Tag Archives: Jaws

The Dad Busters: Celebrating fathers on film

With today being Father’s Day I guess this could have been alternatively called A Good Day to Dad Hard.

This list is in no particular order but for me stand out as some of the key father moments on film. Of course there will be those that don’t get mentioned or that I hadn’t thought of , but that’s the point these are the ones that sprang to mind for me, these are the ones that – on some level – resonate with me as a dad.

Martin Brody in Jaws (1975)

He’s the Chief of Police on Amity Island (in Amity we say yard!) and there is a rogue killer shark on the loose…not bad for a man who hates water. You know what he faces his greatest fear (quite literally) after his eldest son nearly gets taken out by the Great White. His job may be to serve and protect the community but he also wants to do the same for his family.

Jaws is my favourite film of all time, it was made the year I was born and it’s always been a big part of my life, and Roy Scheider as Brody is fantastic as the former New York cop who has moved to the seaside for a quieter life and a better life for his family. In many ways he will see that he has put his family in danger, it is his fault that they have moved in danger’s way. Director Steven Spielberg often makes films with an absent father or films without fathers (take Jurassic Park, E.T., Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade for example) due to the break up of his own parents marriage when he was young but the dad plays a major part in this film.

Father wise it’s a small moment for why Jaws is chosen and its one of the film’s brief interludes where his youngest child, Sean Brody, is sat with his dad at the dinner table and his young son copies his each and every move. It’s poignant and full of sheer warmth and is expertly delivered by Spielberg who manages to eek such moments out of young actors. For me is shows how important those little moments are, how attune young kids are and how…no matter what else is going on in the world…they bring you back down to earth and show you what is really important and really matters.

Jor-El in Superman (1978)

You often hear of stories about people going back into burning buildings to save their children or people giving up their lives so that their children can have a chance of survival. It’s weird but until you become a mum or dad you kind of get it but you don’t really understand it, you will do anything to ensure that they are safe and secure, that they will survive.

This brings me to self sacrifice. Kal-El (AKA Superman) survived because of his dad, because he was looking out for him, because he and his wife sacrificed themselves so that they could survive.

Marlon Brando was paid an astounding (nay super) salary of $3.7 million and a percentage of the profits  for  12 days shooting but he was certainly worth every penny with the gravitas he has in his scenes, a gravitas he carries through to Earth when a young Clark Kent is listening to his words of wisdom, the words that he will live by, the words that turn him into a superman.

Our dads all impart words of wisdom to us, why might not always think it is at the time but over time we’ll revisit it and find us using some of those very same words ourselves. Also see Mufasa in The Lion King, another sacrifice and a dad with wise words imparted to his son that are echoed again later.

George Kirk in Star Trek (2009)

Before he was Thor but after he was Kim in Home and Away, Chris Hemsworth played Kirk Snr in the opening of the JJ Abrams reboot of Star Trek. Again like with Superman before it this is about sacrifices and although the father and son bond is fleeting – he gets to hear the cry of his new born son moments before his death, a death that saved countless others, including his wife and son.

George Kirk evacuating the crew of the USS Kelvin, including his wife and unborn son, as he sends it into the enemy craft is an amazing piece of cinema as his death is juxtaposed with the birth of his son. It’s a great opening to the film as initially we are only introduced to him as Kirk – so some of the new to Trek audience will think it is James T –  and it is also the birth of a legend, talk about an apt introduction.

It’s the strongest moment of the new Trek universe that has yet to be equalled, nevermind bettered in its execution.

Bryan Mills in Taken (2008)

When I was growing up Brian Mills was a catalogue, now he’s a kick-ass former special ops dad in a leather jacket played by Liam Neeson who acts as a sometime bodyguard for Holly Valance. Neeson himself thought the film to be no more than a straight to video thriller but the central crux of the story, his daughters kidnap into a people trafficking ring in France, and particularly the trailer that features the now famous “I have a certain set of skills….I will find you and I will kill you” dialogue over the phone as he speaks to his daughter’s kidnappers sent it into the stratosphere. It’s the pre-kidnap scene where he is telling his daughter to remain calm, to remember details, to hide under the bed…and to prepare to be taken that is the stand out moment for me.

It really touched a primeval nerve that we would do anything and go anywhere to save our sons or daughters or to avenge what has been done to them. He’s the Jack Bauer and the Paul Kersey in all of us, doing whatever and taking out whoever it takes to get the job done. The same could be also said of Russell Crowe in Gladiator after the murder of his wife and son, although he dies at the end his mission is accomplished and he gets want he wants, to be with his wife and son in the afterlife.

