Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.
Welcome to another Jaws Month here at the Monolith! This past Monday I once again celebrated the 4th of July by staying home and watching my favorite movie of all time, an annual tradition that began in 1995 when I purchased a special widescreen edition of the film on VHS at a local Suncoast video store. And like all those previous viewings, I got as much a kick out of it now as I did then, which to me is a testament to just how great of a film it is.
After Brody and Hooper finished paddling to shore, and the short end credits played out under John Williams’ wistful end title theme, I turned off the TV and headed for my bookshelf, where I hoped to continue my summer of ’75 vibe by glancing through one of the coolest books on Jaws you’ll ever read, the 312-page behind-the-scenes opus Jaws: Memories from Martha’s Vineyard, a book I can’t recommend enough to anyone who’s seen and enjoyed the film.
I purchased the book last year, but have yet to read it from start to finish: it’s so loaded with photos and individual stories and anecdotes, I find myself time and again just opening it to any particular page and diving in from there. This night, I decided to see what was at the very end of the book, to find out how it wrapped up, and there found an article from the Vineyard Gazette written by Edith Blake, dated June of 1975, which spotlighted the premiere of the film at the Island Theatre on Martha’s Vineyard. I remembered that she worked for the newspaper at the time of filming, and also wrote a behind-the-scenes book of her own about the experience that same year.
Six paragraphs into the article, I stumbled upon this:
Across the street spectators looked confounded, and Henry Carreiro added to the confusion by arriving with a boat (of all things on Circuit Avenue) and proceeded to sell raffle tickets on it, not for the benefit of Jaws, but the hospital. (Actually, Jaws may need a benefit before long, because it doesn’t seem to be that good a movie.)
Say WHAT? I read the paragraph again, to make sure I wasn’t going daft, but nothing had changed: …because it doesn’t seem to be that good a movie. Well now, what is this heresy? Who the hell does Edith Blake think she is, anyway? A bit miffed, I continued on, and soon enough:
The consensus of the viewers that first night was that the film seemed jerky, with little continuity. Many admitted that this was because they had been busy looking for familiar faces, sites, scenes, and themselves. Everyone agreed that the plot of the first half of the movie (summer economy versus lives) didn’t meld with the second half, which was gung-ho, let’s go catch a shark.
Catch a shark? How about hunt down and kill a shark, people! Did anyone there even pay attention to the film, at all? And you’re saying it’s jerky, with little continuity? The damn film won an Academy Award for editing, for chrissake! And then:
Perhaps the only time the audience grew restless was during Robert Shaw’s recitation of the sinking of the Indianapolis, which should have been one of the more terrifying moments, because the story is REAL! Somewhere he lost the horror of it.
Somewhere he LOST THE HORROR OF IT? Is this some sort of joke? It must be, because it only gets worse:
Islanders now know a good deal more about acting, movies, and dramatics than they did a year ago, and many felt the lines were poor (they were practically written on the set or over the dinner table), the characterizations were poor, and that—horrors (real)—the star looked fake.
Ugh and double ugh! But most telling, that most in attendance that night were definitely NOT paying attention, and were too busy looking for friends-as-extras instead of following the story, was this paragraph towards the end:
Often viewers did not realize that Stephen Potter’s Labrador retriever had been eaten by the shark, that Chief Brody was new on the job, that Quint was a character thoroughly hated as well as feared (a money grabber), and that Rick Dreyfuss, who played the oceanographer—to off-Islanders, and the man from Woods Hole to Islanders—had no character written for him and had just clowned his way through.
Good lord. Nobody realized the dog had been taken by the shark…because the floating, unretrieved stick and the owner calling the dog’s name again and again wasn’t clear enough? Richard Dreyfuss ‘clowned’ his way through his performance? Quint was ‘thoroughly’ hated? Thankfully I didn’t read this review back then, or who knows, The Devil’s Rain might’ve become my favorite movie of all time instead.
No, I’ll stick with Jaws, no matter what Edith Blake and her misguided island pals thought about it way back when. And though this particular article is indeed blasphemous, I still highly recommend the preceding 309 pages of this book, one of the best making-of movie publications I’ve ever read, and one that’s well worth its $49.95 cover price ($58.00 in Canada, Mike!). Stay tuned, more fun Jaws posts are on the way!