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Movie Minutiae: Jaws (1975)

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Jaws was perhaps best known for its successful attempt to scare the living wits out of all cinema goers at the time, as well as its suspenseful, terror-inspiring theme song. We should thank tuba player Tommy Johnson for that one.

The 1975 film directed by a then-fresh-faced 28-year-old, Steven Spielberg, is nothing short of a classic.

The massive creature headlining the film had two other names by Spielberg – Bruce (after his lawyer) and “the great white turd” (when frustration mounted during production). Not quite as terrifying.

Apparently, the mechanical sharks, at $US250,000 a piece, had a penchant for breaking down. Because they were out of operation for some of the shots (there were three sharks), Spielberg improvised by using the camera as the shark’s point of view. In fact, that may have saved the film from the cheesy fake shark for more of the film.

Well, something must have worked. Jaws, a summer blockbuster that year, became the highest grossing film of all time in the States. Star Wars topped it in 1977.

Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, where the movie was filmed, did experience an increase in tourists following the film’s release. However, other seaside resorts did not fare so well that year. Overall, the holiday industry suffered as a result.

The movie undoubtedly rattled a few people. So how scary did Spielberg think Jaws was? Too much for a 13-year-old?

In an interview with Vanity Fair in 2008, Spielberg explains the dilemma of deciding when the time’s right for his own kids to enjoy some of his scarier work.

“I haven’t shown Jaws to my 10 or 11-year-old, and I won’t. I showed Jaws to Sawyer when he was, I think, 13. Because then they use the argument, ‘Dad, I was bar mitzvahed last week. Everybody said today I’m a man, and you still won’t let me see Jaws?’ Sometimes the kids outsmart me.”

Source: Articulate.

Seal meets Shark

Seal FAIL

Seal FAIL

Original post here: FAILpix.net

Shark in Venice Trailer – Airs 12/14 on Sci-Fi Channel

The fine folks who gave us Shark Attack, Shark Attack 2, Shark Attack 3: Megalodon, Shark Zone, and Raging Sharks are now giving us Shark in Venice, a motion picture that combines the absurd notion of a huge man-eating shark prowling the polluted waters of the Venice canals with the even more absurd notion that people want to watch movies starring Stephen Baldwin. The “film” also features Vanessa Johansson, older sister of Scarlet Johansson. Check it out for a laugh or two … Thanks to Sharknut for the heads up!

Shark in Venice airs on Sunday, December 14 on the Sci-Fi Channel at 9 pm CST

JAWS – Spielberg’s First Masterpiece

I found this interesting take on JAWS over at TrashCinemaClub.com. More praise for our favorite film — aside from the badmouthing of Quint, that is …

TRASH CINEMA ESSENTIAL MOVIE

Only his second feature film, Jaws cemented Steven Spielberg’s status as a great director in my mind. Jaws was also the first modern blockbuster, which helped to usher in the dreadful three-month wasteland of mindless action pictures and comedies known as the summer season, but I won’t hold that against it.

Jaws is thought of as a simple popcorn flick, but it’s much more than that. It has elements of horror, action/adventure, character-based drama, and political commentary. Jaws is a very rich film with a very simple premise.

A Great White shark has a midnight snack off the shores of Amity Island right before the summer tourist season. Police Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) concludes that a shark is loose and wants to close the beaches. He gets some opposition from Mayor Larry Vaughn (Murray Hamilton), who’s primary concern is the local tourist economy. Eventually, the town hires local fisherman Quint (Robert Shaw) to hunt down the shark. Brody and oceanographer Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) tag along.

Spielberg demonstrates his filmmaking mastery right off the bat with a late night party on the beach. He captures the spirit of the teen gathering in a way that doesn’t talk down to young people. This is important because we need to see the first victim as a flesh and blood human being, not merely a shark snack. The way the attack is filmed is bloodcurdling. Spielberg taps into the atavistic fear of what is unseen under the water by filming at water level. The performance of the young actress Susan Backlinie as the victim is fantastic and heartbreaking.

Back then, Spielberg’s mastery extended to character scenes as well. He economically sketches Chief Brody’s relationship with his wife and sons. Roy Scheider’s Brody comes off as a fully formed character. He’s sensitive, brave, self-doubting, righteous, and with a touch of wry humor. He’s a great hero, much more compelling than the usual monosyllabic slab of bulletproof machismo we’re accustomed to.