This revenge/avenging role is also used to great effect by Mel Gibson in practically everything where he is a wronged dad – see The Patriot, Ransom and Edge of Darkness for details.

Michael Newman in Click (2006)

Like most of Adam Sandler’s films this has plenty of infantile moments, such as repeatedly farting in David Hasselhoff’s face but this It’s A Wonderful Life-esque comedy also has its fair share of well-handled drama. Christopher Walken hands Sandler’s character a TV remote control that can control life itself, pausing or fast forwarding through life…the pefect tool for the over-worked architect fighting for promotion.

It’s a genuine surprise to find such a funny and touching film that has a real emotional core and an important message about spending time with your family taking precedent over your job. Life is short and it can’t be repeated and moments can’t be recaptured, essential to this are great performances by Henry Winkler as Sandler’s dad and with Sandler himself as he grows older, which culminates in his own moving death scene in the pouring rain trying to conect with his own grown up son outside the hospital. It’s this moment that’s my highlight.

The idea isn’t a new one, you’ve only got to look as far as A Christmas Carol and The Family Man for that, but its mix of humour and heart coupled with its contemporary setting and theme of work/life balance shows us it is perhaps more relevant than it ever was.

More than notable mentions also go out to the “I am your father!” scene in The Empire Strikes Back, the baseball game scene where Kevin Costner ‘meets’ his dad in his former cornfield come baseball diamond in Field of Dreams, the interplay of Henry Jones Jr and Sr in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the moving penultimate scene in the original version of The Omen where Robert Thorn hesitates in killing his adoptive son who just so happens to be the son of the Devil, and the Chariots of Fire-inspired scene onwards of Clark W. Griswold in National Lampoon’s Vacation. Perhaps I’ll return to these dads in more detail next year.

Jaws – Fan Trailer

Or should that be fin trailer?

Whilst studying film and television at university at the latter part of the 20th Century I decided to try and hone some of my editing skills by putting together a contemporary trailer for my all time favourite film, Jaws.

With its re release at cinemas earlier this year it was granted a new trailer which got my thinking about the one I produced back in that edit suite, I still had a copy of it somewhere knocking around on VHS so decided to hunt it out.

If memory serves I put it together at some point in 1997 and used a piece of Hans Zimmer music from Crimson Tide, a submarine thriller from late Director Tony Scott. That score though is perhaps most famous for being used on one of the greatest trailers of the 90s, Independence Day, or ID4 as it was known in some quarters. I hear that the film itself is being released in 3D sometime next year.

In my Jaws trailer I went for setting the scene in Amity and then slowly building a sense of dread and foreboding before finally revealing the shark. Of course there was a mixture of the classic scenes, such as that first attack, and some of the classic lines,that are just so iconic.

All in all I was still pleased with what I produced all those years ago, I especially liked the juxtaposition between Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) during the autopsy and the first victim he is looking, which worked rather well in the section where he splashes water on his face which seems to mimic poor Chrissie making her way through the ocean at night.

My trailer is perhaps a tad long but the stand out moment for me is the bit where Quint (Robert Shaw) delivers his “too many captains on this island” talk to the whole town and Chief Brody (Roy Scheider). I love it where the music begins to swell up again just as the camera is moving in on him.

The widescreen really shows off some of the wonderful framing and beauty of the film, including the sweeping light shot on the boat at night, Spielberg loves his light and it really shows here acting almost as a pre-cursor to Close Encounters.

Both my trailer and the re release one share many of the same key characteristics and shots (which of course they would,they are from the same film) so I was pleased that in marketing terms I seemed to be hitting the same kind of notes as the boys at Universal.

Jaws is released on Bluray for the first on Monday 3rd September.

Without further ado, here is my Jaws trailer:

And here is the re release one:

Jaws – still top of the blockbuster food chain

Jaws is released on Bluray for the first time in the UK on Monday 3rd September, I look back to my first viewing of this newly spruced up print of the classic Spielberg thriller on the big screen back in June. And yes, I’ll be buying it again, adding it to my pan and scan VHS copy, my widescreen VHS copy and both the 25th and 30th anniversary DVDs.

