Sunday, 4 March 2012

Horror Review: Jaws (1975)

When a gigantic great white shark begins to menace the small island community of Amity, a police chief, a marine scientist and grizzled fisherman set out to stop it.

I have to admit that I haven't read the 1974 novel "Jaws" by Peter Benchley of which the film is based so I can't compare the two so I'll just focus on the film. It's hard to believe that there was once a time when there wasn't really such a thing as a summer blockbuster and also that Steven Spielberg wasn't a household name, but in 1975 that all changed.

Like many in the business Spielberg made his mark with the Horror/Thriller genre and with this entry he showed the world that he was truly gifted. The film is full of suspense and tension and for a shark film that's just over 2 hours long and never gets boring, that is certainly an achievement.

I know it may sound unfair but this is the film I compare all other shark films too, I'm all for low-budgets and great ideas but I find it really hard to enjoy a film about a C.G.I shark terrorising people, I've always said that practical effects have more of an effect than C.G.I and this film is a great example of why.

We also can't forget the cast, especially Roy Schneider who was excellent as Chief Brody. This is one of those films where you just an't fault any of the cast, they each bring so much depth to their characters and you warm to them very quickly.

This film may seem boring and slow compared to today's gore high, fast paced standards, but if that's how you see it then you're completely missing the point of this film and certainly missing out on a classic. Plus how can you forget THAT music.

There is no doubting the effect this film had on cinema and you can still see the influences of it today, if you are one of the rare viewers who HAVEN'T seen this then watch it A.S.A.P!

To see the trailer for "Jaws" click here

Miscellaneous fact about the film:

