Shark (Samuel Fuller / U.S.-Mexico, 1969):
(Caine; Man-Eater)

Samuel Fuller turned in the finished work to his producers, who then vandalized it beyond recognition. The editing is particularly obtuse in the first underwater sequence amid the sharks, though the hard-boiled images remain Fuller's and nobody else's: The mother of the devoured diver receives his earnings and, after a moment of grave contemplation, licks her thumb to count the bills, looking just like Thelma Ritter in a hijab. "I trust you know the story of Ali Baba?" The narrative is a laconic anagram of Algiers, The Wages of Fear and, perhaps above all, the Buñuel of Death in the Garden, which dovetails into the use of Mexico as Sudan. Burt Reynolds is a smirking gunrunner stranded in an Arab village of wandering chickens and ceiling fans, Barry Sullivan and Silvia Pinal are looking for another diver to explore a sunken vessel; the triangle is consciously constructed as a travesty of the family, which dissolves as news of their McGuffin (a treasure of gold bars as "shark protein") come to the fore. The transcendent sordidness of the material pulls through the insensitive chopping, with all sorts of off-the-cuff jests (the shaving bit from Pépé le Moko reenacted by Reynolds at breakfast time, the close-up introducing the lil' street urchin exhaling cigar smoke) sketched with instantaneous brio. Arthur Kennedy in a fez paints a riotous burlesque of the plastered doctor in Stagecoach, Pinal is given pistol and low-angled lenses for a sardonic sendoff -- both are attuned to Fuller's inimitable humor and verve in the face of disaster. With Manuel Alvarado, Carlos Barry, and Carlos Beriochoa.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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