WHAT IS THE BEST SHARK MOVIE THAT ISN’T ‘JAWS’?

‘Shark!’, a 1969 action film directed by Samuel Fuller and starred by Burt Reynolds. Besides, its title gives me the perfect excuse to refer to the difficulty of giving titles to movies. There are titles that arise spontaneously, as in the case of “Someone flew over the cuckoo’s nest” or “Gone with the wind.” On the other hand, giving title to some films presents a major challenge owing to its complexity. ‘Shark!’ is a clear example of the latter case. After filming ended, the director arranged a viewing of the movie for the producers and gave them a choice of four titles. “Shark!” was just one of them; there were also “Bear!”, “Giraffe!” and “Partridge!”. The Studio held a brain storming to determine which title best suited this story of a couple threatened by a white shark. When Fuller proposed these four titles to choose, he believed he was playing it safe, but you can never rely on film producers: they chose ‘Bear’. Fuller had to shoot the main sequences again. The threat that weighed on the beach was no longer a shark but a bear. It was supposed to be a polar bear that had swam from the north pole to the Red Sea shores. (A picky assistant director made a point of it, claiming that the bear would arrive to the shore fainting if it came swimming from so far, and suggested that it would be better if the bear reached the beach by hitchhiking.) The director’s annoyance was great when, after changes were made, producers changed their minds about the title: “Shark!” had more commercial appeal. Sequences had to be re-shot again, but in the meantime Fuller ran out of budget. This is why, in certain scenes from ‘Shark!’, a polar bear is seen swimming towards the beach but, upon reaching it, the bear has already become a shark.

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