Not before or since has a film instilled the collective terror that Jaws did in 1975. People stopped swimming in seas across the world. Cries of 'Is it safe to go in?' could even be heard on beaches built next to land-locked lakes. John Williams' spine-tinglingly infectious score - dur-rum . . . dur-rum . . . dur-rum - instilled mass hysteria, even if it has subsequently become a cliche. More significantly, the film put Steven Spielberg on the cinematic map. Sadly, the sequels are vastly inferior and tonight's Jaws III (Pearl, 9.30pm) verges on the farcical. The film is made with a 3-D facility, which is lost on television screens, but the effect adds little to the scariness and that's what people want. Jaws III is set at Sea World in Florida where a new Undersea Kingdom is about to open. A maze of transparent tunnels beneath the park's lagoon allows visitors to walk through a world of sea life, where, naturally, an unexpected guest appears. Through a damaged sea gate separating the park from the ocean, a great white shark has been trapped in the lagoon. With the first sight of its fin, a tide of panic spreads through the holiday crowd. But none is more frightened than the poor creature itself which discovers its primal instincts and eats anything in its path. No other series of films have done so much damage to the reputation of the world's greatest predator. A washout that Dennis Quaid and Louis Gossett Jr should have stayed well away from. Turn, instead, to a far superior film, Peter Weir's Dead Poets Society (World, 9.30pm). The society of the title refers to a secret club that unconventional English teacher John Keating (Robin Williams) led when he was a student at the very proper Welton Academy, where he now works. In an attempt to bring his class of impressionable young men to the pleasures of poetry, Keating makes them rip out the pages of their textbooks in favour of his inventive didactics on the spirit of poetry. Captivated by Keating's spirit, a group of students revive the secret club and discover a brave new world of culture, creativity and passion that changes their lives with deadly consequences. The role of Keating was a change for comic actor Williams, who brings to his portrayal the passion and empathy that is central to the character and - without becoming trite - injects the character with warmth and humour. Tom Schulman's screenplay, with its excellent eye for detail, won an Oscar and the young cast, especially Robert Sean Leonard as Neil Perry and Ethan Hawke as Todd Anderson, received much praise. A moving and enlightening movie. The Skeleton Coast Safari (World, 8.30pm) continues with the Bartletts exploring the vast gravel plains of the Northern Namib Desert. Seemingly bare of life, this is a land of the unexpected. Large mammals travel well-used game trails - springbok, gemsbok, the occasional rhinoceros or giraffe and even elephants. The first rain in two years brings the plains to life. Birds, chameleons, snakes and meerkats feast on newly found insects. Sandgrouse arrive to drink, often running the gauntlet of attack by jackals and falcons. Each day a new drama unfolds. True-life dramas in Manhunter (World, 1.40am) include the story of Jeffrey Boston, who hired a hitman to kill his mother in order to inherit his father's estate.