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Jaws | JAWSmovie.com - Part 5

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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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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

JAWS The Exhibition 08

Just over a year ago I was approached about setting up an exhibition here in Liverpool based on items in my JAWS collection, I was heading to America around the time and the franchise owners had other events to arrange so the idea was put on ice until this year.

Microzine is a hip men’s store in heart of Liverpool which also has a London outlet, it was voted the top UK store for gents gadgets and design and has held exhibitions featuring work from the likes of Jamie Reid (Sex Pistols graphic designer) and high profile fashion shows featuring among others Stella McCartney’s fashion range.

http://www.microzine.co.uk/index.do

The event lasted a month and ran throughout August 2008 and a limited range of memorabilia was produced to tie in with the event. It was whirlwind of a month but a satisfying one as the event proved to be a huge success and it was amazing how much interest there still is in “the” big fish movie.

Here is a selection of images from the VIP launch night from various sources along with some articles and images of the exhibition itself, I hope you enjoy them.

Microzine’s streaming slideshow
http://www.flickr.com/photos/29309095@N03/sets/72157606571532870/show/

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One of the TV items that covered the event

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/7538317.stm

and one of the press items that appeared

http://www.byinvitationonly.merseyblogs.co.uk/2008/08/just-when-you-thought-it-was-s.html

Sadly I couldn’t make it to the Vineyard this year but this event more than made up for it and kept me occupied, another great JAWS year.

Ed

In The Crates (A Collecting JAWS Thread) Dedicated to Wullie

I first posted this collecting thread around this time last year on Jawsmovie and Spielberg films, I originally dedicated the topic to our dear departed friend Wullie who sadly passed away nearly a year ago now, I thought I’d post this again in memory of the gentleman and hopefully for your interest.

(as posted in 2007)

So a long overdue clearout at home commenced this fall and was closely followed by a period of decorating hell. I knew amid the mayhem that I would eventually need to move and re house a lot of my JAWS collection… a task not for the faint of heart.

I photographed some stages of the adventure so join me (you don’t have to take me by the hand) for a rare glimpse into my own JAWS vaults…

Until recently much of my collection that is actually stored at home lived stacked in tough cardboard boxes which were fine for storage, but I needed something more organised for the occasions I need to refer to material for a JAWS related project or to answer enquiries which I often receive.
I invested in a number of plastic crates and decided to give them a rough storage crate “identity”. I scanned and cleaned up the logo from the cover of the original UK JAWS paperback (sorry Lou ) as this was the typeface I most associate with from the original JAWS era, I produced a large stencil from this and sprayed a rough and ready logo on each crate. After coming down from the high from the fumes I set working through much of my collection and deciding which items would live together.

Magazines, Stills and Press Materials:

These items are the easiest to store but command the most protection due of course to the nature of paper ageing. It was a cert that I would be heavily distracted during this section of the move, but what a distraction it was! It was a delight to flick through the related magazines and press releases etc from the period. Viewing all these together in such a concentrated manner drove home just how big business JAWS really was during that initial Summer of the Shark and of course the summers that followed.

Out of interest I store the vast majority of my magazines and press materials in individual plastic bags with the rarer publications toughened by card backing.

Books, books and more books:

Over the years I’ve accumulated a variety of worldwide JAWS novels, most covers carry the usual and classic Kastel art, some though feature nice variations of this iconic image and several feature totally unrelated art and are often pretty wacky in their design. Alongside the variations of the novel are the worldwide variations of the “The Making of JAWS” and “The JAWS LOG”, along with several other tie in/shark paperbacks from the era. My books are bagged individually.

Toys, Games and Kits:

The storage of these items of memorabilia is a minefield, rare kits, ceramics, pendants etc sit alongside less rare items, I choose to store these items quite randomly concentrating on saving space but of course assuring rarer items aren’t crushed or damaged. I also store various VHS editions of JAWS with these larger items.

LPs and Laserdiscs:

One of the easiest storage options, an aluminium album case is ideal for housing not only worldwide variations of the JAWS soundtrack, but also the unboxed Laserdisc sets, the larger Signature Editions are stored separately.

Worldwide Posters/FOH Stills/Oversised Promo Materials:

I find large toughened card envelopes provide good storage for my range of folded posters, lobbies etc, whilst tough card tubes protect the rolled posters.
Oddly enough I don’t currently display any JAWS posters at home, but this is likely to change in the near future once home improvements finish and I may also need to refer to my worldwide posters for a totally different reason but more of that at a future date*.

