Cinema Monolith

Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.

Six Discoveries I Made While Watching Jaws

Jaws - iconic panorama

Over the years, maybe after I’d watched Jaws a couple dozen times or so, I’d become familiar with what was playing out in every scene, and so with subsequent viewings I began to look around the camera frame to see what was going on elsewhere: in the background, to the sides, and sometimes even in the foreground. By doing so, I made quite a few interesting little discoveries within the scenes…things such as goofs and errors in continuity, people or objects I’d never noticed before, and even some mysterious happenings I have yet to figure out.

For those of you who’ve researched Jaws, and who’ve watched the documentaries and read behind-the-scenes articles, you no doubt have heard about Spielberg’s trademark falling stars, his voice being heard on the Orca’s marine radio, Scheider’s “You’re gonna need a bigger boat” line being ad-libbed, and the police report showing Chrissie Watkins’ death occurring after that of Alex Kintner (which was later shown to be June 29th, according to Mrs. Kintner’s ‘help wanted’ ad), and her body being transferred to the ‘corners office’:

Jaws - photo Corners arrow

But I’ve also discovered six things you may not have noticed or heard about while watching Jaws, and below is a list describing those half-dozen sightings, including one I hadn’t spotted until my most recent screening a month ago. So far, I haven’t been able to find any mention of these six anomalies elsewhere (save for the second one listed, which I read a discussion about earlier this week), so maybe you Jaws faithful are already aware of these little gems, and I’ve just been oblivious all these years. If you have noticed them before, let me know in the comments; if you haven’t, the red arrow in each photo will help guide you to what I’ve found.

Pipit’s Water Stick

Jaws - photo Dog arrow

This one seems so obvious, it’s odd that I didn’t notice it right from the start. During the sequence where young Alex Kintner is attacked while on his raft and dragged to the briny deep, a guy in a yellow shirt is playing with his dog Pipit along the shoreline. He’s throwing a stick into the water for the dog to chase, and at one point a man swims towards Pipit, collides with her, and seemingly grabs for her head! And it took me years to clue in that this wasn’t Pipit’s yellow-shirted owner…this was some stranger trying to steal Pipit’s stick from her mouth! The question is, why? Why was he antagonizing someone else’s dog? And for those of you who think Pipit was taken by the shark, think again: it was probably this jerk who was harassing her.

The Gorton’s Fisherman

Jaws - photo Gorton arrow

Appearing all over the scene on the dock—where the supposed killer shark is strung up by his Buster Browns—is this fruitcake I like to call the Gorton’s Fisherman, who’s dressed just like the slicker-clad spokesman found on boxes of Gorton’s frozen seafood. Once you notice this interloper, you can’t help but not notice him, since he worms his way into nearly every shot Spielberg makes during this sequence. As it turns out, I’ve pondered the very same question that others have: is this character actually Steven Spielberg in disguise, making an odd, extended cameo? I’ve tried comparing these shots with photos of Spielberg taken on the Jaws set, but I can’t tell with certainty one way or the other…although there appears to be a slight difference between each person’s nose and chin. Who knows, maybe this really is just a local goofball who wandered onto the dock during filming, and thought he’d make himself a star.

An Ill Wind on Hooper’s Neck

Jaws - photo Neck arrow

What the hell? While the Matt Hooper character argues with some locals over the bite radius of a tiger shark, one of the group becomes riled up and begins…blowing on Hooper’s neck! For decades, my attention had been focused on the camouflaged fisherman on the left, threatening to put Hooper’s head in the shark’s mouth…and all the time the gray-clad fisherman on the right is trying to steal the scene by provoking Hooper with blasts of angry breath! It’s funny, too, that Dreyfuss reacts to it immediately before the scene abruptly ends, making me think this was an ad-lib on the part of the island actor.

The Amity PD Blazer

Jaws - photo Truck arrow

Not that it’s any big deal, but I thought it was kinda neat that this was in the background of the scene: Chief Brody’s gold-and-white Chevy Blazer, at the bottom of the hill where the ‘Amity Island Welcomes You’ billboard is located. It took the recent 40th anniversary screening of Jaws at my local theater for me to catch this, perhaps because it was easier to spot on the big screen. One thought: why didn’t Brody park the Blazer at the top of the hill, next to the billboard where Mayor Vaughn parked, and save himself and Hooper the long walk? Maybe because that roadway near the billboard was a one-way street, and they were arriving from the opposite direction?

Hooper’s Big Book of Birds

Jaws - photo Bird arrow

Aboard the Orca, during a lull in the action, Hooper is at the helm working on some sort of device or tool, and referencing a book to do so. But what is this tool, and more importantly, what is the book? And what is that in the top photo of the first page…a freaking bird? That’s what it looks like to me: a white parrot, perched on a fence or the edge of a table. Maybe my eyes are playing tricks on me, and what you see is a bottle of milk or a power drill or something else, but to me it’s a plain-as-day white parrot. What that has to do with sharking, I’ll never know…for use as bait, perhaps?

The Scar We Never Wanted To See

Jaws - photo Pants 2 arrow

I saved the best and the strangest one for last: while Hooper is unbuttoning his shirt, Quint is buttoning up his pants. This interlude took place once again on the Orca, when he and Hooper were comparing scars; our attention is on Hooper and his “She broke my heart” joke, and we never look over at Quint, who quite clearly has his trousers undone, and is hoisting them up, re-buckling them, and trying to zip up the zipper. Unfortunately, the pants are so old (or cheap) that he can only fasten them partially…and that’s the way they remain for the shot. I’m sure that scene originally had a moment where Quint was putting another scar on display, a sequence that was removed during pre-production, but do I really want to know what his below-the-waist story was all about? Ummm…no.


