Monday, 6 February 2012

Movie review - Jaws (1975) (Upd 02/03/12)

Hi all, this is first review - at least online so please be gentle with it....

Throughout every review or feature, though impossible to prove - the internet will not be used to copy previous efforts, nor use Wikipedia, IMDB and/or to cheat.  I'll merely use it to provide tidbits/videos and fotos.

Everything what is written is wrote exclusively by my good self me and hopefully will contain no bullshit when it comes to talking fact.  I may fiddle and/or improve any post, so slight amendments are inevitable, but I suppose being a perfectionist, that's to be expected.  I'm hoping that how I write things gives material that's been covered many times before a fresh new angle which I hope will be appreciated by many.

Early memories:

I remember first seeing it when I was a kid.  I dunno, I was about 7 I guess and it was considered fairly old then (I'm talking mid 80s), ever since then - I became engrossed.  VHS was the technology at the time and a good old-fashioned tv set with a back greater than Quazimodo's.

I saw lots of grey wobbly lines through rewinding/forwading back then i must of thought i was tripping.  I can't remember wearing a video tape out so much that the quality actually decreased.  In those days, when taping a film from tv that you intended to keep, you wanted to stop recording to cut the adverts out and how annoying it was when you forgot and realised that some of it was missed as those things used to take a good few seconds to actually 'start' recording again.  But once done, it was damn sure worth it as the internet didn't exist to replay those scenes...

I could say I was slightly obsessed.  So whatever medium I'd seen it on, I'll never forget getting goose pimples even before a film has really started, I'm referring to the music.  All these years later, it's still brilliant even now.

Intro and brief insight:

"Yer' gonna need a bigger boat", states Brody (definitely his most famous role) to Quint (Robert Shaw), as while 'chumming', he witnesses a rather unwelcome and terrifying sight in the head of 3 tonnes of instant white death.

That classic scene, along with countless others is why Spielberg's Jaws is surely the grandaddy of all monster dramas.  With so many dramas behind during its making - 'the shark isn't working' and the well documented icy atmosphere between Shaw and Dreyfuss could be potential films in themselves.  However, those are kept aside in a DVD extra or in other sources....

I still find it mildly amusing that Spielberg thought that Benchley's novel was about a dentist.  It's easy to digress, as I'm about to write about my own take on arguably my most favourite film of all time, whether it's skipping to a scene on DVD, or watching it when it's still countlessly repeated on the box, I feel it almost impossible not to re-live it again and again.

Duh Duh, Duh Duh..... that is what your ears first intake - the truly amazing John Williams theme and due to constant malfunctioning and generally how useless the shark performed, Spielberg must've thought, 'Hey I know it ain't no performing seal but this is taking the fucking piss'.  He wanted Williams' music to be the shark and how it succeeded in creating such tension.

Spielberg in 1975 was just a slip of a lad, and apart from a few films sandwiched between Duel in 1971 and considering the nightmare and hindrances he had in making it, few (including he) could believe that this would not only become one of the greatest films ever but also one of the highest grossing.

It's a masterclass in suspense too as the shark is not really seen a great deal until the three protagonists pit their wits against it in the final hour or so of the film.  It's the not seeing that made it scary and it all made us think 'I suddenly hate the drink', although Shaw clearly didn't.

In case you've never seen it.....

On the off chance you've been quarantined, are a filmophobe, had a memory erasure and basically haven't had access to VHS, DVD or cinema (for the more senior viewers, only kidding) and live on an undiscovered planet here's the plot, or a fancier way of putting it - synopsis.  

There will be spoilers as I'm describing virtually the entire film (with scattered quotes), but unless you fall into the latter of being a DVD starved, space alien you'll know everything anyway....  Sad or as geeky as it is, I could probably quote most of it but we won't go there.

So here we go, my first electronic review of any kind for the world to see and hopefully appreciate.  I hope somebody enjoys :)

Plot - spoilers and trivia will be revealed...

