Film review, by Jason Day, of Jaws the 1975 horror about a Great White Shark eating unsuspecting bathers. Starring Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss and directed by Steven Spielberg.
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In the mid-70’s the quiet island of Amity experiences the shockwaves that follow the death of their summer belle (Susan Backlinie) after she dies from unexplained injuries after swimming at night.
It soon becomes apparent that a massive Great White Shark is feeding off the coast of the island and new Sheriff Brody (Roy Scheider), still wet behind the ears in terms of local politics, is left to juggle the economic needs of a community reliant on open beaches and needing to keep people safe.
Review, by @Reelreviewer
Der-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh…etc.Phonetic version of the John Williams score to Jaws.
Despite being a complete cinephile, there are only a handful of movie moments I can claim seriously impacted on me, made that ‘whoomph’ impression and steered me toward studying the art-form and then spending a life writing and talking about it.
They are: the capsizing dining salon sequence in The Poseidon Adventure, Gloria Swanson descending the spiral staircase in Sunset Boulevard, Tilda Swinton’s Lady Orlando dashing through a maze and a head popping out through a hole in a half-sunken boat in Jaws, with an eye gouged out.
I don’t recall the monumental ‘eyeless head’ reveal moment myself (I was only 5) but, watching the movie on the TV in the 1980’s with my parents (who hadn’t seen the movie before. I haven’t inherited a mania for cinema as my mum and dad barely watch films), they remember me screaming, jumping out of my seat and vanishing behind the sofa.
Much has been analysed over and written about this classic shark on the loose horror so despite my fingers needing to fervently add to those opinions, I’ll keep my own views brief.
Why the film works so well is that Spielberg keeps the big baddie from our eyes for as long as possible.
There were economical reasons for this…a mechanical shark was expensive to run so why not follow old Hollywood by alluding to its presence, with flotation buoys and a ripped away pontoon?
Better still, why not use a poor, stricken female bather’s body, as the beast thrashes her from side to side.
This style works spectacularly and means that when we actually see the shark (and see how huge it is), we are even more shocked.
The narrative, with its emphasis on local power-players (Murray Hamilton’s slippery Mayor) down-playing residents’ deaths to make sure the town cashes in on summer vacationers, has echoes of the then recent Watergate conspiracy…or perhaps the current pandemic situation, given the UK Government’s slow on the uptake response.
Speielberg and screenwriter Carl Gottleib also sneak in some moving and very natural family scenes with Brody and his family, most tellingly when his wife watches their young son mimicking his Dad. I know it sounds like a cliche, but the dialogue between these people is ‘real’ – it feels like you are ear-wigging in on a normal family evening.
Performance wise, top-billed Schieder was hot to trot after The French Connection and proves he could more than hold his own as a leading man.
Also memorable are Robert Shaw as the quip-laden, raucous ‘Captain Ahab’ sailor Quint and Richard Dreyfuss as a wet-behind-the-ears but whip-smart young Icthyologist.
All in all, a stunning classic – but you knew that, didn’t you?
Cast & credits
Director: Steven Spielberg. 2hrs 4 mins/124mins. Universal (PG).
Producers: David Brown, Richard D. Zanuck.
Writers: Peter Benchley, Carl Gottlieb.
Camera: Bill Butler.
Music: John Williams.
Sets: Joe Alves.
Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss, Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton, Carl Gottlieb, Jeffrey Kramer, Susan Backlinie.