Jaws: Sharks Gone Wild

Let's carry on with the next film on the list, shall we?  Jaws was released in 1975, directed by Steven Spielberg, and starred Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, and Richard Dreyfuss.  It won three Oscars and had the singular ability to make a generation of children terrified of their swimming pools.  Jaws receives a rank of 75 on the "TSP, DT?" list.

Full Disclosure:  If I have seen Jaws, it was many years ago (as in I was in the single digits when I saw it) and I have few memories of it outside of the music and the iconic fish popping out of the water.  I have, however, been on the Jaws ride at Universal Studios in Florida, which I can assure you was no fun at all.

Amity is a nice, quiet resort island preparing for its lucrative summer season when all of a sudden a girl washes up on the beach (in these types of films, she is The Victim Who Dies to Show That There's a Problem).  It's clear to the police chief that this was a shark attack, but the mayor encourages him to label it as a boat accident, to avoid scaring off the tourists.  He reluctantly agrees, and the beaches remain open...until the next week, when a little boy gets eaten right off of his floating raft (he is The Victim Who Dies to Show That the Problem is Serious).

Chief Brody is done screwing around, and he brings in Matt Hooper, a shark specialist, to help figure out the problem.  After a little drunken seafaring (who doesn't love that?) they find the remains of a fisherman and his boat, which allow them to ascertain that the beastie in question is a Great White.  Does the mayor believe them, though?  Of course not.  He keeps the beaches open.

It takes another shark attack (this one is The Victim Who Dies Because the Problem's Serious and It's Not Going To Go Away Just Because You Want It To, Mr Mayor!) for the head honcho to see reason, and he agrees to shut down the beaches and hire a really sketchy shark hunter to kill the thing.

Quint comes off as a mildly unstable sea captain from the 1830s, but apparently he knows his shit, so Chief Brody and Hooper agree to go on a little fishing trip with him.  Which quickly develops into one of the more traumatic adventures I've ever seen.  They lure the shark using fish guts (that's gross), and when he gets close they shoot him with a line that attaches to floating barrels.  That way once they have him, they won't lose him.  But this fish ain't playing by anybody's rules, and he does sneaky things like attacking the boat and fighting against the barrels to go deeper into the ocean and just generally scaring the shit out of everyone.

He ends up doing a lot of damage to the ship, causing it to start to sink.  So the gang agrees to lower Hooper into the ocean in his shark cage.  This does not seem to be a Brilliant Plan, as plans go.  Hooper and The Shark engage in a little hand to fin action, and surprisingly Hooper manages to get away and hides behind some...bushes?  Unfortunately, Quint is not so lucky, as the shark then turns on the boat and eats him.  So Brody is alone (he thinks Hooper is dead), on a sinking ship, with a maniacal serial killer of a shark.  Awesome.

Brody manages to get the shark to eat a canister of pressurized air and then shoots it, blowing Sharky to kingdom come.  Hooper pops out of the water now that all the heavy lifting is over, and they float back to shore using the floating barrels.  And Brody has gotten over his fear of the ocean.  Really?  Because I'm pretty sure that if I experienced a shark attack while I already had a water phobia, I'd probably be even less likely to go for a quick dip.  Just saying.

Random Musings:

  • Damn, the police chief gets to live in that nice big house on the beach?  That doesn't suck.  Except for, you know, the giant psychotic shark.  Oh, and he's got a water phobia?  Yeah, ok, that does suck.

  • Holy crap!  I finally figured out where this is from!!

I love it when that happens!

  • Nice entrance, Robert Shaw.  I'm suddenly tempted to run my fingernails along a blackboard the next time I want people to pay attention to me.

  • Why are all these fishermen in tiny little speedboats taking their dogs out on a shark hunt?  That seems a little unfair.  Is that normal fishing procedure?

  • "Uh, I think I am familiar with the fact that you are going to ignore this particular problem until it swims up and BITES YOU IN THE ASS!" Oh Richard Dreyfuss, I love you, never change.

  • ZOMG I hate this mayor!  He's the worst civic leader ever, and he dresses like a children's tv show entertainer.  Which automatically makes me distrust him.

  • I really love that we don't even see a glimpse of the shark until about an hour into the film, and we aren't face to face with him until the last half hour of the film.  It makes it a lot scarier and more suspenseful.  Now, I know that this is one of the those happy accidents in filmmaking lore.  This is Bruce.  Meet Bruce:

He gave Spielberg tons of trouble because, like some film divas, he didn't want to work half the time.  He was called Bruce, but was also referred to as "The Great White Turd" because they had so much difficulty shooting with the animatronic SOB.  As such, they ended up scrapping a number of Bruce's appearances, thereby making it all the more special when he did show up.

  • Is Robert Shaw even trying not to be English?  He sounds pretty English to me.

  • Love Quint here:

"Stop playing with yourself, Hooper!"

  • Also, pretty much the best moment in the movie:

"You're gonna need a bigger boat."

Because dear God that's horrifying.

  • I love the bonding scene between Quint and Hooper as they're showing off their battle scars...and poor Brody looks sadly at his pathetic little appendix scar.  Which is followed by the mother of all downer speeches by Quint about the USS Indianapolis.  It's brilliant, because most of his dialogue up to that point has been a collection of catchphrases from The Crazy Sea Captain Stereotype Handbook.  But then out of nowhere he unloads this really powerful and emotional story of the biggest naval disaster in American history, that he was a part of.  Good stuff.

  • So Richard Dreyfuss is going underwater in the shark cage...without his glasses??!!  As a fellow Visually Impaired American, I know how scary it is not to be able to see, and this is officially terrifying.  But props to him, because he manages to fight off a Great White with his bare hands.  He must be part wolverine or something.

  • Oh my God oh my God Robert Shaw got eaten by the shark!!  How is this is a PG movie??  How?!

And that's Jaws.  Jaws is pretty cool.  And actually still pretty scary, considering it came out 36 years ago.  I like it because the first hour is a slow, tense build-up, and then in the second hour all hell breaks loose.  So it feels really well paced, because the set-up lasts just long enough, and so does the pay-off; neither outstays their welcome.  There are some real genuine white knuckle moments and even though yeah, Bruce looks a little silly in one or two scenes, he is still surprisingly effective.  I like all the characters (with the exception of the mayor, but if you actually like the mayor please go find a giant shark to eat you), and I understand why they're doing what they're doing.  And the music.  Oh god the music.  I don't understand how it's possible that this one man (John Williams) has created probably 6 or 7 of the top ten most iconic film scores in history, but the man is clearly a genius.  You can't have Jaws without that chilling music with it.  You just can't.  So two thumbs up, and proof that sometimes painfully chaotic film shoots can produce wonderful work.

Thanks for reading, and be sure to pop back for The Dark Knight! :)

Want to know more about the Top 1000 List?  Check it out and see if your favorites are here! They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?


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Anonymous said...

A classic. Loved the film, love your review. :)

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