Stu’s review published on Letterboxd:
Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Peter Benchley’s best selling novel Jaws is regarded by many as the first phenomenon in cinema history surpassing such greats as Gone with the Wind (1939), The Sting (1973) and The Godfather (1972) at the global box office. However, it wasn’t all plain sailing as Spielberg, rapidly becoming one of Hollywood’s most sought-after directors, came close to quitting or losing his job on more than one occasion depending on what report you read. The now infamous malfunctioning shark was the main culprit here prompting the film’s budget to escalate out of control, but Spielberg and Universal persevered to release an historic movie that, whilst depopulating the world’s beaches, became a household name.
Jaws (1975) is set on the small island of Amity, a relatively peaceful town that is until the remains of a girl are found washed up on the beach, a result of one of the most iconic opening sequences ever in film. The coroner’s initial report claims the cause of death was a shark attack.
Amity’s Chief of Police, Martin Brody (Roy Scheider), persuades the town’s Mayor to shut the beaches down after more attacks occur and demands the capture of the shark. Local fisherman Quint (Robert Shaw) is hired for the job and aided by Brody and Oceanographer Matt Hooper, played impeccably by Richard Dreyfuss, they take to the sea to kill the Great White shark that is praying on Amity’s main source of income.
Despite its huge popularity this film did not come without its fair share of criticism with some shark aficionados claiming to this day that Jaws was the cause of this fiercest of all natural predators becoming an endangered species. There have been many shark attacks recorded world-wide, but it is said that events recorded in the early 1900’s about a rogue shark feeding on holiday makers along America’s east coast was first hand knowledge to the film’s creators.
Scheider, Shaw and Dreyfuss play off each other brilliantly with moments of improv worthy of some of the best actors and performances to ever grace the screen. It’s also a fine example of suspenseful filmmaking, which even to this day successfully manages to generate the required impact. This is down to a number of reasons, one being John Williams’ legendary score. Another reason was the aforementioned malfunctioning shark. Although at the time it was more a necessity than anything else, Spielberg decided they would have to shoot the majority of the film with cameras and props doubling as the shark. This turned out to be a stroke of genius and is now considered the movie’s most defining attribute.
“You yell, “Barracuda,” everybody says, “huh, what?” You yell “Shark,” we’ve got a panic on our hands on the Fourth of July.” - Mayor Vaughn