4. Jaws


Movie: Jaws

Release Date: June 20, 1975

Director: Steven Spielberg

Starring: Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss.

Tag Lines: “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.”

“The terrifying motion picture from the terrifying No.1 best seller.”

“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!”

Relevance: My dad was in the National Guard and every year he went away to a two week “summer camp.” I don’t know if that was the technical name for it and I am not really sure what he did while he was there, but I always loved when he went away. Not because I didn’t like him or that I wouldn’t miss him, it was just that every time he went, my Aunt, Uncle and cousins would travel in from New Jersey to visit for one of those weeks. And I loved hanging out with them. We would always do a lot of fun things while they were visiting and it was nice having kids around my age to play with. My mom would also enjoy that week as their visit took her mind off of my dad not being around. My Aunt and Uncle would often take her out for some “adult time” as well. One of those adult time events was seeing the movie ‘Jaws.’

‘Jaws’ was released in theaters in the summer of 1975. The movie was based on the best-selling novel by Peter Benchley. It was a huge box office success and became the prototypical summer blockbuster. It was the highest grossing film of that year as well as the highest grossing film of all time, a reign that lasted two years until ‘Star Wars’ was released in 1977 (see 27. Star Wars). Critics loved the movie as well and it was nominated for four Academy Awards including Best Picture, winning three technical awards. I am not sure of the exact year that my Aunt and Uncle took my mom to see ‘Jaws’ as it was re-released theatrically in both 1976 and 1979, but I definitely remember my mother’s reaction.

My mom was in no way, shape or form interested in anything scary, so seeing ‘Jaws’ was not her choice by a long shot. My Uncle read the Peter Benchley novel, so it may be under his conniving or pleading that she decided to go. She was easily convinced when it came to her family (see 58. Psycho and 36. Silence of the Lambs). I have no details on how my mother reacted while the film was playing as I was between the ages of four and eight and was not invited to go. I do however know that she was petrified when she came home. The remainder of the time my dad was away at summer camp she slept with the lights on in their bedroom. She was also afraid to dangle her feet off the bed, afraid that ‘Jaws’ was going to grab her and chomp away. She always looked down before setting her feet on the floor. My mother didn’t say much about the movie besides telling us that it scared the hell out of her. The only other thing she mentioned was “the head falling out of the boat,” adding a quick shudder of fear to her statement. I had no idea what she meant, but I would definitely find out a few years later.

Sometime in the early 1980’s, after receiving our monthly HBO Guide in the mail, I noticed that ‘Jaws’ was headed to the cable network. The back of the guide always showed what was coming the following month. I was probably around the age of twelve at that time and remember running up to my mom humming the John Williams ‘Jaws’ theme showing her the picture on the back of the guide. My mom shrieked at the sight of the shark and said, “I am not watching that again.” She may not have been excited, but me and my dad were as both of us were looking forward to seeing the Steven Spielberg thriller about that killer shark.

The day that it premiered on HBO, I watched the film with my dad. I loved every second of it. Not only was it exciting, thrilling and a bit scary, but it was awfully funny as well, something I wasn’t expecting. I think that was the movie that introduced me to Richard Dreyfuss, and I instantly fell in love with him and his character. He made me chuckle a lot throughout the movie. ‘Jaws’ lived up to its hype and I have to say that it scared me a bit as well. I was a fan (and still am) of all things horror related. I loved being scared. The moment that the head rolled out of the boat (I should have known it was coming as my mom warned me), I jumped right off of the couch. I may have shrieked a bit as well, but then I laughed. As a kid, that was my favorite part of the movie, besides the naked woman running down the beach, something that lost its allure as I got older.

‘Jaws’ was a movie that I watched incessantly when it played on HBO. As the sequels started showing on the network, I ate them up as well (pun intended). I loved them all, although nothing quite compared to the original. My mom bought me the VHS of the first film one year for Christmas. Her only rule was to not watch it while she was around. ‘Jaws’ remained one of my favorite movies of all time and its director, Steven Spielberg was by far my favorite filmmaker. He has appeared on my list of most influential movies of all time a total of nine times, with ‘Jaws’ being my most favorite. (see 234. Saving Private Ryan, 169. Close Encounters of the Third Kind, 83. The Goonies, 61. E. T. the Extra-terrestrial, 52. Jurassic Park, 18. Raiders of the Lost Ark, 10. Schindler’s List and 7. The Color Purple for the other films). He is a genius director with the most impressive lists of films under his belt, but the one about the shark eating its way through New England is the one that I will always love the most.

Today’s Thoughts: “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

Alone in my bed, without my feet dangling off the side of it just in case, I watched ‘Jaws’ again. Alone in the house as both my husband and son went to work, I was able to play it as loud as I could. That John Williams’ score always gets my blood racing and the louder it gets played the better. I now own the Special Edition DVD (I also own the ‘Jaws 3 Film Collection), and the sound is as glorious as ever. And the movie remains just as glorious.

Mr. Spielberg is so incredibly gifted at creating tension and adding heart to his characters. ‘Jaws’ is a prime example of both. Not only is the film still as intense as it was back in the 1970’s, but you also still care so much about the characters. Thanks to the incredible acting trio of Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss, I can’t help but root for them as they go hunting for the great white shark. Mr. Dreyfuss is still my favorite character, but Mr. Scheider as Chief Brody is equally impressive and effective. Brilliantly portrayed, you can’t help but feel for his every action and cheer as he gets the bad guy (in this case a shark) in the end.

‘Jaws’ is a brilliant film and one that must be experienced. If you are not a fan of thrillers, suck it up. If my mom can see it in the darkened room of a theater, you can check it out in your living room. It is just a movie that needs to be watched, appreciated, studied and adored. Thank you Mr. Spielberg for your art throughout the years and thank you so much for ‘Jaws.’

Awards: Academy Award for Best Sound, Robert L. Hoyt, Roger Heman Jr., Earl Madery, John R. Carter (winner), Academy Award for Best Film Editing, Verna Fields (winner), Academy Award for Best Music, Original Dramatic Score, John Williams (winner), Academy Award for Best Picture (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Original Score – Motion Picture, John Williams (winner), Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Drama (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Director – Motion Picture, Steven Spielberg (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Screenplay – Motion Picture, Peter Benchley, Carl Gottlieb (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Film Music, John Williams (winner), BAFTA Award for Best Film (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Direction, Steven Spielberg (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Actor, Richard Dreyfuss (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Film Editing, Verna Fields (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Screenplay, Peter Benchley, Carl Gottlieb (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Sound Track, John R. Carter, Robert L. Hoyt (nomination), Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures, Steven Spielberg (nomination), National Film Registry (2001), Writers Guild of America Award for Best Drama Adapted from Another Medium, Peter Benchley, Cark Gottlieb (nomination).

Ways to Watch: Hulu, Amazon Prime, YouTube, iTunes, Vudu, Google Play, DVD Availability.


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