Cinema Monolith

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

Top 3 Least Favorite Jaws Moments

#1  –  The Breach

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.

#2  –  Peter Benchley’s Cameo

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.

#3  –  The Mysterious ‘Severed Arm’ Edit

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.

And Three Other Things Related to Jaws That Bother Me

Jaws 2

Jaws 3-D

Jaws: The Revenge

10 comments on “Top 3 Least Favorite Jaws Moments

  1. Tyson Carter
    7/14/17

    I’m just watching the highly age appropriate The Shallows with my 3 & 1 year olds, I can’t wait to show them Jaws. 🙂

    • Todd B
      7/14/17

      My sister’s husband once watched Training Day with their two young daughters, so trust me, you’re in good company. And if The Shallows doesn’t give your two kids a lifetime case of the shakes, then a viewing of Jaws should remedy that situation easily enough.

      • Tyson Carter
        7/14/17

        My 3 year old asked me why the man had no legs, so I explained about the shark and decided to switch channels. So I put on Wimbledon, tennis semi finals day, I kid you not it was the wheelchair match, they had no legs, she asked me if a shark got them too. I mean, what do you say to that?! Obviously I said yes as it was funny 🙂

      • Todd B
        7/14/17

        Ahhh, kids. This is the point in their lives where you should begin messing with their minds, so telling her that the match was a fundraiser for shark attack survivors, and played by shark attack survivors, would be wholeheartedly expected, and not considered bad parenting. But seriously, Tyson, that’s a pretty funny story. And for the rest of her life, every amputee she sees will be the victim of a shark attack.

  2. Your a bigger man than I suspected admitting to flaws in this perfect film that we have been known to refer to as our favorite. (I always include The Dirty Dozen with that statement hedging my bets with those who listen)

    • Todd B
      7/14/17

      I thought it said a lot about this movie that I could only find two flaws for a Top Three post! Maybe we should change ‘flaws’ to ‘inconveniences’…that way, Jaws can still retain its ‘perfect film’ status!

  3. Okay first of all AGAIN we’re talkin’ about a seat-of-your-pants flick that (if I remember correctly) had no script until almost the 1st day of shooting. Some mis-steps are not surprising. Finally getting a “look” at the monster in the course of viewing any thriller is (excuse me) the “money-shot” and at the age we were when this came out I personally don’t recall being disappointed. At least not the first time. The image you’re using to represent “The Breach” looks incredibly artificial however and even the “Bruce” ride at Hollywood’s Universal Studios has a more realistic shark. As for Benchley’s appearance, I just assumed he was throwing his weight around and had to have that whole thing his way (sans news studio props?). Somebody really needs to make a project out of resolving #3. I would definitely kick in on the gofundme account for that endeavor! The fanatical Jaws movie-lover that you are, I really don’t see how you can object to any of it in good conscience. And that is my crabby-ass commentary for today!

    • Todd B
      7/14/17

      I wouldn’t say ‘crabby-ass’…let’s go with ‘combative-ass’ instead! 😉 For me, I’d say the ‘money shot’ was the first appearance of the shark, when its head pops up while Brody is chumming…that time, I thought the shark looked perfectly real. As for Benchley, I’ve never read anything that explains why he had that cameo, besides the obvious: that he was the author of the book the movie is based on. Who knows, maybe he was hanging around the set, and they needed someone with real-life experience to play the part of the news reporter (he was once a reporter for The Washington Post). As for #3…I think the easiest thing to do would be to track down a copy of the script, which should be for sale somewhere on-line (actually, I just found a draft that was available to read…and Hooper’s line ‘This is what happens’ is not even part of his dialogue!). And finally…hope you have a good, shark-free weekend!

  4. Dracula
    7/15/17

    Instead of watching Jaws 3D I guess you could just make a visit to SeaWorld. So none of the sequels are worthy of a cheap bag of microwave popcorn?

    • Todd B
      7/15/17

      Well, I’m guessing my next post will answer your question.

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