Release year: 1975
Director: Steven Spielberg
Screenwriter: Peter Benchley, Carl Gottlieb, Peter Benchley (Novel)
Starring: Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss, Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton, Carl Gottlieb, Jeffrey Kramer, Susan Backlinie
Ratings: 3 Oscars: Best Sound, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score, 1 Oscar nomination: Best Picture, 1 Golden Globe: Best Original Score
Moviegeek Sunday Classic #5, week 28 2014
A shark terrorises the coast of the Summer town Amity. The town’s sheriff, Brody, along with Marine biologist Hooper, must enlist the help of gruff seaman Quint in order to hunt it down and kill it.
This is it. The movie that put Steven Spielberg’s name on the map, the film that began Spielberg’s and composer John Williams’s ongoing collaboratory work, and the film that, together with Star Wars, created the Summer blockbuster. Its music (particaularly the famous shark theme) is some of the most recognisable film music ever composed, and its screenplay is quoted again and again (who doesn’t know ”you’re gonna need a bigger boat”?). However, the best thing about Jaws is that behind all its famous attributes and the myth surrounding it there is a truly great film.
The story is set in the town of Amity. A town that survives on the hoardes of guests that come during the Summer. Of course the first shark attack happens right before the weekend of the 4th of July, the biggest weekend of the season. The result is that the first half of the film is an at times frustrating (in a good way) battle of interests between sheriff Brody, who wants the beaches closed, and the Mayor, who wants the beaches open. Brody (played by the underappreciated Roy Scheider) is a great character, supported by his wife (played wonderfully by Lorraine Gary) in thick and thin, but the movie really gets going when the Marine biologist and shark expert Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss, another underappreciated actor) turns up with the intent of finding and stopping the shark. Hooper finds a supporter in Brody and thus begins a great friendship that is at the heart of this movie. Jaws switches gear halfway as Quint (Robert Shaw) is employed to help kill the shark, and what follows is an exiting and well-crafted ”man hunt” that begs repeat viewings.
The effects still hold up after nearly forty years, the shark realised by a mixture of a mechanic shark, a camera (in the scenes in which we follows the shark’s point of view), and footage of actual sharks. But the shark really comes to life in John Willliams’s eminent score, which earned him his second Oscar. All effects and technical brilliance aside, what really elevates this film above the level of a solid thriller is the relationship and chemistry between Brody, Hooper, and Quint as they pursue the shark. All held together by the sure and steady hand of a young Steven Spielberg, Jaws may put you of swimming for a good while, but it is definitely worth it!
The eerie scenes in which we follow the shark’s point of view came about because the mechanical shark broke down so often that it was unavailable for several scenes.
The above mentioned famous line ”you’re gonna need a bigger boat” was improvised by Roy Scheider.
Jaws opened on only 409 screens. Within 78 days it had become the highest grossing movie ever to that date, despite still only showing on less than 1000 screens.