After the title music, the film begins with a beach party with people smoking and drinking.  A guy gathers the courage to speak to a girl and she runs off.  She encourages him to go swimming and he follows, even though clearly drunk.  She strips and goes for a swim but while trying his best to pursue her, the alcohol clearly isn't helping.

Whilst having this fatal dip, she begins having an argument with 'something' under the water and that 'something' eventually wins.  While she is getting dragged about the screams you hear are not acted but actually real as the effect was created by a harness being strapped to her and been dragged about.  So much so, she apparently broke ribs (although this was never confirmed).  The inebriated twenty-something gradually passes out on the beach.

The next day, the guy and Martin Brody, the island's chief of police (Scheider) go to the beach and after a brief chat, we discover that Brody is from New York.  Eventually, a fellow officer (who is later revealed as Hendricks) is using his police whistle to signal 'get your arses over here' as he's found something.  It's the uneaten remains of Chrissie i.e. her arm with some crabs nibbling away.

Back at his office, Brody gets a phonecall which prompts him to close the beaches and he types the cause of death 'shark attack'.  When he finds he doesn't have any beach closed signs, he goes to the local DIY store and buys the necessary equipment and orders Hendricks to get to work on the said signs.  Upon been told that kids are out swimming by Hendricks, he gets taken to them via a boat, but Mayor Vaughan (played expertly by Murray Hamilton) turns up and has got wind of his intention to shut down the beaches and questions his authority to do so.  After a conversation with the Doctor and the Mayor, he is talked out of it.

Brody is on the beach and becomes very paranoid as he starts to see things happen in the sea but each is a false alarm.  A young boy goes and gets an inflatable raft and uses it to paddle.  A man is playing with his dog and tosses some wood in the sea.  Later the dog's owner calls for the dog - Pippit, but to no avail, we see the wood floating in the sea...  I think he can cancel plastering reward posters, displaying missing mutt.

We see the shark's vision, which ignores others and goes for the raft and eats the young boy (Alex Kintner).  Brody calls for everybody to get out of the water and nobody else gets hurt.  The raft is washed up on shore, ripped to shreds.  A board meeting is called and $3000 is the bounty for anybody who kills the shark.

Brody informs everybody what action he's gonna take to sort things out and when cornered on closing the beaches, when he confirms this, everybody talks among themselves and are clearly unhappy.  We now meet an eccentric, maniacal fishermen in Quint (Robert Shaw) who surely introduces himself with one of the most cringeworthy acts capable by a human.  The old fingernails down a blackboard - goes through me quicker than a warm knife through butter.  Spielberg wanted Lee Marvin to play Quint but was otherwise engaged.

That stops everybody gabbing and he tells the chief, the Mayor, among other important dignitaries that he values his neck for a lot than $3000 (the reward set for Alex Kintner), but rather $10000 which is taken under advisement and the scene ends with Quint exiting with 'Mr Mayor, Chief, ladies and gentlemen' with everyone clearly glad of his leaving as he's clearly frightened most.  Out of the three main cast members, he has no first or other name.

Two local fishermen who are hungry for the bounty decide to a holiday roast as bait for the shark.  It does but destroys the platform which they are stood on and one is dragged in.  The platform turns and starts charging Charlie, he is encouraged to swim and is pulled up by his friend and Charlie asks ironically 'Can we go home now? as what he originally wanted to do in the first place.

The buzz of greed around Amity has clearly overtaken sanity as many fisherman using their own boats, go in search of the shark and with it, the bounty.  Brody meets Hooper, somebody from the oceanographic institute, a young, keen, rich and spritely ichthyologist who uses his expert knowledge to help Brody find the shark.  He asks and it's agreed that Hooper will examine Chrissie's remains.

We see various fishermen attempting to catch the shark by chumming and using mini-explosives.  Hooper, the Doctor and Brody are seen examining the arm, he scolds Brody and also the Doctor, as it was foolishly thought it was due to a probable boating accident and angrily concludes it was a shark.

