The Weirdest Jaws Merchandise Ever Made


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By Luke McKinney

Jaws starred a great white shark but promoted a far more terrifying hunger. As one of the first major motion picture merchandising pushes, it unleashed a corporate monster which could consume the entire planet and then try to sell it branded toilet paper.

The poor shark was only obeying its instincts — the merchandising industry sees the entire human race as a menu. Which is how we ended up with Scarlett Johansson wearing a catsuit on Slurpee cups. Now its appetite is undead. The 40th anniversary of Jaws has launched more doomed attempts at shark-based profit than Amity Island tourism. Which is why we’re looking over the history of hilariously bad Jaws cash-ins.

1. Shark Jaws Video Game

Horror Games

Horror Games

Atari’s unlicensed Jaws knock-off video game came out around the time of the movie and wrote the word “Shark” so small on the arcade cabinet that scientists would later use it to prove the existence of the neutrino.  It was such a blatant ripoff that Atari founded “Horror Games,” a copyright lawsuit crumple-zone company which never made anything else and existed only to take the hit if Universal Studios ever sued. You couldn’t rip someone off more obviously without scalping them to get the DNA for your cloning tanks.

This game was a master class in how to play chicken with the entire concept of intellectual property theft while using a much scarier animal. Most movie adaptations change the plot to make the player more powerful. This game didn’t do any of that. It clearly understood the ecosystem of the Jaws universe: you’re a scuba diver hunting small fish, and you have to avoid the shark because it will absolutely kill you. In this reality’s food chain, humanity was right in the middle like the filling in the shark’s sandwich.

Horror games

Horror games

In what would now be a masterful inversion of video game expectations, but at the time was just stupid, there was no way to actually defeat the shark. It was bigger than you. It could kill you. Keep away from that thing that can kill you. It was like the makers had never even played a video game before. Which, at the time, was actually true of most people cashing in on the industry. And would sadly remain true for most of the developers ever to make movie tie-in games.

2. Jaws Beach Towel



There’s never been clearer evidence that advertising executives are no longer human, but rather a sub-species of chameleon which infiltrated our society by copying us and now survive by copying everything else. It’s true that Jaws featured a lot of beach imagery. But it was never really pushed as a positive thing. Pretty much the entire plot was about how much a day at the beach could suddenly suck, bite, then roll its eyes while it threshed you into pork-fetti.

This cloth is made entirely of natural warning signs. A giant white shark, not to mention that the towel looks like it’s been soaked in terror urine even when it’s brand new. Possibly to save you embarrassment when you do the same thing yourself.

3. Jaws Shot Glass

Spencer's Gift

Spencer’s Gift

It’s actually impressive to find a new way of negatively associating Jaws with liquids. It’s the Soviet Russia of suck: not only is it bad when you go into the water, but now it’s bad when fluids go into you! Because Jaws is so much about alcoholism that if they hadn’t exploded the shark, the subtext would’ve pickled it.

Quint is clearly a functional alcoholic, and Brody is to wine bottles as Jaws is to bikinis: violently consuming everything they contain. He drinks like the ocean was just a distraction from his lifelong battle to destroy fermented beverages all by himself.

4. Jaws Paddle Ball

Jaws Paddle Ball

Lost Entertainment

An idea isn’t automatically bad just because it’s ridiculous and exploitative. Even when the word “idea” is giving too much credit to an advertising executive who clearly applied Jaws’ face to every single thing in the universe. But their noble sacrifice gave us this bit of bouncing madness.

The fine folks at Lost Entertainment brought the most delightfully bloodthirsty toy we’ve ever seen to our attention. The shark-shaped paddle makes no mistake about its diet, its blood-rimmed mouth a more scarily insane combination of childish entertainment and murderous frenzy than the Joker’s lipstick. The only problem with this toy can’t be blamed on the designers, but on uncooperative laws of physics, which insisted that the bouncing ball be spherical instead of a rubberized swimmer continually drawn to the shark’s hungry maw.

5. Matchbox Jaws Bus



Most blatant cash-ins paste the official logo on unrelated products and call it a day. Matchbox made the effort to take even more piss. They pasted the movie onto entirely unrelated products. Unless there really was a meta-bus of extremely poorly advised tourists arriving to Amity Island in the background of the first movie.

