WolfmanOz at the Movies #75


Tourists on the menu.

The first time watching of a favourite film can be a particularly memorable event, and I will always recall my first viewing of Jaws when the family went to see it way back in the summer of 1976. It would have to rank as one of my top five most purely entertaining and enjoyable movie watching experiences in a cinema in my entire life. It’s also the 3rd film of the 3 great films from 1975 that I have recently been reviewing (the other two being Barry Lyndon and One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest)

Regarded as a watershed moment in motion picture history, Jaws was the prototypical summer blockbuster and before the days of the internet, audiences were not pre-conditioned as to what to expect and although Jaws had been on release in the USA for just over 6 months, by the time it hit New Zealand in January 1976 the anticipation and excitement it generated was something you simply just don’t see anymore with a release of a film. With expectations so high would the film actually deliver on them? Yes it did . . . in spades.

The audience was hooked from the very start.

In terms of its reputation, Jaws will forever be known for two things: director Steven Spielberg’s unique shark-eye view camera work and the building of suspense, and composer John Williams’ two note attack motif that became as quintessential as any piece of film music ever created. Perhaps those two aspects alone would have been enough to make Jaws an iconic film – who knows. But the fact is, this 1975 effort is about so much more than just suspense/horror. It is one of the most well-rounded, complete movies ever made.

For a very basic overview, Jaws, based on the novel by Peter Benchley, tells the story of the coastal town of Amity, which suddenly and inexplicably becomes the hunting grounds for a rogue Great White shark. Sheriff Brody (Roy Scheider) wants to close down the beaches until further notice, but is opposed every step of the way by city official Vaughn (Murray Hamilton), who worries about the potential loss of tourist business. When the attacks continue, however, Brody enlists the help of shark expert Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) and grizzled boatsman Quint (Robert Shaw) to help hunt down the giant predator.

The juxtaposition of acting, editing, camerawork, humour and music helped create one of cinema’s most celebrated jump scares, which is quickly followed by one of the greatest ad-libs in movie history and then followed by one of cinema’s most exciting sequences – all in less than 6 minutes. I should also add that when the family first saw it my mum jumped first which set off a chain reaction across the entire cinema row which was then followed by laughter as to what happened followed by more laughter with Brody’s wonderful, and quite apt, suggestion to Quint.

As stated, the general premise and music here are well-known. But what always strikes me with each Jaws re-watch is how much it is a human drama as opposed to a horror piece driven by a villain (the shark, in this case).

The first half of Jaws takes place almost entirely on land which focuses more on the politics of fear and commerce than anything supernatural or scary. It seems to play out as a modern day version of Henrik Ibsen’s An Enemy Of The People.

The second half leans more towards adventure sea chase, and is buoyed by ocean scenes that, despite being filmed nearly 50 years ago now, do not seen old or outdated in the least. There’s definitely a touch of Moby Dick in the way the second half plays out.

The masterful cinematography always holds up, and Spielberg’s behind-the-camera decisions certainly do here as well. Even then though, in the midst of a brutal and thrilling chase, Spielberg stops the action for a touching scene in which the three seaman bond over song and shared experiences, culminating in the famous monologue by Quint about the USS Indianapolis.

In order to fully exhibit such depth of character, great acting is required, and it’s given here in spades. Jaws features a collection of unique characters that are always a joy to revisit. Scheider as the “why-won’t- anyone-listen-to-me!” sheriff lets viewers relate to the story in a much more personal aspect, while Dreyfuss’ Hooper is insightful, hilarious, and provides some of the best dialogue of the whole show. Of course, Shaw as Quint is singularly iconic, juxtaposing jocularity and complexity perfectly within his single character.

Such a great film deserved a fitting thrilling climax which it delivered.

Perhaps the greatest compliment I can give Jaws is that every time I see it, I can’t help but be swept away in all its winning aspects. Whether it be the drama, emotion, humour, music, thrills, adventure, visuals, acting, or just the overall heart of the piece, there is not a single scene wasted or under-utilised. I have absolutely no doubt that it will remain just as visceral of an experience going forward as it was for those sitting in the theatres in 1975 and 1976.

