Jaws (1975)

 

Méchant poisson villain!
Méchant poisson vilain!

Genre: Adventure Horror Thriller

Starring: Roy Scheider (Marathon Man; 2010), Richard Dreyfuss (Mr. Holland's Opus; Close Encounters of the Third Kind)

Directed By: Steven Spielberg (Munich; Saving Private Ryan)

Overview: It's a big huge shark that eats people. What else do you need? That a town decides to go out and kill it? There you go, I said it.

Performance:

Aside from the amazing and often comedic roles of Scheider as the aquaphobic small town sheriff and Dreyfuss as the oceanographer, we have Robert Shaw (Battle Of The Bulge) as Quint, a scurvy sea-dog of a shark hunter with a mighty big chip on his shoulder. I've said before that some films are made for actors, and this is one of those scripts that are written to make the right man in the right role shine. Over-rated as I might think Spielberg to be, this is one of his great works. 
Rating: 9

Cinematography:

Aside from being shown this film as an example of great editing in a film class I once took, the climactic Act is long! Long in that suspenseful, difficult Man-Versus-Nature, hard-trial-of-life sort of way. This film's style reminded me that good movies were made once, honest films where fat people and lanky people all went to the beach instead of being crowded full of buxom blondes.  The realism of this film, ginormous killer man eating sharks aside, is refreshing, clearing a highway for great storytelling.
Rating: 9

Script:

I'm not going to waste my time arguing with a man who's lining up to be a hot lunch.

There's a monologue spoken by Quint in this one that just so happens to have been discussed by one of my critic counterparts (careful spoilers). Damian even goes so far as to say that "it is probably one of the great cinematic speeches of all time." I would say that my favorite lines are actually Dreyfuss', he's an angry little man with a quick wit and has a way of making his little tongue-in-cheek comments completely profound.
Rating: 9

Plot:

The weakest part of the film, this is really just a story about a bad thing that gets what's coming to it.  It's not original, it's not full of twists and turns and guessing games, it's a shark, everyone knows it's a shark, and it's a killer.  Somehow though, a simple tale about a Great White manages to be solid because of the human element, the people involved, the families affected by it.  When a mother loses her son we aren't lead to think, "oh crap there goes another!"  Rather, we're drawn into the guilt and shame that comes from being a cop who didn't do something when he could have.  It's so good because it's NOT about bodycount and action sequences.
Rating: 8

Mood:

Best Suspense music ever. The film opens with it, and when you stop tittering at the awesomeness about to take place on a beach where the mayor wears these tacky suits and dons a PR-friendly plastic set of smilers, you get sucked into the sheriff's fear and doubt and into the oceanographer's raging at ethical incompetence and Quint's  plain old hatred.  Did I mention how long the actual shark hunt is?  Yeah, awesome. Killer sharks, go figure, they're scary.
Rating: 8

Eesh, my Jesus!
Yeah, I'd soil my man-thong for sure...

Overall Rating: 86% (Nail-Biting Suspense!)
Aftertaste:

No it's not just a movie you laugh at the 70s about.  Yes it's a yardstick film that helps define the times, the values and the entertainment that people wanted in 1975, and you've sure got a plentiful share of suspense to go around. It's fun, it's a classic, and you knew it would pop up on the Vituperatem eventually...

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I remember showing Jaws to a group of my high school students once and delighting in the fact that despite their hardened, cynical sensibilities and (although I hate to use this word) "desensitation" to violence, given the extreme nature of films like Saw, Hostel and even a lot of the stuff on television today, they were still quite afraid. They were on the edge of their seats a lot squirming and screaming (such as when the head comes out of the boat or the shark first comes out of the water). They even cheered when Roy Scheider said "Smile, you son-of-bitch," and blew up the shark. One guy actually threw out a "That's awesome! What a great movie!"  I mean, I've made no secret of the fact that this is one of my own personal favorite films (I watch it at least once a year, usually in the summertime) but it's nice to know that it can still pack a punch to a young audience after all of these years.

Oh, thanks for the shout-out BTW! :)


One last thing:

Though I stand by my contention that Quint's monologue is one of the "great cinematic speeches," I agree with you that Dreyfuss has some of the best lines in the film. A few of my favorites are:

"This was no boat accident."

"Mr. Vaughn, what we're dealing with here is a perfect engine, an eating meachine. It's really a miracle of evolution. All this machine does is swin and eat and make little sharks. That's all!"

"I don't need this working-class-hero crap!"

He is certainly my favorite character of the three (though they're all great).

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