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movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Jaws

Starring: Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw
Director: Steven Spielberg
Rated: PG
RunTime: 123 Minutes
Release Date: June 1975
Genres: Classic, Suspense, Action, Horror

*Also starring: Richard Dreyfuss, Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton, Jeffrey Kramer, Susan Backlinie, Carl Gottlieb

Review by Walter Frith
No Rating Supplied

It's early August 1998. Steven Spielberg has been in the news a lot recently. Thankfully, a man was just sentenced to a hefty jail term for stalking the director. His recent release of 'Saving Private Ryan' is the most harrowing war picture to come along in years and ranks up there with the director's best work and five of Spielberg's films (more than any other director) recently made the American Film Institute's list of the top 100 movies of all time in the first century of film (1896-1996). They are, in order from lowest to highest on the list, 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind', #64, 'Raiders of the Lost Ark', #60, 'Jaws' #48, 'E.T., The Extra Terrestrial', #25 and rightfully so, as a Spielberg film and a great film in general, 'Schindler's List' in the top 10 at #9. I would probably shift that list around a little because I don't think E.T., is Spielberg's second best film, 'Jaws' is. Both 'Jaws' and 'Schindler's List' are in my top 10 films of all time with 'Schindler's List' finishing ahead of the famous shark movie.

Plain and simple, 'Jaws' was the movie that got me interested in film. Like a roller coaster ride with shrieks and movements of excitement from the theatre audience, for me it is the definition of what's called 'the audience picture'. 'Jaws' has one of those talked about and memorable opening scenes where the young girl, jumps into the ocean at dusk and goes swimming in the nude and is consumed as a meal. The poster for 'Jaws' is also one of the most famous as we see the shark swimming up to the surface to eat his dinner as the young female swimmer passes by and 'Jaws' was the first movie to earn at least 100 million dollars at the box office and it eventually earned 260 million domestically and 470 million worldwide. Not to shabby considering the price of a movie ticket 23 years ago.

'Jaws' also earned three Oscars on four nominations for sound, original music score by John Williams which is one of the recognizable motion picture scores in film history with its towering and haunting passages and an Oscar for what is probably the film's most important contribution which is the sensational, revolutionary and overall brilliant film editing by Verna Fields. The fourth nomination 'Jaws' received was for best picture and it lost out to 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' and was also up against 'Dog Day Afternoon', 'Barry Lyndon' and 'Nashville'.

Plagued with production problems and a budget that went from four million to ten million dollars, Steven Spielberg did not receive an Oscar nomination as best director but he should have for making a film work in the final cut that many predicted would fail miserably.

For those of you that have seen 'Jaws' (if you haven't, see the wide screen version), you'll probably agree that many of the films best scenes have nothing to do with seeing the shark. Conversations in and around and about the menace that's swimming off the shores of Amityville Long Island, NY are the main topic of many scenes in this brilliant film that are funny, turbulent, moving, surprising and the film gave rise to increasing the adventure, horror and action genres. The film was actually shot at Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts during the summer of 1974.

The term 'old salt' has never been better visualized on film than in the character of Quint, played by Robert Shaw who died of a heart attack in 1978, three years after 'Jaws' came out. Shaw was a brilliant actor. His interpretation of the movie villain was diversified in many films and among them are the Russian assassin in the second James Bond film, 'From Russia With Love' in 1963. The film for which he received his one and only Oscar nomination which was for Best Supporting Actor in 1966 for 'A Man For All Seasons' for his portrait of King Henry VIII of England and his turn as the ruthless depression era gangster in 'The Sting' in 1973 are probably some of the most most under rated bad guys in movie history.

In 'Jaws', Shaw's portrayal of the fisherman Quint grabs your attention quickly. At a meeting of the town's political council, disagreements break out and with everyone shouting and exchanging words of chaos, Quint restores order to the room by scratching his nails on a blackboard and tells the mayor (Murray Hamilton), the police chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) and everyone else that he will catch and kill the shark in question for a sum of $10,000. The town takes it under advisement and Quint is seen mostly in the film's last hour as the shark hunt gets serious. The giant great white shark has already killed two people and in addition from offered help by Quint, Brody gets help from a shark expert named Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss), who, along with Quint but toned down a lot more, is much of the film's comic relief while he also brings reason and common sense in the pursuit of nature.

'Jaws', along with '12 Angry Men' and 'The Treasure of the Sierra Madre', illustrates extremely well, men interacting with one another as Brody, Quint and Hooper are portrayed as truly human characters, constantly at odds with each other on the boat but who, in one memorable scene involving dinner, display their humanity and Quint's long but fascinating talk about life on the U.S.S. Indianapolis during World War II is the film's best package of dialogue which reportedly was written by Shaw himself.

I always thought that the great visionary mind of Steven Spielberg had intended audiences to see very little of the shark in the film's first hour but Spielberg says that that wasn't the plan at all because the remote controlled shark simply didn't work when called upon.

Screenwriters Peter Benchley and Carl Gottlieb wrote a truly great academic script based on Benchley's novel, passing over the opportunity to make 'Jaws' an exploitation picture by creating great characters, believable situations and an insight into what was at the time, a truly original subject.

Copyright 1998 Walter Frith

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