Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Not just another fish in the sea...

What's my favorite horror movie?
If I'm being honest, Halloween (1978) is the movie I always blurt out when someone asks my favorite movie. Regardless of the genre.
However, after careful consideration recently, I have determined that another movie most likely is the one I could watch over and over (and do). A perfect example of exemplary movie-making.

And that movie is JAWS.

I've always felt the need to capitalize the title because, let's face it, that was one BIG-ass shark.

I first read the book way back in (cough cough - I'm sorry, I can't manage to say the year...) well, a long time ago. I was too young to be allowed to see the movie when it released or even several years afterward (there, I feel somewhat better...) but they couldn't keep the written word away from me. I'd already read Carrie and The Shining at that point, so what was the use in keeping Jaws out of reach?

Well, here's a thought - it was a freakin' terrifying book. Guess my folks hadn't really thought about it. Sharks don't just kill people, they rip them limb from limb and devour them. Yummy!
No wonder I vacation at the Outer Banks every year but still don't do any quality swimming in the ocean. (Case in point, someone got killed by a shark in a northern town on the Outer Banks just this year, people.)

JAWS, the movie (1975) - is a film I have seen too many times to count. It is on tv pretty much all the time in the summer, so has anyone actually not seen it? My husband actually starts to groan now when he sees me turning it on.
I own the VHS tape (oy! - it is such a long movie that there were two tapes!), the 30th anniversary DVD, and if I ever pony up the money for a Blu-Ray DVD player, JAWS will be my first purchase.

It is known as the "father of the summer blockbuster", being the first movie to blow the pants off the box office in such a way that people lined streets in front of theaters just to see it.

It was the first movie ever to gross over 100 million. And from what Wikipedia says, it has 'grossed more than $470 million worldwide ($1.9 billion in 2008 dollars)'.
But we're not really here to discuss performance, are we?
Why is it my favorite?
I just can't say enough about all the little things I love about it. So I think my regular stand-by of just listing a top ten favorite moments will be all I can do.

1) Love the scene where Brody, Hooper and Quint are heading out to sea to find the shark and the boat is seen leaving the dock through the jaw bones of an actual Great White.


2) We don't see the shark for a long time. Sure, we see fins, we see damage, we hear the da-dum, da-dum.... but Bruce hides in the depths till just the right moment. On the Orca, at sea for the shark hunt, Brody is bitching about being delegated to throwing chum into the water when he throws a bunch of bloody fish parts into the sea - only to be scared shitless when the shark finally emerges, mouth open, teeth bared. Such a great moment. Which leads directly to my number 3....

3) "You're gonna need a bigger boat." Classic.

4) When Brody has had one of the worst days imaginable as the chief of police - dead swimmers, pissed off townsfolk, the mayor breathing down his neck.... he settles at his kitchen table with his son and they play a little game of monkey see - monkey do. It's a great, soft moment - perfectly placed amongst all the violence. When his son asks why he wants a kiss, he simply says: "Cause I need it."

5) Is it just me, or does the mother of Alex (the boy killed on the raft just off shore) look like his grandmother? Could they not have gotten a younger woman to play her? Okay, my actual point? I was more upset when the labrador retriever (Pippit) got killed (thankfully off-screen). Could care less about little Alex. Kill a dog and I'm out for blood.

6) "Mayor of Shark City"... the Amity touristy bill board sign with the drawn on fin and the "Help, Shark!" balloon over the cartoon woman's head.

Exactly what would happen, folks. Exactly. When Hooper tries to explain that "those proportions are correct" - the mayor still demands the beaches be kept open. Dumb ass.

7) Ellen Brody: "Wanna get drunk and fool around?" Chief Brody: "Oh yeah."

8) Hooper in the shark cage.

Before he goes down he tries to prepare his glasses and he notes: "I ain't got no spit."Yeah, me neither at that point. The moment where the shark comes right at the cage is probably (besides perhaps Quint's gruesome death scene) the most horrifying few minutes in the film.

9) "Smile you son-of-a-bitch!" And did I really hear what sounded like the roar of the shark as it sunk to the depths in pieces? That was a funky sound effect. Like the T-Rex in Jurassic Park or something.Maybe it's a Spielberg trademark... did they do it in Schindler's List anywhere?

10) To me, the "quint"-essential moment of JAWS is the telling of the story of the sinking of the USS Indianapolis. Quint's quiet and un-nerving ramblings about how torpedoes hit their submarine during WWII on the way to deliver the A-bomb, and then the deaths of his friends as they waited - bobbing up and down, alone in an sea of sharks - for their turn for rescue, to me, is one of the finest moments in film. It is said that Robert Shaw ad-libbed some the scene, but it worked so well they kept it.And that scene also led the way to the final act of the film and the trio's desperate attempt to at first kill the shark - then to simply stay alive.

From what I've read, JAWS was a real menace to film. Animatronic shark woes, the problems with shooting in salt-water with expensive cameras, budget restraints, weather concerns, sinking seemed to be doomed. Spielberg is said to have had so many difficulties with Bruce (the mechanical shark) that alot of the scenes were shot without Bruce, only eluding to the shark's actual whereabouts.

But combined with John Williams' brilliant Oscar winning score, I think NOT seeing the shark was a real boon for the film's production. It's always much scarier to not see what's there, to wonder if something is indeed stalking about....and to not know when it's coming.

"Farewell and adieu, to you fair Spanish ladies..."

HorrorBlips: vote it up!


CRwM said...

The roar when the shark is killed comes from Creature from the Black Lagoon. It appears in some early Spielberg flicks, but not many of the later ones.

Will Errickson said...

We picked a few of the same scenes! But of course. I agree that Quint's speech is indeed the cornerstone of the film, the moment when his motivation becomes clear, and lends a touch of ironic tragedy to the film. Lots of people have argued who was fully responsible for writing the scene, but most of the credit usually goes to John Milius, who also wrote Brando's mystifying speech at the end of Apocalypse Now. But it was Shaw's delivery that sold it.