Peter Benchley (novel and screenplay) and Carl Gottlieb (screenplay)
Roy Scheider as Police Chief Martin Brody
Robert Shaw as Quint
Richard Dreyfuss as Matt Hooper
Lorraine Gary as Ellen Brody
Over 30 years ago I was allowed to go with my father to the movie theater at a local outdoor mall in suburbia California. Back then there were two different movies playing (in the same place… two movies!*) and one of them was Jaws. I think the other may have been Fantasia but I’m not sure. Jaws was the film I was there to watch. I was very young…and actually I’m not really sure why I was allowed to go and see Jaws at all considering my age and the movie’s “parental guidance” rating. I guess my parents thought I could handle it.
Well, I could handle it, and I LOVED it. The trouble is, to this very day images from Jaws cross my mind every single time I swim in the ocean… or in a lake…or in a river…or in a swimming pool. I am not alone.
The storyline in Jaws involves a small coastal town called Amity, a Police Chief named Brody (Roy Scheider), a marine biologist named Matt (Richard Dreyfuss) and the hardened fisherman Quint (Robert Shaw). Oh, and a shark.
Ok, not just “a shark”, but THE shark. A Great White Shark – huge and hungry…and vindictive.
Amity is an ocean-front tourist town and the high-season is approaching. Unfortunately, so is the shark. When a shark attack early in the season threatens to close down the lucrative sun-worshiping tourist trade the mayor of Amity (Murray Hamilton) does his best to put a lid on the drama while Brody is determined to “protect and serve”.
As Jaws progresses we learn that this is not a run-of-the-mill “animal attack” story, but a battle of wills between an intelligent and determined killer and a would-be hero. The final showdown must happen on the killer’s home turf – the deep blue sea.
Jaws is classic horror through and through. Don’t be fooled by the fact that the killer is a shark – this shark is as ruthless and cunning as any murderous slasher taking human form. The budget is large and the acting is first rate. The original film quality is a bit grainy, betraying the 1975 release date, but this just adds to the feeling that we are witnessing true and horrifying events. (The 30 year anniversary edition cleaned this up somewhat.)
The most notable element of Jaws, however, is the impact. Impact in 1975 when the film was released, the cultural impact the film has had after decades of being firmly entrenched in pop-culture, and the impact it will have on you when you watch Jaws for the first time.
The fact that Jaws was released so long ago is reason enough for many newer-generation horror freaks to discount it as an old “shark attack movie”. This is compounded by the unfortunate release of several terrible sequels that did little more then dilute the power and impact of the original. My wholehearted recommendation is that horror freaks young and old make a place for Jaws on their horror agendas.
If for no other reason, watch Jaws for the nostalgia value and to ensure that you remain a well-rounded Horror Aficionado. You think it’s unnerving to walk around your dark house after watching Friday the 13th or Halloween? Just wait until the first time you swim in the ocean (or a lake) after watching Jaws.