Let’s Talk: Jaws
Welcome back to another LET’S TALK discussion, an opportunity to share thoughts, opinions, quotes and all things related on our selected movie of the week. The discussion is open for 7 days in order to allow everyone around the world to voice their thoughts.
To join the discussion, there are 2 ways to in;
The first way is the easiest, leave a comment on the post, and I will edit to be part of the conversation. The second way is to register on the site and you will have access to edit the post and add your opinion Oh and there will be spoilers discussed so if you haven’t seen the film yet, I suggest watching it and then coming back here to join in on the discussion.
This week 137 exactly is very proud to welcome @Movies_In_Focus from http://www.moviesinfocus.co.uk/ to host this week’s LET’S TALK discussion on none other than Steven Spielberg’s timeless masterpiece, JAWS
Without further ado, here’s @Movies_In_Focus;
Jaws may be Steven Spielberg’s greatest achievement. Sure, Schindler’s List may get more critical kudos and Indiana Jones may be more iconic – but Spielberg’s 1975 adaptation of Peter Benchley’s aquatic thriller is a masterpiece from start to finish.
The film works on every level, as a horror movie, a drama and as an adventure picture. All the elements combine to make a cinematic treat. The opening shark attack has enough tension and scares to fill a dozen slasher films. Verna Fields’ editing coupled with John Williams’ now legendary score creates an atmosphere of pure menace, and the opening scene also wrote the rule book on how to stage an underwater shark attack on film. It has been copied and mimicked (even by Spielberg himself in 1941) but never bettered. The film’s character moments also hit the mark too. Brody’s (Roy Scheider) dinner table scene with his son adds humanity to the film, while the male bonding segment on the Orca, which sees our heroes show-off their scars, adds humour and nuance to the characters. However, it much more than that – note how Scheider’s Brody goes to lift his shirt to reveal a scar, but then thinks better of it. What really brought Brody to Amity? Why is a city cop now working on a small New England island?
The casting is superb, with Scheider, Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss all clearly relishing their roles, throwing themselves into their parts with gusto. Scheider’s everyman IS the audience – the man who uses rational thought and says what we’re all thinking - cue: “we’re going to need a bigger boat”, he constantly questions why they don’t just head back into land. Dreyfuss adds an exuberance to the role of Hooper, he brings levity but also serves as useful (non –clunky) way of distilling information. As for Shaw’s Quint – who doesn’t get chills during his USS Indianapolis speech?
Spielberg’s limited resources for the film have led to its greatest strength. We rarely see the shark, and that’s something which has stopped Jaws from dating. Our fears are greater than anything that a film can show us. Even “Bruce’s” appearance in the climax has stood the test of time. The reason? You believe in the story and the characters. We’ve gone through the trauma with the characters; we know what that shark can do. It’s not a special effect, it’s a villain, one of the best – up there with Norman Bates, Michael Myers and Darth Vader. Evil incarnated.
Jaws is often credited (or blamed) for creating the summer blockbuster. However, it’s more than thrills which make it special. Take these characters in the same setting, remove the shark and you’d still have a riveting drama – it’s not just senseless plot-less action. Jaws manages to capture the zeitgeist, captivating and entertaining audiences whilst also entering the collective consciousness. It has grossed over $470 million in 1975 money, a figure which would be over $1 billion dollars in today’s coin. That’s an awful lot of tickets sold- it’s Avengers money – and how many people can hum the score of that film?
@Russell_Oz: Wow! What a great film to be featured on this week’s LET’S TALK discussion! Thanks so much for hosting this week, @Movies_In_Focus! I can’t remember the first time that I watched JAWS but I do remember that it had an impact on me, so much so that if I was within 100 metres of the beach all I could hear in my mind was “DA-DUM, DA-DUM….”
It’s a film which has stood the test of time because it taps into the primal fear of being something’s lunch! Or perhaps that’s just me…
There is so much to love about JAWS and I am definitely looking forward to taking part in this week’s discussion because I could spend hours talking about how much I love the film! Also, I think it was only in the last couple of viewings that I really appreciated the “she broke my heart” scene. It made me laugh out loud, you know in-between being terrified!
@InTheFrame1: @Movies_In_Focus: I think you’re right about Jaws being Spielberg’s greatest achievement, although Schindler’s List is the highest profile film that I haven’t ever seen. I think Jaws blows away Indiana Jones because it is a serious drama containing events that could actually happen, rather than something designed just to appeal to an audience. The only Spielberg that I like as much as Jaws is Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I guess he worked well with Richard Dreyfuss?
The special effects are terrible, but as you say, it doesn’t matter at all. The thing that dates it the most is the way the mayor dresses. Those suits are right out of the 70s.
Two notes are all that was needed to provide one of the most instantly recognizable scores. How often have those two notes been used in other movies or even in everyday conversation?
@Wayneley: JAWS – such a wonderful movie one of the all time great movies – the three R’s Robert, Richard and Roy battling a great white & scaring the holy moly out of me and virtually everyone else who have watched this movie since 1975.
