Sunday, February 16, 2014

Family Movie Night: Jaws

Title: Jaws
Director: Stephen Spielberg
Original Release: 1975
Choice: Mine
My Overall Rating: 3 stars out of 5
via Amazon
Amazingly, I had never seen Jaws before.  I was but a wee child when the film was first released and became the original summer blockbuster.  Scary movies generally aren't my thing so it's never been at the top of my must-see video rental list either.  However, any exploration of music in film would be incomplete without Jaws.  People who have never seen the film know the shark's theme music instantly, certainly one of the most easily recognizable leit motifs in all of cinema.


An enormous shark is eating swimmers off the coast of the fictional Amity Island.  When a young boy is killed, his mother offers a reward to anyone who can catch the offending beast.  After the amateurs make fools and occasional meals of themselves in the pursuit, an expert is hired.  Science, law enforcement and seafaring testosterone combine forces to hunt down the deadly fish.

Jaws is filmed mostly in and around Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts, a part of the world we've come to know well.  While we've never been to the island itself, the Philosopher's Island (not its real name) is very close by.  The terrain is quite familiar.  In fact, I'm pretty sure one of the ferries featured in the movie is still in operation - or it was rebuilt to look exactly the same.

John Williams won his second Academy Award for the Jaws score.  The shark's theme incorporates a simple, effective and legendary half-step alternation which has served as a mnemonic device in ear training classes ever since:


Multi-generational considerations:
  • The movie is definitely scary.  Few films in history have built suspense more effectively.  There is both blood and severed limbs - pretty gross.
  • Before the movie, we assured Our Girl that sharks don't really act like this in the wild.  As My Wife likes to point out, one is statistically more likely to be killed by a falling coconut than by a shark.

30 comments:

  1. I love jaws, it's one of the movies I own because it's still so watchable after all this time.

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    1. It's a surprisingly pretty movie - I mean apart from the horrific blood and gore. The scenery is stunning.

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  2. I would watch a movie about Killer Coconuts....

    I have not seen Jaws in forever....I'm not sure if it played a role in my fear of open water or not...

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    1. I love the ocean but it scares me, in a healthy way, I think. It's nothing to do with sharks, though. The ocean is the biggest thing on earth - that merits respect.

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    2. My issue can be the enormity....the size of what lives there...that is what gets to me,

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    3. Thus your feelings about whale watches?

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  3. You know, I'm not sure I've ever seen Jaws. I've seen at least one of the sequels (which was godawful and featured the shark surfacing and roaring), but I don't think I've seen Jaws. I've also never seen Poltergeist. Suddenly, I feel deficient.

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    1. I've never seen Poltergeist either. Not in any big hurry for that one either.

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  4. Oh yes I remember when Jaws came out. Started to read the book but saw the movie.
    What is so funny about Jaws is I lived for a long time next to the Pacific Ocean, ending in Laguna Beach, California. I used to body surf all the time. I learned in Huntington Beach (surfs up) and you do see dolphins, sharks and lots of jellyfish. They never bothered me, the rip tides did. Got caught is one but knew how to swim out of it.
    What scared me is when we use to spend time at Lake Arrowhead I always was a bit scared for lake monsters ? ? ! ? ! yes I know weird.
    I use to swim from the dock to the buoy and just knew there was something down there. How bizarre of me !
    Music is great !

    cheers, parsnip

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    1. Lake water is creepy in its own way - so murky. You also feel a lot more stuff brushing up against your legs.

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    2. The idea that our lake has sturgeon the size of ME (plus that fabled Lake Monster) is very discomfiting..

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    3. I get it. For what it's worth, I don't think the sturgeon actually bother people much.

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  5. I saw it in the theaters when it was released, scared the crap out of me. I loved that some of the most terrifying scenes never showed the shark but relied on the viewers imagination. Theater experience is also much more powerful than your living room.

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    1. I'm sure it is! Widescreen and surround sound would do a lot for that movie, one can see.

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  6. I watch JAWS every time I come upon it simply because I love seeing the Vineyard. When I saw it as a kid it really terrified me since it was set in the place I went to every summer.

    I remember seeing a documentary on the filming and Spielberg mentioned that the reason we don't see the shark in the first half of the movie was because they couldn't get the mechanical shark to work right, so he improvised and made it so it was just the camera underwater. I thought that was so interesting because that combined with the music was what really made the movie to me. If we had seen the shark all along I don't think it would have been nearly as frightening.

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    1. He's also said the movie wouldn't have done half as well if not for the score. I expected the shark theme to be more pervasive than it is. It's used very effectively, I think.

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  7. Jaws is one of the greatest movies ever. The fact that a malfunctioning robotic shark named Bruce worked in their favor is just priceless.
    Andrew has never seen Jaws or Poltergeist? I could probably recite both movies.

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    1. Movies I could recite...

      original Star Wars trilogy, Princess Bride, Bull Durham, Hoosiers, Usual Suspects... But neither Jaws nor Poltergeist.

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  8. I still remember that floating limb...

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    1. Yes, I expect that one will stay with me for a while, too - such a well-toned calf.

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  9. We watched a lot of scary movies when our kids were growing up, because they enjoyed them. "Jaws" is one of the ones I enjoyed, too. So's "Poltergeist." You should give that one a go.

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    1. I have a feeling scary movies may eventually become a guilty pleasure for our daughter but she was definitely spooked by this one.

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  10. Not only is this one of the best movie songs ever, it also has the most brilliant "happy accidents" ever. If the shark had worked better Spielberg would never have made the shark so terrifying. An honest review.

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  11. Jaws...what a classic! It's been several years since I've seen it, and I'm quite surprised this was the first time you've seen it. Living in a state where we have a growing film industry, it's kind of cool to see places you know in movies.

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    1. I agree. Of course, I hope our daughter won't be scared off going swimming up there...

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  12. I have heard a lot of mixed reviews about Jaws. Thanks for sharing your opinion about it.

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    1. Lady L, given your other interests, I'm surprised you haven't seen it!

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  13. We watched this recently with the kids, and had that "sharks aren't like this" talk with them as well (although we didn't compare sharks to coconuts, I like that touch!). I remembered watching this as a child and being bowel-clenchingly scared, but I felt like it didn't really hold up in the fear department too well upon rewatch. My kids, who used to be such sensitive movie-watchers (we never watched anything remotely scary when they were little), are now very hard to frighten. They were grossed out by the blood but not terrified the way I was as a kid. Maybe it helps that we live thousands of miles away from any ocean. :)

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    1. Not too many sharks in the desert, I suppose...

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