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.
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.
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