Happy 4th of July from us at Universal Monsters Universe. Rob’s back with a special version of his “Sunday’s with…” weekly column as for this Independence Day, he takes a look at Steven Spielberg’s “Jaws”!
I know what you’re thinking, “Sunday’s with being released on a Monday?” For this one week I felt it would be fitting to release this particular piece on the biggest beach day of the summer. The month of July has officially begun and thus the summer is in full swing. The fourth of July is a special time for most of us, filled with bbq’s, cold beer, and the beach. In terms of horror, the fourth of July and the beach are synonymous with one classically epic film. Please sit back, crack open a cold one and enjoy my Sundays with… “Jaws”.
Release Date: June 20, 1975
Run Time: 124 minutes
Starring: Roy Scheider
Director: Steven Spielberg
“Here’s to swimmin’ with bow legged women.”-Quint
Jaws begin with one of the most famous opening scenes of all time. A late night party leads to a beautiful young woman going skinny dipping. As she is swimming and enjoying the ocean, an unseen force starts to pull her under the water. Now, filled with panic, she frantically tries to escape only to be pulled under the water. The following morning the young woman’s remains are found, and cause of death is ruled to be a shark attack. Hearing this news police chief Brody (Scheider) urges Mayor Vaughn to close the beach. Being a politician Mayor Vaughn fears the closure of the beaches will greatly hurt the impending revenue for the beach town of Amity, and thus refuses to close the beaches. Shortly after this, another victim is taken; this time a young boy. This recent attack causes the local fishermen to go on a shark hunt to find the killer. When a large shark is captured and killed the town rejoices, however Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss), an oceanographer performs an autopsy on the shark and discovers it is not the man eater. The fourth of July is finally upon the town and Chief Brody has extra patrols in the water when they come across two kids playing a prank and causing a panic on the beach. As this was happening the real killer enters the near-by estuary and kills a fisherman, and almost attacks Brody’s son and his friends. This was the final straw as Chief Brody forces the mayor into contracting local shark hunter Quint (Robert Shaw) to find and kill the shark. Now Quint, Brody, and Hooper set out to find the vicious man eater, and end its reign of terror.
- Jaws is based on the Peter Benchley novel, released in 1974.
Jaws is an undeniable summer time classic. An amazing achievement not only in film making but also laid the blue print on how a blockbuster animal horror flick should be. The combination of fear of the unseen killer mixed with the quips of humor truly create an immersive and enjoyable viewing experience. Let’s go beyond the film making for a little bit and get down to where the true “horror” of Jaws comes from. The fear of the unknown and the unseen is a fear that everyone has. The ocean is the perfect breeding ground for both of those things. The ocean in general is an unsettling place. It is a perfect combination of beauty at first sight, combined with an underlying uneasiness of what is beneath all of the beauty. For the most part, the ocean is one of the earth’s last undiscovered places, seeing that the bottom depths have yet to fully be searched and that is a very creepy thought. The only way that I can describe my thought on the ocean is that I simply don’t trust it and Jaws absolutely played that way of thinking up.
We all have the uneasiness of going for a swim in the ocean and being touched or grabbed from the underneath by something we can’t see. Jaws played with this fear perfectly, especially the opening sequence. That is a downright terrifying scene because it can truthfully happen to anyone. Therein lays the second reason this is such a terrifying film. This isn’t about alien invaders or some psychotic axe murder, shark attacks happen. They may not be overly common, and thank the Lord for that, however they do happen. This can be any given day on any given beach, and that is a very scary thing indeed.
Lastly, we as a society are absolutely intrigued by sharks. There is a whole week dedicated to these creatures, and even though they have been researched for years, there is still so much we do not know about them. Sharks, more specifically great whites, are huge muscular machines with rows of razor sharp teeth, and black emotionless eyes; visually they are absolutely terrifying! Aside from their intimidating appearance the simple fact that they are indiscriminate killers that cannot be reasoned with is horrifying. The film plays on each of these things perfectly.
Back to the film making aspect of this movie – Jaws was lucky enough to overcome the many problems that came with creating this movie. Starting with the source material, the light hearted and memorable characters of the films would not have existed if not for Spielberg’s insistence that the characters and certain plot points were downright unlikeable. This included a plot point in which Hooper has an affair with Chief Brody’s wife (now that would have led to quite a different movie!). Carl Gottlieb was originally consulted to bring more levity to the film and eventually did a rewrite of the script (it was originally written by Benchley).
The pacing and buildup of tension in this film in regards to actually seeing the shark has since been considered a genius decision on the film makers part, whereas at the time it was more or less done out of necessary! There were three animatronic sharks built for the film, and constant malfunctions with them forced Spielberg to only hint at the presence of the shark instead of actually showing it. This gave the film the great feel that it has and also makes the reveal of the shark all the more impressive and powerful. Filming on the ocean also provided many other problems including sea sickness, inclement weather, as well as the issue of other vessels in the water. However these delays ended up helping the film as this time was spent revising and perfecting the script.
Roy Scheider and Richard Dreyfuss gave us absolutely amazing performances in the lead roles. Robert Shaw however is by far the most memorable and probably loveable character of the whole film. Shaw, portraying Quint, perfectly combined blue collar tough and confident workman. Add the fact that he has some of the most quotable lines ever, Shaw’s performance was amazing. Another awesome performance was Murray Hamilton, who portrayed Mayor Vaughn. He perfectly portrayed the politician who is torn between his economic success and the safety of his town. He was amazingly sleazy but at the same time we could somewhat relate to his character. John Williams composed the score for Jaws and, in turn, churned out one of the greatest, most loved scores of all time. Williams was awarded for his efforts with an academy award.
Jaws opened up to rave reviews and until the release of Star Wars in 1977, was the highest grossing film of all time. In present day it has grossed over 1 billion dollars, and remains the seventh highest grossing North American film of all time. The film also won 3 Oscars at the 1976 Academy Awards, and was nominated for best picture. It has also won numerous other awards.
Jaws is a beloved classic. It is widely considered to be one of the greatest films of all time, and from the characters to the score – it absolutely deserves all the love it gets. It is one of those movies that I will watch any time it is on, which is good, because opt will be shown many times over the next few days! I’m sure almost everyone has seen this movie, but if you haven’t, it goes without saying…watch it!