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Jaws (1975)

In 1975 'Jaws' arrived in cinemas across America and instantly set the standard for "on the edge of your seat" suspension. Based on the 1974 novel of the same name by Peter Benchley, 'Jaws' is now considered one of the greatest creature features in cinema. This movie not only launched the career of one of modern days most highly regarded Directors, Steven Speilberg, but was also the first movie to gross over $100 million at the US box office, achieving this in just 38 days, and claiming the title as the orginal summer blockbuster movie.


It is without question that director Steven Speilberg combines masterful use of direction and cinematography here. Spielberg utilising what limited resources he had to work with during production, and the many unforeseen issues with the robotic shark, definitely limited the time the creature is spent on screen. This by all intensive purposes only worked out better for the films overall end result. One particular scene highlights his creativity as a visionary, in which a broken section of the pier attached to the shark changes direction in the water, highlighting where the shark is without showing the creature on screen so early on in the movie. This subtlety is a perfect display of less is more when it comes to building suspension with a film such as this.


The musical score of 'Jaws' falls to John Williams, an American conductor, composer and pianists, who is responsible for creating some of the most memorable and instantly recognisable movie scores in history, such as, 'Star Wars', 'Indiana Jones', 'Home Alone' 'ET' and 'Jurassic Park' to name but a few. And the musical score he provided for 'Jaws' is no different. As soon as you hear those first couple of alternating 'E and F' notes, you know exactly what it is. The slow anticipation that this simple musical peice slowly creates, I believe, is vital to the success of this film and I strongly think it would have suffered heavily in his absence. Not only that, but due to how iconic the musical score is, it is now instantly synonymous with 'approaching danger' throughout modern day pop culture.


As for the casting, the character dynamic between Sheriff Martin Broody, played by Roy Scheider and Matt Hooper, played by Richard Dreyfuss, is not only the main focus of 'Jaws' but also for me the strongest element of this entire production. Seeing the relationship between these two characters grow over the course of this films runtime is more entertaining to me than anything that features the 25ft shark. Even more so when Quint played by Robert Shaw is introduced to the dynamic mid-way through the runtime. These three actors have such engrossing chemistry on screen that I can only assume there was a natural friendship between the trio off screen. Even the smaller roles in 'Jaws' from Murray Hamilton as Mayor Larry Vaughan, and Lorraine Gary as Broody's wife Ellen, bring exceptional portrayals of their characters and I would be hard pushed to single out anyone in this film who didn't deliver a solid performance.


Now, we have to bare in mind that 'Jaws' is 40 years old at the time of writing this review, but even to this day the practical effects still hold up better than most. More so, that I was in genuine shock at the level of gore that this film goes to in places. With more tension filled scenes than many modern day horror movies, the death of a young child, multiple severed limbs and excessive pools of blood, I still struggle to understand how this was initially released under a PG age rating in the UK. 'Jaws' has now subsequently been reclassified by BBFC to a 12A in 2021 for any future cinema reruns.


As for the star of the show, 'Bruce' - the great white shark, I overall found it be a quite horrifying and intimidating antagonist. Minimising its appearance onscreen makes it a more mysterious threat. Granted, towards the end of the 'Jaws' and it starts to feature more heavily out of water and it becomes visually more apparent that this is a prop shark due its robotic movement and unnatural motion in the water. However, even with that in mind, I would still much rather the insistence of practical effects over the use of glossy CGI sharks we more commonly find in these types of movies today.


'Jaws' is without question the bench mark of what is defined as the perfect shark movie. Yet, perfect creature feature it is not. When I go to this subgenre, I look for over the top action sequences featuring a oversized monster of some kind and more importantly, mindless entertainment. For me 'Jaws' biggest downfall is how great it is as an overall movie. This isn't a movie I find myself watching all that often and that is not because it's a bad film. If anything it's pretty much perfect. It is more a case of what I personally seek out as a viewer when wanting to watch creature feature movies. Either way, and personal taste aside, 'Jaws' is certainly a must watch for anyone, be that horror fans or not.


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