Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.
Back in the 1970s, before movie merchandising was such a big deal, you could count on finding three things in stores that helped promote your favorite summer blockbuster: trading cards, a movie tie-in book, and a board game. Jaws already had the book, written before the movie was released, and the first Topps cards for the film were actually for its sequel, Jaws 2. So what remained to unleash on a Jaws-frenzied public was a three-dimensional game of shark-infested suspense, created by Ideal and first sold in 1975, called The Game of Jaws.
As you can see, there really isn’t much to it: a plastic shark with rubber-band-powered jaws, 13 plastic items representing junk that might be found in a great white’s digestive tract (a tire, a camera, a gun, a busted wagon wheel…the usual), a gaff to hook them with, and…that’s about it. Players took turns lifting the pieces one by one out of the shark’s maw using the gaff; if the jaws snapped shut, the person responsible had to return his pieces to the lower jaw, and play then continued. The first person to remove the specified number of pieces—usually four or five—won the game.
Simple and uncomplicated, but I guess it must have been a blast for kids ages 6 and up. I must admit, however, that I never owned this particular game; I remember seeing it on department store shelves back in ’75, but being 12 years old at the time, I never had any interest in playing it, much less a desire to have it abandoned and gathering dust under my bed. Instead, my after-school free time was spent with more involved games such as Battleship, Othello, Stratego, Sub Search, and my favorite, a football strategy game called, of all things, NFL Strategy. And in case you’re wondering, I still own that last one, but I haven’t played it in decades.
Perhaps if the marketing people who’d created this game had actually seen Jaws, they might have come up with a more satisfying concept, and one that paralleled the events of the movie more realistically. If I’d been involved in the game’s design, I would’ve called it Spill Onto the Dock™, and had a tiger shark lying on its side, with 2-to-4 players taking turns pulling license plates, undigested fish, and rocking chairs out of a long gash in the shark’s underbelly. The first person to drag Chrissie Watkins or the Kintner boy out of the jagged opening wins the game, and gets to keep the beaches open; fail to do so, and the shark spasms and releases bile onto your coffee table. Batteries and white fluid packets not included.
Unfortunately, Spill Onto the Dock™ is not available for purchase, but if you wish to pick up your own edition of The Game of Jaws, look no further than eBay, where a still-factory-sealed box will set you back just $350, plus $15 shipping (the original price, which I found in a catalog advertisement, was only $5.44). Not quite ready to fork over a car payment for a plastic shark game? How about another childhood favorite of mine, that also takes place on the ocean and is soaked with tension, and can be had for a mere twenty bucks or less? Yes, I’m talking about ‘the intriguing game of vanishing ships’, Bermuda Triangle.