My journey to see Jaws, my all time favourite film, has been 10 years in the making and after all that time, all those viewings, it didn’t disappoint. Put simply it was Jawsome.

It is somewhat fitting that Jaws has been re released as part of the centenary celebrations of Universal Studios in June, smack bang in the middle of the summer blockbuster season, as Jaws is the grandaddy of them all, the first film to have such a large (at the time) opening, and the first to hit that magic $100 million mark. In more ways than one it is the big fish.

37 years have passed since Jaws first swam onto our screens but it still more than holds its own against today’s output, in fact it is the filmic equivalent of what Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) calls the shark, ‘the perfect eating machine’.

As a piece of cinema Jaws was always the near perfect piece of cinema and now, cleaned up frame by frame and looking like it was practically shot last week, this lean mean thriller machine became the closest to cinematic perfection it has ever got.

Put simply, you can forget your Star Wars, forget your toying with special effects, nipping, tucking or even adding here and there (yes you Mr Cameron, Mr Lucas – sounds like Are You Being Served – and Mr Scott), this is cleaned up but otherwise untouched, and still has the same shark and still has that primal fear in buckets, along with the chum.

Spielberg has clearly learnt from his ‘walky talky’ medling with E.T. and left Jaws exactly as it was, save for giving it a fresh lick of paint and thankfully modification free.

It may sound obvious but never having seen the film on the big screen the first thing that hit me was that it all looked so big, from the (thankfully) old fashioned Universal logo to each and every character introduction, counting the fictional Amity Island in that.

With such a large canvas, that had also expertly been cleaned up, we are able to feel even closer to that (really rather sunny and bright for the most part) world and see and notice so many small things in the background that I hadn’t done before. It was practically like seeing the film for the very first time.

Jaws still packs a punch (or should that be bite radius) of a juggernaut. The opening Chrissie attack sequence has never looked so uncomfortably clear, her nakedness making you almost feel voyeur like – making it even closer akin to the shower scene it Psycho in that respect – right up until that moment of impact when the John Williams score and sound effects really kick into high gear. If anything its heightened more than ever with the Alex Kitner lilo attack, which in many ways seemed even more powerful. They both form part of my article, Death Becomes Them, charting the ‘best’ death scenes in the Jaws series.

It’s not the 25 foot shark, all three tonnes of it, that dominates the film though, each and every piece of the film he is in is dominated by Robert Shaw as Quint. Scheider and Dreyfuss are no slouches for sure and the way the threesome ping off each other is a joy to behold (the script coupled with the beauty of the extra rehearsal time due to operating problems with the shark et al – read Man vs Beast for my take on the making of) but Quint has never been so dominant, so alive. He chews scenery like the shark chews his boat, the Orca, at the end of the film and his eyes, his eyes are just so piercing a blue that they make Daniel Craig’s look practically dull in comparison. It confirmed to me that more classic Shaw films should be viewed on the big screen but also left a genuine feeling of loss, for the man, Shaw died only three years after the release of Jaws, and for cinema generally as he carved such an impression up their on the big screen, seen as he should be and not on a box – no matter what its size – in the corner of the room.

Jaws never puts a foot wrong, it still has fantastic pace, still thrills and scares a little in all the right places and also makes people laugh in all the places that it is meant to do. Rubber shark or no rubber shark it, like Alien after it, which after all was pitched as Jaws in Space, still taps into that primeval fear and when each and every person bringing that to life is working at the top of their game you can’t go wrong, critically,commercially or for longevity.

The decade wait was well worth it, and I’m pleased that Bruce, as the shark was nicknamed by Spielberg, came back for his noon feeding to mark the hundredth anniversary of Jaws,it mattered not that most of us in that small screening room had seen it hundreds of times, knew exactly what shot or line of dialogue came next we were all in awe of the remastered Jaws and to paraphrase Chief Brody at the end of the film as he blows the great white shark out of the water as it races toward him, we were all smiling like sons of bitches. 

 

Stars in their Iz #10

My mum and dad were down at the weekend for a flying visit (and it really zoomed at a rate of knots) which saw us hit one of our local pubs for Sunday lunch.

Isabelle enjoys a spot of peek-a-boo, so her and Sarah gave it a go whilst waiting for our rather delicious grub to come out. I couldn’t help but be reminded of the dinner table scene in Jaws between Chief Brody (the sorely missed Roy Scheider) and his son, Sean, in a rare moment of calm and warmth, which has to be one of the stand out moments in the whole film, shark or no shark.

