Friday, June 13, 2014

Jaws (1975) Review:

When going to the beach, most people think about strolling on the boardwalk, soaking the sunrays and enjoying the water. What lurks below the water line is probably the least of people's concerns. But after viewing this film, people might not even get close to the shoreline. Sharks have always fascinated and terrified their admirers simultaneously. With their sharp teeth, deep black eyes and insatiable appetite, meeting one in person probably wouldn't be a comfortable experience. Luckily, no regular civilian has this type of job. That is unless, there's no other choice and that's pretty much how this thriller part horror story heads in. When a great white starts making the beachgoers of Amityville its regular meal of the day, it's up to a sole Chief of Police to find a way to get rid of it.

Find that shark!
The Chief is played by Roy Scheider, who's probably best known for this role even though before this he was in The French Connection (1971). Scheider as the Chief, with a fear of water performs competently. His portrayal as a concerned man about his family and other families' sake feels real and genuine. Unfortunately, swaying people not to swim puts just as much stress on him as just thinking about it. The mayor (Murray Hamilton), wants to keep the beach open. In some respects, the mayor has good reason to (revenue wise) but on an ethical level - yeah he should see a psychiatrist. The good thing about the mayor is that it gives Scheider's character the ability to develop as the main lead, which is great writing.

Helping the Chief have a better understanding with what he's up against is Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss), a marine specialist who's main focus is on sharks. What's funny is that although Dreyfuss demonstrates that his character can become extremely frustrated and nervous with little issue, his actions may come off more comical than serious. That's not to say they don't entertain nonetheless, Dreyfuss is good here. Then there's Quint played by veteran actor Robert Shaw. Quint is an old sea dog who has a narcissistic attitude and enjoys the thrill of the hunt. His scenes are perhaps the most interesting because of either how commanding or mystifying his dialog can be. Peter Benchley and Carl Gottlieb who constructed the screenplay did a fine job at defining each character differently and equally giving them proper development.

The only thing that is illogical about the story is the way the shark is portrayed. Sharks do attack swimmers from time to time, but none have the brain of this particular shark. Gottlieb and Benchley try extremely hard to characterize this shark like most others by having it perform actions close to what has been researched and is known; such as following blood trails from chum. But there are times where they slip; some in logic, while others in factual information. A logical error is the shark having what seems to be a strong memory bank. I’m not sure if they remember that much. Another example is that sharks do not attack humans intentionally at sea level or just for the sake of. We are not their diet. Also if a shark is stuck with a barb, how do they suddenly get it off themselves?  Of course, when watching this, most viewers will be far more interested in the outcome, then these minor errors.

This guy wants his beaches open.......ALL SUMMER
The editing is tightly woven by Verna Fields so not to reveal the shark too much until the end and it's crafted effectively. Fields also edited for George Lucas' American Graffiti (1973). Bill Butler's cinematography looks amazing. The beach and out at sea shots help show how easily accessible the ocean is and how close the shark is as well. And of course, last but not least, who could forget one of John Williams' most popular scores. With a simple yet effective two-note theme, the tune that is parallel to what the shark sees when it lurks is extremely creepy. However, this isn't all, Williams also has tracks that are much softer in tone. These particular scenes involve either family related or adventurous-like moments that would seem exciting if one were in the picture. The funny thing is, the score still works if you want it to be a horror score. Overall with its small factual errors, it's still a great movie.

The story is misleading about the actual behavior of sharks, but audiences will be too invested in the story to even notice. Its characters, music and suspense work extremely well for its time.

Points Earned --> 9:10

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