Death becomes them: Top ten deaths in Jaws (and its sequels)

They say that Hollywood has a habit of chewing up and spitting out talent, little wonder then that Spielberg ‘fondly’ nicknamed the first films creature after his Lawyer, ‘Bruce’. Such a phrase has not been truer when looking at Jaws and its three sequels, all with deaths aplenty. The sequels have all taking a bit of a bashing, certainly they don’t a candle to the original, but they still hold a fondness and even Jaws the Revenge has its moments, well okay then maybe that should be singular.

Anyway ‘Open Wide!’ and ‘Smile, you sons of bitches!’ as we celebrate the best Jaws deaths…ever!

JAWS (1975) AKA THE ORIGINAL AND BEST

Chrissie Watkins

The opening night time attack is up there with the shower seen from Psycho and even after all this time packs a punch like a train. It’s the perfect opener for a movie (indeed Spielberg even copied it himself of sorts in 1993 in the opening of Jurassic Park). It effectively sets the shark up as a Jack the Ripper like monster. The noise, the screams and the music all blend to still create a sense of dread in the pit of your stomach. Also one of the most iconic, and oft-imitated, poster images ever. She was the first…

Pippit the golden retriever

You may scoff but one moment this dog was happily jumping around the surf, the next we see a floating piece of wood, which can’t be good. Showed that anyone could be next and that this fish didn’t care who it devoured. It takes someone with balls to have an animal die on screen.

Ben Gardner

We might not see him meeting his maker but we join Matt Hooper in the fright of his life when his head comes bob, bob bobbing along. Even now you know it’s coming but just not exactly when.

Quint

Ironic as Quint is roughly translated as five in Italian and he is the fifth human victim of the movie. Early he and the crew of the Orca drank to their legs so it was only fitting that this was the way he went, legs first. Nice blood explosion in the mouth as well before he is dragged to his watery grave.

Jaws

Well I say watery grave as he exploded with the shark several minutes later. A master stroke of tension as the Orca slowly sinks with Brody and rifle on its mast, which if you notice is ticking down to his ‘death’ like the second hand of a clock. Smile you son-of-bitch indeed.

JAWS 2 (1978) AKA THE ONE WITH THE ANNOYING TEENAGERS ON BOATS

Water skier

Also the poster girl for Jaws 2. A technically brilliant scene that showed that even those on water skies were not immune to the jaws of doom. The photography and tension in this scene is one of the highlights and showed how much more versatile the shark models and special effects were only three years later. Clearly lots of lessons had been learnt. It’s two for one on the deaths front here as the boat manages to pour petrol all over herself and then fire a flare at the shark blowing herself up and scarring the shark, just to make her all the more sinister (boo, hiss). We do get another payoff though as the corpse comes in one the tide straight into Chief Brody’s arms.

Boy on boat

Much of the film is spent routing for the shark to pick off the annoying teenagers, something of a pre-curser to Halloween and Friday the 13th as the shark is basically stalking and slashing (or should that be gnashing) them. The best death from these has to be that of Eddie Marchand who is dragged (echoing Chrissie in the first film) across the water and slammed into his boat – he hangs on for dear life and even pulls part of his boat with him as he is dragged under leaving his now hysterical girlfriend alone.

Helicopter pilot

Hey we are safe! Don’t count you chickens yet kids. Shark Vs quite frankly rubbish 70s helicopter and kills pilot with a quite frankly lame beard. In the original we never see what happens but on the Jaws 2 DVD there is great footage of him under the water as well. Worth checking out.

JAWS 3-D (1983) AKA THE ONE AT SEA WORLD

Philip FitzRoyce, played by Simon MacCorkindale

A shame TVs ‘Manimal’ couldn’t change into a fish as he might have escaped this monster. Notable as we see and hear him being crunched up inside the shark’s mouth and then have him dangling like a piece of food stuck between his teeth. Was nice they tried something different with a death.

