First and foremost, I want to thank my friend Shane Moore for offering me the opportunity to be a regular contributor to The CineBros movie Facebook page. I’m a man of many passions and movies is right at the top of that list. And the timing for my first article couldn’t be anymore perfect as it syncs up nicely with the 40th anniversary of one of my all-time favorite flicks, Jaws. I’m thrilled to be part of the CineBros team and look forward to sharing my various thoughts and random rants on all things movies. Here goes …
June 1 marked the official 40th anniversary of Steven Spielberg’s timeless summer blockbuster, Jaws.
Amazing, isn’t it?
Just the sight of those four letters in succession, J-A-W-S, instantly conjures up a film reel of memories that brings you right back to the beautiful white sands of Amity Island, standing at the end of the bow pulpit aboard the Orca, or face to face with the black, “doll’s eyes” of a killer shark. I wasn’t even born until two summers after the release of the 1975 classic, but I can honestly tell you no movie has had as profound an impact on my life as Jaws.
How so? For starters, as the headline quoting Quint indicates, you won’t find me in need of a life jacket because my pale ass won’t be stepping foot in an ocean any time soon. I used to love to go in the water, but year after year after year of watching Jaws has literally scared me out of the ocean. I’m so freaked out about what lies beneath the glassy blue, rippled surface of the sea that I won’t even allow my kids anywhere near the beach. I admit that’s unfair of me to prevent my children from exploring the ocean, but too bad. They’re not getting eaten on my watch.
I digress. The point of this piece is not to point out my various parenting flaws or show how a 25-foot mechanical great white shark can negatively influence a 37-year-old man’s leisure time. Quite the contrary. In honor of Jaws, and as luck would have it, David Letterman, here are the Top 10 People/Things I am Most Thankful for as it relates to Jaws:
10) Lee Marvin and Sterling Hayden: “Who?”, you might ask. Marvin, known for his very distinct voice and premature white hair, and Hayden, made famous by his roles in various Westerns, were the two gentleman who were approached with the role of Quint before Robert Shaw was finally tapped to play the captain of the Orca. I want to personally thank Marvin and Hayden for turning down the role as I simply can’t imagine Quint being portrayed by anyone other than Shaw.
9) “Bruce”: Jaws wouldn’t have been possible without the star of the show, the aforementioned 25-foot robotic shark named “Bruce” that not only terrorized the beaches of Amity Island, but drove Spielberg and the rest of the movie crew bat-shit crazy with his incessant mechanical breakdowns. FYI, Spielberg nicknamed the shark after his lawyer, Bruce Ramer. (Tell us how you really feel about the guy Steven).
8) John Williams: The greatest cinematic composer of this or any generation knocked it out of the park with his simple, yet remarkably terrifying E and F piano notes. Duh duh, duh duh, … duh duh duh duh duh duh duh DUH DUH duh duh DUH DUH!!!!
7) Peter Benchley: I’d kinda be remiss if I didn’t thank the man who truly made it all possible, the author of the book upon which the movie is based, the great Peter Benchley, who of course, also had a cameo as a TV news reporter. Side note, if you loved Jaws, be sure to pick up a paperback copy of his 1991 novel, The Beast. Although it never made it much farther than a made-for-TV special, the book was a solid read.
6) Spielberg, Zanuck and Brown: The super directing/producing team of Spielberg, Richard Zanuck and David Brown had the creativity, passion, fortitude and patience to stick with a film that was originally supposed to take only 65 days to film, but turned into nearly 160, not including post-production. I want to thank them for not giving up when throwing in the towel would have been, given the circumstances and difficulties in filming, an acceptable alternative to finishing the film.
5) Spielberg’s editorial brilliance: Even at a young age, the then 29-year-old director had a great feel for storylines in the book that would and perhaps, more importantly, would NOT translate well to celluloid. For example, in the book, Hooper has an affair with Chief Brody’s wife. I want to thank Mr. Spielberg for keeping that part out of the movie as it would have served as more of a distraction than juicy subplot, and would have made Richard Dreyfuss’s on-screen character far less likable.
4) Letting Shaw be Shaw-some!: As I mentioned earlier Robert Shaw wasn’t even the first choice to play Captain Quint. Heck, he wasn’t even the second. But could anyone really have made Quint the brash, memorable character that Shaw portrayed? His original, highly improvised USS Indianapolis speech is one of the most riveting pieces of dialogue I have ever witnessed. Thanks to screenplay writers Benchley and Carl Gottlieb for allowing Shaw to flex his creative muscles and impart his unique style and personality into the character (even if his blood-alcohol level occasionally exceeded acceptable levels while on set).
3) Fine-tuned finale: Another nod to Spielberg here for ensuring the film had a far more dramatic conclusion than was originally intended. The script initially called for Bruce to meet his end in an epic harpoon battle with Quint and Brody. Luckily for all of us, Super Spielberg stepped in and came up with the exploding SCUBA tank finish, which produced what is arguably my all-time favorite movie line, “Smile you son of a BITCH!” Boom!!!!
2) Roy Scheider: Deep breath here. Okay, it’s really hard for me to talk or write about Roy Scheider, aka Chief Martin Brody, without getting a little emotional. It’s hard to believe Scheider passed more than seven years ago because I still remember crying when I first heard about his death like it was yesterday. Scheider’s portrayal of Chief Brody was every bit as incredible, if not more, than Shaw’s Quint. For as much obnoxious, cocky and dramatic arrogance as Shaw brought to Quint, Scheider carried a different kind of swagger; that of a slightly vulnerable and cautious, but incredibly brave and genuinely authentic lead character. His transformation throughout the movie from big city cop who is clearly out of his element in his new role as chief of police on a small island (“It’s only an island if you look at it from the water”) to dead-shot shark assassin is one of the many superb subplots of the movie.
1) Bill Butler: “Wait what? Who is this now and how is he No. 1 on this list?” you might be asking. Simply put, without the creative and brilliant eye of cinematographer Wilmer C. Bill Butler, Jaws would not have even remotely resembled the $470 million global box office blockbuster that it became. Every iconic image and scene we have from this glorious movie can be credited to Butler and his talented crew of cameramen. From an open-mouthed great white shark leaping onto the stern of the Orca, to Chief Brody slowly sinking into the ocean atop the mast as a 3-ton beast full of razor sharp teeth races towards him, Butler’s dark, ominous approach to shooting Jaws has provided a highlight reel of cinematic imagery that has stood the test of time for 40 years and will undeniably do so for another 40.
That’s all for now folks. I hope you enjoyed my Top 10 tribute to Jaws. Time for you put down your phones, tablets and laptops, grab your Blu Ray copy of Jaws and celebrate the 40th anniversary of this all-time great right now.
What’s that? You don’t have it on DVD or Blu Ray? That’s a problem that cannot be ignored. In fact, if Matt Hooper were here he’d say “I think that I am familiar with the fact that you are going to ignore this particular problem until it swims up and BITES YOU ON THE ASS!”