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Jaws (1975)

November 3, 2010

10/10 Bigger Boats

Dude. It’s Jaws.

Jaws is about a big-ass great white shark that somehow finds its way to a quaint little Long Island beach town and starts eatin’ up swimmers like gangbusters in the days leading up to Fourth of July weekend. The chief of police wants the beach closed down, the idiot mayor fights him tooth and nail, a marine biologist rolls into town and tells the mayor he’s a fuckin’ moron, and then more folks get turned into hot lunch. Eventually things get so bad that they all decide the best course of action is to hire the shadiest buccaneer in the bay, take this fight to seas and turn this 25-foot sonofabitch into a shark sandwich.

I feel nothing but pure, cold shame for not writing up a single horror review over the entire span of October this year, but since this past weekend was the first time that my good buddy Fred and I actually came to the conclusion that if I wasn’t gonna man up and go trick-or-treating in my Dora the Explorer costume, something had to be done about this elephant in the room if. So I figured I had to make it a classic. And if anyone out there thinks that this isn’t a horror movie, brother, you are NUTS!

So Duel might have gotten him noticed, but this is what put Spielberg on the map. Didn’t take long for him to become Hollywood royalty as a result, but as misguided and easy as it is to call the guy a “hack”, the fact of the matter is that he’s just damn good at what he does and that’s why his movies make bank. His pacing is out of sight, he never moves the threat level outside of flaming hot crimson even when the shark isn’t around, and even though I’ve only heard stories, I can only imagine what a pain in the ass it must have been to make this movie. All the more reason why the finished product is that much more impressive.

Then again, he should probably be thanking his lucky stars that the machine used to operate the shark was a total piece of crap because half the reason this all works as well as it does goes back to us not even getting to see the damn fish ’til the last half-hour. But other than that fluke, Steve gets it done like a pro. From that horrifying music to the vague glimpses we’re provided of the shark’s leftovers, man, Steverino clearly knows a thing or two about tingling spines.

And even though the fish looks pretty dated these days once he starts belly-flopping onto the stern of the Orca, he’s pretty damn convincing under water. Also love the way Spielberg goes back and forth between the model and actual shark footage in certain scenes like when Hooper has the bright idea to try and poison the damn man-eater through a cage made out of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Anyone have any clues as to why he holds the spear outside of the cage? Yeah, that was a unusually dumb move.

But it doesn’t hurt that Steve’s got a trio of outrageously badass actors and characters to work with. Roy Scheider is great as water-phobic police chief Brody, Richard Dreyfuss is kind of the man as out-of-town fish nerd, Hooper, and Robert Shaw – hot off the heels of his insanely cool turn in The Taking of Pelham One Two Three – is just plain epic as 20th Century Ahab/proud Narragansett Beer spokesman, Quint. You got your brains, your brawn and your average joe, they are no effing joke, and I can’t remember the last time I saw a movie with three leads as hardcore and cool as these guys. And better yet, they’re all a blast to be around. They’re all totally fleshed out and unique, they’ve all got their own hang-ups and back stories (how about that “Anyway, we delivered the bomb” story of Quint’s?), and they’re not just chum for the taking, they’re genuine comrades through and through.

Alright, this movie just rocks, but one of my favorite movie memories was actually the first time I ever saw this, so it’s got that nostalgia factor going, too. I was in middle school, maybe 11 or 12, rented this on a lazy weekend, started watching it by myself in broad daylight in a room lined with floor-to-ceiling windows and tucked myself under an afghan on the couch so my eyes could barely see the screen. Clearly, I was ready, I was one hardcore mofo. The movie starts, the skinny dipping hippie gets it, no big deal. I feel so badass that I consider getting a tattoo, probably tribal. Then I’m fifteen minutes in and I witness this a-hole shark completely pass by the morbidly obese lady floating around in her tube and go straight for pruny little Alex on his dinky yellow raft. Before I know it, there’s blood everywhere, the raft is torn to shreds, Alex’s mom is a mess, and I am flat-out terrified. Without thinking twice, I lunge for the remote, jam on the STOP button and immediately fast-forward to the very end just to see how the shark dies. And, yes, the ending is as awesome as they come and if I hadn’t been so shell-shocked by the whole experience I probably would have cheered out loud, but no movie has ever had the same paralyzing effect on me that Jaws did.

With that being said, it is no surprise whatsoever that 35 years later this movie is still scaring the bejesus out of folks and making them think twice about taking a bath let alone cooling off in the ocean. Yeah, it’s more of a thriller than anything else, but if Quint’s final minutes don’t make you cringe and the captain’s head jumping out at Hooper doesn’t make you scream like a banshee, you, sir/madame, are a top candidate for bravest cat alive. It sucks that writer Peter Benchley ended up having to devote the rest of his life to reverse the damage this movie and his source material ended up causing to shark populations across the globe, but, man, sharks are bad news. Shark extinction: one of the rare drawbacks of having a great, funny script.

Folks, this is one of those movies I could go on about, but the long and short is that if you’ve never seen Jaws, you haven’t lived. I don’t care about that Nobel Peace Prize you won, throw that shit in the garbage and boot up Netflix, STAT! You don’t know what you’re missin’.