Jaws 3              

Now I know this film has been slammed but I actually really like the concept and the ending to the movie. It’s a variation on the original but like the original way they tried to do it. I certainly found it tense and exciting. I even like the 3D explosion – the blood and guts quota is certainly all here – and even have a soft spot for the upper and lower 3D jaws.

JAWS THE REVENGE (1987) AKA THE ONE WITH MICHAEL CAINE AKA THE ONE THAT’S NOT MUCH COP…REALLY IT ISN’T

Sean Brody

A film of little note, this could be included alone for the death of the franchise. It does have its moments in places though and none more than the death of the youngest Brody, Sean, who is now a cop in Amity like his old dad was (Scheider decided against this one so they killed his character off off screen – as shameful as the whole Alien 3 Newt death – what a waste). Still Sean Brody is worth a mention as one of the main original characters to kick the big yellow barrel, juxtaposed with Christmas Carols and sepia shots of the original, just to remind us how crappy this film is.

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Bring back The Box of Delights

Steam trains, wise men with beards who know magic, flying cars and characters transforming into an array of animals. So far, so Harry Potter, right? Wrong.

Christmas television, for me, meant many things. It of course meant the perennial Bond movie and usually the odd Sinbad or Doug McClure epic along with Digby the biggest – if not the most convincingly so – dog in the world. But for me one programme that will always evoke fond childhood memories and have the power to transport me back some 25 years, how fitting as that is exactly what ‘The Box’ can do, is the BBCs classic adaptation of The Box of Delights.

Harry Potter and those kids who went to Narnia might have thought they had cornered the market in middle class school kids having rollicking adventures that beggar belief, but they’d be wrong. Based on the children’s book of the same name by John Masefield, this six part adaptation is set in England in the 1930s, it tells the adventures of Kay Harker as he returns home from school for Christmas. On the train he meets a mysterious but kindly old man who gives him the Box of Delights, a magical box which gives the holder the powers of flight, physical transformation, and the ability to travel through time. Of course, the forces of evil, led by members of the clergy, are out to steal the Box, and it’s up to Kay and his friends to stop them.

Produced prior to but to an equally high standard as the BBCs Narnia adaptations this production his Christmas written all the way through it and even concluded on Christmas Eve, which is when the last episode is set, on its original airing, something which it should be done every year and turn it into the seasonal classic it deserves to be. If America has the traditions of a Charlie Brown Christmas and The Grinch (the animated short) then we should certainly be able to deliver more than The Snowman – although of late this seems to be the Patrick Stewart/ Hallmark Channel reworking of A Christmas Carol over the last few years.

The programme still has an epic feel about it with amazing location work and cinematography; remember this was also the same period that the BBC splashed the cash on other children’s drama such as The Tripods. The special effects, which mostly featured animation and primitive blue screen, have dated badly but are somehow in keeping with the period it is set and just give the whole proceedings a further feeling of nostalgia.

The three pillars that have allowed ‘Box’ to stay long in the consciousness of those who saw it when young are its music and titles and two amazing performances from two of its cast.

The titles showed several key images from the show and were almost quasi-doctor who like, quite fitting with the second doctor, Patrick Troughton, making an appearance as one of the key characters. Indeed as in classic Who we even see his face travel towards us in the titles. The accompanying music, The First Noel, was also something else and managed to be both enchanting and sinister at the same time.

Troughton may only appear in three of the six episodes but his presence is felt throughout and for an actor who has played so many memorable roles in everything from Robin Hood, Doctor Who, a villain in Sinbad and a doomed clergyman in The Omen, this is perhaps his greatest legacy as the Punch and Judy man who is as lovable, wise, cunning and likable as Dumbledore.

And then we have the Reverend Abner Brown, the late Shakespearean actor, Robert Stevens, who admirably chews the scenery up and spits it back out in every scene. Never has the term mad man for a character seemed so fitting. He and the range of characters he surrounds himself with are genuinely creepy, even today.

