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VICTOR MATURE DIVES INTO JERRY HOPPER'S 'THE SHARKFIGHTERS'

Title: THE SHARKFIGHTERS Year: 1955 Rating: ****
THE SHARKFIGHTERS is but an ingredient of what would make a bonafide World War II movie's main course: In order for soldiers to survive in the ocean — either far out or close to an invading beach — without being eaten by those infamously ravaging dorsal-finned predators, it's the job of a scientific military unit, stationed in pre-Castro Cuba, to develop a liquid-repellent to keep sharks away, and for long enough to matter...
 
That's the plot overall, and there's a lot of testing in-between, making up a few suspenseful scenes when not wasting superfluous time inland, in Havana, where the main character, war hero Lt. Cmdr. Ben Staves, played by Victor Mature, enjoys live mamba music with his gorgeous wife (Karen Steele), whose character is all but deleted by the token expository shark expert who, like any film's stock "better half" sans the romance,  must weather his new moody boss on the boat or back at a compound, located at a fishing village looking straight out of Hemingway...
From THE SHARKFIGHTERS
Philip Coolidge's uptight Lt. Cmdr. Leonard Evans lets Mature (and the audience) in on everything about sharks, often providing more information than a documentary in this entertaining war-prep feature where few guns are fired and not a ship is sunk, and yet, one went down in a discussed backstory much liken to (years later) that of Robert Shaw's iconic U.S.S. Indianapolis monologue from shark JAWS; thus injecting revenge into the storyline since Mature, having lost half his men, is in a mad rush to get that liquid working, ASAP, no matter the risks or consequences...
 
Meanwhile, the boat of ensemble side characters stand out just enough to be interesting without stretching beyond the contained, structured plot: A young, idealistic, blond-haired/blue-eyed James Olson as a self-loathing scientist who'd rather handle a PT-Boat than a beaker... 
From THE SHARKFIGHTERS
Along with cameraman Claude Akins and his sidekick in BLACKBOARD JUNGLE Spanish youngster, Rafael Campos, as the native crow's-nest shark-spotter who's so animated and jovial on-deck, frolicking and overly optimistic about an educated future in America, and, well... There are very few surprises in THE SHARKFIGHTERS... Which takes itself seriously enough to feel like a genuine biopic/war propaganda...

Despite the fact that, unlike our first Obscure Shark Month feature, SHARKS' TREASURE, the sleek myriad of Tiger Sharks, though cunning and deadly, are only viewed from dorsal fins-up without a single glimpse of them slashing around underwater, in their turf (then again, we learn they're the most dangerous at the surface). But when Victor Mature decides to put the desired liquid to the test, it's a suspenseful, fulfilling climax despite the picture ending too soon. Directed by studio guy Jerry Hopper, THE SHARKFIGHTERS is a programmer that dives in and out quickly.
Victor Mature in THE SHARKFIGHTERS
Victor Mature and Raphael Campos in THE SHARKFIGHTERS
Victor Mature and Raphael Campos in THE SHARKFIGHTERS
Victor Mature and Philip Coolidge in THE SHARKFIGHTERS
Victor Mature and Karen Steele in THE SHARKFIGHTERS
Claude Akins in THE SHARKFIGHTERS
Victor Mature in THE SHARKFIGHTERS with James Olson
Victor Mature and James Olson in THE SHARKFIGHTERS
Philip Coolidge and James Olson in THE SHARKFIGHTERS
Karen Steele and Philip Coolidge in THE SHARKFIGHTERS
Victor Mature and James Olson in THE SHARKFIGHTERS
James Olson, Philip Coolidge, Jesús Hernández in THE SHARKFIGHTERS with Victor Mature
Claude Akins in THE SHARKFIGHTERS
Philip Coolidge and Victor Mature in THE SHARKFIGHTERS
Raphael Campos in THE SHARKFIGHTERS
Victor Mature and Karen Steele in THE SHARKFIGHTERS
Jesús Hernández  Fishing for the right test shark in Sharkfighters

 

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