Oceanographer Matt Hooper shows up when he hears about the shark attacks, purely out of professional curiosity. Richard Dreyfuss makes him into a wonderful character. Hooper is brainy, combative, and has a sense of humor.

In fact, there is a lot of humor in Jaws. There are hilarious false alarms, mini-parodies of macho chest-beating, and swipes at the dopiness of human greed. Spielberg uses this humor not only to entertain us but to lull us into a false complacency before scaring the crap out of us yet again. He plays the audience like a Stradivarius.

The only character that’s problematic to a certain degree is Quint, the Great White shark hunter. Robert Shaw famously thought that the script for Jaws was a piece of #&*^ and it shows. Shaw condescends to the character and so Quint comes off as being corny. His portrayal doesn’t ruin Jaws, but it’s too bad Spielberg couldn’t get Lee Marvin, who was his first choice for Quint and probably would have played the role straight.

Murray Hamilton is wonderful as the smarmy mayor who wants to keep the beaches open. Hamilton was so effective that he became typecast in the role of the corrupt government bureaucrat who wants to preserve the status quo.

But as good as the dramatic and comedic elements are, the most impressive aspect of Jaws is Spielberg’s filmmaking prowess. Here’s a small example. In one scene, Brody is sitting in a lawn chair on the beach, trying to keep an eye on the water. Someone is talking to him. Spielberg uses a special lens with two magnifications on it, with the dividing line obscured by the waterline in the shot. The kid in the water that Brody is watching is magnified, mimicking Brody’s subjective reality. It’s just brilliant. And there’s examples like that all through the film.

The mechanical shark that Spielberg used on Jaws didn’t work most of the time, but Spielberg turns this to his advantage. He shows the shark very sparingly, which works out well because of the nature of man’s natural fear of sharks, part of which is you can’t see them most of the time because they are below the water. There’s one reveal of the shark which is just priceless, accompanied by a line, ad-libbed by Roy Scheider, which has made it into the popular consciousness — “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

Finally, I should mention composer John Williams famous score. When Williams first played the dum-dum…dum-dum theme for Spielberg on piano, Spielberg thought he was joking because the theme was so primitive. But that’s the point, isn’t it? The score is terrific and tragically one of the last great scores Williams would write. Basically, his theme for Star Wars would ruin him. After that, directors just wanted him to regurgitate variations of the same heroic claptrap, over and over again.

It would be hard to overstress how good Jaws is. The reason that it was critically undervalued at the time is because Spielberg made it look too easy. Jaws goes down as easily as a glass of Sangria. It’s so entertaining that it’s easy to miss how profoundly accomplished the filmmaking is. Jaws succeeds on every possible level and remains one of Spielberg’s very best films.

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Spielberg on Video Games – Pong, JAWS, Rock Band, Boom Blox

“I was making Jaws and living on Martha’s Vineyard. Somebody plugged in a coin op game called Pong at the merry-go-round in Oak Bluffs. I remember Richard Dreyfus and I, playing Pong together, got hooked. After shooting every day we’d come back and unwind by playing Pong. That got me into the whole videogaming world.”

One of this year’s best games is Boom Blox for the Nintendo Wii, which was conceived and designed by Steven Spielberg in collaboration with Electronic Arts. We got the chance to talk with the famed director about his motivation for making a game that didn’t tell a story, his own experience playing videogames, and his first glimpse of the videogame industry 35 years ago.

Can you tell me about the genesis of the idea you pitched to Electronic Arts that became Boom Blox?

After one of the meetings on our more complicated game I’m making, I was walking to my car with the team leader and I said I’ve got this idea for the Wii platform. I’d been so impressed with the interactivity it gives you, the rush where you’re the cause and you get to see the effect. So I pitched a game of just knocking blocks down. It’s a staple in every household, with three dimensional physical blocks. But it’s in all homes with kids and I thought it could be almost a sporting activity for the Wii. You would get awards based on a point system based on your skill.

I understand that you’ve been a Boom Blox household since your family was able to try a prototype early on. Is that correct?

