Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.
If you remember a recent Jaws Month post of mine, I mentioned a scene from Jaws where Richard Dreyfuss, as oceanographer Matt Hooper, is in the medical examiner’s office looking at the remains of the first victim, Chrissie Watkins. He lifts her severed arm out of a small plastic tub and states, “This is what happens…” before the shot suddenly—and mysteriously—cuts away. In fact, it seems to me the moment interrupts an already existing shot…as if it were inserted into the film late in the post-production process.
For Jaws fans everywhere, this edit has raised a question that, as far as I know, has never been answered: what was removed from that inserted shot? Taking my own advice, I went on-line and began searching for Jaws scripts—rough drafts, early versions, and finished screenplays—where I could hopefully discover for myself whether or not that complete line of dialogue ever existed. Or if I had experienced some sort of false memory of something that never existed in the first place.
I found two versions of the screenplay during my search; the first was an undated early draft credited to the novel’s author, Peter Benchley, and to screenwriter Carl Gottlieb. What’s interesting is, this draft carried the title Stillness in the Water, with the alternate title of Jaws listed underneath as an ‘also known as’. Below is the scene in question, featuring Brody, Hooper and the unnamed coroner studying the remains of the unfortunate Chrissie. And note that the medical examiner’s office is described here as ‘morgue’. (Script and scene courtesy of the Internet Movie Script Database):
INT. MORGUE - DAY The Amity Morgue is also the Amity Funeral Home, a Victorian house that normally serves as the community's mortuary. The Coroner, a professional small-town GP, is standing by as Hooper is speaking into a sophisticated cassette recorder with a headpiece that leaves his hands free for measurement with a calibrator or calipers. BRODY Let's show Mr. Hooper our accident. With a shrug, the Coroner slides open the drawer. CLOSE ON HOOPER He is looking down as the drawer slides past him, still matter- of-fact, turning on his recorder. HOOPER Victim One, identified as Christine Watkins, female Caucasian... The sheet has just been lifted, and Hooper stares down at the lump on the slab. He stops, turns off his recorder as emotions wage war with his senses. Rationality wins, and he turns on the recorder again. HOOPER ...height and weight may only be estimated from partial remains. Torso severed in mid-thorax, eviscerated with no major organs remaining. May I have a drink of water? Right arm severed above the elbow with massive tissue loss from upper musculature. Portions of denuded bone remaining. (tense, to Brody) -- did you notify the coast guard? BRODY No, it was local jurisdiction. HOOPER Left arm, head, shoulders, sternum and portions of ribcage intact. (to Brody) Please don't smoke. With minor post- mortem lacerations and abrasions. Bite marks indicate typical non-frenzy feeding pattern of large squali, possibly carchaninus lonimanus, or isurus glaucas. Gross tissue loss and post-mortem erosion of bite surfaces prevent detailed analysis; however, teeth and jaws of the attacking squali must be considered above average for these waters. (to Brody again) -- Did you go out in a boat and look around? BRODY No, we just checked the beach... HOOPER (turns off the recorder) It wasn't an 'accident,' it wasn't a boat propeller, or a coral reef, or Jack the Ripper. It was a shark. It was a shark.
Okay, no solution to our puzzle there. But what about this next one…a final draft screenplay that was again undated, where Peter Benchley is credited as the sole screenwriter. This version is strictly titled Jaws, and it even carries a production number (#02074), which would lead me to believe that this was the more recent of the two scripts. But the one above more closely parallels the final product that we see on-screen, so maybe the one below was Benchley’s final draft before Gottlieb came on board to revise his work. Again, we have Brody and Hooper at the morgue, but this time the coroner is given a name, and the dialogue is completely different from what we know from the film. (Script and scene courtesy of Drew’s Script-O-Rama):
90 INTERIOR - MORGUE - DAY Hooper is measuring the bite marks on the Day-Glow raft with his dial calibrators. HOOPER I'll look at her now if you don't mind. 91 ANGLE - BRODY, CORONER SANTOS, HOOPER Hooper scribbles notes, then mumbles something inaudible into his pocket cassette recorder. Coroner Santos looks to Brody, plaintively. CORONER SANTOS That was a different sort of accident. As I told you --- BRODY (guilty, angry) Let him. The coroner hesitates, then walks to the ice chest and slides open the drawer. 92 CLOSE - HOOPER At first his face registers shock. Then, with forced composure, Hooper steadies his hands and begins to take pictures with his Minolta. HOOPER I've heard the boat-propeller story several times. And the nocturnal hatchet-murder story, the dashed- upon-the-razor-coral story -- (to Brody) The little boy was never found? Brody nods, looking down at his feet. HOOPER They're very successful creatures, sharks. Eighty million year's antiquity for the species of the Great White. The family goes as far back as three- hundred million. Plenty of time to get good at what they do. An attendant flies into the room, joyfully out of wind. ATTENDANT They called from the dock, Mr. Brody! They got it! 93 CLOSE - HOOPER He appears stunned. 94 CLOSE - BRODY Enjoying a lightheadedness he hasn't felt in weeks. BRODY Want to see?
Still no answer! So I guess the mystery remains unsolved, for now. But if we’re looking for some positives out of all this, at least we had the opportunity to check out some interesting variations of a Jaws scene…ones which hopefully were less anti-climactic than the recent Michael Phelps vs Fake Great White Shark race that lamely kicked off Shark Week on the Discovery Channel. And if anyone has any thoughts or clues in regards to this scene, or if you know of any other drafts of the Jaws script that might hold some answers, feel free to let me know below!