4th Of July Trailer Theatre: Jaws (1975)

My aunt took me to see this shark movie phenom in the summer of ’75 apparently heedless of the poster and announcer’s stern, “Some scenes may be too intense for young children.” I recall being excited to watch this as I was already a full-fledged monster kid though I had no idea what I was in store for — nor did the audience who repeatedly screamed en masse throughout the film. I wasn’t scared as much as traumatized by the thought of getting my little toe near the ocean again, much less a lake or the waterbed I had to sleep in that night. I remember being impressed by the tone, feel and direction of the film, and though I was too young to explicate such things, I could tell this was a new kind of Hollywood effort, a monster movie layered in the naturalism of the decade, with Steven Spielberg’s instinctual cinematic sense as the dynamic conduit to the audience. One can debate the industry/cultural effects of this summer blockbuster but the fact remains that JAWS is just a great film.

26 Responses to “4th Of July Trailer Theatre: Jaws (1975)”

  1. Frank B Says:

    Like THE THING or THE SEVEN SAMURAI or DR. STRANGELOVE, JAWS is a film I can watch over and over. Like you, I was scarred for life. I’ll wade ankle-deep, but no way I’d even consider going surfing.

    I remember catching an art house screening in the mid-Nineties. The print was scratchy and the film had been on TV a million times, but that mostly college-age audience screamed, jumped and threw their popcorn during the big jump scenes like a two-decades later reenactment of the crowd in the theater where I first saw the film. (You know the exact moments I’m referring to, I’m sure. There are at least three.)

    It’s a shame the cinematic shark pool has been indefinitely polluted by all those cheap, jokey TV movies. I still say audiences would turn out for a good one. SHARK NIGHT 3D might be it, but I’m not holding my breath. Or sticking my neck out. And I certainly wouldn’t bet an arm and a leg…

    • christian Says:

      What’s kinda funny is that the Ben Gardner surprise appearance didn’t scare me but that audience rose in shock and their reaction scared me…

      I just recall the feel of instant dread when the theme and credits began…and that opening attack is still horrible and powerful, immediately letting you know you’re what you’re in for. And the great cast sells it all.

  2. Oh, hell yes! As soon as Jaws finished, I wanted to see it again, even though I was stunned by it. The film was, and still is, great. Wonderful recollection, christian. Thanks.

  3. i’ve been trying to think of something to say about ‘jaws’ that i haven’t already said a gazillion times, or look at it from a fresh perspective, but then i realised i can’t because it’s a ‘back of my hand’ movie: one of those (relatively few) movies that i’ve seen so many times – and will no doubt watch many more times – that i know it like the back of my hand — every line, every scene, every shot, every musical cue, every inflection, every beat, every sound effect, every creak, every scare; i can be doing something else with it on in the background and it’s like listening to an old friend, i can picture it exactly in my head, know right when hooper drops the tooth because ben gardener’s eyeball gives him a fright just from the sound…and i’m thinking, is it normal or a good idea to know a movie that well? but what are you gonna do, after the apocalypse when it’s back to staging plays around the campfire, when it’s time to reenact the classic monster story ‘jaws’, i’m your go-to gal. it’s on the back of my hand.

    • christian Says:

      I coulda made a list but it was too daunting. Every scene is a gem or has something cool or interesting. Spielberg was firing on all cylinders. And if I was going to post a favorite moment clip, it would be this little exchange at 0:22:

      I dunno why but I LOVE the way Hooper reacts with amused awe by Quint’s bluster. And Neary’s “You’re not gonna do this aboard the ship, are you…?” That’s Spielberg direction at its 70’s best and a quieter part of JAWS success.Of course, then there’s the awesome shot of the boat leaving the harbor through the open shark jaws. Beautiful.

      • awesome to the core. brody & hooper’s bemused tolerance of quint – even as he descends further and further into complete, obsessive madness that endangers them all – is fascinating. chagrin, fear and awe all tangled together.

