When you begin to write a retrospective on such a monumental film, released before you were born, it is difficult to know what the movie going public were used to – the social climate of the time and what the limitations of cinematic effects had on movie goers expectation.
However what you can say is that Jaws, the first blockbuster, is still as taught and terrifying as ever.
The story of a city cop coming to a quiet town, only to be met by a menace has been a reoccurring theme in horror/thriller for years but Brody has the Mayor and peak tourist time to contend with before he sets sail to hunt the shark. After a spate of shark attacks on Amity Island Chief Brody implores the town to close its beaches, but with their livelihood at stake the islanders refuse.
It is well documented that Spielberg, and his crew, had terrible trouble controlling Bruce the Shark and it surely has to be the most fortuitous problem in cinema lore.
The young director took the decision to hide the shark from the viewer for the majority of the picture and use Hitchcockian suspense as the main driver for our fear – and it works an absolute treat. Alright, when we see the shark it is clearly a rubber puppet but the image of Bruce devouring the Orca and Quint stayed with me for a very long time as a youngster.
John Williams’ ominous score knits the whole picture together with a sense of dread and urgency and a theme that even people who haven’t seen the film can hum on demand.
I can’t recall too many films where the score is as much a character as the monster/villain (maybe only paralleled by The Exorcist or Halloween) and it is as fierce as Bruce.
Jaws is as relevant, scary and thrilling as it was thirty years ago and I’m still afraid to go into the water.
Additional film information: Jaws (1975)