Enjoy.

And the tease for next week post . . . The Return of the Great Adventure.

I will also add my wonderful mum in Auckland messages me every Thursday morning telling me what the film is for next week from the tease – and she’s always right (and she’ll know this weeks one for sure).

I owe my love of movies and the cinema to my both my parents, but particularly to my mum; so this post is dedicated to her.


49 responses to “WolfmanOz at the Movies #75”

  1. WolfmanOz Avatar
    WolfmanOz

    Although I have plenty of future posts in the pipeline, I’m quite happy to take requests for future posts.

    Recent requests I can recall are:

    The Dirty Dozen – calli
    Les Enfants Du Paradis (Children Of Paradise) – Anchor What
    Federico Fellini – johanna

    Apologies, if I’ve missed anyone, but please post any requests you’d like me to review etc.

    Please note I can’t guarantee I’ll do a post on the request i.e. there will be little or no chance for Marvel superhero movies, but it’s good to gauge other people’s interests.

    I’ll be out until mid-afternoon as I’m refereeing at a school soccer tournament . . . but . . . “I’ll be back !”

  2. Dot Avatar

    Whaddya’ know ’bout sharkin’, boy?

    So many memorable lines.

  3. thefrollickingmole Avatar
    thefrollickingmole

    Thanks, nice movie choice.
    Remember seeing it at the drive in, this and Star Wars are probably the only ones Im sure I watched there out of all the times my parents took us.

    Suggested movies?

    The documentary Brazil

    Or the weirdest movie ever made, Kissed.

    Or for maximum schlock value, set controls for the heart of…. basket case.

  4. Muddy Avatar
    Muddy

    Never having watched the film, can Jaws be viewed as an allegory?

    My suggestion for the future: Like Water for Chocolate. The original Spanish language version, not the Hollyweird copy starring Sarah Michelle Gellar.

  5. Fair Shake Avatar
    Fair Shake

    Revisited this movie 12-months ago after a long hiatus. Brought back all the schoolboy memories of shark-mania!

    Apparently Spielberg ..in his own words..all full of himself starts directing this movie at sea. Quickly realises he is well out of his depth. Did not realise the water and sky change so dramatically in v short time. The clouds/sun change the colour of the water, tide changes the currents, wind changes the waves…. No two scenes look the same. Amazing how they resolved or just chose to ignore in the end. He had advice from an experienced director…whatever happens you must show confidence in what you are doing, else you will lose the crew.

    One of the best improvisations with the fake shark that never worked properly was the use of the Yellow barrels. Pure genius. Greatly adds to the suspense.

    one of my favourite lines…. ‘That’s a bad hat Harry.’

  6. vr Avatar
    vr

    Hitchcock movies… Rear Window is a favourite.

  7. Bruce of Newcastle Avatar
    Bruce of Newcastle

    Also saw Jaws at the cinema. Extraordinary. The building up of tension was perhaps the best thing about the movie – all done with care and excellent pace. Then bam, something would happen. The head scene was a shocker alright!

    My dad is a keen fisherman, and we’d go deep sea fishing with him at that time. Definitely put a dampener on such expeditions…

  8. Mum Avatar
    Mum

    Thanks my son, great memories, Mum XXX

  9. Bruce in WA Avatar
    Bruce in WA

    And the shark’s name was … Bruce.

    Thank you, thank you all.

  10. Real Deal Avatar
    Real Deal

    I saw it as an 11 year old in 1975. I think it was the first movie where I heard a serious swear word. But I loved it. The cast is fabulous, but the standout is Robert Shaw. Apparently a complete so and so in real life but a peerless actor.

    The account of the USS Indianapolis has entered folklore. Shaw could take any cod-ordinary film (I.e. The Deep) and turn in a compelling performance. His early death robbed us of a brilliant character actor into his 50s to 80s. Deserved on Oscar for Jaws as well as The Sting.

    Incidently, I’m a big fan of British comedian Peter Cook. On YouTube there is a TV interview from the USA in the mid 70s with host Dick Cavett, guests Peter Cook and Dudley Moore with Robert Shaw also on the couch.

