no sense; the characters have no continuity. But within certain shots, there is evidence of Fuller's intensity, if you care to dig. For many, though, it won't be worth the effort. Five-time Oscar nominee Arthur Kennedy plays a drunken doctor. Pinal had been in several key Luis Bunuel films (Bunuel and Fuller met and were spending time together during this period).

It's a shame. This was his first full-fledged theatrical movie since The Naked Kiss (1964) and his last until The Big Red One (1980). It was reissued under different titles (like Maneater) in an attempt to cash in on Jaws fever. Olive Films released Shark! on a nice-looking DVD and Blu-ray. It's of historical interest for Fuller fans, but not very good for anyone else.

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