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Shark Hunter
(2001)

Director: Matt Codd          
Cast:
Antonio Sabato Jr., Christian Toulai, Heather Marie Marsden


The Case Of The Errant Ex-Rental

 

All over America, criminals kept telling each other, "Stay away from Idaville!"

The inevitable response they kept getting from that was, "Ida-who?"

Idaville was actually what passing motorists felt was any normal seaside town. It was big enough to have three movie theaters, though motorists who lingered would discover the curious fact that it only had four banks. It had churches, a synagogue, and two delicatessens for those who worshiped food. It had big houses and small houses. It had a lovely beach with white sand everyone could use. It also had another beach reserved only for those whose skin color matched that of the sand.

And it had, everyone believed, the best police force in the world. For more than a year, no one - child or adult - had gotten away with breaking a single law.

People said it was because Idaville's police officer's were the smartest and bravest in the world, and that their commander Chief Brown was the smartest chief of police in the world. No one questioned if Idaville was one of those towns where not much unlawful ever happens, or if the criminal population was unusually incompetent. No one also questioned why the excellent track record of Idaville's finest wasn't bringing in any media attention.

If it had, reporters would have quickly discovered that it was all thanks to the chief's son. His name was Encyclopedia Brown, America's Sherlock in Nikes (having finally realized sneakers were so passé.)

For a year now, Chief Brown had been telling his son his cases during dinner each evening in his red brick house on Rover Avenue. At the table he told Encyclopedia the facts of the case. Usually Encyclopedia solved the mystery before he finished dessert. If he needed longer, his mother was disappointed - she wanted him to use his brain power at least momentarily to taste the meal she had spent hours preparing.

Chief Brown stayed silent about his secret. Who would believe him? Who would believe that the world's greatest detective was even shorter than Columbo?

Well, a lot of people probably would believe it, as long as if it was presented in a straightforward manner with evidence to back it up. Boy geniuses aren't unheard of. Take Mozart, for example.

What really worried Chief Brown was not only the fear of his force being accused of incompetence, but that he'd personally be accused of exploitation.

So Chief Brown said nothing.

Encyclopedia stayed silent about the help he gave his father. He didn't want to seem different from other fifth-graders. He also knew it was best to stay silent when it concerned his father. He learned that when he angrily accused his father of cheapness, because he was being held in the fifth grade instead of being placed in a school for the gifted. The swelling in his ear didn't go down for several days.

All the same, he was stuck with his nickname. Only his parents and teachers called him by his real name, Leroy. Everyone else called him Encyclopedia.

An encyclopedia is a set of books filled with facts from A to Z. So was Encyclopedia's head. Though the nickname was apt, Encyclopedia wondered why people had given him one with six syllables and somewhat cumbersome to pronounce. Still, he could have been called worse. He felt lucky that radio stations were now catering to those who grew up in the '80s and '90s, and wouldn't be playing any Jim Croce songs.

Encyclopedia didn't always get exploited when he did detective work. He did some exploiting of his own after opening his own detective business in the Brown garage, offering his services to the constantly victimized children of Idaville - for a price.

In front of the garage he had placed a sign:

BROWN
DETECTIVE AGENCY
13 Rover Avenue
LEROY BROWN
President
No case too small
(only medium-sized cases and up)
25˘ per day plus expenses

One morning while in his makeshift office, nine year-old Darren Van Doren walked up the driveway. He was carrying a bag.

Like what seemed to be the case with every child in Idaville, Darren was an eccentric. In his case, the great interest was in movies, though on those issued on DVD. He already had his own DVD newsletter on the Internet, which he updated regularly with reviews of the latest releases. He had already made a name for himself with his frequent rants on discs he felt were not up to standard, being one of those DVD fanatics insisting on absolutely perfect visual and audio presentation. Several months earlier, when he heard MGM was releasing Revenge Of The Ninja in a full-frame version, he circulated a recall petition amongst his classmates, despite the fact that was how the movie was originally filmed. The fact that the DVD carried a gorier print not seen in theaters or previous home video editions did little to curb Darren's fury.

