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Jaws (1975) - Illustrated Reference
Jaws was directed by Steven Spielberg. It premiered on the 20th of June 1975. Starring Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss, Lorraine Gray and Murray Hamilton. Screenplay by Peter Benchley and Carl Gottlieb, based on the novel by Peter Benchley. Music by John Williams. 124mins.
Amity Island. A young woman is attacked and killed by a shark while swimming, her remains are found on the beach. Police chief Martin Brody wants the beaches closed until the shark is caught. Mayor Larry Vaughn does not agree saying that it was probably a propeller accident and that closing the beaches would stop tourists from arriving at the island. When a child is killed near the beach a reward is offered to whoever finds and kills the shark.
Steven Spielberg (1946-) had directed the acclaimed TV movie Duel in 1971, which was about a murderous truck driver terrorising Dennis Weaver. The film was so effective it received a theatrical release in Europe.
Producers Richard Zanuck and David Brown purchased the movie rights to Peter Benchley’s novel about a killer shark for $175,000. One of the directors they approached kept referring to the shark as “the whale” which irritated the producers and he was given the boot.
In June 1973 27 year old Steven Spielberg signed on to direct the film that would change his life.
Brody: You're gonna need a bigger boat.
Roy Scheider (1932-2008) / Police Chief Martin Brody of the fictional summer resort of Amity Island. Brody finds the remains of Chrissie Watkins on the beach and calls in marine biologist Matt Hooper to help him identify the cause of death. Charlton Heston was considered for the role.
Born in New Jersey, the late Roy Scheider had also starred in films like Marathon Man (1976), Sorcerer (1977), Jaws 2 (1978), Blue Thunder (1983) and 2010 (1984). He was Oscar nominated Best Supporting Actor for The French Connection (1971) and a Best Actor nomination for All That Jazz (1979). He also played Captain Nathan Bridger in the TV series SeaQuest 2032 (1993-1995) produced by Steven Spielberg.
Quint: You know, the thing about a shark... he's got lifeless eyes. Black eyes. Like a doll's eyes. When he comes at ya, doesn't seem to be living... until he bites ya, and those black eyes roll over white.
Robert Shaw (1927-1978) / Sam Quint a professional shark hunter, he asks for $10,000 to catch the shark “for that you get the head, the tail the whole damn thing”. Brody and Hooper join Quint on his boat the Orca.
Born in Lancashire, England, Robert Shaw, a respected stage and film actor and novelist, received Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for Best Supporting Actor for his role of Henry VIII in A Man for all Seasons (1966).
Shaw also played one of the best James Bond villains Red Grant in From Russia With Love (1963). Other films include Battle of the Bulge (1965), Battle of Britain (1969), The Sting (1973), The Taking of Pelham 123 (1974), The Deep (1977) and Black Sunday (1977).
Hooper: Mr. Vaughn, what we are dealing with here is a perfect engine, an eating machine. It's really a miracle of evolution. All this machine does is swim and eat and make little sharks, and that's all. Now, why don't you take a long, close look at this sign. Those proportions are correct.
Mayor Vaughn: Love to prove that, wouldn't ya? Get your name into the National Geographic.
Richard Dreyfuss (1947-) / marine biologist Matt Hooper, examining the remains of Chrissie Watkins he turns and says “This is not a boat accident! And it wasn't any propeller; and it wasn't any coral reef; and it wasn't Jack the Ripper! It was a shark.” He joins Brody and Quint on the Orca to hunt for the predator.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, Dreyfuss won an Oscar for Best Actor for The Goodbye Girl (1977) and was nominated for Mr. Holland’s Opus (1995). He received a British Academy Award nomination for his role of Hooper in Jaws. He starred in two more films for Spielberg, Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) and Always (1989).
Lorraine Gary (1937-) / Ellen Brody, wife of Martin Brody.
Born in New York City, Lorraine is married to one time movie mogul Sid Sheinberg. She reprised the role of Ellen Brody in Jaws 2 (1978) and Jaws the Revenge (1987). She also appeared in Spielberg’s 1941 (1979).
Murray Hamilton (1923-1986) / Mayor Larry Vaughn, he refuses to close the beaches after the shark kills two people because it would scare off tourists coming to the island especially during the busy 4th of July celebrations.
Born in North Carolina, Murray Hamilton was best known as the husband of Mrs. Robinson in the 1967 blockbuster The Graduate before taking up the role of Mayor Vaughn. He reprised the role in Jaws 2 (1978) and has also appeared in WWII comedy 1941 (1979).
The mechanical shark used in the film was named Bruce (after Spielberg’s lawyer). The shark was always malfunctioning and Spielberg was deeply frustrated calling it the ‘Great White Turd’. But this worked to the films advantage as the shark was kept off screen most of the time generating much suspense and jolting the audience when it did appear.
It was a problem-plagued shoot which went over budget and lasted 159 days instead of the scheduled 55. The frustrated crew nicknamed the film “Flaws”.
Hooper: That's a twenty footer.
Quint: Twenty-five. Three tons of him.
The predator in the film is a great white shark – Carcharadon Carcharias – 25ft and 3 tons according to Quint in the film. A great white caught in New Brunswick, Canada was 37ft long.
In the novel by Peter Benchley (1940-2006) Matt Hooper was having an affair with Brody’s wife, and at the climax he gets eaten by the shark when it smashes it's way into his shark cage.
