Sometimes a movie comes along that is so completely insane that it feels like a dream. The amazing Shark’s Paradise falls into that category. This is a film that makes no sense – not in its storyline, which is straightforward albeit quite mad, but simply because it exists.
Australia, 1986, Michael Jenkins
Shark’s Paradise opens with a drunken party-goer falling off a boat and to his shark-induced death. The police receive a cassette tape hilariously claiming credit for the attack. “I sent the shark… I could send a hundred sharks,” the tape ominously warns in a robotic voice, which manages to talk over itself as much as the characters of Shark’s Paradise. The police chief (John Paramor), believing it to be a hoax, puts his worst man on the job, Inspector Rossiter (Dennis Miller), who then puts his worst man on the job, Rod Palmer (David Reyne). A slick, blonde-haired dork, Rod is given the job because, in Rossiter’s words, he doesn’t “smell like a cop.” Rossiter sets up a sidekick dream team for Rod. For some reason, he throws him two con-artists instead of policemen – Monty (Ron Becks) and Billie (Sally Taylor). The three idiots, under the unwilling leadership of Rod, set out to catch “the baddest crim in town” and solve the mystery of the shark attacks.
A silly plot indeed, but its delivery takes Shark’s Paradise into truly absurd territory. With the above synopsis, the film may sound to be a cheesy mystery-thriller, and it is, but every now and then Shark’s Paradise morphs into slapstick comedy. No, I’m wrong… it takes it further than slapstick, Shark’s Paradise‘s comedy is undefinable. With sped up scenes, slow motion shark attacks, footage reserved and repeated (one of the strangest moments in the film), insane sound effects (and lack of sound effects), offensive yellow-face gags, cartoonish post-explosion make up and an animated sparkle (I shit you not) on a freeze frame of the lead removing his sunglasses and acknowledging the camera, Shark’s Paradise sometimes seems like an extended episode of Tim and Eric. There’s even Scooby Doo inspired moments (perhaps enforced by Hanna-Barbera who produced the film), such as a cringey moment in the police station where characters zoom in and out of corridors until they bump into each other. Yuck. When moments like this occurred, between my guffaws, I was muttering, “why the fuck did they do that?” That right there is the sign of solid bad-moviemaking.
Shark’s Paradise is a veritable treasure trove of inane dialogue. Ron Becks as Monty, the apparent “cool guy” (who is way too old to be a cool guy), gives us relentless one-liners and rambling diatribes. In a scene where he escapes from a prison cell, he whispers, “Black magic, yeah… don’t mess with the kid.” What the hell?! And who could forget this corker: “What ya doing, man? Going undercover as a piece of seaweed.” Right on, cool guy! Sally, the sort-of love interest, almost outdoes Monty. Every line is delivered in a horrible faux-British accent: “Okay, where’s the coffee? I’ve been up to my neck all morning in sharks.” Thanks, Sally. Our hero, Ron, doesn’t get as many bad lines, but his stupid haircut, stilted performance and Home and Away good looks are funny enough. The real standout of the cast is John Paramor, who is possibly the worst police chief in movie history. He looks like a less threatening version of Zach Galifianakis – I kept expecting him to start screaming. As an added bonus, Australian exploitation legend Vince Gil (Mad Max, Body Melt) joins the cast as the film’s primary villain.
Weirdly enough, Shark’s Paradise is also pretty action-packed, especially for a television movie. There’s a few impressive action sequences including a painful looking chase that ends on a water slide and a handful of solid helicopter and car stunts. The soundtrack is also a winner featuring songs from big bands like INXS, Split Enz (it’s quite a blast hearing “Shark Attack” over a particularly mental action montage), The Church and The Hoodoo Gurus. While the film often comes across as one big bloated advertisement for Surfers Paradise and it has distinctly mid-80s Australian television aesthetics, it’s quite competently put together too.
Unfortunately, as sharksploitation, Shark’s Paradise sucks. There’s only a handful of shark attacks, and really, they could barely be called attacks. We see some stock footage of various species of sharks, then a character thrashes around and disappears. However, Shark’s Paradise scores significant shark-brownie points for its shark-utilising villains. The idea of extortionists using sharks as a bargaining tool had me in stiches.
Really though, I should have reviewed this for Dead End Drive-In rather than Sharksploitation. It’s far more relevant as a piece of Australian trash, rather than shark trash. Sharks aside, Shark’s Paradise is definitely amongst the most entertaining films I’ve discussed on Mondo Exploito. Australians with a sense of humour about themselves will be left crying with laughter. And non-Aussies may have an even better time as they are presented this deranged advertisement for Queensland.