As he walked up to the table Encyclopedia was sitting behind, a sour look could be seen on Darren's face. Encyclopedia was braced for another rant. He guessed it would probably be aimed at Paramount, because they almost never put any extras on their discs, not even trailers. So Darren's first statement took Encyclopedia by surprise.

"How many gallons of water are in the Pacific Ocean?" Darren asked Encyclopedia.

Encyclopedia took a pencil and scratched some calculations on a piece of paper. A few seconds later he responded, "From calculating 169,000,000 cubic miles, and knowing there are 231 cubic inches to the gallon, that would make approximately 190 quintillion gallons."

"Good enough," said Darren. "Anyone so anal that they bother to remember facts as useless as that has got to have a mind that can help me. I've got a problem."

"Do you think we're missing some sea water?" asked Encyclopedia. "Actually, we're against the Atlantic Ocean. But I just happen to know -"

Darren waved a hand. "No, that's not the problem. This is."

He opened the bag and pulled out a box. It was a VHS box with the tape still inside it. The title of the movie was written in big red letters on the front of the box: Shark Hunter

Encyclopedia recognized the movie. It was a production by the UFO company, an outfit known for churning out genre movies like Lost Voyage. You are the meat / I am the shark / I'm CGI / So make it dark / Play meThe star of the movie was Antonio Sabato Jr., a former soap opera star and underwear model of questionable talent. In this movie, he played Spencer Northcutt, a professor of oceanography. When his character was only a boy, the sailboat he and his family were in one night was struck by some huge force coming up from under the waves, and only Spencer was the survivor. Of course, anyone knowing the title of the movie would have a pretty clear idea what caused this force. Anyway, as an adult, Spencer is responsible for the building of a gigantic submarine than even the American navy would have problems budgeting its construction, let alone in its subsequent maintenance. An abrupt change in sponsorship seemed to suggest Spencer wouldn't be able to go on the sub during its maiden voyage, but Encyclopedia had correctly guessed that same "force" Spencer encountered as a child would quickly strike again somewhere near - and of course that would mean the sponsors would need every man they could get to investigate why their gargantuan sized underwater base (also which the navy would never bother with) suddenly imploded.

Encyclopedia could easily have told Darren all of this, and more. But instead he stated, "I'm familiar with the movie. What about it?"

"I was ripped off by this movie, that's what!"

Darren explained, his voice slowly becoming more shrill by the sentence. The Video Venue, a local video store, had finally closed its doors. Like many failed mom and pop video businesses, it had made the mistake of trying to directly compete with large draconian video chains like Blockbuster, instead of specializing by stocking titles those chains generally wouldn't touch.

"They were selling off their stock," explained Darren, "and I went there to see if I could pick up some DVDs." However, by the time Darren got there, everything had been sold off.

Darren continued. "But at that time, this older kid came out of the store carrying a large sack over his shoulder. He recognized me, and said that he was in need of quick cash after spending all his money there. So he said he'd give me a good deal."

"That movie?" Encyclopedia said with some disbelief in his voice.

"Yeah," said Darren. "He told me all about this alternate type of media. He called it videotape. He said this was the kind of media all the television and cable channels use nowadays."

Encyclopedia started to explain, "But the videotape that those channels use is a different ki-"

Darren interrupted him with a voice starting to border on hysteria. "He told me that this media was being phased out! And that would mean this movie was already a collector's item! He offered me the movie for ten dollars, which I promptly gave him. So I took it home and right away I put it up on Ebay. Do you know what I found out?"

Closing his eyes, Encyclopedia wearily put his hand up to his forehead. "I can't imagine," he lied.

"I found out that the movie was worthless!" Darren was now shrieking each sentence out loud. "Dozens of Ebay users e-mailed me with messages mocking the twenty-five dollar minimum bid I put up. But that's not the worst thing! I found a friend who had a machine that could play the movie. And what did I find? That this 'videotape' gives out a picture and audio nowhere as good as that of DVD! And that's not all! No! The movie was presented in a full-frame format!"

