Okay, first of all, you have to love that title: Blue Water, White Death. Documentary filmmakers need to step up their game to match a title as juicy as that one. Over the weekend, a group of us watched the 1971 production by Peter Gimbel and James Lipscomb, which inspired Peter Benchley to write the best-selling novel, Jaws. The film, which was recently remastered and released on DVD by MGM, is a meditative and awe-inspiring look at a team of researchers hoping to better understand the Great White Shark. Led by photographer Gimbel, the documentary is filmed with glorious cinematography and era-appropriate narration. It’s not the kind of cinematic documentary that gets made much anymore, so for nonfiction film enthusiasts, it can also serve as a valuable history lesson.
The biggest history lesson, though, comes from watching this film that pre-dates the countless reality shows on TV. The naivete and gusto of these explorers is both admirable and insane. As the researchers mercilessly kill whales in an attempt to attract sharks to their blood, you don’t know who to sympathize with as you spend quiet minutes underwater, awaiting the arrivals of nearby predators. The whole voyage feels like something out of Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic, complete with a shipmate/folksinger which must have been an inspiration for Anderson’s film. While the weather is still hot, and you’re looking for some summer cinema, you should consider Blue Water, White Death. Here’s the new trailer for the DVD release: