Published Thursday, 21 June 2012
In the summer of 1975, a monster of a movie was devouring the box-office in the USA. This was the first time a big summer release had been mass marketed across TV, billboards and merchandise. In just six short weeks, Jaws racked up an astonishing $100 million in ticket sales and the summer blockbuster was born.
Jaws begins in the darkness of the deep ocean. Before we see anything, our ears are chilled by composer John Williams' menacing two note soundtrack which then builds into that unforgettable frenzy as the unseen shark savages its first victim. Never has a film score so perfectly propelled the action or us to the edge of our seats.
Then emboldened across the screen we see 'Directed By Steven Spielberg'. Strange to think back in 1975 that the great filmmaker's signature meant very little. Spielberg had directed a couple of low budget features and TV episodes but back then he was just a twenty eight year old new kid on the block. Jaws would change all that.
Spielberg and Williams would go on to redefine American cinema and forever capture our imaginations with a series of classic films. Together their expert sound and vision would create Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, Jurassic Park, Schlinder's List and Saving Private Ryan.
Jaws is still a thrilling experience. Watching again you realise that it is really a maritime Western. A new sheriff Brody (Roy Schneider) comes to town, or in this case, Amity Island, where a seaside killer is on the loose (great white shark). The sheriff rounds up a posse of Hooper, a geeky scientist (Richard Dreyfuss) and Quint, a salty sea dog (Robert Shaw) to catch the deadly fish.
Inspired by real life events, Jaws is adapted from Peter Benchley's best selling 1974 novel, which is more pulp fiction than great literature. The movie though is a work of art. A masterclass in first-rate filmmaking from top to tail. There are shocking sequences of great beauty and true horror. From below we move towards the silouette of a swimmer in a moonlit ocean. This is not just Spielberg's camera but the killer shark closing into attack. The mounting tension is unbearable.
Chief Brodie when he finally faces the beast memorably tells Quint "You're going to need a bigger boat." This is a movie that certainly needs to be seen on a bigger screen. If you think you have seen Jaws before, think again, this is an electrifying cinema experience
Before Jaws, I was treated to five overlong trailers for this summer's blockbusters. All of which were based on comic book characters with each one trying to top the last in overblown special effects and smart one liners. After Jaws, you do wonder whatever happened to great storytelling?
Jaws (Cert 12a) is now on general release.