    It is fascinating to watch Cook and Shaw fence with each other. Both highly intelligent and highly functioning alcoholics looking for a way to get under each other’s defences. Fascinating stuff.

  11. Lee Avatar

    Only saw part of Jaws years ago and was underwhelmed by what I did see.

  12. davefromweewaa Avatar
    davefromweewaa

    I thought Jaws II was pretty realistic… Until the climactic scene when the small motor on the winch starts first pull. Starting one of those bastard 1970’s Briggs and Strattons first pull could only happen in Hollywood!

  13. Entropy Avatar
    Entropy

    Gattaca
    Before sunrise
    The fifth element
    Demolition man

  14. Entropy Avatar
    Entropy

    I actually have seen the original movie on which the opening scene of raiders of the lost ark is based. Something Inca. B&W

  15. tommbell Avatar

    A film that I haven’t watched for ages but which I found engrossing was “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”.

  16. Bar Beach Swimmer Avatar
    Bar Beach Swimmer

    Wolfie, thank you for a great memory lane walk. I love Jaws! Everything you’ve pointed out is spot on.
    When I watched those clips not only was I reminded of the great film it still is, but it made me consider how far from those times we’ve come; in cinema; in culture; in politics.

    First, in cinema. You pointed out how good the film still looks 50 odd years since it was made. Well, apart from all the attributes of the filming of it as you pointed out, what about the filming of it in the real world – as the artists would say en plein aire. The realism that real life provides, unlike CGI, puts this film way above anything of recent time. In fact, I would argue that film needs to undergo a cultural change, as painting did, when painting outside became the norm. To that I may add that while I loved the film adaptation of the LOTRS, including its CGI, which was top notch, all it did was lead to crap. Now, everything is artificial because it’s mostly filmed on a green screen with CGI added later. To that, we may add that real stories are no longer being produced, just superhero rubbish.

    In culture. Who, now, in America would know the story of the USS Indianapolis? Yes, Quint explains the story in the scene. But from Hooper’s face he knows it already. I think Brody does as well, but I think his question relates more to how Quint received his scar, which then sets up for the audience the knowledge that these men – all of them? – maybe about to experience a similar fate.

    On what people now know, or don’t: I’ve seen footage of your Americans being asked about the number of states of the union; which party supported slavery; or even basic maths questions, all to no avail. And the same would be true in Australia, now that Cook, Phillip, Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson and Bass and Flinders etc. are not being taught anymore.

    In politics and may I say, in meta-politics: a few times when Jaws has been shown on TV over the last few years, I’ve called the station after the climax of the film – when Quint slides into the shark’s mouth after the boat starts breaking up from the shark’s onslaught – has been removed. I’ve been told that the reason for cutting the film was because it was programmed in the 7:30 timeslot. To me this is both disingenuous and manipulative of the story and the politics.

    Disingenuous, because why program an 8:30 film in a 7:30 timeslot, if not to remove that scene? Manipulative, because it curates the idea, now prevalent among the stupid idiot class, that the white pointer shark is “a noble creature” rather than the dangerous animal it really is. (See how we phrase “shark attack” to the euphemised “bite” on the news.)

    As an aside, whenever I get into a conversation with one of those dills who think sharks should be protected always, I reply that personally I think their and their family’s lives are more important than is the shark’s and I would save them first instead of the shark.

    Well, that’s the end of my rant; Jaws is a great and noble film of courage, endurance, honesty and real humanity.

  17. calli Avatar
    calli

    I love the Animal Horror genre! This one was best by a country mile…but how about Lake Placid as a follow-up? 😀

    Also…every Disaster movie, starting with A Night to Remember?

    I’ve always had a soft spot for Dreyfuss, since his role in The Goodbye Girl. Classic Chick Flick, so gentlemen avert your eyes.

  18. Fair Shake Avatar
    Fair Shake

    Dreyfus was excellent in Stakeout and Tin Men.

  19. Fair Shake Avatar
    Fair Shake

    …and Let it Ride!

