Never mind the lurid title, which suggests that Mako: The Jaws of Death is one of the myriad low-budget rip-offs of Jaws (1975)—and never mind that the title is often shortened to The Jaws of Death. Even though it contains scenes of sharks eating people, this bizarre drive-in flick is primarily about a human character who acts as a sort of shark whisperer. Living in Florida, Sonny Stein (Richard Jaeckel) is the caretaker for a small community of sharks that swim the waters surrounding a remote island. Over the course of the story, several sleazy people try to exploit and/or kill Sonny’s finny friends, so he makes like a vigilante, doing such things as cutting the underwater fence that separates a swimming area from the open ocean and harpooning a bad guy in the face. Yet that’s not the strangest element of the story. While drinking in a dive bar (pun intended), Sonny ogles Karen (Jennifer Bishop), who does underwater dance routines behind plate glass that’s installed behind the bar. Later that evening, after saving Karen from would-be rapists, Sonny shows Karen his private shark grotto while revealing his origin story. It seems that years ago, Sonny escaped captivity on a Far East island by swimming through an inlet filled with sharks—at which point he was greeted by members of the “shark clan,” people who revere the “shark god.” Sonny was given a medallion that labels him a friend to all sharks, allowing him to safely commune with the beasts. Despite Sonny’s aquatic sensitively, he spends the entire first half of the movie making idiotic choices. He entrusts a pregnant shark to a shady aquarium proprietor, and he rents a male shark to Karen, whose nightclub-owner husband wants to integrate the animal into Karen’s act. Accordingly, the movie is half bleeding-heart drama about a good man who respects animals, and half Death Wish-style exploitation flick featuring elaborate kill scenes. All of this is set to the kind of grindingly repetitive music one might expect to encounter in a bad martial-arts movie. And watching onetime Oscar nominee Jaeckel play the material straight, as if the whole absurd enterprise isn’t just a waterlogged riff on the 1971 rodent epic Ben? That’s just sad.
Mako: The Jaws of Death: LAME