Eating While Swimming: ‘Jaws’ Retrospective

Updated on March 28, 2018
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Mr. Oneil is a professional journalist who graduated from Norfolk State University with a BA in journalism.

Original Film Poster

This is why you don't go swimming in the deep water
This is why you don't go swimming in the deep water | Source

Catch of the Day Has a Double Meaning

Thought I’d take a look at my all-time favorite film. This film is probably the first film that actually scared me as a child. It’s the horror thriller Jaws, which came out in 1975 and was directed by Steven Spielberg. The film was originally a novel written by Peter Benchley and adapted to the big screen.

The plot revolves around a gigantic great white shark that stalks the resort town of Amity Island around the Fourth of July. As the shark kills more people, the local police chief, along with an oceanographer and shark hunter, travel out to sea to put a stop to its man-eating shenanigans.

Off the bat, there are three noticeable protagonists in the film. While they are featured occasionally in the first half of the film, they really get to shine during the second half. Speaking of which, the film’s two halves are as follows; the horror half where people are murdered by the shark, and the adventure half where the heroes go out to sea.

The horror half has several suspenseful moments. Right from the start, a young woman named Chrissie, played by Susan Backlinie, is brutally killed by the shark in a very surreal death. The dark lighting and the way Chrissie is dragged through the water is both mesmerizing and horrifying. The camera is right above the water’s surface so the viewer is forced to use their imagination to see what’s underneath. The next death is similarly horrifying. A young boy on a float is absolutely slaughtered by the shark in a very graphic scene, which actually reveals what the shark looks like from a distance.

Personally, I always thought one of the scariest scenes in the film was the pond scene. The shark attacks and kills a man in a boat, which is the first time you get a good view of the shark’s head.

This is why you don't go out to sea in a small boat
This is why you don't go out to sea in a small boat | Source

As mentioned, there are three main protagonists the film centers on during the second half. After several people are killed, they join forces and go out to stop the shark. Chief Martin Brody is the main protagonist and played by Roy Scheider. He’s the rational one who attempts to close the beaches when the shark starts its killing spree. He’s also the one who gathers the other two to help deal with the situation. While out to sea, he’s portrayed as clueless and clumsy on the boat. However, he’s also portrayed as the hero, especially near the end.

Richard Dreyfuss plays Matt Hooper, the brains of the group. He’s a shark expert who initially helps Brody investigate the murders around Amity. He also attempts to get the beaches closed alongside Brody. When they go out to sea he brings along special equipment to help kill the shark. Robert Shaw plays Quint, the muscle of the group. He dislikes sharks so much that he became a shark hunter. One of the prominent scenes is when Quint reveals why he dislikes sharks. Being the local shark hunter Brody convinces the mayor to hire Quint to help kill the great white.

From left to right: Quint, Brody, Hooper
From left to right: Quint, Brody, Hooper | Source

Speaking of the mayor, Amity Mayor Larry Vaughn is played by Murray Hamilton. He’s excited about opening the beaches on the fourth of July, however he’s extremely naïve about the shark. He completely brushes off Brody and Hooper’s plea to close the beaches. It’s only when someone else is brutally murdered by the shark does he finally decide to hire Quint.

Other minor characters are Brody’s wife Ellen, played by Lorraine Gary, and Peter Benchley himself cameos as a television reporter.

It’s genius how the shark was portrayed. It’s purposely kept hidden for most of the film to build suspense of what’s hiding beneath the waves. This also helped with the mechanical issues production had with the shark as it constantly broke down while filming. On a side note, the shark, Bruce, was portrayed by an animatronic and great white shark stock footage.

The right music fits in all the scenes, especially since John Williams was the main composer. Slow music builds up during suspenseful scenes, uplifting adventure fearing music plays when the trio are out to sea, but most importantly the main theme plays whenever the shark is around. Of course I always wondered how do great white sharks play violins whenever they appear.

Jaws deserves the highest recommendation. To this day certain scenes still gives me goose bumps. The cast is fantastic and they mix perfectly together. The first and second half of the film being two different halves was interesting. However it did feel a tad off that the first half was horror and the second half drifted towards adventure. The way the shark’s portrayed is astonishing, it’s kept hidden to leave your mind to fill in the blanks. Several films since have attempted to replicate the same concept, especially in monster movies. Despite its age Jaws still holds up as a defining film in history and is universally acclaimed as one of the greatest films ever made. If you’re a horror fanatic who hasn’t seen it yet you’re doing yourself a great disservice by missing out on it.

Original Film Trailer

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    © 2018 Staff Oneil

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