It’s a scene that can’t fail to make you smile and would even make Quint weep (perhaps).

Sean Brody and Chief Brody

 

Pete Postlethwaite: a celebration

Craggy faced and voiced, the versatile actor, Pete Postlethwaite, who was described by Steven Spielberg, with whom he worked twice, as ‘the greatest actor in the world’ died last month at the age of 64 after a battle with Cancer. Earlier this week his memorial service was held and Dean Newman remembers the man and his movies.

Pete Postlethwaite kept working as he battled the disease, last year alone appearing in everything from Clash of the Titans to Inception and The Town. He first came to world-wide prominence in the Oscar-winning In The Name of the Father, for which he was also nominated, although the eagle eyed may have spotted him amongst the scrum of shaved heads and fellow British thesps in Alien 3 some 12 months earlier.

He cemented his position as one of the cream of British character acting talent however with three very different roles that he will perhaps be most fondly remembered for.

Looking to do for colliery brass band players what The Full Monty did for Sheffield steel workers, Brassed Off saw Postlethwaite deftly mix drama and comedy as the Obi Wan Kenobi of brass band leaders taking, funnily enough, future Obi Wan, Ewan McGregor under his wing.

1996 was a vintage year for the former Royal Shakespeare Society player who was the perfect choice and pillar then for Baz Lurhrmann’s sumptuous Romeo and Juliet with Postlethwaite’s Father Laiurence delivering the memorable ‘two households’ monologue that sets the scene, classic.

From playing an instrument to playing it colourful, Postlethwaite played it cucumber cool as the rather mysterious Mr Kobayashi in the really rather excellent, The Usual Suspects. Hollywood couldn’t really do anything other than sit up and take notice and he worked solidly right up until his untimely death.

Postlethwaite worked across a wide range of genres but he could often be found stepping in and out of the realms of sci-fi, horror and fantasy. Lucky us then. Genre highlights include Dragonheart, The Lost World (clearly channelling Robert Shaw from Jaws), James and the Giant Peach, Aeon Flux, Solomon Kane and the aforementioned Titans, Alien 3 and Inception.

It was almost as if the word gravitas could have been invented for him, a bit like getting Williams to do your score (yes Spacecamp I mean you) or Drew Strazan (hello Masters of the Universe) to whip up a tasty poster for you as no matter how bad the project he would give it that little bit more feeling of class to the proceedings.

The perfect case in point being his memorable turn in The Omen remake, ably filling the dog collar of Patrick Troughton who tries to forewarn Robert Thorn about his Devil son. Heck, I even loved his rhyming voiceover and his musings on mum’s cheesy bake in a certain well known cheese advert!

Being such a presence and class act it’s something of a surprise then that he didn’t pop up at Hogwarts, visit Middle Earth or try to have James Bond bumped off. He would have been perfect in any of them. Rarely bettered in the films he appeared the films themselves were always better for him being there and so was our experience.

Gremlins

To describe Gremlins as a kid’s film would be like describing the Bates Motel as a swell place to stay.

Cutesy in a typical Spielbergian world at the very beginning, sure, but it is soon revealed that we, the audience, and indeed the Peltzer family are sorely mistaken and have somewhat misread the situation in the ultimate ‘always heed the instructions’ moment in cinematic history

An animal is for life, not just for Christmas, such is the number one life lesson that we can all learn from the Spielberg Executive Produced, Joe Dante Directed, Gremlins. Rounding out this trio of talent is then scriptwriter – later Harry Potter Director, Chris Columbus – who was on something of a roll after penning scripts for both The Goonies and Young Sherlock Holmes around the same period. This ‘E.T. with teeth’ captivated and entertained and still stands tall as a comedy horror Christmas classic, and you don’t get many of those.

Originally a spec script by the young Columbus the feature was set to be a very different ‘beast’ with the Gremlins being even more dark and twisted, with the irresistibly cute Gizmo turning into Stripe, Barney the dog getting hung and Billy’s mum’s head rolling down the stairs!

Being a Joe Dante film it is a veritable reference of film and cartoon delights, from a cameo by the legendary animator Chuck Jones to a blink and you’ll miss it Steven Spielberg disappearing in a Time Machine

It’s a deliciously wicked and rich film, even until this day and has an almost timeless charm about it like that other 8o’s classic Back to the Future, which also shared the Universal backlot as its main set that created the town, Kingston Falls, and it does so spectacularly.