If you’re making a vehicle for Jaws and you end up with a bus you’ve screwed up in ways even a shark couldn’t manage. You’ve screwed up past physics, because you’ve built a vehicle for entirely the wrong state of matter. Jaws = water based travel. This bus suggests that the shark is going to stalk a group of seniors on their way to Atlantic City.

6. Cool Story, Chief Brody T-Shirt



Many of Jaws‘ merchandising mistakes are old, but the Internet unleashed the worst combination of sharks and technology. I’d rather meet one with a laser beam on its frikkin’ head, because that would imply somebody made a genuine effort. And it would still be a less painfully dated reference.

“Cool Story, Chief Brody” proves that no one involved in this shirt even said the words out loud. Because if you must combine Jaws and one of the most obnoxious memes ever spawned, at least “Cool Story Brody” would fit the original rhythm. The dude- culture prosody (brosody?) isn’t smashed by the insertion of the word “chief” into a four syllable sentence.

7. Jaws Movie Jigsaw

Milton Bradley

Milton Bradley

This jigsaw puzzle’s decision to stick to the poster is pretty intelligent. Sure, the iconic simplicity of the shot becomes an endless iteration of boredom as you sieve through hundreds of pure white and blue tiles, but it’s still a better idea than looking at a movie still.

But it’s still six square feet of mostly identical jigsaw pieces. They’ve chosen the only assembly pattern in existence where blowing it up to poster size doesn’t help. Maybe if the great white was hunting Waldo, but here it’s less an entertaining puzzle than an attempt to sell Zen meditation in five hundred pieces. When a jigsaw box has to advertise “fully interlocking pieces,” that’s how they admit “We know you think we’re total idiots for doing this, but there’s at least one aspect of making a jigsaw we didn’t screw up.”

8. Jaws Plushy with Sound



A cuddly toy playing the most recognizable score in pop-cultural history. The only problem is that the toy is too small to contain an entire tuba. But it’s still brilliant. The instant a child works out this toy can eat My Little Ponies will be the first instant of infinitely regurgitated entertainment. And giving this to an unattended child is the best meta-movie use of cinematic themes in real life. When you hear the encroaching alternating notes, you know that something dangerous and hungry is approaching. And they’re holding a cool cuddly shark.

9. The Game of Jaws

Many kids of the ’70s probably remember this officially licensed game from Ideal Toys. And they also probably have the mental and physical scars to prove it.

Basically a variation on Operation where the toy literally bites you, the object of The Game of Jaws was to remove various items (a gun, an anchor, a glove that we can only assume contains a bloody hand) from the plastic shark’s mouth before its jaws snapped shut. And that’s about it. The formula was so effective, Ideal recycled it for several games including the incredibly creepy Sharky’s Dinner, the box art for which suggests that sharks have suddenly acquired the ability to breathe on land and enjoy a nice dinner at a seafood restaurant.

Board Game Geek

Board Game Geek

And in a bit of meta merchandising, Ideal also recycled the idea for a game based on the Jaws knock-off Alligator.

10. Inflatable Jaws

Jaws Collector

Jaws Collector

While this item is little more than a harmless inflatable Jaws pool toy, the box art suggests that the young maniac pictured is commanding his shark buddy to devour his little sister. Float this baby in the ocean and watch how fast the lifeguard clears the beach.

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Everything You Need To Know About “Mr. Runner Up” Inspiration Robert Evans

Watch the two-part finale of Documentary Now! this Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection

In its upcoming two-part finale, Documentary Now! spoofs the crown jewel of docs: The Kid Stays In The Picture. It’s the autobiographical documentary about Robert Evans, the unlikely Hollywood mogul whose mix of self-aggrandizing bravado, classic good looks and extremely circumstantial good luck took him from being a salesman to an actor to the head of Paramount Pictures.

If you’ve never seen the film, it’s totally worth it. Rotten Tomatoes agrees, with a staggeringly-high approval rating. Watch it before, or watch it after — doesn’t matter. You’ll appreciate it whenever.

In the meantime, here’s a bit of background that will come in handy…

Robert Loves Robert

Robert Evans desk

USA Films/Everett Collection

Robert Evans is the ultimate Robert Evans fan. The movie was narrated by Robert Evans and based on his memoir of the same name. It is totally unbiased.

