Based on the true story of a great white shark which terrorized the shores of New Jersey in the summer of 1916, Jaws is the adaptation of Peter Benchley’s best-selling novel. It’s the first of a thrilling trilogy by Steven Spielberg which will hit us later this month, and it’s promising to be the gut-wrenching success the media portrays it as.
Jaws was a phenomenon in the summer of 1975 and the first film to gross more than $100,000,000 moreover it has proven to us that a film can generate horror, thrills and suspense without excessive violence found in modern films.
Jaws is set in the small New England popular tourist resort of Amity Island, where an intense beginning quickly draws the audience to the electrifying film. Chrissie Watkins (Susan Backlinie) is the first victim of the abysmal shark when she decides to go swimming one late summer’s night.
Early the next morning police Chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) gets called to a drowning after a female’s body is found. The distorted arm that lies among the sand however, rules out his initial thoughts. The island’s pathologist declares the incident as a shark attack, but he is overruled by Mayor Larry Vaughn (Murray Hamilton) who fears that public knowledge of a shark infesting waters would kill the lucrative local economy. Under pressure from the mayor, the pathologist issues a statement that the death was due to an unfortunate boating accident.
Drama unfolds to another level when another victim takes its place in the range of killings by the shark. The incident and a $10,000 bounty on the shark promptly draws dozens of amateur fishermen. Along with them comes Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss), a marine biologist, who teams up with the experienced Quint (Robert Shaw) and Chief Martin Brody. The chase has begun!
There has never been a truer edge-of-your-seat thriller wrought with suspense than Jaws. The unknown is craftily woven throughout the movie by the use of long shots instead of spectacular effects. Furthermore Spielberg does tremendously in not allowing viewers to catch more than a glimpse of the shark until the end of the film. This adds a stimulating effect that keeps the audience guessing until the end.
Another exhilarating feature of the film which handed Jaws part of its success is the memorable score (by John Williams) which earned Jaws one of the many Oscar’s it deserved. The theme music has without a doubt greatly enhanced the success of Jaws by being able to terrorise viewers at times when they least expect it to and it has arguably been more powerful than shots of the shark itself.
For instance, in one scene Chief Brody is hurling fish aboard to attract the shark when suddenly a Great White Shark jumps out; when the shark jumped out there was a sudden change in mood and volume of music which terrified viewers.
However, not all aspects of the film have been positive; certainly not the unrealistic mechanical shark which was clearly fake and the only reason children still enter the water today. Furthermore the mechanical shark caused complications by delaying the worldwide release of the film and it dug a hole into the modest budget ($ 12 million) of the film. Nonetheless, some cynics say that the technical limitations faced by Spielberg, forced him to make a better film than he otherwise would have.
Overall, Jaws is a must-see, heart-pumping masterpiece for all ages; just don’t forget the popcorn!