Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.
Released on June 20, 1975
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Written by Peter Benchley and Carl Gottlieb
Cast: Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss, Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton, Carl Gottlieb, Jeffrey Kramer, Susan Backlinie, Chris Rebello, Jay Mello, Lee Fierro, Jeffrey Voorhees, Craig Kingsbury, Peter Benchley
By far and without a doubt my favorite movie of all time…a movie that has held that distinction for 37 years and counting, since the very first time I saw it at a now-demolished theater during that wonderful long-ago summer of 1975. I was just thirteen years old, working my way out of the grasp of Disney and family-oriented fare and into the more-adult realm of monster and sci-fi movies, disaster pics, and action films, when a friend in summer school spent our entire class time raving about this new shark movie he’d just seen over the weekend.
From there, I was hooked; our family would travel to the Fashion Valley 4 cinema soon thereafter, and after that I’d see it four more times over the course of the summer, and once more at the drive-in during its re-release a few years later. Since then, after countless viewings on television and video, and now for the past dozen years on disc, I watch Jaws religiously every July 4th, and the amazing thing is, I’ve never once grown tired of it.
The story should be familiar to most everyone by now: a great white shark terrorizes a small island community, and three men—the island’s chief of police, an oceanographer, and a local fisherman—head out to sea in a rickety boat to kill the beast. The first half of the film introduced us to the characters, showed us small-town life and politics, and basically offered a man-vs-man relational conflict scenario, with residents of the town interacting and tangling with each other as the shark attack incidents loomed in the background. It wasn’t until the film’s midpoint that the shark story moved to the forefront, and we experienced the man-vs-nature (or more appropriately, man-vs-monster) external conflict that gave the film its breathless and suspenseful second half.
Director Steven Spielberg, fresh off his work on The Sugarland Express, fought through just about every film production nightmare imaginable to create the ultimate movie-watching experience: fun and exciting and scary, with story and dialogue that never lets your interest wane, with actors who are so wonderfully perfect in their roles, with camerawork, framing, and editing that are all top-notch, with foregrounds and backgrounds that are fully loaded with information and visuals that compliment every scene, and with of course the music of John Williams, whose masterful score adds immeasurably to the entire bundle. With all that, how can this not be everyone’s favorite movie?
Many times I’ve read comments made by fans of the film—in magazine articles and at on-line film sites—who say that the ending of Jaws makes them feel sad and a little melancholy…not when the shark is finally disposed of, or not even when Quint comes to his brutal end (although one cinema-goer in that first-ever screening of mine shouted out a loud “SHIT!” when Quint was killed, much to everyone’s tension-relieving delight), but the very end, when the two survivors, Chief Brody and Hooper, are seen in a long shot paddling to shore, and finally walking up to the beach as the end credits play out and the hypnotic death-knell music is heard.
Believe me, I know exactly what they’re talking about, because the same thing happens to me: a kind of mournful emptiness or wistful letdown, that during my initial viewing was nothing more than my teenage self not wanting a very cool movie to end, but which has now become more of a reminder of not only that exciting time when I discovered how involving and all-immersing movies could be, but of a bygone age where I had no worries or demands, and the summer of ’75 meant vacation, hanging with friends, days at the beach, Reds baseball, and a blockbuster movie about three guys and a killer shark. (10/10)