  20. Real Deal Avatar
    Real Deal

    Jaws 2 was entertaining, but obviously not groundbreaking. It’s tagline is more remembered: “Just when you thought it was safe to get back in the water” (or something similar). The rest were awful, especially Jaws the Revenge (4). Michael Caine’s immortal line: “Sharks come and go, Ellen.”

    The unconvincing shark in Jaws 4 was described by D-Gen member Tony Martin as “part shark, part piano accordion.”

  21. Luzu Avatar
    Luzu

    Wolfman,

    If I may suggest Cinema Paradiso? A beautiful, human movie.

  22. Dot Avatar

    davefromweewaa says:
    June 15, 2023 at 12:13 pm

    I thought Jaws II was pretty realistic… Until the climactic scene when the small motor on the winch starts first pull. Starting one of those bastard 1970’s Briggs and Strattons first pull could only happen in Hollywood!

    I think Jaws II was pretty dang old cynical.

    – – – Sometimes beautiful girls are the loneliest.

    – – – That’s a crock of shit.

  23. Old School Conservative Avatar
    Old School Conservative

    The Jaws music has certainly entered folklore. People of all ages know you mean “danger close” when you intone “DUM dum dum dum ….. DUM dum dum dum……”

  24. WolfmanOz Avatar
    WolfmanOz

    Well today’s soccer refereeing was very tiring . . . I’ve just woken up after a 3 hour siesta !

    Some interesting suggestions so far . . . Brazil, Rear Window, Gattaca and Cinema Paradiso sound particularly interesting to me.

    As our resident Bruces have noted . . . the shark was named after them, and thank God it didn’t work very well, as it forced Spielberg to use his imagination (he actually wanted to show more of the shark from the beginning).

    If ever there was a case of less is more this film was it. As noted above, just the appearance of the yellow barrels was enough to scare audiences that the shark was near.

    I always rewatch the film I’m about to write about (within a couple of weeks) so I can revisit my thoughts and Jaws was no exception. I rate it along side Hitch’s North By Northwest as one of cinemas most pleasurable entertainments to enjoy.

    And my mum has become a Cat !

  25. Entropy Avatar
    Entropy

    Master and commander
    (Is it a sin to say it is better than the books?)

  26. WolfmanOz Avatar
    WolfmanOz

    Entropy says:
    June 15, 2023 at 7:38 pm
    Master and commander
    (Is it a sin to say it is better than the books?)

    Absolutely not a sin to say it is better than the book . . . although I’ve not read the source novel for Master And Commander.

    Take Jaws – I read the novel after seeing the movie and found it very average with the characters quite unsympathetic. The changes the movie made from the novel in all cases improved it immensely.

    Although author Peter Benchley had a co-screenplay credit it was Spielberg’s friend Carl Gottlieb, a comedy writer-actor then working on the TV sitcom The Odd Couple who added the humour and the warmth developed in the characters.

  27. Entropy Avatar
    Entropy

    Secret of the Incas was the source of the opening scene in Indi.

    How about “How to marry a millionaire.”

  28. Entropy Avatar
    Entropy

    The Russell Crowe movie is an amalgam of three of the Patrick O’Brien novels about lucky jack aubrey and his friend Stephen Maturin.
    There are a heap of them following from when Aubrey is first made commander through to Admiral.
    The same time frame Horatio Hornblower novels by CS Forrester are superior IMHO. Oh, yes, there is that Gregory Peck movie Captain Horatio Hornblower which is also stripped from three of the more than a dozen novels made into one movie.
    The Hornblower novels were shamelessly raided by David Weber to make his very popular military space opera about heroine Honor Harrington.

  29. Anchor What Avatar
    Anchor What

    I have it on Laserdisc, so will watch it if the machine comes out of hibernation ok.
    Thanks Wolfie.

  30. Anchor What Avatar
    Anchor What

    There was, of course, that rather satirical episode of The Goodies where the monster fish in the river was eventually turned into fish fingers!

  31. Anchor What Avatar
    Anchor What

    The Hornblower novels were so good, and there’s no way any of the videos or movies could match them for quality content.

  32. WolfmanOz Avatar
    WolfmanOz

    Bar Beach Swimmer says:
    June 15, 2023 at 1:20 pm

    Top comment BBS.

