Non Canon Review: Jaws (1975)

JULY 5, 2008


“Martin hates water. I guess it's a childhood thing. It's a... there's a clinical name for it isn't there-"

That is just one of maybe 7 or 8 small moments in Jaws that stealthily elevate it above and beyond every other “Monster in the water” movie. Others include the argument over who should paint the beach closed signs, Mrs. Brody yelling at the kid to listen to his father after she sees the carnage in the shark book, Martin’s weak ass scar during the buildup to the Indianapolis speech, and of course, Harry’s bad hat. Sometimes I look forward to these bits more than the shark stuff, which has been ripped off so much over the years it’s almost hard to remember how effective the scares were the first time around. But I still laugh my ass off at these scenes every single time.

It was his first big movie, but Spielberg already had a lot of his themes (the Kinter boy apparently has no father) and traditions (people looking, overlapping dialogue) down to a science, and it remains one of his best films, if not THE best. The occasional bits of humor (that one scene, when Hooper comes over for dinner, is funnier than half of the alleged comedies I’ve ever seen) blend perfectly with the horror elements. One of the film’s best scares is when Martin is bitching about tossing the chum and suddenly the shark comes out of the water inches away from his hand. You’re laughing and then screaming without any pause in between. Perfection.

I read the book when I was like 14 or 15, and don’t recall much about what was different, except that Hooper died at the end too. I’m glad this was changed, as it makes Quint’s death more resonant, and also since both characters are awesome, I like to imagine they were good friends afterwards and probably had a lot of red or white wine together. I still think Jaws 2’s biggest flaw was the lack of anyone for Scheider to really play off of, and it’s a shame Dreyfuss couldn’t be persuaded to return (and yet, he came out of retirement to appear in Poseidon).

This movie has more documented behind the scenes drama than any other film in history (not counting anything involving Terry Gilliam). A full length documentary, a sizable portion of a documentary on the series as a whole, and at least one book are all dedicated to detailing what a giant pain in the ass the movie was to make. The shark didn’t work, the locals got angry, water-set scenes took forever to film, the script was being rewritten (with like 5 different people claiming authorship of Quint’s Indianapolis speech), etc. And none of it shows. The movie is technically flawless (apart from Spielberg’s traditional continuity errors – he’s one of the absolute worst in the world in that department) and the story is pretty seamless. One could argue that the boat stuff should come sooner, but I don’t mind (the most superfluous scene, when Brody and Hooper go to investigate Ben’s boat, also contains one of the film’s best scares). I don’t need to be rushed when everything is so good.

The screening was in the backyard of my buddy Mike’s, who was also kind enough to occasionally spray us with a garden hose during the attack scenes. We also played the horrible NES Jaws game before and after the film. I missed it, but apparently someone got Jaws down to zero health and it didn’t end, which led them to believe the game just went on forever, like Tetris or a Metal Gear Solid cutscene. But they are wrong, and since everyone reading this site better have seen the movie before, instead of the trailer I will provide a video of the game’s finale. Spoiler: Jaws is killed.

What say you?


  1. Theatrical backyard screening? And I wasn't invited? But come on, you gotta mention John Williams. Its the scariest music ever written. I used to trick the girls into jumping off the boat, and then I would crank the radio with the JAWS cassette cued up. Nothing else even comes close to causing sheer terror in people, then being in the water, and it can be a swimming pool, and hearing that main theme music.

  2. Director Steven Spielberg has an impressive film canon, not the least of which includes Schindler’s List, but Jaws easily ranks in my Top 3 favorite films of all time. First and foremost, it’s a great example of story-telling. So much more than a high octane sea-faring adventure monster movie, Jaws deals with how grown men relate and negotiate with one another. As a woman, I find that compelling.

    Then there's the well-defined, colorful cast of characters, and a brilliant script that gives them plenty to say to one another. The dialogue is snappy, smart and laugh-out-loud funny. The amount of memorable, quotable scenes from this movie are too many to count. Most movies would be lucky to have one such scene.

    I love the late veteran actor Robert Shaw and his performance as the incorrigible shark hunter Quint just makes this movie for me, and is the reason why I can watch it over and over again. Most memorable scene for me is when the men drunkenly compare war wounds, and share stories. It’s a time for introspection and Shaw’s delivery of his “USS Indianapolis” account is raw and powerful.

  3. I would a agree this is a classic flick. It follows the book pretty well too, which is a good thing. I wish they would have left Hooper getting killed in the movie, as he did in the book. It's just more realistic that way and frankly, it's the original storyline. I hate when they do that in movies, as if they don't want to upset the viewers.

    One storyline they left out of the film, that I thought could have been left out of the book, was Ellen Brody's relationship with Hooper and what-not. It slowed the book down and would have killed the movie.


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