Bil’s rating (out of 5): 0. USA/Mexico, 1969. Cinematográfica Calderón S.A., Heritage Entertainment Inc.. Screenplay by John T. Dugan, Samuel Fuller, based on the novel His Bones Are Coral by Victor Canning. Cinematography by Raul Martinez Solares. Produced by Mark Cooper, Skip Steloff. Music by Rafael Moroyoqui. Production Design by Manuel Fontanals. Film Editing by Carlos Savage.
Legendary filmmaker Samuel Fuller demanded his name be taken off the credits of this disaster thanks to re-edits by the producers which he (rightfully) said made the film incomprehensible, compounded by his disagreement with their tasteless decision to incorporate the on-set shark-related death of a stunt man into the film’s promotion. His request for anonymity was denied, and given that the result is a mess that would not have stood the test of time even if Jaws wasn’t made six years later, one can only feel sympathy for the man’s plight. Burt Reynolds appears in an early lead role as a shady mercenary who loses a profitable cargo of illegally purchased arms in the Sudan and heads for the coast, befriending an alcoholic doctor (Arthur Kennedy in a shockingly bad performance) and a small boy who tell him of an employment opportunity that is perfect for him. A professor (Barry Sullivan) and his wife (Silvia Pinal, badly dubbed) need a new assistant for their scientific research after a previous employee died in a shark attack, but when Reynolds gets on the job he discovers that they’re actually using him to help relieve a sunken boat of treasures that the vicious fish are protecting. Poorly shot and badly edited, it’s a curiousity that has absolutely no tension and rarely makes any sense, with Mexico doing a terrible job of passing for the middle east. It’s worth seeing, maybe, as an example of Reynolds’ star quality and his ability to survive such circumstances, but don’t watch it if you’re looking for a lot of underwater action; the story is actually meant to be about Reynolds on the run, the decision to alter the original title and make it all about the shark stuff a marketing afterthought that does not pay off for the viewer.