CAUTION: These waters are infested with really bad shark movies.
The classic film 'Jaws' is coming up on its 43rd anniversary this week. Released with little to no hype on June 20th, 1975 it sunk its teeth into the box office and didn't let go. It opened with a $7 million weekend and, in just 78 days, overtook 'The Godfather' as the highest-grossing film ever at the box office. Today it places ninth on the list of highest-grossing films of all time.
If you're one of the many who are fascinated with sharks you've probably seen your share of shark movies over the years. Among the sea of films devoted to our favorite fish a few have managed to create some waves. 'Deep Blue Sea' from 1999 is one that comes to the surface of the mind. The 2016 shark film 'The Shallows' had some serious bite too but, let's face it, is there any shark movie that can even come close to the cinematic achievement that is 1975's 'Jaws'? This movie is a perfect engine. An eating machine. This movie? It'll swallow you whole.
These are the five reasons why there will never be a shark movie as great as the mighty 'Jaws'. Read them....before you go swimming.
The Less You See, The More You Fear
Stephen Spielberg's initial vision for 'Jaws' may have resulted in a film that sunk into the abyss.
Spielberg originally wanted the audience to see more of the shark but due to the constantly malfunctioning mechanic shark and the studios unwillingness to put up more money, he had to change course.
He could no longer deliver fear straight to the eyes of the audience. Instead he had to somehow lead them into using their imaginations to create fear in their own minds.
Beaches were nearly empty in the summer of '75 due to the fear 'Jaws' created among moviegoers. Try to find any other shark movie that accomplished the same effect.
Catching A Big Shark With Big Catch Phrases
"That some bad hat, Harry.", "What kinda shark? A tiger shark....A whaaat?", "You got city hands Mr. Hooper...", "Here lies the body of Mary Lee; died at the age of a hundred and three. For fifteen years she kept her virginity; not a bad record for this vicinity.", "You're gonna need a bigger boat...", "Smile, you son of a bitch!"
I could keep going but I think you get the point. Why don't we sing instead? All together now! "Show me the way to go home / I'm tired and I want to go to bed/ I had a little drink about an hour ago and it got right to my head!"
One Great White, Three Great Actors
Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss & Robert Shaw. You're lucky to see one great acting performance in a movie. In 'Jaws' you had three. Interesting to find out, however, that Spielberg had other actors in mind but ultimately the job went to these three stellar performers.
Scheider plays Martin Brody, the small-town Chief of Police who is in over his head and, yes, hates water. Dreyfuss is Matt Hooper, the rich kid with the smarts and expensive equipment to boot who is about to come face-to-face with an enormous shark and an old-school stubborn fisherman named Quint played by Shaw. His U.S.S. Indianapolis scene is one of the greatest in movie history.
Anyone making a shark movie who tries to top John Williams' classic 'Jaws' theme is simply wasting their time. It is iconic.
As for the rest of the soundtrack, would 'Jaws' be as legendary without Williams' brilliant work? I doubt it. Check out this video in which a scene from the movie is played without Williams' music and then with it. It really is mindblowing to witness the difference. Check it out below:
What directors/producers of most shark movies seem to either forget or just plain don't get is that if you're going to get a legitimate scare out of a movie audience they have to believe it could actually happen to them.
Everything about Jaws is believable. It's set in a small town with every day people. I mean, c'mon, Harry with the bad hat? I've seen that guy at every beach!
Instead of setting the movie on a glamorous island with beautiful, flawless people you have real characters with real problems who are about to experience an even bigger problem. In fact, it's so big it's about to come up and bight them in the ass!
There are two people who share the praise for the story of 'Jaws'. Peter Benchley created the initial story in book form. His book had more sub-plots with darker characters. The ending was nothing like what we see in the movie version. Chief Brody doesn't kill the shark. Instead he is helplessly stuck in the water when the shark ends up passing away just mere inches away from him.
Spielberg took Benchley's brilliant story and weaved it into a perfect cinematic experience that stands the test of time and continues to entertain new generations of movie fans over 40 years later.
"Farewell and adieu to you fair Spanish ladies..."