Some fishermen do have what is thought to be the prize catch (a tiger shark in reality) and most (including Brody) are over the moon.  Quint can be seen on his boat, giggling in the background, smugly knowing it's not the bird.

However, Hooper thinks otherwise and tells Brody that the bite radius is incorrect and suggests to confirm things by cutting it open which the Mayor deems inappropriate.

Mrs Kintner appears and slaps Brody.  She makes him feel guilty about the death of her son.  Despite been reassured by Larry, he walks away feeling like shit.  We next see him drowning his sorrows while playing with his son.

After sending his son to bed, Hooper turns up with wine.  Ellen joins them and they all chat and Brody and Hooper agree to cut the captured shark open.  They find various junk inside, (including a car licence plate) but no evidence to suggest this this was the correct shark.

So they use Hooper's boat to search for it themselves (much to Brody's reluctance).

Now even more drunk, Brody rambles on about the crime rate in New York.  After briefly discussing Hooper's wealth, the equipment displays unusual readings and it turns out that they find a capsized boat which is Ben Gardner's (a local fisherman).

So Hooper decides to get his SCUBA kit on and take a closer look at its hull.  Brody just wants to tow it in but Hooper won't have it.  Now underwater, he discovers a hole in which he prises and catches a shark tooth which was wedged in the wood.  Nervously looking around, he gets even closer but out pops a head with an eye missing (Ben Gardner).  This startles him and he drops his torch and the tooth and he swims to the surface, coughing and spluttering.

Hooper and Brody explain to Larry that they have to close the beaches due to the danger of further deaths being inevitable.  Unfortunately, the stubborn money-hungry Larry Vaughan won't believe them and refuses to take all measures necessary "To either kill this animal or cut off its food supply" or it may "swim up and bite him on the arse."

What really pisses the Mayor off is the sick vandalism of a Amity Island poster, the deliberate mutilation of a public service message, now he wants those little paint-happy bastards caught, and hung by their buster browns.  Incidentally, buster browns are shoes.

Hooper finds this hilarious as Brody makes a final attempt to convince Larry but he informs them that the beaches will remain open for the 4th of July.

The fateful weekend arrives and everybody's having a great time but Larry is annoyed of Brody's presence and helicopters are scouting the area but manages to persuade people to go in the water, which has a ripple effect on others.

A fin is noticed in the water by a swimmer which causes widespread panic.  It turns out though that it was just two kids pratting about with a cardboard fin.  But in the pond, the real shark is seen by a woman and Ellen informs Brody that Michael (one of their sons) is in the pond.  Brody, along with many others are running to help but they are too late.  The shark rams a yacht and claims another victim.  It does ignore Michael who is dragged to shore.  He looks dead but is just in shock.

At the hospital, Vaughan apologises and eventually relents and finally agrees to do whatever it takes; well he signs a voucher so Brody can hire a contract - to pay Quint to kill the shark.  At Quint's den, after some banter and arguing, mainly Quint and Hooper (true of course in real life of course), Brody and Quint agree terms.

We see Quint and Hooper talk and it's decided that if needed that Hooper will go inside his cage he's taking on board.  Quint starts singing 'Spanish ladies' which Hooper acknowledges with a smile.  Ellen accompanies Brody and naturally fusses over him, during which, Quint is getting pissed off with how the preparation is going before setting sail.  He tells Ellen to tell the kids "Tell 'em I'm going fishing" after a cuddle, Brody prepares to depart and Ellen can't take much more and runs off upset.

The camera slowly passes through a pair of great white jaws and as they're leaving the harbor, Quint continues to joke (although mainly with himself).  So Quint, Brody, and Hooper set off to destroy an unwelcome visitor (on Quint's vessel - the Orca), orca is more affectionately known as a killer whale.

Brody is chumming and Quint happily tells Brody about his experiences with sharks and he and Hooper become macho after crushing drink containers together.  Brody accidentally pulls the wrong knot after been ordered to drop another chum marker, Hooper scolds him for pulling the wrong one and warns the tanks could blow up.