That’s correct. My kids had a chance to not only tackle it, but to give me input.

What was their reaction when they first tried it?

They were late for dinner. We had to call them like five times to get them out of the family room to come eat. I figured at least I’d sold my family because I couldn’t get them out of the room.

In Boom Blox, some people are more inclined to knocking things over by throwing balls, and others like the mounting dread of the Jenga-like mode where you take out one piece at a time until it falls over. Do you have a favorite mode yourself?

My kids like to grab pieces and very carefully pull them out. But I like the knocking stuff down. I’d been playing blocks all my life with all seven of my kids as they were growing up. That’s how I came up with the game. That was going to be the draw, to get parents and kids in the same space together, finally playing a game together that would appeal to adults as well as kids…

Read the rest of the article here:  A Close Encounter with Steven Spielberg

30 years later, Gulf Breeze still recalls Jaws 2 excitement

This is Part 1 of 4 of a recent series of articles on the making of JAWS 2 by Betty Archer Allen that appeared in The Gulf Breeze News.  Links to parts 2-4 follow the article.  Thanks to Sean for the heads up about the articles.

The making of ‘Jaws2,’ the movie sequel to the mega-hit ‘Jaws,’ might have been old-hat movie making to the professionals involved, but for the residents of Gulf Breeze and Navarre, it was a real happening.

The movie came out in theaters in the summer of 1978. The excitement for the Gulf Breeze area, however, was experienced during fall and winter of 1977-1978 when Hollywood filmmakers and movie stars descended on the Emerald Coast to film the suspense thriller.

So many local lives were affected. Area residents, including students from Gulf Breeze High School, were hired as extras. It was exciting as locals anticipated being seen worldwide on the silver screen.

Universal Studios scouted the Emerald Coast to determine which area was best suited for filming. It found Navarre Beach to be ideal, and the Holiday Inn “Holidome” was more than suitable for film headquarters because of its relatively remote location.

Darryl Lapointe, now President of the Highpoint Hotel Corporation, was general manager of the Holiday Inn at that time. Universal rented 100 of the hotel’s 200 rooms. The ground floor was converted to offices, and some of the Gulf-front suites were remodeled for stars David Brown and Roy Scheider.

“The film cast and crew came expecting to complete the project in a few months and stayed a year,” Lapointe said. “Their room bill was $1 million.”

The Gulf Breeze community became involved when the movie company advertised locally, seeking anyone who was interested in taking part in the movie to complete an application that was provided in some of the local motels.

Photos of the young actors were published in the local newspaper in hopes of finding look-alikes who could act as stand-ins or doubles.

Students — especially members of the band from Gulf Breeze High School — and people who could maintain and sail boats, families who could spend ample time on the beach and local boating businesses participated in the production.

Sequel to ’75 film

‘Jaws 2’ was the first sequel to the ‘Jaws’ thriller of 1975 directed by Steven Spielberg. The primary director of ‘Jaws2’ was Jeannot Szwarc. The film was produced by Richard Zanuck and David Brown.

Parts of the movie, particularly the community scenes, were filmed at Martha’s Vineyard — renamed Amity Island — in Massachusetts. Many of the water scenes, however, were shot locally. Navarre Beach was chosen for the majority of filming because of the mild fall and winter climate and the ideal depth of the water.

Other parts of the movie were filmed from Fort Pickens on Santa Rosa Island to as far east as Choctawhatchee Bay near Fort Walton Beach. Hog’s Breath Saloon on Okaloosa Island, which has since relocated to Destin, served as the teen hangout for filming.

Many of the characters of ‘Jaws’ returned for ‘Jaws2.’ Three major actors resumed their roles: Roy Scheider as Chief Martin Brody; Lorraine Gary as Ellen, Brody’s wife; and Murray Hamilton as Mayor Vaughn. Mark Gruner and Marc Gilpin played Brody’s sons, Mike and Sean.

The plot of ‘Jaws2′ was similar to its predecessor. Scheider’s character, Martin Brody, felt that several recent deaths and disappearances in the vicinity of Amity Island indicated that another great white shark was plaguing surrounding waters again. But as before, he had difficulty convincing the town’s mayor and aldermen, who were more interested in promoting the growth of the area and didn’t want anything to interfere with tourists’ and summer dwellers’ enjoyment of beach and water activities.