  • Steven Spielberg wanted Sterling Hayden for the role of Quint. Hayden, however, was in trouble with the Internal Revenue Service for unpaid tax. All Hayden's income from acting was subject to a levy by the IRS, so there was an attempt to circumvent that: Hayden was also a writer, so one idea was to pay him union scale for his acting, and buy a story from him (his literary income wasn't subject to levy) for a large sum. It was concluded that the IRS would see through this scheme, so Robert Shaw was cast instead. 
  • During pre-production, director Steven Spielberg, accompanied by friends Martin Scorsese, George Lucas and John Milius, visited the effects shop where "Bruce" the shark was being constructed. Lucas stuck his head in the shark's mouth to see how it worked and, as a joke, Milius and Spielberg sneaked to the controls and made the jaw clamp shut on Lucas' head. Unfortunately, and rather prophetically, considering the later technical difficulties the production would suffer, the shark malfunctioned, and Lucas got stuck in the mouth of the shark. When Spielberg and Milius were finally able to free him, the three men ran out of the workshop, afraid they'd done major damage to the creature. 
  • A scene filmed, but not included in the final release, was during the second beach attack. Brody's son, swimming in the "shallow area" is frozen in terror as the shark approaches him; the man saves his life by pushing the boy out of the way at the last minute and putting himself in the path of the shark. There is a shot of the bloody, dying man's upper body being dragged briefly along in the shark's jaws before being pulled underwater. Steven Spielberg shot the scene, but decided it was far too gruesome and didn't include it. The DVD release shows the scene being shot, blood and all, during the "The Making of Steven Spielberg's 'Jaws'" documentary, but it is not included in the "Deleted Footage" or "Outtakes" sections of the DVD. 
  • According to Steven Spielberg in the DVD 'making of' documentary, his original idea for introducing Quint was to have him in the local movie theater watching Moby Dick starring Gregory Peck. Quint was to be sitting at the back of the theater and laughing so loudly at the absurd special effects of the whale that he drove the other viewers to exit the theater, leaving Quint by himself. Spielberg says that the only thing that stopped him from doing that scene was Gregory Peck. Peck held part of the rights to that movie and when Spielberg approached him for permission, Peck turned him down. Not because he thought it was a bad idea to use the film that way, but because Peck didn't like his performance in Moby Dick and didn't want the film seen again. 
  • Charlton Heston was considered for the role of Chief Brody. Jeff Bridges, Timothy Bottoms, Jon Voight and Jan-Michael Vincent were considered for the role of Hooper. 
  • Victoria Principal was considered for the role of Ellen Brody. 
  • Richard Dreyfuss originally turned down the role of Hooper but had worries after the initial screening of "The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz" and asked for his part back. 
  • Lee Marvin was considered for the role of Quint by Steven Spielberg, despite his reservations about using big-name actors. Marvin thanked him but replied that he'd rather go fishing. 
  • In addition to the well-known nickname of "Bruce", Steven Spielberg also called the shark "the great white turd" when he really got frustrated with the troublesome animatronic fish. 
  • In a biography, Steven Spielberg revealed how Robert Duvall helped to encourage him into making the movie. In return, Spielberg offered the role of Brody to Duvall but he turned it down, fearing that it may make him too famous as a result. 
  • Charlton Heston was so annoyed with being rejected for the role of Brody that he later made disparaging comments about Steven Spielberg and vowed never to work with him. He later turned down Spielberg's offer of the role of General Stilwell in "1941". 
  • Author Peter Benchley's choices for whom to cast in the film were Robert Redford, Paul Newman and Steve McQueen. 
  • The live shark footage was shot at Seal Rocks (Neptune Islands), South Australia. A real white pointer was cut up and "extended" for the close-up shots. 
  • When the shark attacks Hooper's cage, there's live footage of a real Great White with a rope hanging from its mouth. This shark's mouth is clearly much smaller than the shark's mouth when it attacks the boat moments later. These scenes were filmed by noted shark photographers Ron Taylor and Valerie Taylor with the help of shark expert Rodney Fox specifically for the movie. Because the Great White sharks they filmed would be smaller than the mechanical shark in the movie, they constructed a smaller version of Hooper's shark cage. Inside the cage they alternately used a small mannequin or a little person. One of the sharks they attracted got caught in the cage's cables and tore it apart trying to escape. The footage was so good that they changed the script to reflect the destroyed cage and Hooper escaping by hiding on the ocean floor. However, the small person used in the scene refused to go back in the miniature cage, which was damaged in the incident. 
  • Quint's boathouse set was built in Martha's Vineyard on an abandoned lot. The city council made the production crew sign an agreement to demolish it after filming and replace everything exactly as it had been - right down to the litter.
  • Preview audiences screamed when the head of a shark victim appears in the hole in the bottom of the boat. Director Steven Spielberg re-shot the scene in editor Verna Fields swimming pool because he wanted them to "scream louder". 
  • Author Peter Benchley was thrown off the set after objecting to the climax. 
  • Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, was used as Amity Island primarily because even 12 miles out to sea, the sandy bottom was only 30 feet down, allowing the mechanical shark to function. Residents were paid $64 to scream and run across the beach as extras. 
  • The first shark killed on the docks, which is supposed to be the "man-eater" in the movie, is actually a real shark killed in Florida because there wasn't a big enough one in Martha's Vineyard. 