Also well worth a mention and the things of many a youngsters nightmares no doubt were the rather sinister pair of ‘clergymen’, “Foxy Faced Charles” and “Chubby Faced Joe” who are two agents working for the villainous ringleader, ‘Abner Brown’. They also had the ability to change in wolves and even give chase after Harker in some wonderfully shot snow scenes. The pair remind me somewhat of Mr Wint and Mr Kidd from Diamonds Are Forever, a pair who also gave a feeling of unease and are rather unsettling whenever they appear.

Unsurprisingly, the rumour is that ‘Box’ is set to delight a whole new audience as it makes its leap to the big screen under the helm of a former Harry Potter Director, Mike Newell. Here’s hoping it loses none of its magic or indeed its darkness in its journey. Even if it does it will only increase the respect for the original adaptation.

It has to be said that the casting directors will have to go some to match anyone as good as Troughton, as I’m sure I’m not the only one who associates him with this over his role as The Doctor, as good and memorable as it was. Some feat you may think, but he pulls the character of Cole Hawlings off so convincingly that it really is hard to imagine anyone else in the role.

To my knowledge it has only ever been screened twice in the UK, so the campaign to annually rescreen ‘The Box of Delights’, starts here. Even if not on BBC1 or 2 surely it’s a perfect fit for BBC4, so let’s turn it into the institution it deserves to be.

Big Trouble is big on fun

Of course it helps being a child of the 80s, but there is certainly no denying it that that with the leap in special effects and the baby boomers getting to play with really big toys, it resulted in some of the most fondly remembered genre movies ever, including the likes of Back to the Future, Gremlins, The Goonies and Ghostbusters. Another in that league, but unlike the aforementioned got somewhat lost at the box office, is Big Trouble in Little China.

Directed by John Carpenter and featuring his leading man of choice, Kurt Russell, the film is part chop-socky action, action pastiche meets Indiana Jones, but unfortunately is something, perhaps owing to the mish mash, that audiences didn’t initially get.

At one point Russell’s character remarks, “Ol’ Jack always says… what the hell?” And that is the best frame of mind to view this film, that stood next to it makes even Star Wars and Indiana Jones seem the dull and retiring types.

The plot, as it is, sees trucker Jack Burton getting embroiled in a kidnapping that goes wrong and then finds himself smack bang in the middle of a turf war with rival Chinese gangs and mystical gods and emperors that sees him having to enter the lion’s den to free the kidnapped, get the girl and save the day. As Burton states early on: “I’m a reasonable guy. But, I’ve just experienced some very unreasonable things.” By this point, both he and the audience haven’t seen anything yet.

In many ways it was light-years ahead of its time, with Russell, in his cocky John Wayne-esque best not taking himself very seriously and having a blast in the same way that Brendan Fraser did years later in The Mummy and also pre-empting Hollywood’s love of kung fu and things with a hint of China, which covers everything from Crouching Tiger to The One and even The Mummy 3

Kurt Russell is a hoot as the more than slightly dumb macho hero…even complete with lipstick at one point. It features cartoon violence minus the gore, humorous special effects, evil magicians, green eyed damsels in distress and even a monster or two, who could want more from 99 minutes of film?.

Kim Cattrall, post Police Academy but prior to Mannequin and screwing half of New York in Sex and the City, also gives the likes of Kathleen Turner (Romancing the Stone) and Kate Capshaw (Temple of Doom) a run for their money in the feisty female stakes.

Some of the effects haven’t dated that well, such as the blue lightning effects, but then they were no better in the same era’s Biggles, Highlander and Hellraiser, so does still retain some charm. And certainly some of the monster outfits probably didn’t even look that good then and nor were they probably meant to, but that is really missing the point as Big Trouble is big on fun and on action and has some wondrously delivered dialogue by Russell.

It’s a real shame that this wasn’t a bigger hit on its initial outing, it certainly regularly crops up as a favourite in conversations I have with people. As we’ve seen a recent wave of Carpenter hits be remade, that didn’t really need remaking, such as Halloween, The Fog, Assault of Precinct 13 and those yet to come, such as Escape From New York and The Thing, why not give the guy a chance at a belated sequel. Russell’s recent pairing with Tarantino in Death Proof shows that he has still got it and who wouldn’t want to hitch another ride on the Pork Chop Express for Even Bigger Trouble in Little China, go on admit it, it does have a certain ring about it. If not that then at least give us the video game!

