After another marauding monster shows up at Amity and kills the son of Ellen and Martin Brody, the latter now dead of a heart attack (because Roy Scheider turned down the offer to be the one that gets killed at the beginning), Ellen decides that sharks are pursuing a personal vendetta against her family. She travels to the Bahamas to get over the tragedy, and sure enough, a great white turns up.
I remember when this film was announced, and a lot of people thought it was a hoax. But no, they were serious about that immortal tagline: This Time It's Personal...
Even on its own terms it doesn't make much sense, due to the removal of a subplot about voodoo that would have made the premise even wilder, but Michael Caine brings his usual touch of effortless class to the project, and there are a few well-directed suspense sequences, so the film is never less than oddly watchable, despite a bizarre paucity of shark attacks and one of the silliest basic ideas in film history.
(Note: There are two markedly different versions of the film in circulation. The one which plays on British television features the original ending in which the shark charges the boat head-on and is impaled on the broken bowsprit. The scene then abruptly fades, almost before the shark's finished thrashing about, and fades back in to the tag scene of Ellen leaving in Michael Caine's plane. The official story is that preview audiences disliked this ending and so the climax was rejigged in a different version, which is the one issued on video. This time, the shark is impaled as before, but instead of thrashing about, it explodes, for absolutely no reason whatsoever, using grafted on footage from the original Jaws!
There are other differences between the two, however. Version 1 features extensive glimpses of the hydraulic mechanism inside the shark's hollow stomach in the scene where it follows Lance Guest through an old shipwreck; these have been tidied-up and edited out in version two. So clear and lingering are these shots in the first version that it seems like an unfinished work print rather than an accidental blooper.
The other big change is the survival of the character played by Mario Van Peebles. The story is that preview audiences were unhappy with him dying so reshoots were undertaken in which he is seen to survive. My feeling, however, is that this is what was originally shot, then deleted, and then reinstated after the preview. This accounts, I think, for the dramatically suicidal haste with which the original version fades out as the shark dies, denying us all subsequent footage of the characters in the sea after the boat sinks, culminating in Van Peebles' reappearance. Similarly, the dialogue in the tag scene about how his character needs to recuperate seems to me to be deleted from the first version, not added on to the second. What seems to have happened, therefore, is that for the second version the producers restored this missing footage, but also took the opportunity to change the shark's death, not realising that the main problem with the original sequence was the abruptness with which it faded. The exploding finale is unquestionably worse: it is meaningless and ridiculous, and the abrupt breaks in visual and musical continuity, to say nothing of the inserted shots from Jaws, are painfully obvious. I watched a version I compiled myself, using the body of version 2, with the tidied-up effects and fuller ending, but with the original, non-exploding death from version 1 substituted. It works better than either official version, and I am convinced the film would be better received were it made commercially available in this form. It would also earn itself one of these * from Movietone Cameos!)