A Zanuck Brown Production/Directed by Steven Spielberg
I am at a point in my life where I can tell if a relationship is going to work within the first ten minutes of meeting someone, before I even find out what their favorite color is. There are only two things I need to know to ascertain whether we are compatible or if we even stand a chance at becoming friends. All it takes is for someone to say “I’m not a fan of horror movies” or “I didn’t like the movie Jaws” and it is a deal breaker, game over, so long, have a nice life.
Never trust anyone who tells you they didn’t love the movie Jaws!
As a boy growing up in New Jersey, the home of author Peter Benchley, and the original setting of the shark attacks that allegedly inspired the 1975 film, I spent countless summers frolicking in the surf and at the beaches during the time of this iconic movie’s release. There are countless aspects as to why this block buster should be in everyone’s top ten, if not five, movies of all time. However, I can only speak for myself and try to inspire with my I own fascination and love affair with this movie.
Timing is everything! That’s what they say, and I am a firm believer. Jaws was released during the summer of 1975 and was the very first movie to be filmed on the ocean, which lead to massive production problems. The film ran over budget and past schedule, and the salt water wreaked havoc with Bruce, the mechanical shark that repeatedly broke down during the filming. This ultimately worked in Spielberg’s favor, a young director who had yet to make his mark on the industry, who utilized the malfunctioning shark to his advantage. In horror, it isn’t always what you see, it’s what you don’t see. Spielberg decided to suggest the shark’s presence as much as he could, relying on shadows and quick glimpses of the ominous fin to reveal the impending threat.
To further turn up the drama, composer John Williams added the soundtrack that has become an iconic undertone that all beach goers know all too well. The theme is essentially comprised of two bass notes that no-doubt strike fear in the hearts of millions every time it is heard, especially if they are to be swimming at the time.
It’s about suspense, it’s about tension, it’s about what you don’t see. Author’s call this invisible ink. The space between the lines, the words that are not being used. Spielberg painted this masterpiece with gallons of invisible ink as he gave life to the novel written by Peter Benchley in 1974.
Benchley, a Jersey native claims that this tale is not inspired by the shark attacks that plagued New Jersey beaches in 1916. From Beach Haven to the Matawan Creek a killer shark dinned on hapless beach goers that fateful summer. A boy on a raft, a man and his dog, another gentleman who had lost his leg. Does this sound familiar to anyone else? Benchley’s novel was different in ways from the big screen version, but the premise is the same and the horror is synonymous.
The movie is a watershed moment in Hollywood history for being perhaps the first true summer blockbuster. It was the highest grossing picture of it’s time until Star Wars was released a year later in 1977. It has spurred three sequels, none of which stand up to the original, some of which are downright embarrassing. It was one of those moments where everything gelled. It had to do with the production, the music, the editing, the director, and Oh My God…it had everything to do with the cast.
Roy Scheider was cast as Police Chief Martin Brody, but the role was first offered to Robert Duvall who only wanted to play Quint. Charlton Heston wanted the role but Spielberg though that Heston was too big of a star to bring the anonymity that he wanted from a lesser know actor. Above all else, he wanted the shark to be the star of the show.
The character Quint was based on real life fisherman Craig Kingsbury, was played by veteran actor Robert Shaw. There are numerous repots that Shaw spent most of the time rather tipsy during the filming of the movie. If this is what you get when Robert Shaw is tipsy then by all means, buy this man another round, and put it on my tab. Quint is an absolute show stealer, and his recollection of the sinking of the Indianapolis is possibly the greatest monologue in movie history. Chills…do you feel them?
The character of Matt Hooper was not even cast until nine days before production began. There were a lot of possibilities when it came to would-be hopefuls for the part: John Voight, Jan Michael Vincent, Jeff Bridges, Joel Gray even Kevin Kline. But it was Spielberg’s good friend, George Lucas who recommended that he use a young actor who had performed in his movie American Graffiti. Richard Dreyfus took on the role of the young oceanographer and the rest was magic. At least for us, Dreyfus and Shaw couldn’t stand each other.
You know that you really have something special when people go around quoting your movie afterward…damn near 50 years now
“You’re gonna need a bigger boat.” This is the best hands-down line ever written in a movie.
“Show me the way to go home, I’m tired and I want to go to bed.”
And who could deny, “Smile you son of bitch!” Although the bitch is drowned out from the explosion it is in there.
So, this movie messed up a lot of people. It made them afraid to go into the water. It turned them away from the ocean and scared the ever-living shit out of them. It had a different effect on me. I instantly wanted to become an oceanographer when I grew up. I never did, but I did become an avid scuba diver. While other children were playing football, my friends and I were reenacting scenes from Jaws. This movie inspired me on such a deep moving profound level that I can’t completely express it. Possibly it was because I was at that perfect age at the time, also it has everything to do with all of the reason that I have explained.
What makes the Mona Lisa a masterpiece? What makes Beethoven a maestro? What makes Einstein more than just another guy with a bad haircut?
It’s the same reason why Jaws is, and always will be a watershed moment in movie history and one of the greatest achievements of our time. If you missed this on the big screen, I truly feel sorry for you. You have no idea what you missed when Ben Gardner’s head pops out…Oh My God!!!
There aren’t enough stars in the heavens to give this movie all that it truly deserves.
Infinity stars for Jaws, Spielberg, and the entire cast and crew that brought this gem to life. Thank you!
One last note to the Gods of Hollywood who are determined to ruin everything.
DO NOT try to remake this movie! I will hunt you down and I will make chum out of you!
I mean it!
Daemon Manx writes horror and speculative fiction. He is a member of the Horror Authors Guild (HAG) and has had stories featured in magazines in both the U.S. and the U.K. His short story, The Dead Girl, became a finalist in The Green Shoe Sanctuary’s summer writing prompt contest in August 2021. His debut novelette, Abigail, was released through Terror Tract Publishing and has received 4.8 stars out of 5 on Amazon and Goodreads. He lives with his sister and their narcoleptic cat Sydney in a remote cabin off the grid, where they patiently prepare for the apocalypse. There is a good chance there they will run out of coffee.
Strange things come in small packages. Adrian Billard believes he knows what it’s like to be different, and has nearly given up hope of ever finding happiness. But, a strange package left on his doorstep is about to turn his entire world upside down. Everything Adrian thinks he knows is about to change. He is about to meet…Abigail.