16 comments on “Six Discoveries I Made While Watching Jaws

  1. spreth1

    Come on Chief, this isn’t no boy scout picnic. See ya’ got ya’ rubbers!


    • Todd Benefiel

      ‘Six Naughty Quotes I Heard While Watching Jaws That Aren’t Really Naughty’. Coming to next year’s Jaws Month at the Monolith.


  2. Stu

    Todd, as illuminating as this is, I really don’t think you’ve watched Jaws enough. I expect at least 15 entries by 2020!

    Joking aside, I do like the idea of the blowing on Hooper’s neck being ad-libbed. I hope that’s the case, although he looks way bigger than Dreyfuss and if it had turned ugly I know who I’d be betting on.


    • Todd Benefiel

      Coming in August: ’31 Days of Jaws’, where I watch Jaws each day in August, including the documentary and trailer, then write 31 different posts about each day’s viewings. And I’d love to ask Richard Dreyfuss about that ‘neck blow’ moment, and find out what the hell was going on…and whether he punched the guy in the throat, or laughed the whole thing off.

      And if things got ugly, I’d bet on the tiger shark. Or was it a mako?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Brian Attuso

    So, what Hooper’s actually playing with is a First Stage Regulator, which is part of his scuba gear. The book he’s referencing, or at least the page he’s on has 2 pictures of a 1st and 2nd Stage regulator set….with a Parrot sitting on the top one.


    • Todd Benefiel

      Brian, thanks for the clarification! I would’ve never guessed that was a piece of scuba equipment, and a book of scuba equipment…but at least I got the bird part right. And thanks for passing along one more bit of Jaws trivia I can impress my friends with!


  4. sbwk

    Actually, the sign for the reward for the shark that killed Alex Kintner lists that attack date as June 29, not 30 … and coincidentally, in Quint’s speech about the USS Indianapolis, he says it was sunk on June 29th, 1945. In real life, the Indianapolis was sunk on July 31.


    • Todd B

      Good lord, you’re right…where the hell did I get the 30th? I’ve made the change in the post…thanks for the heads up!


  5. Steve Scalici

    As an engineer, my fav line is when Hooper says to Mayor Larry…I want you to take a long look at that billboard, those proportions are correct.

    And one’s eyes can’t help but look at that giant dorsal fin next to the graffitied goggle-eyed kid on a raft. I remember thinking that must be a monster fish.


    • Todd Benefiel

      Ha, one of many great lines in the movie. And I love the mayor’s response: “Love to prove that, wouldn’t ya? Get your name in the National Geographic?” And then Hooper’s laugh that follows. And a bit of trivia: I read where the girl pictured on the billboard was director Brian De Palma’s girlfriend!


      • Steve Scalici

        Love the DePalma factoid! And the after remark by Larry shows he is so utterly clueless by saying “The National Geographic” (as in “The New York Times”) instead of just “National Geographic” or even “the ‘National Geographic’ magazine…”

        So I thus think Hooper laughs at the Mayor’s snide comeback along with his misnaming of the referred to magazine.

        Coupla other tidbits surrounding this scene…Why didn’t Hooper mention WHY he dropped the tooth? And if the mangled boat was towed in, wouldn’t the mayor have known about the dead crew?

        And I seem to recall first seeing Ben Gardiner’s head as being much more grotesque than we now see on televised airings…so hideous that the second and third time I saw it in the movies, I couldn’t look at the screen.


      • Todd Benefiel

        I think that Larry adding the ‘the’ to ‘National Geographic’ just fits his character perfectly…you expect him to say it that way! And for me, Hooper not mentioning why he dropped the tooth was because he was embarrassed to say why; here he is, this bitchin’ marine biologist, and he was scared shitless – and toothless – by some guy’s floating head!

        And I honestly can’t remember noticing any differences between early Gardiner’s head and later Gardiner’s head…perhaps it’s another ‘autopsy scene mystery’ situation!


  6. Kimberley Spraggins

    I’ve got the Jaws book in paperback & will read it. Maybe I’ll be clued in on why Quint is buckling his pants. Unless it was ad-libbed.


    • Todd B

      Sorry for the delay, Kimberley…I’ve been away from the site for a while, and am just now getting back into it. I’ve read the Jaws novel a few times, but don’t recall any ‘pant buckling’ moment…I keep wondering if maybe there was more to the scene that was filmed, but was left out (and is now probably lost forever). Let me know if you find anything out when you read the book!


  7. Jay Pack

    I’m here because I just now noticed the Quint pants thing! I figured someone surely had also noticed it! Something else interesting struck me during this umpteenth screening. The scene at the billboard. There is no mention of Ben Gardner’s death! Had it not been reported yet, with at least some of the circumstances known by the mayor? It was like, a tooth was pulled from a boat. Not Ben Gardner, the latest victim of this man eater’s boat!


    • Todd B

      An interesting take on the billboard scene, Jay…I’d never noticed that before, but you might have something there. Of course, we could assume that all of this has already been presented to the mayor, and discussed by the three ‘off-camera’, and is already old news by now (though Brody talks about the condition of Ben Gardner’s boat as if it was ‘new’ news). OR…maybe Brody doesn’t know anything about Ben Gardner and his scary head, because Hooper never told him…and now Hooper’s too embarrassed about the whole thing to mention it to anyone, including the mayor…hence his ‘accident’ when discussing the tooth. Of course, that probably opens up a whole new series of questions!


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