One of the best horror movies ever made, people. Truly makes you appreciate being at the top of the food chain.

20 Comments leave one →
  1. November 3, 2010 6:56 am

    A movie that made people never want to swim in the ocean again. You can never do that with a film nowadays, which is something of an achievement here. Great Review!

    • November 3, 2010 9:55 am

      Thanks, man. And I was totally in that boat for a while after seeing this. Set a new standard.

  2. November 3, 2010 10:05 am

    Yup, it’s one of the greats. What makes the movie for me is the three great performances and pretty much everything that happens on the boat.

    It’s one of those films where I always wonder if it’s as good as I remember it being after a year or two of not seeing it. I pop it in again, and all my suspicions are for naught. It’s totally deserving of all the praise.

    • November 3, 2010 10:19 am

      You said it, man. I feel like that’s also the story with a lot of Spielberg movies and I always feel like an idiot for ever doubting how good they were the first time around. Man, high time I got through the Indiana Jones trilogy and gave Minority Report another watch after buying it two years ago.

      And you’re so right, those three performances really do make it for me. And as for the boat, LOVE the way Quint tells his badass story about the bomb, then they start singing and then IMMEDIATELY the yellow barrel with the flashing light comes creeping up. So perfect.

      • November 7, 2010 6:56 pm

        Indiana Jones didn’t hold up as well for me on a revisit, although I did like Minority Report a lot more the second time around. One of the more compelling sci-fi films of the last decade.

      • November 8, 2010 12:45 pm

        Yeah, I recently read over Ebert’s review of Minority Report and he went NUTS over it, he thought it was the best of that year. I actually own it and haven’t seen it since High School, but looks like it’s high time for a refresher course. Been meaning to go through the Indy trilogy again, too. Hope it’s not a disappointment.

  3. HermioneO permalink
    November 3, 2010 1:29 pm

    Show me the way to go home.
    I’m tired and I wanna go to bed …


    I was 8 at the time. Near wet my pants. Mom never forgave my brother.

    • November 3, 2010 1:33 pm

      Coolest. Brother. Ever.

      SO jealous you saw this in a theater. That must have been something else. That was HISTORY, dammit!

  4. Ryan permalink
    November 3, 2010 3:05 pm

    One of my all time favorites. Even now when I watch it, I don’t even want to go near a toilet, let alone the ocean.

    • November 3, 2010 3:06 pm

      hahaha. they need to remake Jaws with the toilet idea. that would really fuck with people.

  5. Miroslav permalink
    November 3, 2010 8:45 pm

    I don’t remember very clearly the first time I watched it, I only remember that I was terrified.
    I rewatched it for the first time recently and even that it is a bit dated, it was really enjoyable.
    Also that’s 35 years, not 25 🙂

    • November 5, 2010 8:55 am

      haha, thanks for the date correction, was having flashbacks of Y2K apparently. the shark is definitely dated by the end, but other than that, this is still unreal. and thanks for visiting!

  6. November 3, 2010 9:50 pm

    “Dude. It’s Jaws.” Pretty much says it all. Reminds me that I haven’t seen this in years. Such an awesome movie.

  7. November 4, 2010 5:33 pm

    Clap, clap, clap… I’d give you a standing ovation for this funny, well-written review but on second thoughts, my colleagues might think I’m on crack 🙂

    I just caught bits and pieces (no pun intended) of this on TV not too long ago and you’re darn right that Spielberg clearly knows a thing or two about tingling spines. Even when I swim at the pool on my gym by myself I still get spooked just thinking about this flick. The only thing that’s scarier is a scene from an Australian soap opera Return to Eden that aired in my home country when I was growing up. Someone sneaked in a live gator in this rich chick’s swimming pool and she almost lost a limb (or two) but managed to escape at the last second!!

    • November 5, 2010 8:53 am

      hahaha. thanks! but, man, this apparently has jack crap on Australian soap operas. how long did it take for the writers to pull that one out? easily puts All My Children to shame.

      • November 5, 2010 1:23 pm

        I wish I could find a clip for it but here’s the info about the series: It was one of my fave shows growing up (we didn’t have that many shows like here in the States) I even named my cats Jack & Jill who were the main characters from the show 🙂

      • November 5, 2010 1:28 pm

        hahaha. awesome! my fiancee and i recently decided that if we ever get a boy dog/cat, we’re naming him Quint. needless to say, i’m getting a boy dog/cat asap.

  8. lemon meringue copter permalink
    November 17, 2010 7:59 am

    I agree with the high rating this esteemed website has given this movie. I consider this movie one of the BIG THREE that came out in the mid 70’s. Jaws, Rocky & Star Wars. All three were movies that were so entertaining and enjoyable you could actually remember WHERE you saw them. Edge of your seat, stand up & cheer, popcorn munching fun. Chief Brody vs the Great White, Rocky vs Apollo Creed and Luke Skywalker vs Darth Vader. I’m afraid movie going has been pretty much downhill after that, would you agree Mr. Crap?

    • November 17, 2010 9:23 am

      Hahaha. Thanks, an easy 10, very much in the same canon as Rocky and Star Wars. And Mr. Crap totally agrees, they don’t make movies any more like they did back then. Sad, but true.

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