Unbelievable to many this is not a horror movie, rather adventure thriller, the primary reason very obviously, if one called it a horror film then likely would have been glanced over by critics, and not receive any awards, that’s how harsh the word ‘horror’ is to many. Therefore, knowing and learning the lessons of Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist they chose wisely the other path of least resistance. In addition, the rating, PG, came from the thought process that this is real nature, and man is, in this case, playing inside a predator’s world, hence it was acceptable for teens to be aware of the dangers around them in life, noting the blood spillage was very much controlled, Spielberg noting another lesson of Hitchcock. Face it, there’s been so many reviews, articles and even theses about the intent, analysis of the director’s style and simply reviews about this classic tale over 300 reviews as of 2020 so many state the same detail, so what could one more offer about this legendary film, well that’s the challenge.
The producers David Brown, Richard D. Zanuck, and even Universal Pictures sought legal defenses against others that used the premise of the movie to create similar movies, namely Grizzly , although failed in favorable judgement for them, later lead to a slew of films deploying similar plot devices such as Piranha  and Blood Beach . However, Jaws uses the “animal attacks” theme and heavily cleans up and gives stylization to the entire storyline; this actually was used in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds , and producers of also back the mad-doctor with animals attacking in Sssssss . Jaws established a new dynamic for entertainment field, with the creation of a Hollywood Summer Blockbuster, before this film, the summer season was heavily avoided, but the success of this one picture led to a reversal of that long-standing philosophy. This especially was proven, as the movie gobbled up all the previous number-1 box office champions, earning that category in just 28-days and held it for 2-years, earning over $260 million until Stars wars (1977).
Jaws is always a standard summer viewing by almost everyone, however interesting enough the movie in some regard is even more prevalent than before, with reference to the predicament the world finds itself in, it can’t be overlooked. Therefore, one needs to address it briefly, in a time when so much is affecting community and business in general the attitudes in the film clearly mirror though instead of the famous 4-letter word one can use none-other-than ‘mask’. We all know that after the young boy is killed by the shark an argument erupts from the mayor and business owners, about whether to close the beaches, and someone yells out 24-hours of closure is like 3-weeks, which is a bit of over-reaching; yet shows the direct concern one’s financial gain outweighs all public safety, and we all witness the madness, death, bad press, and destruction that ensues afterwards. I digress and let’s begin the anniversary review for the film.
As many know, other directors were attach to the project, and they seemed to be less interested in the shark and more focused on author Peter Benchley’s original 1974 novel and connections to syndicate groups and even including an affair between Ellen Brody and Hooper. Nevertheless the producers brought in Steven Spielberg who started to have a proven track record with his two tv-movies Duel  and Something Evil  as well as The Sugarland Express (1974), he also had uncredited screenwriting work on the film along with Benchley for the source material and Carl Gottlieb (Jaws 2  and Jaws 3-D ). One key aspect that sold the producers on Steven was for his story talk about this shark but not showing it, hence taking a page out of Hitchcock’s playbook with the lesson of surprise versus suspense, using the latter for the first half of the movie. In addition, Howard Sackler an uncredited script consultant primary for the background information on the character Quint and namely the historical facts of naval ship Indianapolis, which was cut down by Robert Shaw for his incredible monologue. His movie spiraled slowly out-of-control with the initial investment of $3.5-million to $10-million, and hellish filming schedule lasting 55-days, that didn’t include the pre or prost production work of individuals who actually worked on the movie. One last tidbit, this is not a review of the Ultra-HD Blu-ray, 45-year anniversary movie, I shall return perhaps for the 50th to do that. One thing most folks can agree on is the movie influenced filmmakers in providing a road map of generating compelling storytelling, construction of the story and using the unknown as an advantage with the assistance of music and framing especially seen in Alien , Jurassic park  to Deep Blue Sea  and even The Shallows .
One key element deployed early and often in the film is the mere talking about the shark, this evolved from a few things namely the mechanical beast didn’t work, and when it did it was sluggish, hence best to hint and suggest doom about this large predator. Cinema fans all know of the great scenes in movies, from Psycho’s Shower Scene to the pea soup vomit in The Exorcist , this film contains a few memorable ones, but that opening sequence of the swimmer Chrissie going for a skinny dip folic in the ocean, and the killer prowling with its point of view (POV) seeing its prey, suddenly she’s dragged about and hear her screaming – that gets everyone’s attention. I shall not dwell too much on the story as everyone knows it, from the cover art to the countless documentaries and views of this film. As we all know Chief Brody (Roy Scheider (The Curse of the Living Corpse )), is the news on the island of Amity transplanted a new sheriff from the big city, now it’s curious why he got the job, I think it’s because he brought primarily for handling the summer crowds, which would include visitors from big cities their attitudes and egos. Otherwise he easily able to take the manipulation early on by the Mayor Vaughn and city council, with their bureaucratic rules and policies belief for taking the job a safe environment for his family. Once the little boy Alex Kintner meets a gruesome ending the movie takes a dramatic swing, as it leads to using photographs to show the power in attacks and wounds from bites, all done to shock the audience, while skirting the R-rating, as its nature in attack films, noting one of the images shows a caster device in a sharks mouth – 26.20 into the movie. . While two deaths occur before the Fourth of July weekend, and amazingly a shark was killed just before the big financial payoff day, and shockingly no one wants to do a private autopsy of the tiger shark, it all aims for a cover-up, and that’s another key in the story the political power to please the businesses and sacrifice the innocent. Even when Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss (Piranha 3D )), an oceanographer and adviser arrives and he discovers the lies from the medical examiner to the manure deep from the mayor that he is obligated to inform the Coast Guard of the problem. The film takes time to set up the characters, giving depth and reason for their inclusion, in fact slowly introducing them, first Brody, then the Mayor, Quint (Robert Shaw (A Reflection of Fear ) , and finally Hooper as the main keys, not all at once, rather gradual movements as if chess pieces. They work effectively well with the suggestion of violence versus actual, for example when the two so-called fishermen use a holiday roast to lure the shark into the shallows there’s no shark present, but the dock that breaks off and the music cues give the illusion of suggested violence. While the scenes of Ben Gardener’s damaged vessel (which was filmed in a swimming pool, a last minute added scene) is actual and effective jump scene. There’s two more of these suggested versus actual scenes in the third act. When the shark wouldn’t work correctly Steven deployed POV to place the fear in the audience’s minds long after leaving the theater, similar to Psycho  with the fear of motels of showers; herein when in the ocean whether on a raft or just your legs gently treading water what lies beneath you is unknown, whatever it is you are on their turf, they are watching and sensing you. The shark makes brief appearances, but of them he’s extremely effective and ruthless in his assault against his hunters, which are interrupting his feeding frenzy.