He’s Kind Of A Big Deal

Robert Evans, Chinatown
Paramount Pictures

Evans produced some of Hollywood’s true classics: Chinatown, Rosemary’s Baby, The Godfather, Love Story…the list goes on. Totally legit and amazing movies.

He’s Also Kind Of A Joke

Wag The Dog
New Line Cinema

Evans has been parodied in TV shows and movies like Entourage and Wag The Dog. He is the quintessential “producer” you already have in your head.

So Wrong He’s Right

Robert Evans Slap
20th Century Film Corp

Robert Evans is a notorious narcissist whose love of self is so blind and sincere that it’s actually adorable.

There’s Something Missing

via Giphy

Entire sections of Robert Evans’ life are left out of the documentary. Maybe it’s because of timing. Maybe it’s because real life isn’t a tidy narrative. Who knows.

He Blew It

Spider coke

Evans had a pretty spectacular fall from grace. He was convicted of cocaine trafficking in the early 80’s, and was connected to a contract killing during the production of The Cotton Club. Oops.

Losing Is For Losers

Everett Collection
Everett Collection

In the Robert Evans mythology, all tragedies are just triumphs in disguise, and every story has a happy ending…for Robert Evans.

Bill Hader Jerry Wallach

With these simple facts in hand you are now prepared to thoroughly enjoy the two-part finale of Documentary Now! starting this Wednesday at 10/9c on IFC.

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Anthony Michael Hall’s Most Rotten Movies

Catch Anthony Michael Hall in Weird Science on Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Universal/Everett Collection

Anthony Michael Hall was the quintessential ’80s nerd. We love him in classics like The Breakfast Club and National Lampoon’s Vacation. But even the brainiest among us has his weak spots. In honor of Weird Science airing this Rotten Friday, we analyze Hall’s worst movies.

Weird Science (1985) 56%

A low point for John Hughes, Weird Science is way too wacky for its own good. Anthony Michael Hall’s Gary and his pal Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) create the “perfect woman.” Supernatural chaos ensues. The film costars a young Bill Paxton, floppy disks, and a general disconnect from all reality.

The Caveman’s Valentine (2001) 46%

This ambitious drama starring Samuel L. Jackson couldn’t live up to its rich premise. Jackson plays Romulus, a Juilliard-educated, paranoid schizophrenic who lives in a cave. Hall co-stars as Bob, a rich man, who wants to see Romulus play the piano. The plot centers around Romulus investigating a murder, but with so much going on, the movie never quite finds its rhythm.

All About the Benjamins (2002) 30%

Ice Cube plays a bounty hunter who teams up with Mike Epps’ con man to catch diamond thieves. Hall plays Lil J, a small-time drug dealer. It’s definitely a role we’ve never seen Hall in, but overall the movie isn’t funny or original enough to justify its violence.

Freddy Got Fingered (2001) 11%

This showcase for Tom Green’s goofy gross-out comedy is often hailed as one of the worst films of all time. Green plays Gord, a 20-something slacker, who dreams of having his own animated series. Hall is Dave Davidson, a CEO of an animation studio who eventually helps Gord find success. Too bad Tom Green wasn’t so lucky.

Johnny Be Good (1988) 0%

Hall plays against type as Johnny Walker, a star quarterback. Robert Downey Jr. is his best friend and Uma Thurman plays his devoted girlfriend. Despite the support of a future A-list cast, the movie lacks central conflict and charm. Or, as TV Guide put it, “Johnny be worthless.” Ouch.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” Weird Science this Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Binge Fest

Portlandia Season 6 Now Available On DVD

The perfect addition to your locally-sourced, artisanal DVD collection.

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End of summer got you feeling like:

Portlandia Toni Screaming GIF

Ease into fall with Portlandia‘s sixth season. Relive the latest exploits of Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s cast of characters, including Doug and Claire’s poignant breakup, Lance’s foray into intellectual society, and the terrifying rampage of a tsukemen Noodle Monster! Plus, guest stars The Flaming Lips, Glenn Danzig, Louis C.K., Kevin Corrigan, Zoë Kravitz, and more stop by to experience what Portlandia is all about.

Pick up a copy of the DVD today, or watch full episodes and series extras now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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