The film’s tagline, “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water” became one of the most famous sayings in movie history.

Universal was able to reuse the molds of the behemoth shark from the first film, but much of the mechanism was ruined from having been left outside. For ‘Jaws2,’ the studio built three mechanical sharks: the platform shark, a fin, and a full shark. The fin and the full shark were pulled by boats.

The company built props to enhance the scenes and make the Navarre area look more like the East Coast. They built a full-size lighthouse prop that looked genuine despite having only one side; a wood-framed skeleton of 2-by-4s supported the building. They also built an island on a floating barge called Cable Junction. It was constructed in such a way that the huge mechanism of the platform shark could go underneath it. This island can be best seen in the final scenes of the movie.

Like the first film, the production was marked by problems. Scheider often argued with Szwarc, which made the atmosphere tense and uncertain. Scheider was not happy about reprising his role as Brody and making the sequel. He disagreed with Szwarc’s directing and was quite open in his differences of opinion.

Locals remember Scheider as being something of a fitness fanatic, working out during breaks.
Szwarc responded that he was trying to make the film to the “best possible” standard, and neither Scheider’s or Szwarc’s feelings were important; only the film mattered.

There were many delays in filming because of breakdowns of the mechanical shark, minor boating accidents and Mother Nature. Shortly after construction of the lighthouse was completed, it was hit by lightning and had to be rebuilt.

Wind and weather conditions constantly changed, resulting in the sailboats getting blown in different directions. There were many days when there could be no shooting at all. But when the cast and crew worked, they put in long, hard hours.

Dollars flow locally

The making of this film was a boost to the local economy because local boaters, extras and stand-ins or doubles were hired. Universal brought in actors, directors, producers and their wives, camera and crew people who needed housing, food and clothing for the movie. Services were needed for laundry, dry-cleaning and recreation.

In 1977, Ed Gray III of Gulf Breeze was manager of what’s now known as SunTrust Bank on Hoffman Drive. He recalled that the bank received a phone call from Holidome management alerting the bank that someone from the movie company would be coming to see them.

An elderly gentleman visited the bank and identified himself as the on-site auditor for Universal Studios. He said he needed a local bank where he could get a $40,000 check cashed each week. The cash needed to be in specified denominations and placed in a paper bag to be taken to the film location and disbursed to each member of the film crew and cast as the per-diem money to purchase meals or other necessities.

This routine went on for many weeks.

“Today and certainly more so in those days, $40,000 was a big sum to be carrying in cash,” Gray said. “The auditor normally would have at least two big guys accompanying him, and he was inconspicuous during his visit to the bank.”

Gray said the two boys playing the roles of the police chief’s sons came to open accounts at the bank. They wanted local accounts for routine spending.

“During the course of the account opening, they began to debate which of them had more acting experience and which one had appeared in more commercials as this was the first movie appearance for each of them,” Gray chuckled.

Continue reading with the links below

:

JAWS 2 Part II

JAWS 2 Part III

JAWS 2 Part IV

The Indispensibles #2 – JAWS

The first time I heard about Jaws, or at least what I thought was Jaws, was in the playground at school. I was ten. Someone in the year above me was telling me it was the “scariest film ever”. They went on to describe to me how a shark terrorised a group of stranded teenagers whose boats had run aground and then went on to eat an entire helicopter.  I couldn’t compute that this “horror” film about a helicopter-eating shark was by the same guy who made E.T The Extra Terrestrial, my then favourite film of all time!  I begged my parents to hunt it out and show it to me! I cried for like a week (well, maybe ten minutes) when they refused on the grounds that a) I was ten and too young to be watching people getting eaten by sharks and b) my sister had a devastatingly annoying fear of sharks and I was only allowed to watch films we would both enjoy – with that in mind, how I ended up sitting through Adventures in Babysitting and Dirty Dancing, I do not know.