  • Brody's dog in the movie was actually Steven Spielberg's real dog. 
  • The mechanical shark spent most of the movie broken-down, and was unavailable for certain shots. This led Steven Spielberg to use the camera as the "shark", and film from the shark's point of view. Many think this added to the "chilling/haunting" quality in the final release saying that it would have made it too "cheesy" had they shown the shark as much as originally planned.
  • After the shark was built, it was never tested in the water, and when it was put in the water at Martha's Vineyard, it sank straight to the ocean floor. It took a team of divers to retrieve it. 
  • Steven Spielberg named the shark "Bruce" after his lawyer. 
  • In the actual Jersey Beach shark attacks of 1916 (which Hooper mentions in the film), the sequence of attacks is similar to that of the film: a swimmer in the surf; a dog; a boy; and the leg of a man in a tidal slough.
  • Robert Shaw was also in trouble with the IRS and had to flee the country once his scenes were completed.
  • This was the first movie to reach the coveted $100 million mark in "theatrical rentals", which is about 45% of the "box office gross". It was the highest-grossing of all-time in the U.S. until Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope. 
  • When it was initially released in the summer 1975, over 67 million Americans went to see the movie, making it the first summer "blockbuster". 
  • Robert Shaw could not stand Richard Dreyfuss and they argued all the time, which resulted in some good tension between Hooper and Quint. 
  • The average summer tourist population of Martha's Vineyard before the film was released was approximately 5,000 people. After it came out, the population ballooned to 15,000. 
  • Peter Benchley has mentioned that if he had known about the actual behavior of sharks, he would have never written the book.
  • Murray Hamilton was the only star who was Steven Spielberg's first choice and was the only actor considered for the role of Mayor of Amity. 
  • To create the sound of a drowning woman during post-production, Susan Backlinie was positioned, head upturned, in front of a microphone, while water from above was poured down into her throat. 
  • Producers Richard D. Zanuck and David Brown avoided casting big-name stars because they thought they might distract audiences from the story's tension.
  • The original U.K. video release of the 25th Anniversary version was wrongly labeled as a P.G. rating, when it should have been a 12 rating, due to Roy Scheider saying the "F" word in the documentary. The mislabeled videos have been withdrawn. 
  • When composer John Williams originally played the score for Steven Spielberg, Spielberg laughed and said, "That's funny, John, really. But what did you really have in mind for the theme of Jaws?" Spielberg later stated that without Williams's score, the movie would only have been half as successful. 
  • The scene where the head pops out from under the boat was not originally scripted. Director Steven Spielberg says he "got greedy" after he saw the preview audience's reaction to the scene where the shark jumps out behind Brody's head and wanted "one more scare." 
  • Quint's boat is named "Orca". In real life, the Orca whale (usually known as "killer whale") is a known enemy of the shark. 
  • With the schedule ballooning from 52 to 155 days, Steven Spielberg had to juggle Universal's impossible deadlines, an unfinished script, chaotic conditions off Martha's Vineyard and a belligerent actor in Robert Shaw. On the last day of shooting, Spielberg wore his most expensive clothes to deter a dunking from the mutinous crew. As soon as the shot was captured, he jumped in a speedboat and sped shoreward yelling, "I shall not return." 
  • The producers have said that had they read the book more than once, they would have known ahead of time that there would be problems filming the movie, and thus wouldn't have made it. 
  • There is a much-repeated story that a lot of the pain on Susan Backlinie's face (Chrissie Watkins, the first victim) is real, since as well as moving her about in the water, the frame she was strapped into was breaking her ribs.
  • Roy Scheider stated in an interview that in the scene where Lee Fierro (Mrs. Kintner) smacks him in the face, she was actually hitting him. Apparently, the actress could not fake a slap and so the multiple takes were some of the "most painful" of his (Scheider's) acting career. 
  • According to writer Carl Gottlieb, the line "You're gonna need a bigger boat" was not scripted but improvised by Roy Scheider. 
  • Composer John Williams conducted the orchestra during the 1976 Academy Awards, so when it was announced that he won the Oscar for Best Score, he had to run up to the podium to accept his Oscar and then run back to continue conducting the orchestra. 
  • According to the boat handlers who worked on the film, Quint's boat, "Orca", was a studio fabrication based upon a boat purchased locally. After the special effects team finished with it, it was so top-heavy as to be unseaworthy. Ballast would correct that, but the only large quantity of lead that could be located locally was owned by a local dentist who was going to use it to shield his X-Ray room. So that was rented from him at an exorbitant fee. The fake Orca, designed to sink, was actually more seaworthy than the real thing.
  • An accident during filming caused the Orca to begin sinking. Steven Spielberg began screaming over a bullhorn for the nearby safety boats to rescue the actors. John R. Carter, already up to his knees in water on the sinking Orca, held his Nagra (tape recorder) up over his head and screamed, "F**k the actors, save the sound department!" During the accident, the film camera was submerged, so its film, still submerged in sea water, was flown to a New York film lab where technicians were able to save the film. The accident is described in "The Making of Jaws" on the 30th Anniversary edition DVD. 
  • According to The Making of Steven Spielberg's 'Jaws' documentary, the shooting star that appears during the night scene where Brody loads his revolver was real, not an optical effect. 
  • Voted #3 in Total Film's 100 Greatest Movies Of All Time list. 
