Color, 1975, 97 mins. 27 sec.
Directed by Cornel Wilde
Cornel Wilde, Yaphet Kotto, John Nelson, Cliff Osmond, David Canary, David Gilliam
Scorpion Releasing (Blu-ray) (US RA HD) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)
With his days as a Hollywood leading man stalling out a bit in the early '50s, Hungarian-born Cornel Wilde managed to keep himself in the spotlight by setting up his own production company along with his wife, Jean, which led him to a long career as a writer, producer, and director of such gritty films as Storm Fear, The Naked Prey, Beach Red, and No Blade of Grass. His last film as a quadruple threat was Sharks' Treasure, a project he'd been trying to get off the ground for years and finally wrangled financing for when Peter Benchley's hit bestseller, Jaws, was greenlit for a summer release in 1975. Wilde's film managed to beat that Steven Spielberg classic into theaters by a couple of months, which in retrospect was probably a bad move as it ended up missing the entire wave of sharksploitation films that made big bucks well into the 1980s. Of course, Sharks' Treasure is a bit less shark-heavy than the title might imply (it's ultimately a lot closer to Benchley's later The Deep), though you do get some lengthy footage of the cast doing their own diving scenes and swimming among the aquatic predators (who are occasionally brutalized for real a la René Cardona Jr.).
During a pleasure cruise dive off of Honduras, young Ron Walker (The Folks at Red Wolf Inn's Neilson) finds a gold coin and an anchor but gets scared off by sharks swimming nearby. He takes his find to cranky skipper Jim Carnahan (Wilde), who dismisses him at first but becomes more intrigued when he identifies the true value of the coin. The duo study a map and figure out the likely site of a lost treasure, which leads them to bring aboard dive supply shop owner Ben Flynn (Live and Let Die's Kotto) and ex-P.O.W. sailor Larry (Canary) for help. However, their adventure turns perilous thanks to a bigger shark population than they counted on and the arrival of some pirates determined to snag the treasure for themselves.
Released theatrically by United Artists, Sharks' Treasure has turned up on TV a lot over the years but has suffered from a fairly sparse home video history including an MGM/UA VHS release. Exactly why is a mystery as this would seem like something that should've been on DVD multiple times right now, especially among adventure movie fans who can enjoy one of the stronger PG-rated films from the era with a fair amount of brutality on display. The film's reliance on practical on-location shooting without special effects or green screens is appreciated with the beautiful natural locations and extensive underwater footage giving it a fair amount of believability even when Wilde's plotting goes slack at times. In keeping with his more famous The Naked Prey, Wilde (who sports an amusing hambone Southern accent) is obviously still proud of his physique and spends most of the running time in a Speedo, even fishing for compliments from his fellow shipmates in one of the more amusing dialogue exchanges. The film also boasts an evocative score by Robert O. Ragland, who scored Wonder Women the same year and would go on to do a different kind of Jaws cash-in the following year with Grizzly.
In 2021, Scorpion Releasing finally brought Wilde's film back into circulation on Blu-ray available via Ronin Flix and Diabolik. Though the packaging doesn't note it, this is actually the much, much longer theatrical version compared to what we've had on video and seen on TV before; the standard cut runs 87m40s, while this one clocks in nearly ten minutes longer at 97m27s with more squabbling and more sharking. The image quality here is great, much sharper and clearer than the fuzzy open matte version that was still turning on on broadcast TV even a couple of years ago. The DTS-HD MA English 2.0 mono track is in good shape without any significant issues, and optional English SDH subtitles are provided. A standard def trailer is included along with bonus ones for Trackdown, Who'll Stop the Rain, Tintorera, The Killer Elite, and Rollerball.
Reviewed on June 18, 2021.