Steven Spielberg’s JAWS (1975) was as much of an epic film at the time of debut as it is today. Now over thirty years later, it is as fun to watch as ever. Of course you know what Jaws looks like. Of course you are familiar with the classic “dun-dun-dun” of Jaws mighty theme music as he slithers through the New York waters of Amity Island. Stop however, and think for a moment as to what it was like the first time you saw the ocean turn a murky blood red or arms flailing wildly above the surface. The first real shudder that ran down your spine after you went out to the beach on a warm Fourth of July day.
Throughout Jaws, one is introduced to several main characters who call Amity Harbor home. The Chief of Police is Martin Brody (Roy Scheider), a man with a chip on his shoulder and something to prove. Throughout the movie, it is mentioned on how much Martin hates the water, yet finds himself living on an island. Nevertheless, that is ok; Martin has just the cure for that, “It’s only an island when you look at it from the water”. Touché` Martin Brody, touché`. Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) is a faculty member from the oceanographic institute. Rich from family fortunes, he contributes to JAWS by bringing common sense, factual objectivity and cold hard questions that keep people like Martin Brody on his toes. Quint (Robert Shaw), his last name is never given, is an angler with a troubled past. Slowly throughout the film, you learn of exactly why this is, but it is fair to say it results in a particularly heart-wrenching and raw look into the human psyche that may very well be burned into my soul until the day I die. Finally, I bring you the Mayor. Consider everything that you know regarding your average, sleazy, no good dealing, money hungry, popularity contest winning politician and you have the Mayor of Amity Island. At several junctures in the film, it is very clearly explained to the Mayor of the dangers and issues involved with not closing down the beaches leading up to and during the Fourth of July celebrations. The Mayor however would rather produce profit than protect citizens and continually sends innocent swimmers to their doom with his greed.
Mr. Spielberg did not just slap this movie together and call it gold. This was not some accident that just happened to come out with a beautiful ending either. Rock solid gold plated planning and concentration went into JAWS to produce possibly the best film ever to acquire a PG rating since Mickey Rooney danced off the stage in the 1941 hit Andy Hardy’s Private Secretary. Camera angle played a large part in setting the mood for Jaws. The first several minutes are spent looking at a black screen while whale songs play through the opening credits. Next however, you are hit forcefully by the now classic “JAWS Theme”. Another worth mentioning scene is early in the film when a camera high on a hill overlooks several youths at a seaside bonfire. Below them, you can see the empty coastline and tranquil dark ocean. This of course, allows for a foreshadowing of possible Jaws related mishaps and mayhem. Easily however, the most recognizable combination of sound and camera angle come from scenes involving the victims of Jaws mere moments before they become consumed with the rage Jaws carried with him, both literally and figuratively.
However, JAWS was not just flashy camera angles and a carefully thought out soundtrack. One of the most notable homage’s to literature within JAWS was the Ahab-Moby Dick relationship that Quint experienced with Jaws. This particular reference was eventually brought out near the end of the film where Quint, Martin Brody and Matt Hooper exchange stories to relax after hunting Jaws prior in the day. Quint begins by telling Martin and Matt that he was on the submarine during World War II that delivered the bomb that eventually dropped on Hiroshima. On the way back from this, they were struck by enemy fire and left in the water to drown. Shortly before dusk, sharks began to appear in the area and one by one picked off Quint’s unit. From over 1100 men, only 396 survived. From Ahab to Quint, Moby to Jaws, man and beast met each other together in the end.
At the movies conclusion, as one could imagine, Martin Brody and Matt Hooper were able to destroy Jaws and save the town of Amity from another horror that Mother Nature had leashed upon them. This was also actually the first time I had ever watched Jaws. Despite this, graphics looked reasonably real, dialogue still stands strong thirty-two years later, camera angles helped set the mood respectably and the soundtrack still strikes a chord, despite being one of the most recognizable movements in the past century. Would I see it again? You bet I would. Would I see the sequel, Jaws 2? Most likely not, I mean come on seriously, a sequel?