Quint attempts to teach Brody how to tie a sheep shank knot and repeatedly fails.  Quint notices a slight tug on his fishing line and starts to strap himself in and when Brody finally manages to do a successful knot, it prompts a massive take on the line.  After fighting with whatever is on the end of it, Quint decides it's gone under the boat.

Hooper teases Quint saying 'let it go'  Presumably, the shark lets go and Quint and Hooper briefly argue.  While explaining his strategy to Brody, Quint orders Hooper to drive in his desired direction greeted by sarcasm 'Jim Boy arrrr'. Later, Quint (while on the crow's nest) shouts to Brody to start chumming again and he also tells Hooper to stop 'playing with himself' and 'slow ahead'.  This is echoed by Brody to Hooper, who is clearly getting annoyed with been ordered about.

Nevertheless, he starts to chum again but the shark appears and scares the shit out of Brody.  'Yer gonna need a bigger boat' Brody famously informs Quint and he goes outside to admire the size of him - 25 feet and three tonnes; Quint concludes and the shark circles the boat.  Quint prepares to shoot Bruce (Spielberg named the shark 'Bruce' after his lawyer) and after some delay with Hooper, he shoots it and it swims away at speed and it goes 'under'.

They wait for some hours but still no sign of the shark.

How they get there is unseen but they are now all below deck and are all pissed, after some genuine laughs and jokes shared, Quint recollects the U.S.S Indianapolis and delivers a fantastic speech (his own version of it, although was originally conceived by an uncredited writer - Howard Sackler).  Shaw asked Spielberg if he could have a few drinks before delivering this now, famous speech which he reluctantly accepted.

After concluding the story when 'delivering the bomb' and Hooper starts singing 'show me the way to go home' which they all join in with.  They all stop one by one, as noises start happening, the shark attacks and causes a few leaks to be sprung.  This annoys Quint and goes out back and shoots around the barrel.  It leaves Brody understandably nervous as he doesn't answer Hooper when asked if he's ok.  A shooting star can be seen and Quint starts to sing again...

The next morning, the saltwater has damaged the boat and while Quint and Hooper are trying the remedy the problem, Brody is unsuccessfully trying to turn the wheel more than three inches, he views and soon informs Quint that the barrel is up and is right in the stern.

After Hooper uses the boat hook to try and grab the rope, he manages to reach the rope but Quint snatches the rope attached to the barrel, the shark says hello and the rope slices the palm of Quint's hand.  

Quint barks out some orders and then notices Brody threatening to make a phone call in other words trying to get help, Quint momentarily loses it and smashes the radio equipment up with a baseball bat.  Quint sarcastically accepts that he is certifiable after Brody goes apeshit at him and more barrel horseplay follows.

After tying the barrels to the cleet, the shark pulls the boat which forces Hooper and Brody to fall over.  The shark rises and is seen to be eating its way through the rope which is bad news, they both call Quint who shoots a harpoon in its jaw.

While trying to get away, the shark causes quite a flood on the boat, while the others are trying to release the ropes, Quint goes to get a large knife which is more like a machete, and just before Quint decides to cut the shark free before it sinks them, it escapes and with it the barrels.

Quint asks Brody to 'pump' the water out.  Quint slams the knife in the boat and Hooper warns he's gonna go under and Quint doubts this but the shark proves him wrong.  Quint comes up with the idea of leading the shark to shallow water (much to Brody's relief) but the shark is in pursuit  While doing this, Hooper warns him that he's putting to much pressure for the boat to handle, which is echoed by black smoke emanating from below deck.  This seems to make Quint worse, but the smoke finally persuades him to stop the boat.  Quint puts out the potential fire and the shark and barrels retreat (presumably sensing danger).

Hooper looks exasperated in disbelief.  Quint looks beaten and stares at some life jackets which are dripping with water. With their situation becoming more and more desperate, we see the boat is very top heavy and perilously near to the wrong end of the ocean.

