"Jaws" (1975)

Rating: PG
Genre:  Action & Adventure, Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Directed By: Steven Spielberg
Written By: Howard Sackler, Carl Gottlieb, Peter Benchley
Released: June 1st, 1975
Runtime: 124 minutes
Studio: Universal Pictures

In a nutshell, a peaceful holiday destination is up-scuttled by the sudden presence of a great white shark lurking in its waters. Not wanting to deter tourists that are so essential to local trade, the mayor initially tries to downplay the danger. However, once it becomes apparent the shark is there to stay, police chief Martin Brody (played by Roy Scheider) must call upon experts to help. Directed by Stephen Speilberg.

I watched this a few years ago, not thinking much of it, but I mustn’t have been paying attention (I don’t know what happened there) because I’ve just watched it again recently and my opinion of the film has taken a u-turn. I still don’t find it particularly frightening (I may be alone on this) but while I couldn’t after first viewing, I now see what all the hype is about!

This film was made 43 years ago. I can’t believe that. I mean, considering the year that this was made it’s amazingly done. I imagine it was something huge when it first came out. I suppose there are some moments where I could see you might get a fright (didn’t happen for me which was disappointing). Perhaps it was because I didn’t stay to the end the first time I watched it. I was frustrated by how much they built up the tension and then nothing really happened. The shark doesn’t actually fully appear in shot until like an 1 hour and 20 minutes into the 2 hour film! Mum told me this time I need to stay to the end. I think this was good advise. It’s towards the end that things really kick off. If you’ve seen the movie you know what I’m thinking of! If you haven’t, i don’t want to spoil it! You just must watch it!

There are some good lines. You’d have a laugh watching it too, which is good. Particularly involving the character of Quint (played by Robert Shaw). He’s a gas man. It’s great because while on the boat you’ve got this complete contrast between two characters. Quint has been used to this “rough—housing” if you will, all his life, he has gone out to catch sharks many times before. (Nothing like this – needless to say!!) And then you’ve got Martin Brody who was well educated academically, but not used to this kind of experience at all. I think this adds to the occasional humour throughout the film. Quint is certainly a memorable character. One moment which comes to mind actually is while they’re on the boat and Quint and Matt Hooper (our third hero of the hour) trying to outworst each other’s past shark-related injuries! 

The music composed by John Williams is what makes this movie I think. It’s like, one note in, and you know immediately danger is approaching… The film marked the second time John Williams worked with Spielberg and he would go on to compose the music for every Spielberg movie up to present. I think this is amazing! The film received Best Music, Original Score at the Academy Awards.

The film also received Best Film Editing at the Academy Awards, as well as Best Sound. All much deserved!

A mechanical shark was used. However, apparently it was quite temperamental, rarely working during filming. As a consequence, Steven Spielberg had to invent creative ways of shooting around the non-functional shark. An example of this were Quint’s use of yellow barrels that landed and stuck on the shark so they would know when it was approaching them beneath the surface… Some might argue that this lack of shark actually worked to an advantage as it built up the tension more for when it finally did appear. As I say, personally I got frustrated by nothing happening, but I can appreciate how effective it should be for another viewer.

The opening sequence took three days to film. In order to achieve the jolting motions of the shark attacking the swimmer, a harness with cables was attached to the actress (Susan Backlinie)’s legs and was pulled by crew members back and forth along the shoreline. Speilberg didn’t actually alert Backlinie as to when she would be “attacked” so her terrified reaction is genuine. I think this is interesting.

The film is actually adapted from a bestselling novel of the same name by author Peter Benchley. I didn’t know this. He based the book on a series of shark attacks that occurred off the coast of New Jersey in 1916, as well as an incident in 1964 where a fisherman in New York caught a 4,500lb shark off the coast of Montauk. And apparently the author himself makes a cameo in the film! He plays the news reporter who addresses the camera on the beach.

This is a film not to be missed.