You can’t help but watch Big Trouble with a big cheesy smile on your face and it was certainly way ahead of its time. It has a frenetic pace, even today, which again was probably something that took a 1986 audience by surprise as it doesn’t so much hang around as in hardly pauses for breath…ever. Carpenter and Kurt really shouldn’t get away with much of what happens in the film but it is done with such gusto and aplomb that you are just happy to be along on the ride with them. A film that popcorn was invented for and like the potion the good guys take in the film, it too kind of makes the film invincible against the odds.

The Bluray has been out for a little while in the States now, no release over here, but fear not as the US version plays perfectly well over here on my PS3 and ports the Carpenter and Russell commentary from the previous special edition DVD release, along with some deleted scenes and a slightly extended ending. The lovely added feature is that you have the option of listening to the isolated Carpenter and Alan Howarth score. So if you like it, order it and as the as ever quotable Jack Burton says: “Yessir, the check is in the mail.”

Close to the Edge: remembering Edge of Darkness

It’s hard to imagine in this multi-channel universe just how big an impact the thriller Edge of Darkness had when it was first screened on BBC2 back in 1986. In fact the six part nuclear conspiracy thriller, with sci-fi undertones, had such an impact that it was repeated a mere 10 days after its initial run, upgraded onto BBC1, unprecedented at the time.

Edge has of course just been remade, like State of Play before it, for the big screen this time with Mel Gibson replacing the late great Bob Peck in the main role as Ronald Craven, who is searching the truth about the murder of his activist daughter. Both the original BAFTA Award winning series, it swept the boards that year, and the new film were both helmed by Casino Royale director, Martin Campbell.

The thriller was written by the creator of Z Cars, Troy Kennedy Martin, who passed away last year, and was something I first saw in the late 80s and was something that has haunted and captivated me ever since.

Clearly I’m not in the minority as it’s omission from a list of the top 50 TV Dramas in The Guardian caused more than a bit of a grumble recently and it also won BAFTAs for its haunting music, composed by Eric Clapton and Michael Kamen, the latter who went onto become a genre fave, going onto score Highlander, X-Men, Event Horizon and perhaps most famously, Die Hard and Lethal Weapon.

Part crime drama, part science-fiction but totally absorbing, this rarely bettered 80s epic is a real slow burner, no seat of your pants editing here folks, and still commands attention in buckets 25 years later. The cinema remake seems to be getting a bit of a pasting, which is probably now more straight thriller, but don’t let that even think about putting you off the original, it would be like not wanting to take a punt on the original Planet of the Apes after seeing the Burton rehash.

Full of familiar faces from sci-fi and fantasy, Peck went onto feature prominently in Jurassic Park and was one of the main cast in the ill-fated Slipstream. It also featured Joe Don Baker, a feature of three Bond movies, Joanne Whalley, from Willow, John Woodvine from An American Werewolf in London and Zoe Wanamaker from Harry Potter. Of course a special mention has to go out to the shows special effects expert, a veteran of both classic Who and Blake’s 7, Mat Irvine.

Public concerns over nuclear war were at their highest than at any time since the Cuban Missile Crisis, the two previous years having seen The Day After and Threads nuclear blast onto our screens. This, added with the Miners’ Strike and protests at Greenham Common, made Blightly a none too pleasant a place to call home, all of which are touched upon by this conspiracy thriller that chillingly captures the shadowy corridors of power and one man’s grief at the same time.

Trying to understand the reasons behind his daughter Emma’s murder, Craven uncovers a vast conspiracy involving the nuclear industry, environmental terrorism and Britain’s role in the ‘Star Wars’ Strategic Defence System. On his quest, Craven is joined by CIA agent Jedburgh, superbly played by Baker, one critic describing the pairing as “a nuclear Butch and Sundance”, as well as by ‘visions’ of his dead daughter.

