(Release Date: June 20, 1975)
But this movie isn't just about some preternatural sea monster. Jaws is about Roy Scheider's Police Chief Martin Brody, and his brobdignagian fight to balance the fragile economy of the small island town of Amity against the safety of its residents and visitors. When evidence of a Shark Attack comes to Light, Brody does the only halfway intelligent thing he can do... close the beaches.
But these sandy island towns (especially those up north) make all of their annual dough in the warmer "Tourist Months", so the town (led by
Now, old Roy-Boy's Martin Brody is scared chum-less of the water, but when your people are becoming Purina Shark Chow (Chow Chow Chow), a hunting we must go ("Tell them I'm going fishing!" Martin tells his wife [Lorraine Gary])! And go fishing he does with the help of Robert Shaw's Baad Asssss Quint and Richard Dreyfuss' more-brains-than-brawn Matt Hooper!
What follows is both amazing and horrific, and is especially action packed. However, it's an intelligent form of action, well balanced with the horror of having a 25 foot fish wanting to use your bones as a Corn Dog Stick! The brilliance in this movie is the juggling of the many elements into an unlikely, yet amazingly satisfying whole. Like many brilliant horror films out there, the scariness of Jaws is found in what you don't see!
Much has been made of the fact that the mechanical shark stand-in (nicknamed "Bruce") rarely worked, and was most often found sinking to the ocean floor. However, this actually managed to work to twenty-seven-year-old Steven Spielberg's advantage. Spielberg builds the tension with an unseen monster, showing only the affects of the beast's handiwork. And when old Bruce is finally seen, he's scarier than a Jar Jar Binks Musical Review on Broadway!
Spielberg shapes the screenplay (by Benchley and actor Carl Gottlieb) into a document of creeping death, equal to any horror movie of the age. Sure, it's just a giant fish, but the best in pacing is used to bring forth the biggest in frights when the time is right. The distraction of humor and complex dialog only succeeds in making Jaws that much scarier when the beast surfaces.
While there are a couple of mediocre moments, especially surrounding logic (when a movie is this realistic, any intelligence flaw is a green chicken, kids), the film overall delivers the best in primal horror, and manages to make one skeptical about swimming in anything bigger than a Fisher Price Wading Pool. The real terror here is that this is real, and feels real, and even when a slow moment or a second lacking logic ticks by, you're reminded that there's nothing Supernatural about Jaws, there are no Krakens, Nessies or Giant Squids here. The terror works because in the minds of the audience, this could happen!
Even now, Jaws feels real, and feels like a well-written, well-cast, well-acted realistic horror film, worthy of Four and a Half Stars out of Five! It still stands up, in spite of the many imitators like Orca, Jaws of Death, Deep Blue Sea, Roseanne: An Unauthorized Biography and Lake Placid! Not even lackluster sequels can kill Bruce! So, until Spielberg sets up a Triple Disc Retrospective on the similarities between Jaws and Duel, and treats us all to a screening complete with Truck Escort and Shark Tail Hors D'oeuvres, I'll see your gaping maw in the next reel!
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