A small town finds itself losing people to some vicious underwater predator in this film from the 1970s. Yes, if you'd read that sentence in any other context then you'd assume that someone was talking about Jaws, but if you've read the title of this movie review then you'll know that I am actually referring to Barracuda, one of many Jaws rip-offs that came along in the wake (no pun intended) of ol' Bruce's Box Office bonanza. Although it starts off as just a poor imitation of the classic Spielberg movie, I'm pleasantly surprised to say that the final third sees Barracuda turn into a slightly different beast (again, no pun intended) and instead earns its place alongside some similiar paranoid thrillers from the '70s.
Written by, directed by, and starring Harry Kerwin and Wayne Crawford, Barracuda could easily be a sloppy vanity project. Despite the low rating it has on IMDb, I don't view it that way at all. In fact, this is a film that could have become a firm favourite of mine if it had just managed to cover up a few of its more obvious failings, such as the varied acting and the more ridiculous moments.
The plot sees Crawford, as Mike Canfield, investigating water pollution in a small town that is worryingly close to a chemical plant owned by the nefarious Papa Jack (Bert Freed). Mike is arrested by Sheriff Ben Williams (William Kerwin), but the Sheriff is only going through the motions that he has to. He's just as suspicious of recent activities in his town and thinks that maybe Mike can help him. The Sheriff's daughter (Roberta Leighton) also thinks that Mike can help her, but in a different way. As more corpses turn up on the beach, it soon becomes apparent that the problem may be something more than just local sealife turning vicious.
Actually, the more I think about it the more I realise that Barracuda is a poor movie raised up a notch or two by a great final 10-15 minutes. The barracuda attacks are okay, I guess, but the rest of the film doesn't exactly keep viewers riveted to the onscreen events.
Crawford is okay in the lead role, Kerwin is the best of the bunch as the good Sheriff, Leighton is fine and Cliff Emmich is likeable enough as Deputy Lester, a man who clearly prefers the quiet life to any rocking of the boat (no pun intended). Bert Freed, Harry Kerwin, Bobbie Ellyn Kosstrin, Bob J. Shields and Scott Avery are a mixed bag, but Jason Evers is fairly good as the local doctor who may be able to help Mike and the Sheriff figure out what's going on.
Although I may not have done the movie any favours in my opening line of this review, don't mistake Barracuda for just another Jaws rip-off. It's much more than that, even if it gets by more on charm than any film-making prowess.