Jul 22, 2011

[Movies] Jaws (1975)

Jaws (1975)This is one of those movies that fall into the category of movies that everyone expects you to watch but you never seem to get around to. Not much of a catchy title for a category, I know, but you get the picture. Despite multiple awards and rave reviews left and right that often call it one of the best movies of all time, I have to admit that I only sat down to watch it pretty recently, thanks to my partner of course.

As part of our continued information exchange treaty - the one that any geek couple gets into once they decide to commit to one another, I had long promised to watch this despite my hesitations when it comes to horror. As much as I respect such movies and have seen quite a few compelling suspense stories that are worth raving about, I just don't handle being surprised / shocked /scared very well. I guess it comes with being a bit of a nervous Nellie in life or whatever you want to call it.

But a good movie always deserves a shot (and heck, even some of the campy bad ones too). So I finally got around to watching this with my partner safely at my side and admittedly it wasn't too bad. And this is no just because the movie and its effects are a little dated. If anything, it's really a good movie with a pretty interesting story at heart. Admittedly some of my courage was probably in the fact that I've never been one to particularly enjoy swimming at the beach anyway. Thus it didn't generate as strong a personal reaction as it could have for someone who knows how to swim.

Still, it was quite the experience.

Peter BenchleyImage via WikipediaJaws is the 1975 thriller movie based on the Peter Benchley book of the same name. It was one of the first movies directed by Steven Spielberg and it went on to become the first ever summer blockbuster.

On the fictional island of Amity in the New England area, the story begins with two young tourists deciding to go skinny dipping after a night of partying and drinking. Chrissie (Susan Backlinie) finds herself alone in the water when something takes hold of her underwater. The next day, her badly mutilated remains are found on the beach some time after she is reported missing. The new out-of-town police chief, Martin Brody (Roy Schneider) becomes concerned when the medical examiner suspects she was the victim of a shark attack.

But his efforts to have the beaches closed just before the 4th of July weekend are met with heavy resistance by the town's mayor Larry Vaughn (Murray Hamilton) since the small town is dependent on the summer tourists for the bulk of their income. But as a second attack costs a young boy (Jeffrey Voorhees) his life, the town is faced with the grim reality that a killer shark is indeed on the loose. This brings in many opportunists like shark hunter Quint (Robert Shaw) and a marine biologist by the name of Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss). How the two will deal with the shark and still manage to secure their source of revenue for the season become the driving points for the story.

The movie remains to be quite the technological marvel whether in terms of its time of original release or even today. Sure, stories abound of how the mechanical sharks used in the movie were horribly prone to malfunctions during the course of the shoot, the overall approach for the movie proved the inventive resourcefulness of the creative team and the vision of a much younger Spielberg.

The constraints enforced by the inconsistent shark robots led to the much more thematically appropriate use of creative shots and alternative methods to illustrate the shark's comings and goings. Given the masterful mix of the use of music, silence and camera perspective, we as an audience were clearly able to relate to the terror of the unknown killer in the depths until the shark finally reveals itself. And even then we're still caught unawares when it chooses to strike from the depths, taking everything in its path with it.

I was worried that the acting would have been like the B-movies of old that still seem to propagate until today, but that wasn't the case. Schneider put on a pretty solid performance given his role and Shaw was more impressive as the rather obsessed Quint. Dreyfuss was somewhat endearing as the well-meaning scientist although one could tell just how raw he was at the time compared to his more recent projects. Thus watching the movie with the context of modern movies does give one an interesting perspective on things and a unique sense of fulfillment.

At its core, Jaws is a great movie because of a great story that was told in a clear and dramatically powerful way. As a viewer, you're made to be able to fully relate to what the characters are going through and the danger they're in. And thus by the end you're just glad it's all over despite how somewhat implausible the ending was. Still, I now understand why Jaws is so highly regarded and thus I feel it gets a 4.5 yellow barrels floating in the water out of a possible 5.

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  1. Sikat na sikat ang film na 'to pero 'di ko pa ito napanood. Takot kasi ako sa pating :(

  2. It's actually not THAT scary - at least given the technology of the day. Definitely worth checking out.

  3. I disagree with you on the category "Jaws" falls into, as it still seems to be a very popular film, even among young people.  That category would be more appropriate for "Citizen Kane," "Casablanca," or "Gone With the Wind."  However, I'm glad you enjoyed it, as this is my all-time favorite film.  Just do yourself a favor and don't watch any of the sequels.