Thanks to a friend’s irresponsible parents though, I soon found myself sitting down to watch a copy of this much touted “horror” film one rainy Saturday afternoon.  My ten year old mind walked away from my first ever viewing of the film somewhat disappointed to find out that it was in fact Jaws 2 that held the delights of helicopters getting eaten by sharks, teenagers getting munched from their stranded sailboats and so on and so forth.  Damn that irresponsibly inaccurate playground blabbermouth!  As a schlocky piece of horror for a pre-teen frame of mind, Jaws is disappointingly bloodless for the majority of its running time.  However, it is indeed a film that you grow into loving with age. Ten year olds are not meant to be impressed by Quint’s ‘Indianapolis’ monologue or the now famous reverse zoom shot of Brody on the beach, spotting what he thinks is a shark zoning in on swimming tourists.  With time comes a mature understanding of those long boat-bound scenes between three great character actors, an appreciation for the setting up of an action sequence as opposed to the actual sequence itself and a true love of John Williams’ superb score (one of the greatest of all time!), outside of that infamous three-note signature piece.

So how did this three-men-versus-a-giant-rubber-shark movie come to be held in such high regard by a man, who two decades earlier bemoaned that it was “not as good as BMX Bandits”? To explain that I have to take you back, unfortunately for tangent-haters, to 1974.

Now, you need to bear with me on this because the history of the making of Jaws and how it came to be is just as famous as the film itself. It’s also one that pretty much everyone knows about. So why am I detailing? Because, it’s just so much f$cking fun for a fan to write about it!

Spielberg, the now legendary director, had seen the early proof-reads of Peter Benchley’s bestseller on the desk of producer David Brown and had asked what it was about, naively believing at first – thanks to the mocked-up cover of a bikini-clad babe splashing around in the ocean (no shark in sight) – that it was about a “pornographic dentist” (I kid you not!).  Brown explained the concept to him in a manner that can only be described as the absolute opposite of ‘high art’.  “It’s about a shark that eats people!” Yet it was so much more than that. Well, actually maybe the book itself wasn’t (it isn’t, believe me!) but the eventual film would indeed be – and then some:

Amity Island, on the East Coast of America, is plagued by attacks on swimmers by a twenty-eight foot great white shark. Mayor Larry Vaughn (Murray Hamilton) would like to keep the whole thing quiet so that the all important tourist season – and the money that rolls in from it – remains unaffected but Police Chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) disagrees. Soon the brutal attacks get to the stage where the shark cannot be ignored and Brody, despite his general hatred of the water, teams up with Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss), a marine biologist, and a mysterious old sea salt of a shark hunter called Quint (Robert Shaw) to go catch the shark and stop its feeding frenzy once and for all. However, once out in the middle of the ocean the hunters become the hunted…

Read the rest of the article here:  The Indispensibles #2 – JAWS

Get Sharkwater (and others) on Blu-ray for $9.99


Although I haven’t seen it yet, the highly regarded, award-winning 2007 documentary Sharkwater is available on blu-ray for just $9.99 while supplies last.  It’s part of iNetVideo.com’s early Black Friday sale. You can check out the trailer below.

“The anti-JAWS, this documentary from Rob Stewart demonstrates importance of sharks to the world’s ecosystems. SHARKWATER shows the truth about the sea creatures, including the horrific practice of shark finning that threatens the animal’s existence.”

You can buy Sharkwater here:  Sharkwater for $9.99

iNetVideo.com has a bunch of other blu-ray discs on sale, too, including:

Full list:  Blu-ray Black Friday Blowout

Sharkwater Trailer

Quint Caricature

I found a nice caricature of Quint as he sat in front of the Amity town council. Evidently it was published in the April 2008 issue of Paracinema magazine. The artist of the sketch is Dan Springer.

More info here:

Caricature King: Quint


100 Greatest Movie Lines – JAWS is only #41?

Premiere Magazine just put out its list of the 100 Greatest Movie Lines. It’s no surprise that a line from our beloved JAWS was in the list, but only at #41?!?! This is a travesty! Well, at least they said “You’re” instead of “We’re”.

41. “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.” — Brody (Roy Scheider) in Jaws (1975)

Check out the full list here:

Premiere: 100 Greatest Movie Lines

Agree, disagree with their choices?  Post any glaring omissions in the comments.  Personally, I think a line from the The Big Lebowski (1998) should have been in the list:  “Nobody f*cks with the Jesus!

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