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For, Friday, June 16, 2017

EDITOR’S NOTE: Welcome to summer, at least by the movie calendar. There are five big-budget Hollywood sequels in local theaters right now (‘Cars 2,’ ‘Wonder Woman,’ ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,’ ‘Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2,’ ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul’), along with three films that are hoping for sequels (‘The Mummy,’ ‘Baywatch,’ ‘Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie,’), and three more sequels will open over the next couple of weeks (‘Transformers: The Last Knight,’ ‘Despicable Me 3,’ ‘Amityville: The Awakening’). That’s a lot, and there are many more on the docket this year. Or at least it would have seemed like a lot last century. I had no idea this level of sequelitis would take over when I complained about follow-up films 36 years ago, as shown in this ‘Hicks on Flicks’ column that was published in the Deseret News on Dec. 16, 1981, under the headline, ‘The Movie Critic, Part 2’ or ‘Say it Again, Chris Hicks.’ (And, to update this article, Richard Matheson’s script for the third ‘Jaws’ film was given a rewrite by three other screenwriters and the film was ultimately released in 1983 as ‘Jaws 3-D’ — and it was predictably awful. Also, as the poster below illustrates, ‘Smokey and the Bandit II’ was released in Great Britain as ‘Smokey and the Bandit Ride Again.’ But ‘Smokey and the Bandit II’ is certainly better than the film’s working title: ‘Smokey and the Bandit Have a Baby.’ Yikes!)

IT WAS INEVITABLE, I suppose. With “Jaws” the fourth-biggest moneymaking movie ever, and “Jaws II” in the top 20, it was only a matter of time. Get ready for “Jaws III,” which will soon start shooting with a script written by Richard Matheson.

Matheson has given us such diverse work as “The Incredible Shrinking Man,” considered a science-fiction classic, and the more recent “Somewhere in Time,” as well as numerous TV programs, including “Twilight Zone” episodes and Steven Spielberg’s first major work, “Duel.”


While I join with those who are wary of sequels, recognizing that they are generally inferior, the fact that Matheson is writing the script for “Jaws III” gives it added interest for me. But the final product, of course, will depend largely on the cast and director chosen to give us the third installment of the great killer shark story.

Though it was eventually scrapped, there was talk for a time of a “Jaws” spoof, a la “Airplane,” which was to be called “Jaws III, People 0.” Now that had possibilities.

— ONE OF THE things that fascinates me most about sequels is the originality of the titles. “Rocky III” will be out next summer and “Superman II” made the rounds this year.

There was “The Godfather II,” “The French Connection II,” “Smokey and the Bandit II.” …

At least the sequel to “The Black Stallion” will be called “The Black Stallion Returns.” That’s getting back to the way sequels used to be titled.

Remember “The Bride of Frankenstein” and “Son of Frankenstein?” That led to all sorts of offerings that took on blood relationships or the like for titles: “Dracula’s Daughter,” “Revenge of Frankenstein,” “House of Dracula,” “Son of Flubber,” “Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars” — even “Dracula’s Dog!”


Or how about the “Pink Panther” series? The first one carried that simple title, the second was “A Shot in the Dark,” and then the panther returned, struck back and sought revenge.

“The Thin Man” went after, had another, cast a shadow, went home and had a song.

“Andy Hardy” got spring fever, met a debutante, had a private secretary, had a double life, had blonde trouble. … Well, you get the idea.

There’s a lot of talk in Hollywood these days that the movie industry is in trouble, but not because of cable TV and home video equipment. It’s in trouble because of a lack of originality. If that’s true, maybe it’s reflected in the redundant Roman numeral titles.

And by the time some of these pictures make it to the sixth or seventh in a series, will the audience readily recognize that “Rocky VII” is new, and not the “Rocky VI” it saw the previous year?