        • christian Says:

          Though Shaw is incredible, I wish Lee Marvin had taken the role, just because he woulda been so cool in a Spielberg film…

          • i can’t imagine marvin as quint. i’m sure he would have made the role his own and i’d probably be saying the reverse if the tables were turned (“i can’t image shaw as quint!”), but while shaw so effortlessly embodies that ‘simple loner, big-galoot working-class fisherman with a wry, slightly manic twinkle in his eye” sensibility, marvin just strikes me as a bit too sophisticated and calculating in his sensibility to play quint the same way…but a differnt type of quint could have been just as effective, certainly, just hard for me to fathom.

  4. Frank B Says:

    Nomadic tribes will steal you back and forth from each other. You’ll be more valuable than gasoline. “We’ll trade you forty possum skins and a can opener for the JAWS lady!” “Piss off!”

    I bet I know which movie Christian can do from memory. But is there a demand?

  5. “Nomadic tribes will steal you back and forth from each other. You’ll be more valuable than gasoline. “We’ll trade you forty possum skins and a can opener for the JAWS lady!” “Piss off!” ”

    lol, frankb. i may have failed to mention to come see me if all the people who, you know, actually made the film die horribly in said apocalypse, THEN with a great deal of wishful thinking and a pinch of skiting i’m your go-to gal

  6. “It seems the kids at the karate school have been…karating the picket fences!”

    “You see this? They did it with they’h ba-uh hands!”

    Scary, funny, intense and quotable from beginning to end, “Jaws” is Spielberg’s best film (out of many great ones). Good luck ever topping this one again, Hollywood.

    “Let Polly do the printing!”

    • christian Says:

      Love that woman making the chopping motion.

      And of course, “That’s some bad hat, Harry.”

  7. JAWS is one of those film that if I happen to catch it partway through on TV I have to watch the rest of it until the end. It’s so easy to get caught up in the film and the characters. In fact, I was watching it again a few nights ago and was struck by how different it is from big, studio blockbusters. So much time early in letting us get to know the three leads and the supporting characters so that we care about what happens to them later on. This is virtually non-existent or merely an afterthought in most popcorn movies nowadays but you really get the feeling that some thought and care was put into the characters of JAWS. Of course, it didn’t hurt that you had a fantastic cast as well, which is half the battle right there.

    My fave scene is still the bit with Scheider and his son at the dinner table, where the little boy is mimicking his dad.

    “Give us a kiss.”
    “Cause I need it.”

    Such a great, touching little throwaway scene that speaks volumes about his character.

    • christian Says:

      Agreed. And the famous scene you mention is definitely a reason for its success and why it’s so amazing. Even as a kid in the theatre I could “feel” that moment. Spielberg is the best director of children EVER.

      • All that character work allows the audience to connect to each and every shark attack victim, too, even Chrissie who is in the movie for what, five minutes?

        “Where are we going?”

  8. Frank B Says:

    I’m trying to picture Leah miming Bruce jumping up on the boat. Do you hold your arms flat against your sides and stick your hands out like fins?

  9. no, i think you’d have to use your arms and hands in a ‘scissoring’ motion to mimic bruce’s gnashing jaws, while some other game reenactor gets pretend-munched with some dramatic shrieking and blood-gurgling to really make the scene ‘pop’. that’s how i’d roll, post-apocalypse.

  10. Frank B Says:

    We used to use folding TV trays when we were kids. You’d remove the tray part and work the legs to open and close it on someone’s stomach. Shark body made of pillows and blankets, ketchup in mouth optional.

  11. christian Says:

    DO NOT click here if you DO NOT want to see how Kinter’s attack would have been shown:

  12. I have seen those stills, but I’d love to set eyes on actual footage. Even if it only verified that the choice made was the right one, it would be super-cool.

  13. wow i might have to pony up for that cool-as book.

    that still of bruce looming over the boy is fascinating (and so wrong, given the sheer brilliance of the ‘roll-over’ sequence in the film, those giant fanning pectoral fins so much more horrifying than bruce’s big lumpy freak head ever could have been at that point in the tale). that super 8 footage must be highly coveted, i would imagine, it certainly has taken its sweet time to see the light of day!

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