Encyclopedia weakly uttered, "But the DVD edition of the movie is also presented in -"

"I've been ripped off!" Darren repeated. His voice suddenly softened. "I need your help in getting my money back."

"Let me guess," Encyclopedia replied in a tired tone. "It was a kid that wore a shirt with TIGERS written on it with big letters, and you heard some kids dressed like him calling him 'Bugs' right after your transaction."

"How did you know?" a shocked Darren breathed.

"It's always Bugs Meany," Encyclopedia explained. "At least just recently, since Wilfred Wiggins was found dead in that alley across town not long after his mother finally kicked him out."

Bugs Meany was the leader of a neighborhood gang of tough older boys. They called themselves the Tigers. They should have called themselves the Stupid Jerks. That's because they were stupid jerks.

"Well, can you get my money back?" Darren stated impatiently.

"Cash up front." Encyclopedia pointed to the sign.

Darren threw a quarter on the gasoline can beside Encyclopedia. "The little girl down the road only charges a nickel for her help," he grumbled.

"You get what you pay for. Come on, let's go."

The Tigers' clubhouse was an unused tool shed behind Mr. Sweeny's Auto Body Shop. It was pretty easy to discover why the Tigers had made it their home - they had drilled a hole from the shed into the ladies' room of the shop. It was harder to determine why Mr. Sweeny let juvenile delinquents hang around his place. Encyclopedia found the answer during another recent case involving Bugs. During his investigation, Encyclopedia had found out Mr. Sweeny had drilled a hole from the shop into the men's room, which the Tigers frequented regularly because of all their beer drinking.

The tool shed had changed greatly since the last time Encyclopedia was there. A sign had been placed out front reading Tigers' Used Videos. Inside, shelves of hasty construction had been placed against the wall, each one holding dozens of used videos. One corner of the shed had been blocked off by a couple of shower curtains attached to a post. On one of the curtains was a sign reading 21 & Over Only.

Bugs was seated behind a table covered with piles of videos. He was reading a book. Looking up, he frowned as he saw Encyclopedia.

"Scram," he said in a threatening tone, "or I'll kick you in the balls so hard that your ears will bleed."

Encyclopedia was used to Bugs' unkind greetings, though he wasn't used to Bugs talking the way a tough kid in real life would. Neverless, he kept his composure.

"We're here about the movie Shark Hunter."

"A good movie," Bugs yawned. "Now get out of here." Bugs jabbed his thumb back to a sign hanging above him. It read, We Reserve The Right To Refuse Service To Anyone.

Darren abruptly blurted out, "You ripped me off! You sold me a copy of that movie with the claim that it was worth a lot of money."

Bugs looked at Encyclopedia with a totally innocent look. "I did no such thing! Now leave! I have enough problems running this place." Pointing to the curtains, he asked, "How the hell can I get behind that area and sweep up with that sign there?"

"Maybe first you can answer some questions," offered Encyclopedia.

"No," spat Bugs, and his eyes went back to his book.

Encyclopedia asked Bugs a question about the transaction. Bugs looked up, gave Encyclopedia a devilish smile, and went back to his book. Encyclopedia asked another question. Bugs still gave no response. This happened a third time, then a forth. Encyclopedia became silent. Bugs looked up again, and gave out another wicked smile.

"What's going on?" asked Darren.

Encyclopedia was quiet for several more seconds. Slowly, he answered Darren. "It seems Bugs has finally realized all the times I caught him in the past was because he would always make up a bogus story. Those stories always had flaws, which I would point out to prove he was lying. So he's refusing to say anything that might incriminate himself."

"Oh no!" cried Darren. "I'll never get my money back!"

"Don't worry," assured Encyclopedia. "Bugs thinks he has covered all his bases, but he overlooked one thing."

WHAT HAD ENCYCLOPEDIA NOTICED?
(Click here for the answer)
 

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