    Unfortunately I now believe that the art and entertainment of cinema is dying and what we enjoyed in years past will not be continued.

    Is cinema dying ?
    https://newcatallaxy.blog/2022/12/29/wolfmanoz-at-the-movies-51/

  33. Bruce in WA Avatar
    Bruce in WA

    The Yangtze Incident please (aka Battle Hell). Brilliant … and based on a true incident.

    Failing that, The Ship That Died of Shame, please.

  34. Alamak! Avatar
    Alamak!

    Jaws made swimming scary ever after. Not many movies can change your life in that way …

    Cinema Paradiso – nostalgia done right.

    And Easy Rider and Apocalypse Now.

  35. Pogria Avatar
    Pogria

    There is no more I can add to what has already been said by all the other commenters here about Jaws, except that it still scares the crap out of me every time I see it.

    As for movies that Wolfman may write about, in these dreadful days of cancel culture and physical attacks for those who don’t subscribe to the officially proscribed script, I have remembered a Bette Davis film I watched about forty years ago. I can’t recall the name but Miss Davis played a librarian who believed in freedom of speech and thought. She had allowed a copy of “The Communist Dream” to stay on the shelves of the library.
    Her fight with the locals destroys her friendship with an unhappy young boy whom she had been mentoring and it culminates of course in the burning down of the library. I have only seen it that one time, but it has always resonated with me.

    While on Bette Davis, how about one for we ladies, Now Voyager.

  36. Rabz Avatar
    Rabz

    Wolfie – Kingsman: The Secret Service. A contemporary classic.

    Honourable mentions to Trainspotting , Pulp Fiction and Cross of Iron. The latter two are the definitive films of Tarantino and Peckinpah (in my o’pinion).

  37. Dot Avatar

    Demolition Man is a modern classic.

  38. Roger Avatar
    Roger

    It seems to play out as a modern day version of Henrik Ibsen’s An Enemy Of The People.

    Steve McQueen produced a movie version of this and played the lead.

    Not afraid to go out of character.

    Saw it on TV years ago. I don’t think it ever saw a cinema release.

  39. Speedbox Avatar
    Speedbox

    One of my all-time favourite movies. In 1976 I was a young man and with my friends were spending lots of time at the beach and in particular, surfing at the beaches south of Adelaide. The movie was released in the cinemas first and we all went along…… suddenly, our carefree ‘summer days’ seemed somewhat less carefree. I was also sailing a bit in those days and sharks off the coast of Adelaide in summer were not an unusual sight. But I loved the movie.

    Saw it again a couple of times at the South Coast Drive-In (long since closed) at Pt Elliot and many times subsequently. The later re-makes were disappointing by comparison and when the shark ate a helicopter (JAWS 3, I think) the franchise had reached absurd levels.

    BoN correctly notes that the shark was named ‘Bruce’. The movie also utilised some underwater footage of real sharks filmed by Australians Ron and Valerie Taylor. I’ve read the book which describes Quint using the carcass of a stillborn baby dolphin as his first bait to coax the shark to take a hook. That was a ‘step too far’ for the movie and the bait Quint uses in the fishing scene of the movie is not shown.

    Over 45 years, I would guess I have watched JAWS probably 25 times including when it occasionally turns up on TV from time to time. A genuine classic.

  40. Christine Avatar
    Christine

    Have seen JAWS twice. Not really my sort of film, but I really liked it.
    And appreciated the Moby Dick reference in this review.

  41. Louis Litt Avatar

    Roy Schneiders Cahracter has a lot to answer for “Brodie” became a boys Christian name.

    Oh the Horror

    Brodie – “Why wont any one listen to me ” – FFS your married and you have employees – change it to “But No one lsitens to me”.

    The juxtaposition of the Dreyfus and Shaw I found interesting – 2 extremes – the experienced verteran pro and young university educated pro. Which way is better. Dreyfus in his belief in theory and Shaw with his belief in experiences.
    Drey has some great lines to Shaw “let me guess a tato othat says mother” and “don ‘t give me yoru working class/man shit”.
    Dreyfus charater provided me with answers when the “working man” has a go at me for being a shiny bum.