* this was in reference to the JAWS Exhibition which eventually took place in August 2008.

Those special items:

Gifts from JAWS fans and film crew alike come in all shapes and sizes… The Chrissie Arm prop from Greg Nicotero, a chunk of the Orca 2’s fibreglass hull from Lynn and Susan Murphy, a chunk of the Spielberg Cabin from Dana… these and more unique items don’t currently have a special box of their own (perhaps they should), and I store the more unique items like everything else, safe but with an eye for storage space.

Many larger items in my collection are stored at my brother’s place so this really is only a peek at my collection but I thought it’d be fun to record the move and share, I hope you enjoyed taking a look in the crates.

I’ve dedicated this thread to Wullie, he used to love talking JAWS collecting and I know he’d have appreciated such a thread.

(18/11/2008)

Well it’s almost a year since we lost our good friend Wullie. Wul was only 42 when he died suddenly, hailing from Scotland he was a fellow JAWS collector and good and generous friend, he’d often ask me for collecting advice and offer to stir clear of an ebay auction if he knew one of the regulars wanted an item, I told his family that I would be including a number of items from the man’s collection in my JAWS exhibition this year in his memory as it was something I wanted to do.
Sadly Wul was one of the JAWS gents I never got to meet in person, I will be up in Scotland for a wedding next Summer and had the man still been with us then I believe that would have been opportunity I wished for but sadly it is not to be, this one was for you Wul, you’re missed mate.

Ed

Review of The JAWS Log

Writer/actor Carl Gottlieb tells the entertaining story of how Jaws made its torturous, and now legendary, journey from the pages of a best-selling novel to movie theater screens across the United States and cinema history.

It’s embarrassing for me to admit that it has taken me 33 years to get around to reading Carl Gottlieb’s The Jaws Log, a behind-the-scenes journal of the making of what I consider to be the greatest movie ever made.

Full article here:

Chadzilla ROARS: The JAWS Log


Deliverance Poster — Does This Look Familiar?

Thanks to Mike and Dave, a couple of my Facebook friends and members of the JAWSmovie community, this one-sheet for Deliverance (1972) bears a striking resemblance to the original iconic one-sheet for JAWS. Perhaps original poster artist Roger Kastel was inspired by the redneck-laden film that came out three years before JAWS?

Maybe this guy knows:

JAWS in American Cinematographer – July 1975

Here’s an article that appeared in the July 1975 issue of American Cinematographer magazine, entitled, “Making it in Film”:

JAWS in 30 Seconds With Bunnies

This has been out for a while, but new visitors to the site likely have not seen it. Flash animator Jennifer Shaiman started out with The Exorcist in 30 Seconds with Bunnies in 2005 and it became on online phenomenon. More “Bunnies” shorts followed, including our favorite movie, JAWS. We tried VERY hard to be able to interview Jennifer for TSISW and to put a clip of the short in the documentary, but it unfortunately did not work out. Check out the short below:

You can also view the short (and many more) on Jennifer’s site, Angry Alien Productions.

Bad Hat Harry Productions

Over at Shark In A Bottle, there’s a new post up about Bad Hat Harry Productions, which is famous JAWS fan Bryan Singer’s production company. Singer, director of The Usual Suspects, X-Men and Superman Returns did a memorable interview for us for The Shark is Still Working.

You can view it on our Video Page.

Check out the Bad Hat Harry Post over at Shark In A Bottle.

Jaws, Raiders Among Empire’s Top 500

Several Spielberg films made Empire Magazine’s Top 500 films of all time.  The list was compiled from numerous film critics, film makers, and film fans from across the country sending in there top 10 favorite film titles.  Though some were questionable, such as how The Thin Red Line could be so far up ahead of Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan, others were dead on.  Two of Spielberg’s films made the top 5, with Jaws placing fifth and Raiders of the Lost Ark placing 2nd, beaten only by his friend Francis Ford Copolla’s The Godfather, which was a no-brainer.

Other Spielberg films to make the list included all three Indiana Jones sequels, Close Encounters, Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List, and ET.  Other Spielberg-produced films made the list, including the first two Back to the Future films, Men in Black, and Gremlins.

Full Story at Empireonline

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