  • During the display in which Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw compare battle scars, Roy Scheider lifts up his shirt to reveal an appendix incision. This is not a prosthetic, but Scheider's own scar.
  • Three mechanical "Bruces" were made, each with specialized functions. One shark was open on the right side, one was open on the left side, and the third was fully skinned. Each shark cost approximately $250,000.
  • The film was simultaneously shown in 490 theaters on its opening weekend, the first time for Hollywood, setting the standard for subsequent films. The film was originally booked in about 1000 theaters, but MCA executive Lew Wasserman wanted that cut back, saying he wanted lines at the box office. 
  • This was voted the sixth scariest film of all time by Entertainment Weekly. 
  • On the DVD documentary, Steven Spielberg states that his original idea for introducing the shark was going to be a scene that took place at the dock at night: The harbor master would be watching TV, and through the window behind him the audience would see a row of boats rising and falling as the shark swam underneath them. Spielberg believed that the swell of the boats would help indicate the huge size of the shark; however, the logistics involved (for example, getting all the boats to go up and down at the correct intervals) proved too difficult to coordinate properly. Additionally, the constantly malfunctioning shark would not allow the scene to be filmed. Much to Spielberg's disappointment, the scene had to be shelved. 
  • Many years later, Lee Fierro, who plays Mrs. Kintner, walked into a seafood restaurant and noticed that the menu had an "Alex Kintner Sandwich". She commented that she had played his mother so many years ago. The owner of the restaurant ran out to meet her - none other than Jeffrey Voorhees, who had played her son. They hadn't seen each other since the original movie shoot. 
  • Though respected as an actor, Robert Shaw's trouble with alcohol was a frequent source of tension during filming. In later interviews, Roy Scheider described his co-star as "a perfect gentleman whenever he was sober. All he needed was one drink and then he turned into a competitive son-of-a-bitch." According to Carl Gottlieb's book "The Jaws Log," Shaw was having a drink between takes, at which point he announced "I wish I could quit drinking." Much to the surprise and horror of the crew, Richard Dreyfuss simply grabbed Shaw's glass and tossed it into the ocean. When it came time to shoot the infamous USS Indianapolis Scene, Shaw attempted to do the monologue while intoxicated as it called for the men to be drinking late at night. Nothing in the take could be used. A remorseful Shaw called Steven Spielberg late that night and asked if he could have another try. The next day of shooting, Shaw's electrifying performance was done in one take. 
  • Voted #5 On Empire's 500 Greatest Movies Of All Time
  • One oft-repeated falsehood about the movie was that the color red is never used in any clothes or any backgrounds as Steven Spielberg wanted it to be only seen as blood. However, a simple viewing of the film shows plenty of red throughout: hats and clothing, American flags, Coca-Cola items, upholstery, sign lettering, coolers, can and jar labels, et al, as well as much of the hull of the Orca itself.
  • Richard Dreyfuss initially passed on the part of Hooper, saying that Jaws was a film he'd love to watch but not to make. 
  • Richard Dreyfuss was tested and cast at the suggestion of George Lucas who had just worked with him on American Graffiti.
  • Filmed under the threat of an impending actors' strike. 
  • Some of the incidents that befell the troubled production included writer Carl Gottlieb and Steven Spielberg nearly getting killed in seafaring accidents. 
  • After filming was completed Steven Spielberg said "My next picture will be on dry land. There won't even be a bathroom scene". He was true to his word. His next film was Close Encounters of the Third Kind. 
  • The music by John Williams was ranked at #6 by the American Film Institute for their list of the 25 greatest film scores.
  • The shark was ranked the eighteenth greatest villain on the AFI's list of 100 Heroes and Villains. 
  • Was ranked the second greatest thriller on the AFI's list of 100 Thrills. 
  • As Brody and Hooper are on the boat during a night scene a meteor appears clearly behind them. 
  • The last known surviving mechanical shark of 'Bruce' is suspended atop two metal poles in the middle of an auto wrecking yard, at U Pick Parts in Sun Valley, CA, in the San Fernando Valley.
  • Robert Shaw ad-libbed the "Here lies the grave of Mary Lee" line after Steven Spielberg prompted him to give Brody's wife (on the dock) a hard time. Asked later where he quoted it from, as it would require getting a license and release from the author to be used in the film, Shaw said that was unlikely, as it was off an old grave marker in Ireland. 
  • Despite the film's mammoth box-office returns, Robert Shaw didn't earn a penny out of it. He was facing heat from the IRS for tax evasion, and due to working in countries as diverse as the US, Canada and Ireland, he had to forgo his salary to make amends. 
  • Steven Spielberg was not the original director of Jaws, who was fired after he had a meeting with producers and studio execs. In the meeting he said that his opening shot would have the camera come out of the water to show the town, then the whale (instead of the shark) would come out of the water. The producers said that they were not making 'Moby Dick' and would not work with someone who did not know the difference between a whale and a shark. 
  • Following the release of the film, a sort of hysteria overtook some members of the public, resulting in numerous incidents across the country. In one, a beach in Southern California was cleared by lifeguards due to sharks in the water, which turned out to be dolphins; and in a sadder incident in Florida, an immature pygmy sperm whale that beached itself was beaten to death by bystanders who mistook it for a shark. 
  • During the end credits, if you look carefully, you can see Brody and Hooperslowly floating to the shore.

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