GREAT choice @Movies_In_Focus – I first saw this movie on a pirated video tape back in the early 80s, my dad brought home a copy & scared the family to bits – I have since watched JAWS over 100 times and recently caught it on the big screen whilst visiting the UK – a true thrill ride watching a remastered version on the big screen
I’m also pleased that Spielberg made the decision to remove Hooper’s (Dreyfus) affair with Chief Brody’s wife, a huge part of Benchley’s novel – it would have destroyed the togetherness that Hopper & Brody had tackling the great white – Spielberg’s movie was better than the novel and I don’t say that very often.
I certainly agree JAWS is one of the best movie villain’s up there with the one’s mentioned – a great LET’S TALK topic and like Big Man I can’t wait to read the comments in the coming days.
@Russell_Oz: Wha???? Hooper had an affair with Brody’s wife in the novel? I don’t remember that at all….man maybe I never read the novel after all! I remember having it on the bookshelf growing up but perhaps I never read it, always thought I did! I totally agree with you, Wayne. If that had been left in it would have ruined the relationship between the two!
@InTheFrame1: @wayneley: I was glad to see the affair removed as well. I like Brody’s character and there’s no need to ‘spice up’ the plot by including it. I think that’s just lazy writing by Benchley. He had a good idea and added things by the numbers which didn’t need to be there. Brody was a good guy so I don’t want to start thinking that he would neglect his family to the point where his wife would have an affair. It didn’t ring true with his character’s actions and concern for his family.
@InTheFrame1: I did include Jaws in my 100 movies series, although it was not a full review, just a teaser. Here are my thoughts from that:
“As I continue working on this 100 movies project, I am realizing that my tastes are all over the map. It ranges from 50′s black and white dramas set in one room, to foreign language films, to recent blockbusters. In a way, I’m happy to find that I’m open to all types of film. Today’s entry falls into the blockbuster category and was the highest-grossing movie ever made in its day.
I remember a conversation with friends when I was 13 telling me that I had to see Jaws. They talked about the shark more than anything, and people being torn apart. I caved and ended up seeing the movie and then I read the book. There are plenty of people who have never lost that fascination for deadly creatures. Would we have Shark Week without Jaws? Why do we want to watch such a creature?
Actually, that’s not why I like Jaws.
Jaws works for me because of the quality of the acting and the suspense created by wondering where the shark will strike next. The first hour of the movie sets everything up. Although there’s nothing particularly bad about the first half, it’s far from remarkable. We see a few attacks and meet the main characters.
Chief Brody (Scheider) is my favorite character. He’s intelligent, sensible, practical and calm under pressure. Hooper (Dreyfuss) is a marine biologist who thinks the problem can be solved through the use of modern equipment. The most colorful character is Quint (Shaw), who is experienced and outspoken. This group ends up tracking the shark on Quint’s boat and it’s here that the movie really takes off.
The movie was made at a time when special effects had to be created by using models and machines rather than CGI, so the shark doesn’t look at all realistic by modern standards. Spielberg did his best to overcome those limitations by showing the creature as little as possible. We are shown the attacks, but the camera focuses on the victim rather than dwelling on the shark itself. The fear exists in our minds and we fill in the gaps.
The best scene in the movie takes place on the boat. All three men are drinking. Hooper and Quint begin showing each other their scars. It’s a moment of release and humor while they wait for the shark to appear. Brody looks bemused by the whole exchange, but it’s clear that the group is bonding. In a lesser movie, all we would see is action and more frequent and bloodier attacks.
Another thing which should be mentioned is the music. John Williams created such a simple score, and yet we will never forget those two notes every time the shark is poised to attack. How often has it been used over the years, I wonder? The movie picked up two Oscars in the technical categories, and also won for Best Original Score.
Jaws deserves its place in movie history. I hope nobody ever suggests remaking it to update the effects. The plot is simple and predictable, but the execution is superb.
If you like Jaws:
Spielberg knows how to make movies with mass appeal, and I would place Close Encounters of the Third Kind in that category. Like Jaws, it stars Richard Dreyfuss.
I must admit that I do have some sympathy for the shark in Jaws. It’s not as if the shark sneaks out of the water and breaks into people’s homes to kill them; it’s simply feeding and trying to survive in its natural habitat. The same can be said of Jurassic Park. The most recent notable movie involving humans tracking some kind of creature is Super 8. It’s not perfect, but Spielberg is named among the production team and it does feel like something he would make. “
Can you imagine what Jaws would be like if it had been a modern movie? I imagine they would focus on the shark, using modern CGI. The attacks would be frequent and bloody. Most of that fantastic dialogue would be lost because filmmakers worry that audiences don’t have the attention span. I think directors need to study films like Jaws in order to realize that drama can still sell movies.
Even then, we still had the inevitable sequels, just like we have today. They got progressively worse as the franchise expanded.
@SquidRash: Spielberg’s insistence on shooting the film at sea and not in a tank was another great behind-the-scenes choice he made. I totally agree with you guys about the affair being removed. I feel the best parts of the novel were kept and/or expanded on in the movie. The ending in the novel felt anti-climatic to me, which certainly can’t be said about the film’s ending. This is a movie that will still be talked about thirty years from now with the same awe we have today.