The true heart of the film, isn’t the shark, though Bruce as he was fondly called by Spielberg after his lawyer enjoyed munching hearts and other body parts, it’s the backstory of Quint, the ultimate fisherman, ruthless as the sea, and his ship The Orca named after the Killer Whale. Both from a forgotten era, inadequate to adjust to the changing world, ignorant of advances and uncaring of politicians or frankly anyone’s opinion. However, what really sells his character to the audience, especially in the latter half of the film, when they hear the sharing of tales of injuries to their bodies between him and Hooper, and discovering he’s not just veteran, but once a sailor on the U.S.S. Indianapolis. This monologue was written by others in 10-pages, Robert Shaw took it and obviously shortened it and create his own version, noting that they completed their mission on delivering the bomb, which was later dropped on Hiroshima, his tale both incredible true and telling of the horrors of war and the various ways to perish. This one scene causes some parents and other individuals to have traumatic mourning and anguish due the U.S. Navy revealing how some the crew die, they learned about situation from this film. As Quint stated 316 survived, 300 die on the ship, which slammed with a Japanese torpedo the rest eaten by the sharks.
Composer John Williams (Images ) earned his second Oscar for this film, his first was in 1972 for Fiddler on the Roof (1971), his music and cues all worked famously and still carry onward as the likely the most simplistic hint for the Jaws impending attacks that still terrorize film-goers. Of course, one needs to mention, with a film filled iconic lines, especially “You’re gonna need a bigger boat” reference issue often in daily lexicon of today. However often overlooked is who worked tirelessly to make these exquisite editing cuts, which was Verna Fields, who worked previous with Steven also earned her only Oscar for this flick. One again, even like so many other directors, he surrounded himself with their talents of people who knew and understood want he sought for his pictures, whether spoken or not the “bond” that continue with the employing with talented cinematographer Bill Butler who worked on Something Evil , and worked on building a platform that smoothly with ocean currents and allowed for steady, though occasionally it shifted, which actually gave an unintentional queasiness to viewers for the extended sea-faring scenes. Amazingly the production team who designed the shark, accounted for nearly everything, they had the size enlarged and understood a shark’s movements a few times on land the electronics malfunctioned, aside from that there was one common sense aspect overlooked. Their testing all occurred in a swimming pool, hence not the salt water which quickly corrodes and forgot about ocean currents, which made the beast uncooperative and lumbered in the water. Therefore, with more problems, Spielberg had real oceanographers and shark experts get actual footage of great whites interacting with a shark cage, and what one sees on screen is actually real-life thrashing from a shark.
Jaws became the first summer blockbuster, it influences countless movies and filmmakers, honing screenplays, storytelling and even helped aspiring actors, it even encourages the adaption for novelists’ work from pages to scripts. In fact, Peter Benchley became a best-selling author thanks solely to this one novel, which later lead to other works made into movies The Beast  and Creature  though none ever achieved this level or notoriety or success. Sadly, the film lead to increasing shark hunting, bringing the various species, especially the Great White to the brink of extinction, and Benchley worked as a conservationist to reverse the unnecessary hatred and anger to sharks. It garnished numerous awards, chart-topping position one must watch cinema lists, aiding in advancing many careers, it had one other illusive element, the extended filming normally would’ve crushed a young director’s career however the studio was in the process of changing the executive board members in various departments and for a while the film lurked in the murky depths. As for myself this movie holds a special place, it was another movie my father and I shared interest in, and later encouraged my fascination with sharks, from collecting books, figurines, visiting aquariums and became part of Fourth of July celebrations. While filled with parades, honoring veterans, BBQs, and fireworks and watching it along with Return of the Living Dead  as both films are set on the beginning of July, involving munching and filling themselves tastily with humans.
- Amity Island had everything. Clear skies. Gentle surf. Warm water. People flocked there every summer. It was the perfect feeding ground.
- The nation’s #1 best-selling novel is now the year’s most terrifying movie.
- On the Fourth of July, Fishing Season will open…on you.
- If you forgot what terror was like…it’s back.
- See what you missed the first time…after you closed your eyes.
- There is a creature alive today which has survived millions of years of evolution…without change, without passion, without logic. It lives to kill. A mindless eating machine, it will attack and devour anything. Try to imagine meeting the Devil…with JAWS.
- There is a Great White Man-Eating Shark hanging around these parts.
- When the beaches open this summer, you will be taken.
- She was the first…Who will be next?
- Do you like fish? Well, he likes you too…
- If you want to survive Fishing Season, don’t go in the water.
- See it before you go swimming.
- You’ll never go in the water again!
IMDb Rating: 8.0/10
Baron’s Rating: 8.0/10
Jaws 2 (1978)
Jaws 3-D (1983)
Jaws: The Revenge (1987)