Tuesday, October 16, 2012


(1975) *****

Can you believe there's only one Horrothon review of Jaws currently available? Meanwhile there's four Devil Times Five reviews.

Jaws is really two separate mini-movies, both about an hour long. First, there's the small town politics and hysteria dealing with a shark attack threatening the major industry of beach town. I gather that this section is actually the bulk of the novel, with many subplots that Spielberg eliminated (one involving the Dreyfuss character having an affair with Chief Brody's wife?!). The second is of course the drawn out three-man hunt for the shark aboard Quint's boat The Orca. 

This is probably the first horror movie I remember being aware of. I was living on an island off the coast of Florida, and I guess I was 5-6 years old. We had to drive across the "3 mile bridge" to get to the mainland everyday, so as a kid, you spend a lot of time staring out into the water. This led to many "What if Jaws attacked the bridge right now?" scenarios and debates about who would win in a fight, Orca or Jaws.
This is the actual bridge to our island

And then my mom came home one day and said we'd been asked to appear as extras in Jaws 2, which apparently was shooting in the area. I don't remember being notified about this till much later, but I guess some location scout heard her talking in her Boston accent, and since it was supposed to take place in the Northeast, they wanted her to yell "Shahhk" or something. Unfortunately, she was preggers with my little sis and turned them down. Bummer...I think my older sis and I were supposed to be onscreen too.

As I was watching the original this time, I realized that I really haven't seen Jaws all that many times, for how famous and iconic it is. I almost certainly have seen Jaws 3-D at least twice as many times (a movie that still makes me wish I was a marine biologist working at Sea World). And it's definitely been many years .

So what makes it so great? It's not the shark, for sure. You don't actually see much of the shark due to all sorts of mechanical problems during filming, and Spielberg credits that with making him into a better filmmaker. Instead of showing the creature, he had to be creative in how he built the terror, which, coupled with the famous John Williams score, has become kind of a blueprint for screen tension building. And fuck, he was 26 when he started work on the movie. I don't think he's ever topped this one.

Of course, when I think of Jaws, I usually think of its legacy as the creator of the summer blockbuster genre. And that's a legacy I'm somewhat ambivalent about--for as much fun as The Avengers was, I often wonder how many great smaller films didn't get made over the past 35 years because the studios started putting all their creative muscle and capital into fewer and fewer "tent poles," many (most?) of which have been forgettable. Whatever, that's not Spielberg's or this film's fault. And really, the marketing around Jaws is really what set the template, not the movie making style itself, which as Pauline Kael noted, almost has elements of Woody Allen.

Incidentally, it just occured to me that I sort of owe my thon username to this movie--the SNL parody of it, rather. Google it if you haven't seen it!


DCD said...

I just started reading this book actually! We watched Jaws on Desroc's bday this past July and I realized that I hadn't seen the entire thing from start to finish in a long time. I thought about reviewing it at the time, but of course never got around to it. This is one of those movies that I always end up watching until the end when I come across it on TV. So I've seen the second half with the shark hunt more times then I can count!
I love this movie.

Landshark said...

I know, the main guys are all so good, and the writing is great.

Hey, K made Desroc's sausage and peppers recipe for dinner last night. Delish! And leftovers for tonight!

Octopunk said...

I can't imagine that I didn't know that thing about you and Jaws 2 already, but I must've forgot. That is so almost awesome.

Way to hit the good points of this. You're right, we need more Jaws reviews.

Catfreeek said...

Great review there is so much to love about this film. No matter how many times I've seen it I still get nervous when Dreyfuss gets in that cage and gets lowered into the water.

The very first time I saw this was at the theater when it first came out, my friend dug her nails into my arm so hard she drew blood.

AC said...

wow, jaws deserves to be more reviewed than that stupid kid movie! maybe to boost the numbers i'll review it this month. anyone else?