Reality’s Edge Films releases the third entry in its ongoing William Grefe Collection with another personal favorite from “Wild Bill’s” 70’s exploitation career: the Richard Jaeckel ersatz enviro-feature Mako: Jaws of Death.
Borrowing liberally from his earlier drive in success with the Ben/Willard with snakes horror/revenge effort Stanley, Grefe adopts a comparatively light, sunnier feel marked by a more warm hearted, even vaguely environmentalist tone.
There are elements of Pumaman-style pseudo mysticism (Jaeckel bears an amulet received from a native shaman that allows him to communicate with sharks and bear the role of…well, defender of the sharks, I guess), a hint of romance (well, sort of, courtesy of Al Adamson and Grefe regular Jennifer Bishop (The Female Bunch, Horror of the Blood Monsters, Impulse), and good old fashioned revenge, as Jaeckel finds himself screwed over, lied to, and his favorite sharks endangered courtesy of fast talking slob Barney (the worryingly obese Buffy Dee) and a seedy scientist who employs questionable thugs (one of whom is Grefe regular Harold “Oddjob” Sakata), each of whom appear to have a thing for overfishing, killing and dissecting the sea creatures (including Jaeckel’s finny friend Matilda, who’s about to give birth to a litter of sharks).
In the final reels, everyone gets their comeuppance and Jaeckel gives up his protective medallion to join (and be devoured by!) the fish he failed to protect through his seemingly boundless well of naïveté when it comes to the human animal. Suffice to say, it’s all a lot sillier (not to mention more entertaining) than it sounds summed up on paper.
Retaining a bit of the PAL transfer hesitation in framerate (though by no means as pronounced as that on display in last month’s Impulse), the color and overall film condition seems pretty much on par with, rather than improving upon, the earlier (and possibly grey market) Brentwood release. Having duly noted such, for those new to the film, this release’s quality isn’t bad at all, and honestly? This one’s probably still the way to go, if for no further reason than the extras.
That said, and unlike prior Reality’s Edge Grefe releases, extras are a bit thin on the ground this time through. Of most interest is a feature length director’s commentary from the man himself, but you also get trailers for Stanley (recently released in a nice special edition by Code Red) and his Don Johnson picture Cease Fire, as well as a silent advert for a local paintball franchise.
Oddly, there are two further extra bits of business that show Grefe moving into a more contemporary vein of exploitation, but one that should really surprise fans familiar with his earlier body of work: namely, the wonderful world of torture porn (!?!).
While “The Iceman” appears to be a marketing preview for a longer feature in search of funding, “Consider Us Even” appears to be complete, with a bizarre “happy ending” to defuse the discomfort and (psychological rather than actual) grue of the setup. Saw with a Scooby Doo ending, ain’t that sweet? Sheesh…not my bag at all. More millennial audiences, raised on this sort of hyper realistic sicko in a basement thing in lieu of more traditional, fantastically inclined horror/exploitation may find more to appreciate here.
With most of Grefe’s early films having previously been released under the auspices of Something Weird, and everything from Stanley through Mako now in release through Code Red and Reality’s Edge, there is only one “holy grail” fans of the man are still waiting to see on DVD: the Christopher George/Roberta Collins/Bill Kerwin actioner Whiskey Mountain, which even I can’t claim to having seen (but which “Wild Bill” himself makes sound like a real hoot during our interview).