Film Review - Commander USA's Groovie Movies: Mako Jaws of Death

Starring - Commander USA, Lefty, Jim Hendricks, Sarah Delson | Directed by Ben Gunn | DVD-R USA FF Not Rated 120min 1988

Review By Xmortis

When I think of Halloween I think of horror hosts, and one of my all time favorites is Commander USA who hosted his Groovie Movies on the USA Network when I was a young lad. Commander USA was a retired super hero who lived under a mall in Jersey that he called his video vault and along with his sidekick Lefty (his right hand with a smiley face drawn on with cigar ash) they would host all kinds of movies and adventures on Saturday Afternoons and, later in the series, on Sundays. The Commander wore a red spandex costume with USA on his chest along with a cape, suspenders and blue underwear. I spent a lot of time watching this show with my brother and mom, and to this day the show holds a spot in my heart. I grew up in a small town, and on Saturdays after watching a few hours of cartoons my mom would take my brother and I to a store called Big Bear Plus. She would always buy me some sort of cool toy like a Battle Beast, Monster in My Pocket or G.I. Joe, and then we would get a blueberry Icee from the snack bar and be on our way home just in time for Commander USA! Sometimes it would be hard to choose between Commander USA or Grandpa Munster who hosted Super Scary Saturday on TBS, but almost 9 out of 10 times Commander won out. Now enough of the sappy look back at my childhood, let's take a look at both the host segments and the film itself.

In this episode Commander USA is having a tribute to the star of the film, Richard Jaeckel, and to help him in this tribute he puts a hidden camera in the mall and has shoppers share their thoughts on the actor that range from negative to super fan. Dr. Moist also comes to visit and shares her love for Richard and also tries to push her book about different species falling in love. The Commander then finds himself fishing in a toilet bowl lid, eating a hamburger and watching doll mermaids do a underwater act, showing us the world's smallest man eating shark. The Commander's proudest moment is when he talks to Richard's high school friend who turns out to be nothing more then a full fledged liar. By midway he shows us how to make a cake made from sardines to honor Richard. The Commander does a few more fishy jokes in his segments then heads home from the vault.

The film is about Sonny Stein, a man who has the ability to telepathically talk to sharks and with his bond he teaches the sharks to kill anyone who is wanting to do them harm. With his talisman necklace that he was given by a shaman, he goes into a rage as the government plans to put a bounty on the heads of sharks. But along his way he falls for an underwater dancer named Karen who tries to learn what Sonny is really like and in the process she and her fat husband use one of Sonny's sharks in her new act. But when Sonny finds out that they are no good like everyone else who has used and abused his shark friends, they become targets on his death path of revenge. In the end a hurricane hits as Sonny must fight off the law and the towns people who want to stop his killing. In the end Sonny is killed by that which he loved the most, making the end very poetic and a fitting end to a shark lover. This 1976 film was directed by William Grefe and stars Richard Jaeckel, Jennifer Bishop and Buffy Dee is yet another reason for swimmers not to go back into the water.

The charm of the Commander is his gift of one-liners and being a borderline conman as he seems to always have a scheme to benefit himself or at least something so off the wall you can't help but smile. While this episode is not him at his best, it still was a fun trip down memory lane. All the puns and skits are wrapped around actor Richard Jaeckel and fish, making the theme a fun tie in to the film that was a silly lackluster shark tale that is nothing more then a cheap JAWS cash in. The film was slow paced and while the acting was not bad, it seemed to really go nowhere and the kills were pretty much bloodless and cheap looking. Commander's skits however were funny and filled with fake fish, tuna cans and different actors coming in and making goofy guest spots. If you're a fan of classic horror host shows like I am, then I would say track down some Groovie Movies episodes and enjoy the fun cheesy ride.

The DVD-R has no real extras besides the original airdate commercials that help hold the old school watching experience. The cover is a custom-made one and for the most part very eye catching for fans of this classic horror host program.

Kids in the mid 80's who had cable and loved cheesy horror and sci-fi films are sure to remember this show. It was my introduction to many horror films and companies. I owe my love for the Hammer film "Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell" to Commander USA who showed it on his amazing program and made me obsessed with the title monster. The skits were always silly and the one liners were always spewed out making this a fun time for adults and kids alike and adding a safe zone for kids and those scared of the film being shown. Commander USA also did what really good hosts do and that's make you believe that he is watching the stinker film along side you, acting as your guide to make you feel like maybe the film is not as bad as you think. Over all Commander USA along side a handful of others inspired me to becomes the film reviewer I am today. I miss Commander USA and wish that the USA Network would bring him back on and give this generation of kids something good to watch on Saturday afternoons.