If I’m not careful, it would be all too easy to cross to the dark side with my comments about Jaws of Satan (1981.) Let’s be clear up front: despite all its flaws, I really did enjoy it. It’s one of those movies where the flaws are what make it interesting and set it apart from movies that are just plain bad, and therefore not enjoyable.
It starts good enough with a well-staged sequence in which the crew of a train speeding along the tracks is eliminated by a pair of snakes. One is a pet, the other is a large cobra that magically breaks the padlock from inside the crate that imprisons it. There are some good POV shots and, maybe just because it’s snakes (ewww!), kind of intense.
It then continues with the introduction of Father Tom Farrow (Fritz Weaver) in an atmospheric scene in which he senses the arrival of evil. He’s reading beside the fire when it suddenly goes out, the logs instantly cold to his touch. Surely the stage is being set for a grand battle between good and evil. It’s all downhill from here, though.
The religious angle takes a back seat to the investigation of a series of snake attacks plaguing the community by Dr. Maggie Sheridan (Gretchen Corbett) and Dr. Paul Hendricks (Jon Korkes.) She’s the small-town doctor and he’s the herpetologist from “the university.” They try to convince Sheriff George Tatum (John McCurry) to warn the town, but…
…Mayor Grady Thorpe (Jack Gordon) is preparing for the grand opening of the new dog racing track and doesn’t want to start a panic. That sounds familiar, and the word “jaws” is in the title of this movie. It’s just ridiculous, though. What impact would a few isolated snake bites have to do with the opening of a dog track? Sharks on the 4th of July it’s not.
Jaws of Satan is too sincere for it to be a spoof of Jaws, if that’s what you’re thinking. I’m pretty sure I didn’t misunderstand its intentions. Even more curious is why Satan would take the form of a cobra if he were to come to Earth. He doesn’t even do as much damage himself as he does command other snakes to do it for him.
With Father Farrow mostly an afterthought, the weight of the movie falls on Corbett and Korkes and they are not very good in their roles. Though I’m not familiar with either, IMDb suggests they’ve done better. Director Bob Claver must be to blame. He stepped out of his television comfort zone for this one, which may explain its non-theatrical feel.
The primary reason I’d recommend Jaws of Satan is that it features the screen debut of Christina Applegate at the ripe old age of 10-years old. She’s a cute little girl who suffers the fate of a preposterous plot point courtesy of writers James Callaway and Gerry Holland. This was their only film and I don’t think their hearts were in it.
Written by Gerry Holland
Story by James Callaway
Directed by Bob Claver
Starring Fritz Weaver, Gretchen Corbett, Jon Korkes, Norman Lloyd, Diana Douglas, Bob Hannah, Nancy Priddy, Christina Applegate, John McCurry, Jack Gordon
RT 92 min.
Released Jan 15, 1982
Recorded on May 23, 2020 on Comet TV
Rating 4 Possessed Children (out of 10)
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