  42. Fair Shake Avatar
    Fair Shake

    I have never seen it (Jaws 4) but by all accounts it is terrible. However, I have seen the house that it built and it is terrific

    Michael Caine.

  43. Bruce Avatar
    Bruce

    And, if I recall correctly< Richard Dreyfus and Harrison ford BOTH got their "break" in "American Graffiti"

  44. Mother Lode Avatar
    Mother Lode

    Apparently Jack Aubrey (and Horacio Hornblower) were inspired by the daring and unorthodox Thomas Cochrane.

    One of his most notable exploits was the capture of the Spanish xebec frigate El Gamo on 6 May 1801. El Gamo carried 32 guns and 319 men, compared with Speedy’s 14 guns and 54 men. Cochrane flew an American flag and approached so closely to El Gamo that her guns could not depress to fire on Speedy’s hull. The Spanish tried to board and take over the ship but, whenever they were about to board, Cochrane pulled away briefly and fired on the concentrated boarding parties with his ship’s guns. Eventually, Cochrane boarded El Gamo and captured her, despite being outnumbered about six to one.

    It is Wikipedia, but I have seen the same story elsewhere.

    I read elsewhere that his trick for getting the Spanish to surrender was assigning some of his men to make their way to lower the Spanish flag and raise the British on. Upon seeing the British flag raised the Spaniards assumed the ship had surrendered.

  45. WolfmanOz Avatar
    WolfmanOz

    Alamak! says:
    June 15, 2023 at 9:54 pm
    Jaws made swimming scary ever after. Not many movies can change your life in that way …

    Cinema Paradiso – nostalgia done right.

    And Easy Rider and Apocalypse Now.

    I’ve already done Apocalypse Now.
    https://newcatallaxy.blog/2022/02/17/wolfmanoz-at-the-movies-9/

    Pogria says:
    June 16, 2023 at 12:49 am
    There is no more I can add to what has already been said by all the other commenters here about Jaws, except that it still scares the crap out of me every time I see it.

    As for movies that Wolfman may write about, in these dreadful days of cancel culture and physical attacks for those who don’t subscribe to the officially proscribed script, I have remembered a Bette Davis film I watched about forty years ago. I can’t recall the name but Miss Davis played a librarian who believed in freedom of speech and thought. She had allowed a copy of “The Communist Dream” to stay on the shelves of the library.
    Her fight with the locals destroys her friendship with an unhappy young boy whom she had been mentoring and it culminates of course in the burning down of the library. I have only seen it that one time, but it has always resonated with me.

    While on Bette Davis, how about one for we ladies, Now Voyager.

    The film you are referring to with Bette Davis as a librarian is Storm Center – a pretty good 50s drama.

    I’ll probably do a post on Bette Davis in a few months time.

    As for one for the ladies . . . in a couple of weeks time I’ll be posting my review on one of most beloved romantic dramas of all-time.

    By the way, thank to everyone for their suggestions . . . some interesting films to consider.

  46. WesternDecliner Avatar

    Thanks for the link to Apocalypse Now, will take a look.

  47. ayed with mePogria Avatar
    ayed with mePogria

    Wolfman, thanks for the name of the film. I will see if I can find it on dvd or if it’s available on you tube. As I said earlier, I have only seen it once, decades ago but it’s message has stayed with me. A film version of “I may not agree with what you say but will defend to the death your right to say it”.

  48. Pogria Avatar
    Pogria

    Hey Dover,
    no idea what happened with my blog name. I am still getting used to using a laptop. Very sensitive to the touch. I am finding words and letters all over the place!
    I have fixed it, I hope.

  49. WolfmanOz Avatar
    WolfmanOz

    ayed with mePogria says:
    June 17, 2023 at 8:08 am
    Wolfman, thanks for the name of the film. I will see if I can find it on dvd or if it’s available on you tube. As I said earlier, I have only seen it once, decades ago but it’s message has stayed with me. A film version of “I may not agree with what you say but will defend to the death your right to say it”.

    It’s on YouTube – free !

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