Cert: PG Runtime: 124 mins Director: Steven Spielberg Starring: Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss
You’re gonna need a bigger boat
‘Jaws’ is the original summer blockbuster, setting the standard by which all others are measured. It’s the Michael Jordan of cinema: there will never be another ‘Jaws,’ simply because the film so profoundly changed the way movies are made and marketed.Steven Spielberg has re-released his masterpiece that is Jaws. For me as a kid I loved this movie, even going on the ride in Universal studios made me laugh. It’s a hot summer on Amity Island, a small community whose main business is its beaches. When new Sheriff Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) discovers the remains of a shark attack victim, his first inclination is to close the beaches to swimmers. This doesn’t sit well with Mayor Larry Vaughn (Murray Hamilton) and several of the local businessmen. Brody backs down to his regret as that weekend a young boy is killed by the predator. The dead boy’s mother puts out a bounty on the shark and Amity is soon swamped with amateur hunters and fisherman hoping to cash in on the reward. A local fisherman with much experience hunting sharks, Quint (Robert Shaw), offers to hunt down the creature for a hefty fee. Soon Quint, Brody and Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) from the Oceanographic Institute are at sea hunting the Great White shark. As Brody succinctly surmises after their first encounter with the creature, they’re going to need a bigger boat.
As Richard Dreyfuss puts it, the only thing a shark does is swim, eat, and make baby sharks. In Jaws, it mostly swims and eat, with tourists and citizens of Amity being it’s main course. The original idea was to use a mechanical shark in the filming of Jaws. The fact that the never before tested shark didn’t work as planned turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to Spielberg in Jaws. It forced him to rely more on his capabilities as a storyteller and director by shooting much of the film from the perspective of the shark. Yet, Spielberg is so astute at using this device, and aided by the editing of Verna Fields, after seeing the film, you’ll swear you saw the shark more than you actually did. If any person besides Spielberg deserved an Oscar for Jaws it was Verna Fields who went on to score a win in the category. There is no explanation for the lack of so much as a directorial nomination for Spielberg. Bill Butler’s cinematography deserves special mention as well, especially when the action switches from Amity Island to the Orca and the open sea. As for John Williams score it is the stuff legends are made of. The thought of Jaws without William’s simple shark theme is unfathomable.
As for the cast, they too are perfect in roles now ingrained in our memory. Though they have made other fine and notable films, one cannot think of Scheider, Dreyfuss, Shaw, Hamilton or Laraine Gary without thinking of this film. Maybe it was luck that brought this cast together, or like just about anything else associated with Jaws, the casting was perhaps one of those things that was just meant to be. Dreyfuss’s Hooper provides the perfect foil for Shaw’s Quint. Quint is hard edge and sea worn, Hooper is a product of luxury and class. Scheider’s Chief Brody is like the dependable anchor, who keeps everyone in their place. I was really happy to see Murray Hamilton as the Mayo.I can’t think of too many films that had as terrifying and an attention grabbing opening as Jaws. Because of these first few minutes as the shark suddenly attacks Chrissie without warning, Spielberg grabs hold of his audience and never lets them loose for the entire running time of the film. The fact that the last forty five minutes or so of the film take place aboard Quint’s small boat the Orca, yet never loses it momentum during the entire sequence is again a testimony to Spielberg’s directorial brilliance.If ever there has been a perfect suspense/action/horror film made it has to be Jaws. It is a film that has been etched in my memory since the first time I saw it.