Also in the novel - Quint drowns when his foot gets tangled in some rope and gets pulled under by the shark. The shark heads towards Brody but dies from harpoon and gunshot wounds just feet away from him. Brody paddles back to shore on a makeshift raft.
Peter Benchley can be seen in the film as a reporter talking to the camera on the beach. Benchley’s dream cast for the movie would have been Paul Newman, Robert Redford and Steve McQueen.
Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts was the setting for Amity Island. Martha's Vineyard celebrated the 30th anniversary of Jaws in June 2005 with a weekend-long Jawsfest.
Hooper: You were on the Indianapolis?
Brody: What happened?
Quint: Japanese submarine slammed two torpedoes into our side, Chief. We was comin' back from the island of Tinian to Leyte... just delivered the bomb. The Hiroshima bomb.
Robert Shaw rewrote Quint’s USS Indianapolis speech and the screenwriters agreed that it was better than the one they had prepared.
The USS Indianapolis was hit by Japanese torpedoes and sunk in July 1945, 880 men survived the sinking but were left floating in the water for days before rescue came. Only 321 were rescued, most of the others were eaten by sharks in what was to be the worst case of shark attacks on humans in recorded history.
Lee Marvin and Sterling Hayden were Spielberg’s original choices for Quint. Marvin turned him down and Hayden was in trouble with the inland revenue at the time.
Richard Dreyfuss wasn’t having a great time filming, Robert Shaw could not stand him and there was tension between the two. But this worked well for the characters on screen.
According to the Jaws documentary on the DVD the shooting stars seen during night scenes at sea were the real thing and not an optical effect.
The shock scare of Ben Gardner’s half eaten head popping out from the hole in the sunken boat was added to the film after Spielberg saw people jumping out of their seats when the shark suddenly rose up out of the water at a preview screening. He wanted to include another scare earlier in the movie.
When the shark gets tangled up in Hooper’s cage the footage was of a real shark thrashing about. It was filmed by Ron and Valerie Taylor. If you look carefully the real shark has a smaller head than the mechanical shark used in the film.
The dinosaur like noise the shark makes after it’s blown up and sinks into the sea is the same noise used when the truck falls over the cliff in Spielberg’s Duel (1971). It was originally the roar of the gill-man from Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954).
Jaws is ranked #56 on the American Film Institute’s 100 Greatest Films list (Citizen Kane is #1). It is #2 on AFI’s 100 Most Thrilling American Films (Hitchcock’s Psycho was #1) John Williams score is ranked #6 on the AFI’s 25 Greatest Scores list (Star Wars is #1) and the shark is #18 on the AFI’s 50 Greatest Villains list (Hannibal Lecter is #1).
Jaws was nominated for four Oscars, winning three – Best Music, Best Editing and Best Sound. Nominated for Best Picture losing to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Spielberg was snubbed in the directing category, but he did get a nomination for his next film Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977).
Jaws was a phenomenal success on release in the summer of 1975, the first film to gross more than $100m in its initial release in the US, going on to become the most successful film of all time, it was a global success. Shark mania was everywhere, people were buying posters, magazines, books, toys, anything shark related they can get their hands on. I still have Jaws poster magazines from that time.
Beach attendances were down everywhere, people were too frightened to go swimming in the sea after watching the film.
Three sequels followed Jaws 2 (1978), Jaws 3-D (1983) and Jaws the Revenge (1987) which is generally considered to be one of the worst movies ever made.
Hooper: [singing] Show me the way to go home, I'm tired and I want to go to bed...
Hooper, Quint, Brody: I had a little drink about an hour ago and it got right to my head. Wherever I may roam by land or sea or foam...
Jaws is an enduring classic thriller, still popular and on many favourite movie lists, mine included.
The Critics Wrote –
"Peter Benchley's bestseller about a killer shark and a tourist beach town has become a film of consummate suspense, tension and terror. The Universal release looks like a torrid moneymaker everywhere." (Variety)
"By far the best nature retribution film since The Birds. The fun and tension are constant, there are thrills, there are terrifying scenes and there is humour. First attack is a shocker and the entire boat sequence is nerve-wracking. Solid performances from the three leads give this film real class." (Danny Peary)
"May be the most cheerfully perverse scare movie ever made." (Pauline Kael)
"You need a strong stomach to sit through the film. It clenches you in its ferocious teeth from the second it opens and never lets up." (Daily Express)
“One hell of a good story, brilliantly told.” (Roger Ebert)
"Director Steven Spielberg caused as many people to stay out of the water as Alfred Hitchcock did with his Psycho shower scene. Today the film still stands as one of the best of its kind... the casting here is perfect, and all production credits are terrific." (The Motion Picture Guide)
“Maybe it’s just a monster movie reminiscent of all those ‘50s sci-fi films, but it’s at least endowed with intelligent characterisation, a lack of sentimentality and it really is frightening.” (Geoff Andrew, Time Out)
"Though it hardly merits its meteoric rise to the status of No. 1 box-office attraction of all time, Jaws is a perfectly acceptable, and sometimes genuinely exciting, entry in the disaster stakes." (Monthly Film Bulletin)
“The perfect movie for anyone with a larger-than-life castration complex.” (Woman's Wear Daily)