@SosMyWife: A great movie and a great discussion. Well if McQueen is my favourite actor Spielberg is there as my preferred and most admired director. What I love about Jaws is not just the fun and shock but the sub-text that runs through it, i call it part one of his personal trilogy.
In Jaws, along with Close Encounters and E.T what we have essentially are stories about troubled families, the breakdown of marriage and in Jaws specifically, infidelity. Spielberg was born into a very traditional all American family with strong Jewish values and his world was shattered when his parents divorced where he moved with his Dad to California. This had a huge impact on him and the effects of this time is clear to see in his early films. In Close Encounters we have a very dysfunctional family with a father and husband in search for something better, in this instance it’s aliens and the promise of a new life on a distance planet but could just a easily be another woman as the escape from a failing marriage. In E.T we have a boy in a single parent family looking to make sense of his life and in search of a father figure, he finds solace and companionship with another lost soul looking for a way home.
Jaws was the first and when Spielberg read Peter Benchley’s book it must have really hit home, the story of damaged marriage and the ensuing fallout. What we get on screen is a monster flick but what we really have is someone coming to terms with the breakdown of a marriage and traditional family values with Bruce the shark as a metaphor for the ever threatening presence of infidelity looming on the horizon.
His later movies all have personal fingerprints, the obvious being Shindler’s List but when you watch films like Jurassic Park that is basically Jaws with Dinosaurs, full of the same sub-text and written and shot in the early 90′s when Spielberg was coming out of a very messy divorce with Amy Irvine and re married Temple of Doom star Kate Capshaw they are all about the same things…
…Relationships, Marriage and Families.
@MelBWrites: Great choice of films! I love, love this movie. It terrified me to no end. I refused to go into the water. I live in Chicago so the water near me is Lake Michigan and my public pool. LOL
I saw this with my dad on one of those old top load VCR’s. The scene with Quint recalling the Indianapolis and the shark attack gave me the chills and still does. There is something raw and chilling in his voice as he delivers those immortal lines.
I think this movie stays with us because it plays on our fears of the unknown, of what lies beneath
@SimonB: Rather than look at the big picture and the many high points of the film, I’d like to mention one small but eloquent moment that I admire and which says so much about the film and why it transcends its genre (monster movie/blockbuster/summer popcorn flick; not that there’s anything automatically wrong with those genres): Brody’s reaction to the shark’s death.
In one brief take his expression goes from jubilation to exhaustion and finally a world-weary sadness. Aided by our memory of Quint’s extraordinary Indianapolis speech, as an audience we don’t just feel relief and joy (when I saw it as a 9-year old, everyone cheered and clapped) we recollect the trauma that Brody and the community have been through, and our own trauma as viewers. Hooper’s return (Brody must assume he’s dead at this point) is a lovely moment of grace. Maybe worthy of Bresson. Okay, I’ve gone too far! Great film.
@Wayneley: Every great movie has “that moment” and for me in JAWS it was the moment when Mrs Kintner slapped Brody across the face “You knew there was a shark out there! You knew it was dangerous! But you let people go swimming anyway?” my god what a scene, the hairs on my neck stood up, I was a quivering wreck !
In the modern day we are subjected to the many remakes & reboots – who could direct a modern JAWS? And what about a star to play Brody?
@CriminalMovies: It would be impossible to overstate what a big film Jaws was. I’m fairly confident that everyone who saw it growing up was deeply affected by it. You mention the movie, and everyone has a story. Of course now there have been so many shark movies it’s ridiculous, but none of them come close to that impact. I’m glad the special effects limitations have been pointed out, as that is what really made Spielberg stand out, he turned the limitations into a positive. We rarely saw the shark although the suspense kept building, and when we finally did it was still quite the pay off. I read the novel afterwards and as far as that goes, I think the affair fit in with the tone of it. For the characters it made sense, but in the film, I think that would’ve diluted the focus. Spielberg isn’t really one of my favorite directors, which is just a matter of taste, He is certainly one of the best directors out there. There’s no question he’s the master at what he does, As far as gigantic summer blockbusters go, he wrote the book, and he knows how to tell a story. With as many solid films as he’s made, he’s earned his place at the top.
@3Guys1Movie: Looking forward to checking out the Blu ray this August.
Got a little story about the first time my brother and I saw this film. My folks decided it would be a good idea to go and see this film at the drivein and take my brother and I along. Supposedly, some Disney cartoon was playing first, and Jaws was the second film showing. My mom now claims that they thought we would be asleep by the time Jaws started.
This early viewing had a profound effect upon my fear of sharks and deep water in general. Just how old were my brother and I when we saw Jaws? How about 5 and 4 years-old. While I don’t remember everything from the film I do recall the giant shark eating people and having nightmares for years.
Thanks for that mom and dad
@Russell_Oz: Oh man! No wonder you developed a fear of sharks and deep water! Seeing Jaws at 5 and 4 would have been terrifying! On the other hand, you’ve never been eaten by a shark so perhaps it was a good decision afterall