Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.
Believe it or not, I knew everything there was to know about the movie Jaws before it was even released. During a summer school class early in the summer of ’75, my friend Greg spent the entire class time excitedly telling me and a few other classmates about a movie he’d seen the night before, about a killer shark and the three guys who try to kill it. He described to us in detail the entire movie, from start to finish, which obviously should have spoiled the film’s best moments and scares for all of us. But what was funny was, he got a lot of the story flat-out wrong (just half a day after he’d seen it), so when I finally saw the movie a few weeks later, I was mostly still surprised by what I saw…or didn’t see, including Hooper’s bloody head floating up to the surface at film’s end, detached from its body and bobbing up and down in the water next to Chief Brody. According to Greg, anyway.
After my friend Greg had positively hyped this movie to such a degree at summer school, I was now more than eager to see Jaws, and on a July evening in 1975, my parents took my brother and I to see it at the Fashion Valley 4, a shopping center multiplex just north of downtown San Diego. I remember the auditorium’s seating was split into two sections, left and right, and we sat on the left, with my brother finding his own seat much closer to the screen, as was his theater-going custom. However, fear soon overcame tradition, and he was quickly back sitting with us, his hands in the ready-to-cover position over his eyes. I remember absolutely loving this movie at this first screening, and it instantly became my favorite of all time; I only wish I’d had the foresight to keep the ticket stub. The evening was also memorable for the passionate cry of a fellow theater patron, who screamed out an anguished “SHIT!” when Quint met his maker in the jaws of the great white, which in turn elicited tension-releasing laughter from the theater crowd. (Read more about this night here)
My father and I had already seen Jaws twice—at the Fashion Valley 4 and at our local theater, the Vineyard Twin in Escondido—and because we both enjoyed the movie so much, we’d decided to go again. It was still showing at the Vineyard, so we headed there from our home in Rancho Bernardo, arriving in plenty of time for a late-afternoon screening. In fact, we’d arrived very early, and because we had over an hour’s wait, the theater employee asked if we’d like to go in now, midway through the current screening, and then stay for the entirety of the show that followed. We gladly accepted his offer and headed inside; the auditorium was crowded but not sold out, so we found seats easily enough, about midway down on the right. And being veterans of Jaws, we decided to not watch the screen during the shock moments—the sudden ‘we’re gonna need a bigger boat’ shark appearance, the lifeless head popping out and scaring Hooper—but instead watch the audience around us, to see their reactions. We did this for both shows, and trust me, it was priceless; nearly every one of these unsuspecting, novice viewers jumped about a quarter-mile out of their seats, with half of them screaming their heads off as they did so.
I saw Jaws five times during the summer of ’75, and because there were no cable movie channels, no video stores, and no Internet yet available to me at the time, I had to wait four years to experience Jaws again, during its re-release to theaters in the summer of ’79. I was now living in Bellevue, Washington, after our parents moved my brother and sister and I there from San Diego, and the movie was playing at the Crossroads Quad Cinemas, at the nearby Crossroads Mall. I don’t know where my brother was (perhaps still carrying the mental scars of that night at the Fashion Valley 4), but my ten-year-old sister was more than willing to spend an afternoon with me at the movies, so off we went, along with our neighborhood friend Mike, who lived across the street. We walked to the theater, which was about a mile away, and though I remember nothing about the day except for the fact that we went, I do recall my sister having the bejeezus scared out of her by the movie. Which I thoroughly and happily expected, of course.
I was hoping I could find a 40th Anniversary screening of Jaws somewhere in my neighborhood, and the theater right next door to my apartment obliged, presenting it on its largest screen with a flawless print. I’d expected a large crowd, so I purchased my ticket ahead of time, and arrived there after work to find a long line of Jaws fans waiting to enter the auditorium. Thankfully, it was a wonderful Jaws-happy crowd, and it was more than cool to see my favorite movie again on the big screen. I was going to save this visit as my last ever Jaws theater experience, but the lure of another cinema viewing was just too great, and I’m going tonight with my sister to see it once again at this very same Harkins theater. (For a more detailed look at this 40th Anniversary screening, click here)
My fifth time seeing Jaws, at the Poway Playhouse with my friend Brent in 1975
Watching Jaws on a 5-inch portable DVD player while visiting my friend Steve P in 2004
Seeing a perfect print of Jaws for the first time at home on Blu-ray in 2017