So far so thriller, but where is the sci-fi I hear you scream? A thriller about the politics of nuclear power is not science-fiction as such, but this all changes gear in the final episode where Darkness is transformed from being a political thriller into a grim vision of the future.

Apparently, Kennedy Martin wanted to end the series with Peck killed and transformed into a Green Man tree being protecting the Earth, you certainly wouldn’t have found that in Inspector Morse! It would have been a conclusion that would almost certainly have left the audiences of the day…and even now, scratching their heads. It does show that the thriller didn’t just include very real world concerns but also the mythic and the mystical (there must have been something in the water as Robin of Sherwood did the very same thing at around the same time).

This ending was toned down somewhat. This was one of Troy Kennedy Martin’s speculative environmental theories, introducing the idea that the Earth, in the form of Gaia, the Greek goddess responsible for Earth and the name of the group Emma worked for, will protect itself from environmental damage with the creation of black flowers that draw in heat from the sun and create warm patches that allow life to flourish, as it apparently did during the Ice Ages. The concept was taken from a section in climate scientist, James Lovelock’s book Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth (1977).

Thus, in the haunting last image of the series, we see black flowers growing in the hills of the Scottish Highlands as man tries at playing God with nuclear materials. The good guys, just like Butch and Sundance, have lost and those in the corridors of power have won for now, until Mother Earth takes her revenge, the black flowers harbingers of Gaia’s coming war against mankind.

One of the other fantastical aspects of the series is the character of Emma, murdered early in the first episode but continues to turn up throughout the rest of the series. Whether Craven is ‘seeing dead people’ or she is a figment of Peck’s grief is ambiguous, personally I believe it is the latter but there has been much argument on both sides.

With the rise of global warming and an endless slew of natural disasters, who is to say that Kennedy Martin didn’t get it right after all, especially as the once dormant spectre of nuclear armament rears its head again. Perhaps 25 years on, the original Edge of Darkness is less of a relic of The Cold War than we think?

Pat’s Labyrinth: Horror auteur ‘exorcises’ his horror demons in Essex

Hollywood had Universal and London had Hammer, and now Essex is having a ‘stab’ at horror thanks to Jinx Media, founded by husband and wife team, Pat and Pippa Higgins.

Higgins in horror mode

With an output of five movies, TrashHouse (2005), HellBride (2007), KillerKiller (2007), The Devil’s Music (2008) and Bordello Death Tales (2009), in as many years Jinx Media is proving to be anything but jinxed, with it being as productive as the likes of those studios that unleashed Lon Chaney and Christopher Lee into our nightmares. Dean Newman caught up with Director, Producer, Writer and Editor, Pat Higgins, and found out what influenced his frankly warped and deprived mind.

Pat’s most recent release, The Devil’s Music, has just premiered on DVD in America, but us lucky folk in the UK, however can catch the horror mockumentary, described as ‘This Is Spinal Tap’ meets The Omen’, for free on http://www.indiemoviesonline.com/watch-movies/the-devils-music, uncut, no adverts, no horrible software to install. It is something which Pat sees as a really pioneering website and a great outlet for film fans and filmmakers alike.

DN: Who are your influences?

PH: It’s mainly filmmakers that went out and just did it regardless of any obstacles that may have been in their path, so very much people like Sam Raimi, Peter Jackson, Robert Rodriquez, and Kevin Smith. People who had no money and little professional experience but just decided right I’m going to put together a screenplay, put together the best package that I can and just go out and actually make it.

In terms of tone I’d definitely also add Joe Dante to that list, if there is anyone I owe a huge debt to with comedy horror hybrids then it his him in particular. I vividly remember seeing Gremlins when I was about 11 and it just had this huge impact on me. And not forgetting Fred Dekker as well, with Night of the Creeps and The Monster Squad, again very 80s but it’s just a nice fusion of comedy and horror. 

DN: What horror movies do you hold in high regard?

