Movie Name: Jaws
Studio: June 20, 1975
Release Date(s): June 20, 1975
MPAA Rating: PG
The death of a girl (Susan Backlinie) out for a late night swim marks the first death. A great white shark is patrolling the waters off of Amity and now that it has found a food source it isn’t leaving. The town sheriff Marcus Brody (Roy Scheider) is desperate to get rid of the shark but finds himself butting heads with Mayor Vaughn (Murray Hamilton) who demands to keep the beaches open for the towns influx of necessary visitors. When the shark continues to kill, it is up to Brody, a shark researcher named Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss), and a crusty captain named Quint (Robert Shaw) to stop the shark once and for all.
Jaws was directed by Stephen Spielberg and based on the 1973 novel by Peter Benchley. It was a smash hit and become one of the first summer blockbusters by taking over theaters across America. The movie started a franchise and was nominated for Best Picture losing to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and won awards for Best Film Editing, Best Original Dramatic Score, and Best Sound…Spielberg was snubbed.
Jaws was a phenomena. It put Stephen Spielberg on the map as one of the hottest directors and along with films like The Exorcist and Star Wars, changed how movies were made and released. The unmatched potential shown by Jaws altered how producers released movies, and some argue put an end to the “modern golden age” of Hollywood that had developed in the mid-sixties and early seventies. Jaws helped create the age of the big box office juggernaut and changed the cinematic filmscape forever…for better or worse.
Jaws does hold up however. The shooting was a nightmare with “Bruce” (the nickname for the shark) rarely working and complaints that it looked too fake. I have to admit in many shots Bruce does look fake but there are some more fleeting glances that look very real. Spielberg adds enough style to the movie, and he is obviously a fan of films with inventive uses of shooting techniques accompanied by the fantastic Jaws theme by John Williams.
The story really is two parts. The first part is the panic over the beaches and the second part is the boat period. You can debate which is better, but I think that the first half looks fantastic while the second half is more of an actors’ movie. Thankfully the book was edited down and portions of the book where Hooper has an affair with Brody’s wife Ellen (Lorraine Gary) was eliminated making their family more stable and Hooper more likable (plus this allows him to avoid the grizzly fate of the character in the novel).
The acting is great (especially in the second part). Scenes like Roy Scheider’s son mimicking him, shows not only shows Scheider’s skills but Spielberg’s ability as a director to get scenes like that into the movie. The acting topper has to be the scar comparison between Quint and Hooper which leads into Quint’s famous telling of the sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis. The story hadn’t been widely circulated (he does get some facts wrong including the dates), but now the story is part of naval history partially due to this film.
Jaws is a great classic. From the creepy opening scene (though why you’d go skinny dipping in the open, freezing ocean of the Atlantic at night in early summer is a question), the movie grabs you. I am always a little down on it when I think of the sequels, but every time I watch it, I am reminded of how good of a film it actually was. There are some pacing issues with a bit of a slowdown on the boat portion, but it is still worth the journey. Jaws was followed by the more horror based Jaws 2 in 1978.
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