Last Saturday, June 20th, was not only Father’s Day, and the birthday of one of my oldest and closest friends, but also the 35th anniversary of the release of JAWS, otherwise known as the second greatest movie ever made.
Of course when JAWS was released in the summer of 1975, my family saw it in the theaters, Dad being an avid fisherman as well as a movie buff. It seemed like the perfect movie for him. We even had the Peter Benchley novel the movie was based on, which my Mom liked but I never read until later in life after getting the laserdisc set as a gift (more on that later). Seeing the movie with another family that lived around the corner from us in scenic Maspeth, NY, I vividly remember ducking under the seat when Alex Kintner was killed on the raft, something I would never do today. I guess seeing The Omen at the ripe old age of 9 the following year cured me of that kind of reaction.
Later in the summer I saw JAWS again with my Dad, this time double billed with the Robert Redford drama The Great Waldo Pepper, a good little time-killer. But obviously we weren’t there to see Mr. Redford fly a biplane.
So many memories and impressions of JAWS….To me, it’s still Steven Spielberg’s best film. I love the tracking shot where Quint is “introduced” during the town meeting, panning up to him at the chalkboard. Subtle, yet classic.
So many terrific lines, from the overly-quoted “You’re gonna need a bigger boat” to the TV sign off “That’s some bad hat, Harry” to the ominous “I’ll never put on a life jacket again”. But my fave (which my daughter and I like to do every once in a while) is “It’s a Tiger shark.” “A whuuuut?” “Tiger shark.”
So many great performances, most notably the incredibly underrated performance from Roy Scheider as Brody. Underrated in that it’s not as showy as Robert Shaw’s Quint or as loud as Richard Drefyuss’ Hooper, but at times, is twice as effective. (“It’s in the yahd, not too fah from the cah.”) The scene at the dinner table, right before Hooper arrives, with the younger Brody son (cue soft John Williams music…), is a particular fave, and is one of the first “cute kid” scenes in Spielberg’s directorial career.
Speaking of John Williams, is there any doubt this is one of his best scores? I mean, the JAWS theme is easily one of the most iconic pieces of film music ever. And you could argue that Williams’ Star Wars, Superman, Indiana Jones, and possibly even Harry Potter themes deserve a spot in the Top Ten.
Williams deservedly earned an Oscar for his Score (JAWS also won well-deserved Oscars for Best Sound and Best Editing for Verna Fields). My favorite part of the score is “One Barrel Chase”, which turns a suspense movie into a rollicking sea adventure for a minute or two. I remember it was my Dad’s favorite also, and he even went so far as to record some of the music cues on cassette when JAWS was shown on TV.
I always had a fondness for JAWS, but didn’t truly appreciate its greatness until receiving the Limited Edition Universal Signature Collection Laserdisc as a gift from a dear friend who to this day knows me better than just about anyone. It’s still one of the best gifts I’ve ever received. It contains a fabulously remastered edition of the movie in THX and CAV (you laserdisc geeks know what that is), as well as a nifty, must-see two hour documentary by famed documentarian Laurent Bouzereau, plus a copy of the Benchley novel and a soundtrack CD. Yowza!
Watching this masterpiece again on laserdisc, probably in early 1996, in widescreen/letterboxed format instead of pan-and-scan (yuck) for the first time since 1975, on a 26-inch TV (hey, back then that was a decent size) vaulted it immediately to the second spot in my list of favorite movies. And it ain’t movin’ from that spot. I only wish I could have dragged my Dad over to the apartment to check it out before he passed away in November of that year.
In addition to JAWS being back in the news lately among film nuts because of the 35th anniversary, I’m also eagerly awaiting the eventual DVD/Blu-Ray release of a JAWS documentary that I’ve been hearing about for nearly two years called The Shark Is Still Working. It supposedly runs three hours….three hours on JAWS! Sign me up!
OK, I have to go, and grab my JAWS DVD from the shelf. You see, I’m in the mood for a little boat trip….