PH: I’ve got a lot of love for The Shining, which I think is perhaps the greatest horror movie ever made, the original Robert Wise version of The Haunting and The Exorcist. I think The Shining is pretty much the perfect horror movie as its just got images that drill into your head and just stay there.

Stephen King was not a huge fan and called it a beautiful car without an engine, but I don’t actually think he is right, there is an engine there and is revving really fast but it is so beautifully made that you can’t hear the engine, it doesn’t leave the traces you might usually get.

The Exorcist is smart, is not afraid of its subject matter in a way that a lot of movies dealing with that sort of thing might be and is willing to credit its audience with some intelligence. And The Haunting is just a beautiful, crisp, perfect movie. I love it, a lot, but do have a huge amount of hatred for the remake. Although I think the greatest scare shot of all time for me has to be in the much butchered The Exorcist III.

DN: The likes of The Exorcist have become an established horror franchise, have you ever been tempted to do a sequel to one of your own films?

PH: I’d love to, I’ve got ideas for all of them but I get side-tracked by new ideas that bubble up. I’m a bit like a dog chasing a car as I’ve just got to go after stuff, but I’ve certainly got treatments and in some cases whole screenplays for follow ups to what we’ve already produced.

 
 

 

Cranks the fear up to 11

DN: Getting the right mix of horror and humour is notoriously hard to get right, what do you see as the secret to success in balancing those two areas in film?

 

PH: I think you have to love your characters and love your script. If it’s not breaking your heart to kill one of your characters, which is someone you’ve lived with for months and years in the back of your head, on the page and finally in front of the camera, you can’t expect anyone else to remotely give a shit about them.

I think that particularly with horror comedies people think they can back away from the script and think we can set this up and then this up, the wacky best friend dies at this point, so on and so forth and I think that people can get very dispassionate about it and more often than not it really shows. You end up with characters as just cannon-fodder that nobody cares about, including the people who have written and made the movie.

In terms of the gags I think it is a matter of approaching it in a smart way and ensuring that the script is as tight and as entertaining as it can possibly be, because the writing process is the only one where low budget directors can get a leap on Hollywood.

If you are going crossbreed horror and comedy then you have to do it with loving care.

DN: A lot of horror comedy is played straight as well, such as An American Werewolf in London and Shaun of the Dead, isn’t it?

PH: Absolutely, Shaun of the Dead is a movie that really loves its characters, the way that the mother’s death (Penelope Wilton) is handled is just heartbreaking. And I think that is what marks that film out over less successful scripts as it is written by someone that cares.

Pat is clearly someone who cares a great deal about horror and next time, in Pat’s Labyrinth II: The pitfalls and the pendulums of producing low budget horror in the UK, Dean will be catching up with him to talk about the trials and tribulations of making low budget horror.

 

Say hello to my little friend!

Cue darkened room, all manner of instruments and an acrobatic image of a baby on the screen that already looks as if it just might be auditioning for the next series of ‘So You Think You Can Dance?”

The detail is pretty amazing

Being the 12 week scan we obviously didn’t find out the sex of the baby but we did get a pretty good guided tour, seeing the bowel, what will end up being the heart and even the butterfly-shaped brain – quite apt seeing the ongoing metamorphosis before us.

It sounds a cliche but it was all pretty amazing stuff, I can’t imagine the detail etc on the 20 week scan -it must be like going from standard television to HD.

So all in all a massive collective sigh of relief. The other great thing, of course, was that we were now able to go forth and tell work colleagues, friends and family, which all helped it feel not only far more real but that two great weights had been lifted, no longer having to ‘skulk’ round corners and worry about blurting it all out – harder than it seems I can tell you!.

 For the record the baby is around 5.3cm big…which seems something of a contradiction in terms.

2010…the year I make contact

Twas the afternoon before Christmas and two grown ups, as quiet as a mouse…a very excited mouse granted, discovered that they were expecting a baby.

This blog aims to chart the highs and lows of a first time dad, coping with impending fatherhood, getting used to the idea of losing his ‘office’ and gaining a son or daughter and trying to figure out just where all his film posters are going to live!

The Essex Dad will rise…

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