Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.
It bugged when I saw it back in 1975, and it still bugs me today: the moment towards the end of the film when the great white launches itself out the water, hangs in the air for a split-second, and slams down onto the stern of the Orca, eager to snack on a chalkboard-scratching fisherman. Even at that first screening, when I was twelve years old and not quite the cinephile that I am today, I felt it was too much, and a bit awkward and out of place (even though I know now that great whites actually do this sort of thing). For nearly the entire film the audience is shown only glimpses of the shark, or its presence is implied through the use of floating barrels, a broken dock dragged by a chain, or POV camerawork accompanied by John Williams’ ominous score. Then suddenly there it is, unexpectedly airborne and fully revealed to us, and—I hate to say this—looking just a wee bit fake. Does it ruin the movie for me? No, of course not, but I wish Spielberg had chosen instead to have the shark just smash its way onto the sinking boat from the water, like it did moments later when it suddenly appeared in the boat’s water-filled cabin and received a mouthful of oxygen tank courtesy of Brody.
Another one that plays out a bit awkwardly, at least for me: the scene on the beach where a reporter, played by Jaws author Peter Benchley, looks into the camera and talks to us as if we were a television audience watching the news…and feeds us information that, as a movie audience, we’re already aware of. I’m not sure what the point of this scene is, or how it advances the plot, or why it exists beyond giving Benchley a small part in the movie, but I wish it had been handled differently, or left on the cutting room floor. In my eyes, for it to have worked, Benchley would need to be standing still and not walking clumsily along the sand, and the shot would include, for realism’s sake, some on-screen graphics from an actual television news broadcast. Or better yet, as the camera dollies along with Chief Brody through the crowd of beachgoers, have it pass by a news team in the background, where we catch a few seconds of Benchley’s report.
This is probably not too hard to believe, but I couldn’t come up with a third entry for this list, so I’m going with something that could be considered more a puzzling situation than a ‘least favorite’ moment: the scene in the medical examiner’s office, and the shot where Hooper lifts the severed arm of Chrissie Watkins out of a small tub and states, “This is what happens.” From there, the shot quickly cut to a new angle, a jarring transition that seemed to interrupt the line that Richard Dreyfuss was delivering. Many people, including myself, swear that there was more to that shot, and that line of dialogue, than what we now see, and that Spielberg made an edit at some point after the film’s initial run. Unless my memory is playing tricks on me, I remember sometime in my Jaws-watching past noticing this odd edit—either late in the summer of ’75, during the film’s re-release in ’79, or during its television premiere later that year—and wondering where the rest of the shot went. Of course, I can’t recall what the second part of that sentence was, nor can I find any hints on-line to what it might’ve been; I wonder now if anyone has ever thought to ask Richard Dreyfuss about it, or to check the page from an original draft of the script.
Jaws: The Revenge