#20 Jaws

(1975, Steven Spielberg)

“You yell shark, we got a panic on our hands”

Steven Spielberg is one of the world’s most successful directors, known the world over. The vast majority of his movies are huge successes, but let’s not forget the movie that was his first success. A film that not only jump-started Spielberg’s career, but practically invented the summer blockbuster in the process. It’s a film about a shark. It’s called Jaws.

Police Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) discovers the remains of a young woman on the beach. Her body has been torn apart, suggesting a possible shark attack. Amidst the mayor’s apparent refusal to close the beaches to prevent further incidents, shark expert Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) is brought in to investigate. Eventually, Brody and Hooper, together with the Captain Ahab-esque Quint (Robert Shaw) go on the hunt for the great white that’s been terrorising the coast.

Spielberg notoriously had problems making this movie, particularly as the mechanical shark they used kept breaking down and generally looked a bit rubbish, forcing him to merely allude to the beast rather than show it. However, this actually helps the tension rather than hinders it. We rarely ever see the shark, and all we know is that it’s big and it’s dangerous. Even the scenes where it attacks show little. The first attack is represented through the splashing and fighting of the victim on the surface, while later attacks are represented by little more than dark stains of blood in the ocean. The audience must fill in the gaps themselves, and this makes things worse.

However, although many viewers consider Jaws to be a terrifying movie, personally, it didn’t seem all that scary. Yes, it was suspenseful, and the attacks were effective, but ultimately, not that scary. This does not make the movie a failure, more that sometimes it’s dropped into the wrong genre.

But while the movie may not be too successful as a horror movie, it is successful in other ways. Scenes such as those showing a growing companionship on the boat between the team of shark hunters are brilliantly acted and show a great deal of chemistry with the actors involved. The scenes with the mayor are fantastic political commentary, with the mayor torn between doing what’s sensible and pleasing the voters to maintain his own position. Character-wise, this movie is fantastic.

However, it’s not perfect. Proceedings tend to move very slowly, and the sequence of events feels very disjointed. While much of the movie consists of some superb moments, the overall package isn’t so well put together. Reports that the film had been written as it was filmed seem plausible, as not everything gels as well as it should. For instance, the beach sequences seem recycled from each other, and Quint’s initial introduction seems a little out of nowhere before he disappears for far too long. Some more revision of continuity could have helped.

In summary, a movie with a number of effective parts, but falls just short of working as well as it should. Much like Bruce the Shark, in fact.

Starring Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss, Lorraine Gary & Murray Hamilton
Written by Peter Benchley & Carl Gottlieb
Produced by Richard D. Zanuck & David Brown
Music by John Williams
Cinematography by Bill Butler
Edited by Verna Fields

Favourite Scene: The opening scene is perfect at demonstrating the threat of the shark. An unsuspecting victim is picked off by surprise, and disappears without anyone realising what has happened.
Scene That Bugged Me: I always felt there was one mass beach scene too many. It felt like the plot was recycling itself.

Watch it if: You, like me, live nowhere near the ocean
Avoid it if: You think you’re going to need a bigger boat

Originally posted on Blogspot Tuesday 22 November 2011

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Posted on April 10, 2012, in 1970s, Action and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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