1975: it can be argued that this is the year that the first true “summer movie” was born, Jaws. By the acclaimed Director Steven Spielberg, Jaws really cemented Spielberg as a first class director; this film would go on to become the highest grossing film up until Star Wars in 1977.
Jaws taps into the most primitive and frightening aspects of survival: the fear of being hunted and of being prey. We humans are, no doubt, the top predators on land- our technology has made us so- however, in the deep depths of the ocean we are as out of our element as we are in space. This film represents the ultimate clash between man and beast. It’s a modern day Moby Dick.
This film stars Roy Scheider as Chief Martin Brody, a common man who finds himself in an ever escalating out-of-control situation. As a shark terrorizes the small touristy Island of Amity, it falls to Brody to come up with a plan to stop the ravenous monster. To do this, he enlists the help of Matt Hooper, a marine biologist played by Richard Dreyfuss. Hooper’s character is that of a logical man but sometimes over-confident in his abilities and technology to solve the problem.
The third member of the cast that sets out to eventually confront the shark is that of Captain Quint of the Orca, a shark fishing vessel. Quint is played by the famous English actor Robert Shaw. Quint’s character has a deep hatred of sharks and scoffs at others as they attempt to solve the problem. Eventually he offers his help in catching the mighty fish for ten thousand dollars.
One man who stands in sheer denial of the problems facing the island is Mayor Larry Vaughn, played by Murray Hamilton. Mayor Vaughn downplays the havoc the shark causes as freak accidents and is quick to believe that the problem has been dealt with when another larger shark is caught in its place. Vaughn cares only for the prospected tourism of the upcoming 4th of July and the money it will bring the Island.
The last main character of the film is that of the Great White shark itself. Originally a large mechanical shark was designed to be featured heavily in the film, but technical breakdowns made that impossible. Thus Spielberg was forced to take a minimalist approach to this horrific monster. This proved to be outstandingly successful idea, as the ominous and now famous score from the legendary John Williams brought the stalking beast to life. Many who have never seen the film know and recognize its theme “duunnn dunnn… duuuunnnn duun…” The audience soon learns that is the sound of impending doom.
Jaws is still recognized as the number one scariest movie of all time, since it had the very real effect of keeping people out of the water. It was immortalized in 2001 by the Library of Congress for preservation in the United States Film Registry because it was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
Jaws is rated PG, but don’t let that fool you- it features some graphic scenes of violence including (“spoiler alert!”) shark attacks and some language.
It can be checked out at our library here.
*written by Matthew Beyer