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A Different "Amity-ville Horror" (JAWS write off)
Written: Jul 14, 2000 (Updated Jul 15, 2000)
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
Pros:Spielberg's direction, Dreyfuss, Scheider, Shaw, the music...oh heck, everything really
I was quite flattered when Mike_Bracken asked me to participate in this, I've never done a write off before, so I have no idea if I'm doing it right. However, I'll just do what I normally do and hopefully it'll be alright. I purposely didn't read anyone else's review yet, so I wouldn't be tempted to casually accept someone else's opinion as my own. If mine is like anyone else's, it is purely coincidental.
In 1975, a young upstart gave us a film that soon became the highest grossing film of all time, up to that point. It set records at the box office and became the first film to go over the $100 million mark. Actually, it became the first "summer event" film, and all films have been judged against it since then. The upstart? Steven Spielberg, of course. The film? Jaws.
The story of a small summer resort island, Amity Island, and the summer of terror the townsfolk endure, Jaws stars a young Richard Dreyfuss as shark expert Matt Hooper, Roy Scheider as police Chief Martin Brody and Robert Shaw as the salty sea dog Quint. As the film opens with a truly terrifying sequence, you're not entirely sure just what is plaguing the waters off Amity Island. But whatever it is, it's big and it's powerful.
As the film progresses, you find out that Amity Island has a great white shark patrolling their beaches. When the mayor (Murray Hamilton) is confronted with this news, he's still slow to close the beaches as it will hurt the tourist trade of the community. Chief Brody finally gets him to concede to close the beach, but only after a little boy has already been killed. The boy's mother offers a large reward for the capture of the shark, and this brings every would-be fisherman out of the woodwork in the hopes of collecting the money.
Soon, it becomes apparent that this shark isn't your ordinary great white. Catching him won't be that simple, and Brody calls in Matt Hooper, shark expert. Eventually, the two men team up with Quint, a cantankerous old sea dog in the hopes of catching the shark. The three of them go up against the shark in one of the most suspenseful and downright frightening battles ever put on film. It's man against nature and right up until the end, you're not sure who will be victorious.
Now, I must say that my personal experience with this film was limited for many, many years. There is one thing in all of God's green earth that I'm terrified of, and that is sharks. Jaws, as you might have guessed, is why I am terrified of sharks. My father, who was supposed to be watching me, took my uncle up on his offer to go see Jaws when it came out at the theater, a 6 year old me in tow. I have never forgotten this film, the sheer terror it filled me with and even now, 25 years later, it is still there. I had nightmares about sharks for 10 years after the fact and to this day I will not, under any circumstances, set foot in an ocean.
Spielberg has gone on record as saying this film was exceptionally difficult to make, the mechanical shark refused to cooperate most of the time. However, the shark comes across beautifully in the film, and it is a terrifying creation. The underwater scenes are claustrophobic, you know he's down there and he's coming. As Spielberg knows, the waiting is the hardest part and he builds the suspense until you think you can't take anymore, then he just keeps going. He has, of course, gone on to become one of the most consistently entertaining directors out there and he most certainly is Hollywood's Golden Boy.
The acting in this film is superb and all the three leads are perfectly cast. Scheider always seems to have an air of authority around him and he makes excellent use of that here. He *is* Chief Brody, a man who doesn't like the water, yet lives on an island. He tries to do the right thing, and, ultimately, he alone delivers Amity from the shark. Dreyfuss is exuberant and fresh as Hooper, making him a believable character. Hooper proves to be a valuable asset and his growing friendship with Brody is never forced, and after this film is over, you can imagine that Hooper and Brody probably got together on several occasions afterwards for drinks and conversation.
As good as Scheider and Dreyfuss are, Robert Shaw is absolutely magnificent. When Shaw speaks, he owns the film. His speech about being on the ill-fated USS Indianapolis left me with a severe case of the shudders. It's a scene that goes to the core of the character and the way he tells it will simply raise the hairs on the back of your neck. Quint doesn't like sharks, but he has a healthy respect for them. He's a macho man's man and you just can't help but like him.
In all, Jaws is the ultimate horror film and all "man against nature" films owe a large debt to it. The film is an absolute masterpiece, with everything coming together to make one incredible whole. The acting, the story, the direction and of course, John Williams unforgettable score add up to a film-going experience that the viewer will never forget. I find that as I get older this film doesn't bother me as much as it used to, but I still carry with me that irrational fear of sharks. For me, the water will never be safe enough.
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