Year of Release: 1975
Director: Steven Spielberg
Screenplay: Peter Benchley and Carl Gottlieb, based on the novel Jaws by Peter Benchley
Starring: Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss, Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton
Running Time: 124 minutes
Genre: Thriller, horror
This is one of the most popular and influential movies ever made. When a late night swimmer is savagely killed in the waters off Amity Island, local Police Chief Martin Brody (Scheider) soon realises that there is a vicious shark in the waters. However the mayor (Hamilton) refuses to close the beaches because the residents rely on the money brought in by summer tourists, especially with the Fourth of July weekend coming up, the island's busiest time of the year. As the shark claims more victims, Brody enlists the aid of marine biologist Hooper (Dreyfuss), and grizzled old sea dog Quint (Shaw) to stop the terror.
This film pretty much started the summer blockbuster, having an unusually wide release for the time, backed by heavy advertising and merchandising, which helped it become the most successful film ever made, until Star Wars (1977) came along. Based on the successful novel by Peter Benchley, who co-wrote the script and appears in the film as a TV interviewer, the film had a famously difficult production: it went hugely over budget and over schedule, there was tension between actors Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss, and the model shark (nicknamed "Bruce" after Spielberg's lawyer) looked completely fake. However the shark problems proved to be a blessing in disguise. Due to the fact that it looked so bad, Spielberg severely cut back on how often it appeared on screen, so that the shark is largely hinted at and suggested rather than shown in all it's glory. This is part of what makes the film so effective, the underwater scenes where the camera glides along beneath unsuspecting victims accompanied by John Williams' famous score. It's the basic fear that Jaws ties into. When you're in the water, most of you is submerged, and you can't really see what is down there with you. It could be anything. Anything at all.
Another strength that the film has is Spielberg's eye for the minutiae of every day life, the cluttered homes, boats and offices, the naturalistic dialogue and performances.
It is one of the great Hollywood thrillers, exciting, often witty and quotable dialogue and also surprisingly gruesome.
Roy Scheider is going to need a bigger boat in Jaws