Tuesday, July 19, 2011

605. JAWS (1975)

Running Time: 124 minutes
Directed By: Steven Spielberg
Written By: Carl Gottlieb, from the novel by Peter Benchley
Main Cast: Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, Robert Shaw, Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton


Moving right along, we get to some of the bigger pictures from the "1001..." book and kick-off our journey to 401, with "Steven Spielberg Week". In reality, this will probably be more like "Steven Spielberg Two or Three Weeks", but who's counting. We kick it off with "Jaws" and we set a high bar, right off the bat, for the next TOP 2o list.

Martin Brody (Scheider) is the newly appointed Amity police chief, just in town for the 4th of July festivities. Brody is a New York City cop and his transfer to the beaches and ocean that come with Amity Island, is a little surprising, considering he's petrified of the water. Right off the bat, Brody is faced with a BIG problem, when a late night swimmer named Chrissie Watkins is seemingly mangled to death by a shark. Brody tries his best to get the beaches closed down, but Mayor Vaughn (Hamilton) won't allow it. The holiday action provides a lot of commerce for the town and the mayor decrees that the beach must remain open. When a second casualty is taken under by a shark, a marine biologist, Matt Hooper (Dreyfuss), is called in to investigate. He notes that the shark they're after is a monster and that it's not going to be an easy fish to catch. But one man on the island thinks he has what it takes to catch the fish and that's Quint (Shaw). His demands are $10,000 and he guarantees that he'll bring in the shark, but when it's revealed that it's not just any shark, but a great white shark, Brody and Hooper insist on going along with Quint on his journey.

Before we get into talking about "Jaws", let me just say that I don't consider myself a big Steven Spielberg fan. Like most, I've seen a lot of his movies and I've enjoyed a few of his movies, but he's simply always been that guy who puts out the big summer picture and or the big Oscar contender and then goes away for a little while, possibly producing a film or two in the meantime. We kick off our line of Spielberg films with "Jaws" and I got to tell you, it's a really hard film not to like. There's not a lot to dislike here actually. For starters, you have Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw, all putting on killer performances (especially Shaw). Down the road I'm going to be saying how big of a Robert Shaw fan I am and I only just realized it today. Isn't he just a wonderful actor? Not only here, but in other films like "The Sting" and "A Man for All Seasons". Scheider and Dreyfuss are nothing to sneeze at either and it's actually Scheider's character that holds a lot of appeal to me. You have this New York City cop, who's probably been chasing drug dealers down back alleys and surveying knife fight victims, and you throw him on to an island, you reveal that he's afraid of water and can't swim and you put him on a boat with an old sea dog and a marine biologist tracking a shark. I mean, that just sounds appealing. I cheered a little (in my head) when Brody pulls out his pistol and starts firing at the shark, while on the boat - as if the shark were a NYC thug.

Truth be told, I'm not a big fan of adventure stories, but "Jaws" does a fine job of mixing adventure and horror with staples like great dialogue and character development. Amidst all of the shark hunting you have scenes where the three leads sit around a table in the boat's cabin and tell "war stories". Quint's Indianapolis speech is famous and not only that, this film is quite quotable. Personally, I've always enjoyed Quint's inaugural speech, when he's first introduced, over his Indianapolis speech.

Y'all know me. Know how I earn a livin'. I'll catch this bird for you, but it ain't gonna be easy. Bad fish. Not like going down the pond chasin' bluegills and tommycods. This shark, swallow you whole. Little shakin', little tenderizin', an' down you go. And we gotta do it quick, that'll bring back your tourists, put all your businesses on a payin' basis. But it's not gonna be pleasant. I value my neck a lot more than three thousand bucks, chief. I'll find him for three, but I'll catch him, and kill him, for ten. But you've gotta make up your minds. If you want to stay alive, then ante up. If you want to play it cheap, be on welfare the whole winter. I don't want no volunteers, I don't want no mates, there's just too many captains on this island. $10,000 for me by myself. For that you get the head, the tail, the whole damn thing.

Bottom line is this - "Jaws" is one of the few films that if you don't like it, then you almost have to give some sort of explanation. With this one there's no pussy footing around, chalking it up to boredom or anything of the sort. The words "boredom" and this film DO NOT go hand in hand. They don't make blockbusters like this anymore. It seems that back then, blockbusters had to be both big budget and good to boot, and now they just have to be flashy. "Jaws" is the real deal and it's a damn good film...a true "must see"!

RATING: 10/10 And the bar for the next TOP 20 just got set really high. 99 films have a chance to dethrone it, but as of now, this is the #1 film for the 4th TOP 20.


July 19, 2011 2:45pm

1 comment:

  1. Despite my cynical view of spielburg, there is no escaping this is an effective film...
    A with that I will move on from my grumpy old man view of 'Blockbuster' films!


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