Quint emerges with the jackets and throws one to each.  Quint and Hooper discuss using the cage, which Brody scoffs at but they begin building Hooper's cage and Hooper prepares his harpoon with poison.

Hooper is lowered in the sea and soon after, he sees the shark approaching.  A real great white shark is shown (footage by Ron and Valerie Taylor) and swims out of sight.  Hooper removes the cork from his spear, preparing to attack but the shark unexpectedly rams the cage from behind causing Hooper to drop his weapon.

Now helpless, the shark proceeds to smash the cage apart and Hooper attempts to fend it off by stabbing it with a knife.  This doesn't stop the shark having another go but Hooper manages to escape and swim to safety.  The shark now 'real' again is busy dismantling the cage which is causing major problems to the orca.  The shark puts such pressure on the holding mechanism to the cage, it 'gives' way and the shark swims off

Meanwhile, Quint and Brody do what they can to bring the cage back up, they manage to do so with a makeshift mechanism and discover the broken cage and without Hooper, so is presumed eaten.

The shark emerges and attacks the boat and begins to sink it.  Brody grabs on to whatever he can but Quint begins to slide towards the shark's awaiting snapping jaws.  Despite Brody's best efforts in grabbing his arm, his grip slips and he plummets towards his demise.  He tries to prevent the inevitable but is slowly devoured and Brody can't watch.  With a final act of defiance, Quint attacks the shark with the machete from earlier but to no avail, and with a final fatal chomp he is taken underwater to be finished off.

Originally, Quint was to die by getting dragged under by the shark by his own harpoon, similar to Captain Ahab of Moby Dick fame but it was decided he should be eaten.

Meanwhile Brody gets trapped in a room and is imprisoned as the door is forced shut.  The boat is gradually sinking and the shark smashes through where Brody is hiding but can't force its way in.

Brody notices a floating tank which he grabs and slams against its mouth, and on the second attempt, succeeds in placing it inside and again, knowing it can't obtain dessert, the shark retreats.  Brody manages to escape through a window and has a nervous look around.  The fin is briefly shown but quickly disappears.

Brody grabs the rifle and loads it, along with a long stabbing spear and ascends the crows nest.  The shark appears (still with the tank in its mouth) and attacks.  Brody stabs it several times with his handy implement but the shark eventually takes it away from him and retreats for the final time.  The boat is absolutely sunk now and Brody knows he must kill it or becomes another meal. 

So he prepares to aim as although the shark is in the distance, it's on its way for a final charge.  Brody shoots, shoots some more and shortly after exclaiming "Smile you son of a bitch" and bullseye, he hits the tank which blows the shark up, much to Brody's delight.  We see the bloody carcass slowly sink to the bottom of the seabed with a curious sound effect - a dinosaur growl.  

The same sound is also heard in Duel when the lorry goes over the cliff.  Spielberg said that inserting that sound effect in Jaws was 'thanking' Duel for giving him a career and that both films share a connection and a similar purpose.

Anyway, as Brody looks on, Hooper appears and sees Brody a short distance away and makes his way to him.  Brody shows massive relief by puffing out his cheeks and they both chuckle out of pure satisfaction.

Hooper asks "Quint?", "No" upon which they decide to use the remaining barrels to swim to shore.  Brody jokes "I used to hate the water" with Hooper replying "I can't imagine why".  The credits start rolling as you see Hooper and Brody finally manage to get ashore, presumably days later.

In conclusion:

Phew!  There it is, a very detailed synopsis on what remains one of my favourite ever films.  The acting is superb, as are the script, set-pieces, tension and legendary suspense.  It surely has one of most recognisable music scores of all time, and/or of anything, it's surely nothing short of a directing masterpiece.

Most say the shark looks crap and considering that it didn't work most of the time, Spielberg and his special effects cronies (led by Robert A. Mattey) did a fantastic job with it.  IMHO, I still think that it still looks great today.

