This Saturday, June 20, 2015, will be the 40th anniversary of the release of the Steven Spielberg classic, “Jaws.” The film is based on the Peter Benchley novel of the same name. The plot is straightforward. A New York City police officer, Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) along with a cantankerous shark hunter, Quint (Robert Shaw), and a know-it-all oceanographer, Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss), go hunting for a killer Great White Shark that has terrorized the beaches of Amity. Released June 20, 1975, and despite many production problems, “Jaws” went on to become an enormous hit, and the first blockbuster movie.
[adinserter block=”1″]I was a child back in 1975, and I had a fascination with sharks, especially Great Whites. I don’t know why, but I did. I guess it was their ability to swim with such power, and their teeth. Anyway, when the film “Jaws” came out, naturally I wanted to see it. My mother wouldn’t let me, because she thought it would be too gruesome. Well, out of the blue, some time in 1976, she gave in, and my parents and I went to see it. The film was fantastic. Since then, I have seen “Jaws” about 90 times since I saw it in the movie theater, either on television, or on my DVD. The film was amazing 40 years ago, and it is still amazing now. In this blog, I will discuss what I think makes this film so great after 40 years.
John Williams’ Score
Let’s discuss film composer John Williams’ score. As a former musician, I always love a great musical score. A great score can set the tone for the movie and the audience. The “Jaws” theme is ingenious, Da-dum. Da-dum. With those two notes, Williams was able to speed them up, or slow them down. The theme was used to introduce the shark. What was fantastic was the parts of the film where the shark popped out, and the music wasn’t there. Williams won the “Best Musical Score” Oscar for “Jaws,” and deservedly so.
“Jaws” Theme: https://youtu.be/R3WwcsjWPIQ
The Political Angle
There’s a political angle to “Jaws.” As many people who have seen the movie know, Amity Mayor Larry Vaughn (Murray Hamilton) from the beginning, does everything he can to cover up the fact that there is a Great White Shark preying on swimmers. After the attack on Chrissie Watkins , Mayor Vaughn has the Medical Examiner change his report. Vaughn undermines Chief Brody’s authority to close the beaches. Like the self serving politician that he is, Mayor Vaughn finally agrees to pay Quint , after the shark kills the guy in the pond, when he utters, “My kids were on that beach too.”
No matter how many times I watch this film, I get so angry at the mayor. He puts politics and greed ahead of people. He was supposed to let the police chief do his job to protect the public. Mayor Vaughn was so worried about businesses losing money, he ignored the police chief, and Oceanographer Matt Hooper , and opened the beaches. Only when his own son could have been threatened, does he finally do something. Sounds like how some politicians operate today in their denial of science and putting businesses before people, etc. Forty years later, “Jaws” is still relevant in this matter.
Production Problems Help Film.
The making of the film was a long, arduous process, which actually wound up making the film a great success. The main problem was the shark itself. The entire production crew and cast had to deal with a mechanical shark that had a hard time functioning in sea water. This shark, called ‘Bruce,” would only work half the time. When the shark was ready to go, actor Richard Dreyfuss said that the cast and crew would get an announcement, “The shark is working.”
This led to the final product, where you see the shark 80 minutes into the film. During the Alex Kintner attack and the guy in the pond attack, you can see glimpses of the shark, but you don’t get the full impact of how big this shark really is. Besides, if the shark was shown every time it attacked someone, it also would have been a different movie. Steven Spielberg easily could have had the shark pop up and killed Chrissie Watkins, but it would have been more of a blood and guts movie, instead of the great psychological thriller that it is.
There are other things about the film that I think makes “Jaws” incredible after 40 years. One is seeing three guys, who are not fond of one another, fighting for a common goal. I found two of them, Quint and Matt Hooper , to be very unlikable, especially Quint. My favorite part in the move was when the shark killed Quint. Hooper came across as Mr. Know-it-all. Both Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss did great jobs.
[adinserter block=”2″]Another was the script. There are many great lines. Brody : “We’re going to need a bigger boat.” Charlie: “Can we go home now?” Hooper: “You’ve got a hell of a fish out there, with a mouth about this big.” There’s also the “Indianapolis Speech” by Quint as well. I have also read the Peter Benchley novel, and I loved how scriptwriters Carl Gottlieb and Peter Benchley were able to remove much of the extra drama from the novel, and make a streamlined script.
“Jaws” is an undisputed classic film. The film still terrorizes moviegoers 40 years after its release, due to it score and suspense. It’s an outstanding action-packed thriller with a touch of political intrigue thrown in. There’s people who STILL won’t go into the water after seeing this film. The film is being shown in select theaters on June 21st and 24th. Go to Fathom.com for ticket information. Feedback is welcome, and I hope you enjoyed this blog.