Saturday, May 10, 2014


 Well, summer's just around the corner, just a mere month or so away, and during this warmer time of year, I like to throw on a movie that showcases this particular season.  Being that there's not too many films out there-especially horror films-that highlight this hot time of year, I try to wait until we're in June or July before I insert my summer discs into my PS3 (no, I'm not upgrading to PS4 no matter what types of bells and whistles it has).  I'm already chomping at the bit to throw on my summer titles, but the one I usually go to first is Steven Spielberg's 1975 classic, Jaws.

Proclaimed to be the very first summer blockbuster, Jaws definitely delivers, to this day, the story and excitement a movie of that caliber should display.  Not only that, but the film is a nostalgic trip back to the days when people flocked to the beach for a day in the sun without worrying about high UV levels or having the constant need to be on a cell phone or on social media sites-those reservations wouldn't come up until the 90s.

Also, back then, real men were cast as the stars of films, not like today where all the stars of movies look to be in their prepubescent years.  You had men with scruff, full beards, deep voices, and hair on their chest...real men.  Okay, before you get the wrong idea of where I'm going with that, I'll switch gears and synopsize the film.

The film centers on the new Chief of Police of Amity Island, Martin Brody (the late great Roy Scheider) and how he moved his family to the small town life, away from the crime of the big city.  After a missing local girl, Chrissie Watkins (Susan Backlinie), turns up dead, washed ashore as an apparent Great White shark attack victim, Brody wants to close the beaches until further notice.  When Mayor Vaughn (Murray Hamilton) receives word of this, he quickly talks to Brody about it, telling him he's being hasty, trying to convince him that it may have been anything that killed the girl as he cites that she might've swam out too far and was hit by a boat's propeller.  He also mentions that the town relies on the tourists that come to visit the island and how closing the beaches would be detrimental to the town's businesses' expected summer income.  Brody warily agrees to keep the beaches open, but more shark attacks occur, resulting in Brody to do something about it.  With the help of a marine biologist, Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss), and led by a local shark hunter, Quint (Robert Shaw), Brody sets out to the ocean to capture and kill the shark.

Where should I start?  I guess the very first shark attack is what really hooks you in, setting the movie up for a very scary ride and automatically makes you never want to swim in the ocean ever again.  After seeing what the girl goes through in the beginning of Jaws, swimming in the dark, with no one sets up the mood perfectly.  And there's never any feeling of being ripped off, not seeing the shark throughout most of this movie, because that's exactly what we'd go through if we were put in that place-we'd never see the shark as well.  In my opinion, that's what's terrifying about this opening.

From beginning to end it's definitely a slow-burn, hinting at the threat through music cues and point-of-view underwater filming, the movie giving us a great dramatic piece during the first two acts while laying it on us throughout the third.  Spielberg may have wanted to give us more, but due to the special effects constraints and the notorious problems he had with the mechanical shark, it definitely was a blessing in disguise that it turned out the way it had.  The film as a whole certainly goes with the less-is-more approach, but it makes me wonder if the film would be as good as it is if they were able to get the shark to work perfectly.  Would we have had a Deep Blue Sea where it was too-much-shark and not-enough-story?  Probably not, but it's fun to speculate.

Now the performances throughout are stellar, each individual character gives their all and they never hold back.

Scheider, as the police chief was perfect and I can't see anybody ever playing this role but him.  The dramatic moments feel genuine when his character deals with the shark attacks and helps with the excitement of this movie.  Add to that, the touching moments between him and his family-especially the little mimicking scene with his little boy, Sean (Jay Mello)-develop his character perfectly.

I love Dreyfuss in this movie.  His Hooper character is beneficial to the film, providing a sense of credibility with having a marine biologist involved, giving the audience information about what's happening without really throwing it in our faces.  Yet, Dreyfuss offers the character human emotion, showing us he's not perfect with
a side of apprehensiveness that comes out when he's around the character of Quint.  And hearing that the two actors didn't get along with each other during the shoot makes the film that much more interesting.  Which brings me to Robert Shaw...

Shaw was brilliant as Quint and even though he plays him as an asshole in this story, he's so likeable and charismatic that you can't help but love the guy.  Of course, we all know the story of the account that Quint tells Brody and Hooper regarding his time on the USS Indianapolis.  It's a brilliantly acted out scene that gives the character such depth and a window to his past, letting us see that there's a sort of vendetta Quint wants to carry out.  Out of all the times I've seen this film throughout the years, I've never gotten tired of seeing and listening to that scene.

Jaws was the second collaboration between Steven Spielberg and John Williams (the first being Spielberg's first feature directorial debut, Sugarland Express), but this was the first memorable theme that really made the movie what it was and still is.  The simple two-note beginning is what most people from my generation think of when swimming in or around the ocean.  It's so well known for its basic motif that most people can-and love-to mimic it when swimming out in the water.  But besides the shark's iniquitous music cues, the rest of the score fits perfectly in whatever scene we see.  When we're watching the scenes where the residents and tourists are enjoying the first days of summer out on the beach, we hear happy melodies, giving us the Superman?  Or who can say with conviction that they didn't come close to tears when Elliot says goodbye to E.T. in E.T.: The Extraterrestrial?  Much like Halloween wouldn't be scary without John Carpenter's well known theme, Jaws wouldn't be what it is without John Williams score.
effect that it's a bright sunny day where all is pleasurable.  Williams is so good at giving us that feeling and we continue to hear that in all of his Spielberg collaborations.  Though it doesn't happen in this film, many of his scores evoke wide ranges of emotions out of me that I sometimes get a lump in my throat or have my eyes start to water when I hear them.  I mean, who doesn't feel a charge when Christopher Reeve dons the red & blues for the first time and we hear that famous theme song in

My final "bit" on Jaws?

Spielberg's 1975 film is and will always be a classic.  Though most kids today might find the shark a little fake-looking, being used to having everything CGI'd, you still can't escape the tension and terror one feels when watching this movie.  The actors have such great chemistry and work well together, whether they all had gotten along or not, and you'll really go through a rollercoaster ride with Jaws.  It's a must to watch, especially during the summer.  It's just a shame what the franchise turned into after part two.  Believe don't want to watch anything after part two.

Well, guess I better get another Friday the 13th post ready...I want to make sure I get them all done by June 13th...which is on a Friday.  See where I'm going with this?

Thanks for reading and I welcome any comments that you may have.

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