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RODDY MCDOWALL WITH LAURETTE LUEZ IN 'KILLER SHARK'

KILLER SHARK Year: 1950
Following the bizarre Neo Noir SHARKS' TREASURE and continuing our monthlong review of underrated or relatively unknown shark flicks, here's a rare catch titled...

McDowall in Killer Shark
KILLER SHARK, a sort of CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS only with a semi-grownup preppy college kid visiting his once American office desk-set turned hardworking fisherman father in Mexico. Starring Roddy McDowall who also co-produced, turning in his usual dependable performance, at this point having worked for a decade, and his character's insecure whininess doesn't get too incessant or annoying, which is good for obvious reasons but there lacks a turnaround worth rooting for. Yet there is a changeling (albeit very quick) and, for the most part, he comes around when dad points out he sounds like a snob, like his mother. Filmed in sparse black & white and showing every nook of the boat including the crowded sleeping quarters, a busy upward deck, a high rise crow's nest and, putting the audience out there a sea, soon enough Roddy's Ted White is part of the group of tough Spanish sailors. He does make one mistake; putting his father in harm's way, and not by a singular KILLER SHARK but a horde of them. Herein the suspense mounts and the plot thickens, progressing from Act One that seemed like a short film docudrama on the predatory creatures and the brave souls who hunt them for a dangerous (and not very lucrative) living.

Laurette Luez with Roddy McDowall & Roland Winters
The time at sea wasn't as action-packed as it should have been so it's up to the ground game. Especially when Roddy's Ted goes to the "bad side of town" (an infamous port town full of scum and villainy). Inside a tequila rowdy cantina, he hires a group of cutthroats to take him out on dad's boat, again, to finish the gig that wasn't completed earlier — because of his error.

KillerSharkScore: ***
So it's a rather misleading title since the bad element isn't the killer fish. In fact, when the tables turn aboard this second, more taut and violent mission, the sharks hardly mean anything compared to the hired sea pirates who, obviously, Ted is no match for. What really makes KILLER SHARK shine above a somewhat mediocre, b-movie script is the gorgeous, full lipped and tough-as-nails Mexican starlet Laurette Luez as Maria, the girlfriend of another man injured with dad. The chemistry between McDowell and our ingenue trumps the sharks and pirates both. By her zesty attitude that doesn't seem "The Usual Firebrand Conchita" cliché, she not only puts a spark to Roddy's performance but keeps him on defense...

Theirs is not a romance, and hardly a friendship but more a necessary partnership being the only main characters not severely injured. Meanwhile, the subtle flirtation aspect is what makes Roddy's courageous preppy boy more of a man who must fight and survive the elements, both human and shark — the latter that might've been suited better as a rouge. Corny as that sounds, it would have been a lot of fun. Instead, Ted has more obstacles trying to get around Maria's constant bulwarks than anything down below — and she's on board for maybe a minute, or less. Making this journey at sea even more important on the land.
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