LOG: The Shark is Still Working

I guess it was bound to happen. The Shark is Still Working is perhaps the first ever sequel to a DVD extra. In 1995, Laurent Bouzereau changed the face of video forever when he produced The Making of Steven Spielberg's Jaws, one of the first super-in-depth making-of documentaries of a contemporary film. Bouzereau's film accompanied Jaws' initial release on Laserdisc, and thus the template for extras-laden video releases was officially born (Bouzereau had also secured himself work for life, creating similar companion pieces for Spielberg and others.) So beloved to Jaws fans was this doc that Universal caused a minor uproar when, upon releasing the original DVD of Jaws in 2000 they chose to include an edited version of the making-of, rather than the full 125 minutes. (The full run time was later restored in a subsequent release.)

Still Working, which clocks in at 120 minutes (Jaws' runtime was 124 minutes, by the way,) presents itself as both indebted to and in reverence of Bouzereau's original making-of. At times, you can feel the filmmakers skating on thin ice; careful to maintain some fidelity to the tried-and-true fabric of established Jaws lore, whilst also laboring admirably to inject new mythos into its blood. By necessity, it treads a lot of the same water (( p u n ? )) as Bouzereau's film, displaying all of the old behind the scenes faces (Carl Gottlieb, Darryl Zanuck, Peter Benchley, David Brown,) as well as nearly all of the principal cast, and even quite of few of the many memorable non-principles. If you ever thought to yourself “I wonder what that fat guy who says ‘A Whaaaa??’ on the wharf is doing now..” Now is your chance to find out.

Still Working boasts lots of fun little nuggets like that. But where it finds its best target is in describing the films legacy, making the closing arguments in the case for awarding Jaws with the dubious distinction of being not only the first “Summer Blockbuster” of all time, but perhaps even today the only one whose hook, line and sinker ( ( P U N ? ? ? ) ) ad campaign hyperbole actually paid off. Zanuck is candid about his marketing/merchandising ambitions for the film, and Still Working handles this lovingly, but not without at least a little backhanded denouncement.

The filmmakers seem perhaps partly bent on ennobling their work with higher esteem; the film is currently hitting the small time festival circuit, as it was when I saw it as part of the Chicago United Festival at the Music Box Theatre. However, the clear value of the film does not escape them. Writer James Gelet, who was present at the screening, bragged of learning that Spielberg was a 'big fan,' promising him that 'conversations would be had with the right people' to hopefully include the film in the inevitable Blu-ray release of Jaws. Strangely candid and un-indie words to hear at a midnight screening at a film festival, but nothing to frown upon I suppose.

Jaws has some of the best back stories of any film since Apocalypse Now, and with Scheider and Benchley both gone, this film will have to stand as a final, definitive statement. Though The Shark is Still Working would quickly benefit from screenings at home, rather than in the stiff-back of a theater chair, it does deserve to be seen (and if Gelet & Co. are gunning for a shot a being the next Bouzereau, they're off to a good start.) It’s in depth, but not academic. Like the Bouzereau film, it's the ultimate DVD extra.