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Shark Vs Croc (2004)


Which is the deadliest killer: the tiger shark or the crocodile? Adventurer Ben Cropp answers the question by looking at a recent history of crocodile and shark attacks and his own experiences with each creature.

Curator’s notes

Crocodiles and sharks have a mixed legacy on screen. A common villain in monster movies like Jaws (1975) and Rogue (2007), they are a longstanding source of fascination in wildlife and travel documentaries. Films like Crocodile Dundee (1985) have cemented the archetype of the rugged 'wild man’ who can hold his own against these creatures. Travel and wildlife programs are often presented by a similar archetype  – the 'adventurer’. Australians Ron and Valerie Taylor started as spearfishers before switching in the 1960s to shark documentaries and conservationism. Later, Steve Irwin’s The Crocodile Hunter (1997–2004) combined the wild man image with conservationist themes, tapping into both a public fascination with nature’s potential hostility and a changing consciousness about the environment.

Somewhere between genres sits Shark Vs Croc, by adventurer Ben Cropp, a tabloid-style TV documentary about ‘man-eating killers’ (see clip one). Adventurer Ben Cropp catalogues sensational news stories about shark and crocodile attacks then rates each creature out of ten for intelligence, jaws and attacks on humans in the last 20 years. The 'versus’ of the title evokes a combat metaphor, although viewers expecting to see crocodiles and sharks actually fighting each other will be disappointed. This combination of factual TV with a sensationalist, monster-movie style preoccupation with deadly creatures is almost a sub-genre of its own in Australian programming, which could be termed the 'monster doco’. 

Cropp started out as a spearfisherman and shark hunter before, according to his website, an outlook-changing swim on the back of a whale shark in 1964 transformed him into a documentary maker and conservationist. In the ‘60s, Cropp worked with the Taylors, who later attracted some criticism in conservationist circles for filming the real shark footage in Jaws (1975). Cropp had his own moment of controversy when he apparently accepted an offer of one million dollars to engage in a 'fight to the death’ with a shark for US television, in the wake of the success of Jaws (1975). The deal eventually fell through.

Shark Vs Croc was part of Cropp’s series Wild Australia, which aired in Channel Seven’s long-running World Around Us documentary timeslot. World Around Us (1985–99) also screened Cropp’s Sea Snakes: Serpents of Death and Sharks: The Terror and the Truth as well as the 13-part series Australia’s Deadliest Destinations by Grainger TV (producers of Yindi: The Last Koala?, 1996, and Australia’s Deadliest Sea Creatures, Australia’s Backyard Killers and Danger Down Under).