Although I don't like it when it's attacking the cage - I do think it looks crap then.  Despite been a Jaws geek, I'm not biased as I've proved in the latter sentence.  Regardless, this film is 37 years young, some effects do age badly but I don't think this is one of those examples.

I think Spielberg was right to omit certain things from the book, like Hooper's affair with Brody's wife would be simply unnecessary - for the film at least.  It remains one, if not Spielberg's finest work.

Sure this wasn't just a one-off, as he went on and still does create brilliant flicks.  He dabbled with dinosaurs, aliens, war, tin-tin and even now even a gee gee, but this remains his most seminal 'monster' effort.

Is it faultless? Of course not as it has loads of mistakes, some fairly obvious but that's really nit-picking as even the CGI led blockbusters of today are still error strewn.

Speaking of CGI, I'm so glad that they haven't tried to do some CGI wizardry with the shark and redo it - I'm confident it was thought of but was decided it'd look fucking stupid.

Hey no classic is safe - they did it with Star Wars and bizarrely Red Dwarf, but thankfully if they haven't done it by now, I guess they never will.

I must have seen that shark get stabbed, shot at and blown up more times than a hooker pulling up her knickers but unlike that example, it never feels dirty, unnecessary and is worth every penny.

Even now at the film's climax, I'm still hoping that rubber fish gets stabbed less by Brody.....  Feeling sorry for a piece of rubber, yes I'm slightly mad he he.

Imitated and parodied endlessly but never bettered, it remains a true silver screen classic!

I might do a review of its sequel and other films at a later date.....

In the meantime, here's some bits and bobs to round things off.

The ultimate R2 30th DVD collectors box set and only 2,500 were ever made in the UK.....  I know as each one is individually numbered on the back.  I'm lucky enough to own one but what a pain in the arse it was getting one.

I had to 'import' it if you like from a now defunct MVC (shut years ago now) in Fareham to be  mailed to the Hull store.

I guess they'd never met a die-hard Jaws and/or cinephile before and maybe many didn't know it existed but I of course knew different.  They did look surprised when I spoke of it.

The other standard 30th edition release looked ok in its slipcase but this was the true collectors edition for the ultimate fan.  It cost me £37.99 years ago and was worth every penny.  If you are serious about getting one, the good old ebay is probably the way now (if anybody wants rid of course).

Beware of foreign versions (Japanese ones are regularly listed for some reason), potentially look the same but obviously with foreign implications.  Even bilingual boffins should avoid as they'll never be worth as much as the R2 effort.  I even sent off for the quad poster offer and that twat had the cheek to ask for £4 postage....

As well as the standard two disc version, you got 6 lobby cards, publicity stills, a sketch book, senitype and a CD feat movie theme highlights.  It all came in a kick-arse sleek black box too and were all unique to this boxset and you can't get what's contained anywhere else.... 

I've just had a look on and amazingly you can still get hold of these still, but currently this will set you back for £149.99.  Worth it?  I'll leave that up to you but of course at least you know it's guaranteed to be brand new.

For shits and giggles here's the link:

There was even a collectors edition soundtrack released, yes I own it too.  This is the one to get folks as it comes in a nice case.  Presentation counts here.

The Indianapolis speech (in full)

Curiously, if you get the R1 30th Anniversary collector's edition (basically a standard DVD and very similar to the R2 European equivalent) the DVD and slipcase are probably worthless but you do get a very nice commemorative photo journal, stuffed to the brim of photos, trivia and quotes.

It's worth it just for that and easier to get hold of.  I believe this R1 2 disc DVD has the same special features as our standard version.  I did have a sealed edition but I decided to sell the DVD on and keep the book.

I regret it now as it would have been a nice thing to keep, but the book was the lure and still remains another unique piece of Jaws history (although unlike the latter 30th boxset, there were probably thousands made).

But why they couldn't add it to the UK boxset is beyond me....

Here some nice pics to give you a flavour, in its original form.  It's very well presented and a nice thing to own.

And remember, you're gonna need a bigger boat....

Well, I'm just gonna have one more drink and go and cut that shark open. 

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