Revisiting “Jaws” (1975)

I decided to save this selection from the “Universal 100th” for the time around the summer blockbuster season. For, we are told, it is the film (Jaws) that CREATED the summer blockbuster. I think this passage found in “the Wikipedia” just about sums it up as best as possible:

Generally well received by critics, Jaws became the highest-grossing film in history at the time. It won several awards for its soundtrack and editing, and it is often cited as one of the greatest films of all time … Jaws was pivotal in establishing the modern Hollywood business model, which revolves around blockbuster action and adventure pictures with simple “high-concept” premises that are released in the summer at thousands of theaters and supported by heavy advertising.

Source: Wikipedia

As for the movie itself and my reaction to it,  let’s just say it took me a while to be able to sit down and watch this one through. This film may be singlehandedly be responsible for my avoiding beaches and the like for the greater part of my childhood and team years.

From a visual perspective and when compared to present-day effects-laden spectacles, one could argue that the film’s bark is worse than its bite. But of course they are wrong; there is something happening here that is WAY beyond visual effect. The imminent threat that is mostly not there is the most frightening and affecting aspect of the film . I would even go as far as to say that you do not even need to see the shark, as evidenced by the opening sequence, where we see a young skinny dipper being pulled under water.

Based on the best-selling novel by Peter Benchley, Jaws is set in the fictional town of Amity where, after the aforementioned attack, Police Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) wants to close the beach. But seeing as it is the peak tourist season, he is forced to go along with keeping the beach open and suppressing the true nature of the attack.

After a second person is attacked and killed by a shark on the beach, Amity draws the attention of marine biologist Hooper (Richard Dreyfus) and “shark bounty hunter” Quint (Robert Shaw). And the battle of men versus beast begins …

My favorite scene? When Quint (Shaw) recounts the tale of the USS Indianapolis (a real-life WWII incident). The fact that this is actually happened adds even more dramatic tension and fear to what we see onscreen.

Based on the evidence of this film, one can easily say that in the subsequent 37 years since its initial release, we have been offered up, for the most part (there are notable exceptions, of course), increasingly inferior and lackluster blockbusters. Nothing beats the original.

On a related note: can you believe that Steven Spielberg was only twenty-seven years young when he co-wrote and directed this feature? WOW!

Let me know your thoughts on the film below.

OTHER TRIVIA

According to filmsite.org, the plot for both the novel and the film were taken from several sources including:

  • Herman Melville’s 1851 Moby Dick, about a search for a monstrous sea creature (a great white whale) by a determined Captain Ahab
  • Ibsen’s 1882 classic play An Enemy of the People
  • the exploits of diver Peter Gimbel’s shark expedition recounted in the documentary film Blue Water, White Death (1971)
  • Peter Matthiessen’s 1971 non-fiction book Blue Meridian: The Search for the Great White Shark
  • two great 50s horror films: The Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954) and The Monster That Challenged the World (1957)
  • a real-life incident on the New Jersey shore in the summer of 1916 that claimed five lives over the course of two weeks

Source: filmsite.org

 

Comments

  1. Thanks for this lovely post. You made me recall those days when I was also badly horrified of beaches.

  2. One of my favorite films of all-time, and it created an entire genre of deadly fish-horror films (Orca, Piranha, Deep Blue Sea, Free Willy (just kidding), Open Water, to name a few) as well as its own series of unforgettable sequels.

    Alien and Jaws are two of the most impact horror films that basically spawned new horror sub-genres from the late 70’s to today.

    No surprise, two great directors, Ridley Scott and Steven Spielberg, respectively).

    Speaking of which, I am hyped for your official Prometheus review. 🙂
    Jay Dee recently posted..Carl Froch Batters Lucian Bute And Makes Me A BelieverMy Profile

  3. I caught this on TV not too long ago, just towards the end, but couldn’t help watching it. Still pretty scary even after all these years.
    ruth recently posted..THIS JUST IN: ‘Les Miserables’ First TrailerMy Profile

  4. this is still pretty scary to me, even on TV. I think part of the scariness is, as you mentioned, we don’t see the shark until the very end. I’ve read that the absence of the shark was because the model shark they had was so bad and obvious that Spielberg didn’t want to show it at all. Cinematic lemons into lemonade 🙂
    Paula recently posted..Movie Typography: ESPIONAGE AGENTMy Profile

  5. Journet says:

    One of my favorite movies of all time! I’ve watched it every time it is on tv and I own the DVD. Hooper (Dreyfuss) had some of my favorite funny lines and I laugh hysterically every time. I don’t remember ever being scared watching the movie, but I will admit that I don’t like the open water and I have to believe this movie must have had an effect.

  6. Jack Deth says:

    Hi, iluv and company:

    Great choice for discussion!

    An excellent example of a character driven, small ensemble cinema. With a strategically, briefly displayed monster to heighten the suspense, tension and fear.

    Even if the entire film is basically a big budgeted Roger Corman film.

    Scheider, Dreyfuss and Shaw all rock in their own unique, often funny ways. And, yes. Shaw’s soliloquy is the best, most memorable part of the film.

  7. Iba, this really takes me back! The year this arrived unquestionably changed everything. And it certainly stands up all these decades later. I’ve given you a shout-out today in a TMT for this great post. Thanks for this.
    le0pard13 recently posted..TMT: So This is Why We Call It The BlockbusterMy Profile

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