Jaws is an amazing film. I think most people would be hard pressed to argue with that fact, and if nothing else Jaws made almost everyone afraid to go into the water.
The VHS and poster art is a work of genius, so simplistic and yet so powerful. It is also a great example of summing up an entire movie. People swim, Jaws eats them. Aside from how they beat the shark, that’s pretty much the movie in a nutshell. It is the Jaws sequels I want to cast my beady eye over this week and the slap dash approach they took with VHS marketing. Like a lot of series, this line of movies went from great to dire until they decided to knock the whole franchise on the nose and send it on its way (that’s how you distract a shark for a few minutes you see, by hitting its nose, so that comment is actually quite clever!).
Jaws 2 decides that Jaws was such a winning formula they should just copy and paste it into a new plot line. So not much has changed, it follows Sheriff Brody again, and people still will not listen to him about there been a pesky shark roaming about. The man paid his dues, surely they should cut him some slack. Anyway the cover is pretty standard; it has blonde looking happy, water skiing until old Bruce (the sharks nick name from Jaws) 2 pops up behind her. This is where I start to get a bit pedantic people, as it’s the same shark. Now I know this may come as a shock, but not all sharks look exactly the same, sure similar – but not identical. Does the shark from Jaws have a bloodline that covers the entire frikking ocean? I know it’s iconic and all, but come on.
In the first Jaws film the shark is coming from the bottom of the ocean to the top to get the woman. But here the shark is already behind the woman in question, and she is facing us directly, not swimming sideways. So the angle of the shark looks all wrong. He should be facing the front of the cover, so we see his eyes and teeth or at least his fin poking out. It just looks like the shark has torpedoed himself out the water like a missile, and it seems that the water-skier would have noticed that. Most of the shark attacks I have seen (well on TV at least) always have the sharks pop out the water at a slight angle, so it can get a better grip of its food. Not the case with this shark, he is a drama queen and must make an entrance. The funniest thing I found about this is, if he is coming in at that angle he will land down onto the water pretty quickly, creating the biggest shark belly flop known to man or beast.
Jaws 3, alas does not change the formula either. In its defense though, it does at least show two sharks (which is a big part of the movie one a baby, one its mum) on its VHS sleeve, and it does show the SeaWorld staff having a good time until the shark chases them. Maybe if they spent more time sorting out the SeaWorld pipes they would have noticed the damn sharks, but that’s beside the point. The shark is actually going in the right direction this time, with its fin just been visible. It makes it a lot more credible and to be honest a lot more scary. The artwork is pretty good here too, so it is a definite improvement. The SeaWorld resort is plainly seen in the background and it looks huge, which makes it a little bit more believable that two sharks would pop in for a visit. This was 3D in the cinemas and the Jaws 3 logo makes it look as such, which also adds just a little bit more originality to it. My VHS copy however does not have 3D capabilities, so it puts me in a foul mood to think I missed 3D Jaws. Overall in cover and plot at least they tried something different. What they did not do however, is get rid of that bleeding shark image! Even worse on this one – it’s not even in the water, it’s just hovering over the resort like some mega shark waiting to attack. In all fairness maybe they were going for a metaphor on how the shark is like a spectre of death hovering over the resort until it has its revenge, probably not though.
This brings us to Jaws 4 –The Revenge. Wait I thought the last film was about shark revenge. Well ignore that, as this film brings us right back to sheriff Brody’s family. He is dead now, shark induced heart attack (or maybe boredom as I would get sick of sharks popping up every two seconds). His wife thinks that a shark is stalking them. Is it? Who cares that’s not what I’m here for, I’m looking at the VHS cover. And boy this is a slap dash affair. There are two different covers for this. The US one which is the best, actually looks pretty good. It has a woman, alone on a ship, ready to fight a ticked off shark. It even breaks the trend of completely ignoring the human cast involved in the film, by having them on the bottom of the front cover.
Maybe they put them on so we knew who to blame when everyone who watched this thought it was a turd sandwich. The other cover, which is also the promo poster for the movie sucks. It is the exact same cover as Jaws 2 but it has removed the girl entirely. Even the people who make the VHS covers were sick of having teenagers on the cover! All they have done is add a few splashes around the shark mid rift to make its jump out of the water scarier. But it’s not, because the shark looks like an idiot. He is in the middle of the ocean (there is no land present anywhere on the sleeve) and there is no one there, he is actually chasing nothing so why the big entrance? A Shark Prima Donna yet again, making a big entrance but this time for no body. It actually just looks stupid. And no extra points for using the shark as the A in Jaws – The Return, it’s not clever and it reeks of desperation. The viewers thought so to, as this nose-dived at the box office and killed the series. So what have we learnt from this? Well Jaws 4 needed better VHS art (or a better plot I’m not sure).
Just for giggles I’m including the unofficial sequel Jaws 5 – Cruel Jaws. It was a TV movie shot by Bruno Mattei which focused on a tiger shark (so not the right shark then) kicking off and doing the usual shark things these movies do. The cover is hilarious though. It is the exact same cover as Jaws 4 only more crudely drawn and with an explosion in the background, because everyone loves sharks and explosions right? This may be my favourite cover actually! But all this bitching and moaning aside I should not complain. Without these films we would not have had some of the amazing rip offs (like the above mentioned film) which would warrant an article themselves. We would also not have had the CGI shark flicks of today. Hell some companies would go bust if it was not for the fact you can mix a shark up with pretty much anything (Two headed shark, Shark man, Dinoshark and Sharktopus been fine examples). I don’t know if I could live in a world that did not have these. So for that reason alone I salute the awful VHS covers of the Jaws franchise and thank them for kicking off a run of awful shark movies.