We get suckered into the cute, furry routine just like the Peltzers. It’s a family movie alright, but more about a families survival than in the traditional sense of the word. As such it caused such shockwaves Stateside and was one of two films that year, 1984, that helped create the PG 13 rating in America, the other film being Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

For all the Gremlins’ attacking from a Christmas tree, driving a bulldozer into the Futterman house, causing mayhem in the streets it’s a very low key scene that lingers in the memory and proves to be the most distressing, that classic monologue by Phoebe Cates on why she hates Christmas, a chilling story of them finding her dead dad stuck up the chimney dressed as Santa Clause. Inspired and perhaps only pipped by the SS Indianapolis story speech by Quint in Jaws for its powerfulness and evococativeness.

The set pieces and the imagery, their swirling lights of the swimming pool when Stripes throws himself in at the deep end, the tension of the death of the college tutor scene played against the rapidly beating heart on the projector, on par with anything in The Howling. Not to mention the discovery of the pods and the classic kitchen scene.

It’s a shame that Dante went for out and out comedy in the sequel as it would have been an interesting study in terror to see them go really, really dark. Of course, a remake or reimagining has been mentioned but it really does remain to be seen whether the Gremlins would hold the same appeal us knowing that they were merely pixels. The Gremlin creations by Chris Wallas are pretty much pitch perfect in design, that other unsung hero of the film is also Jerry Goldsmith and his blistering score that manages to be both comical and scary in equal measure.

It really is a nasty piece of work, and is all the more beloved and beautiful for it. Full of great energy, Dante clearly has great fun letting the Gremlins run riot in the usual Spielberg-like world, albeit one full of B-movie horror high jinks, and it all works wonderfully thanks to the film’s humour and the charm of its young leads. It maybe a special effects lead film but it’s the story that drives it, just like Back to the Future again in many respects, remember when that happened?

Alien is often mooted as the monster sci-fi movie of reference but for me it will always be Gremlins, for me it will always be a great big little monster movie.

Jaws UK: The shape of fins to come?

Hooper: “It doesn’t make much sense for a guy who hates the water to live on an island either.”

Brody: “It’s only an island if you look at it from the water.”

 

A Great White Shark attacks and kills several people across the Cornwall coast, such was the cut and thrust of my 1987 mini-epic, Jaws V, written in my English lessons at school. A lifelong fan of all the movies my 12 year old self was thrilled to continue the franchise and bring Ellen, Mike and the other Brody’s along to England with Hoagie (Michael Caine’s character from Jaws the Revenge) in tow, as well as the return of one Matt Hooper (clearly following the movies as he was consumed in the original Peter Benchley novel).

It’s something I still have tucked away in the loft somewhere but the idea of a Great White being spotted in Cornwall always seemed a massive flight of fantasy for many who read it at the time, whereas for me it was the next logical step after ‘she’ turned up in the Bahamas in Jaws the Revenge.

In the intervening years though such a possibility has become less horror fiction and more the shape of fins to come. Famously in 1999, 2003 and 2007 The Sun sparked a shark frenzy as it claimed that several people had spotted a Great White Shark off the Cornwall coast, this obviously felt like my sequel prophecy coming true.

With headlines such as ‘Freddie Starr Ate My Hamster’, The Sun isn’t exactly as reliable a source as something like National Geographic and whilst the images are indeed interesting, in the same way that many Alien Big Cat sightings in the UK are, many of the sightings are coming from otherwise reliable, upstanding citizens such as Policemen and local fishermen. In fact if you were to believe The Sun, Great White Sharks are now “patrolling Britain’s shores”!  

But it would appear that there is no smoke without fire as experts weren’t saying it was, but they weren’t saying it wasn’t either. After video footage emerged in July 2007, experts who commented on it, esteemed people such as the Natural History Museum’s Fish Curator Oliver Crimmen, and the Shark Trust’s Richard Pierce said that the animal in the video looked like a large shark and a Great White could not be ruled out. 

So could this be the first of many following their traditional food source? For some years now, many species that are also the Great White Shark’s prey have been observed migrating farther north—possibly because the sea around the UK is getting warmer, therefore. Is it not inevitable that the Great Whites will follow in their wake?

But there is other compelling evidence that a Great White off our coast isn’t so far-fetched. When you think of the UK you don’t think of it as a haven for sharks, but it is thought that around 21 species of shark call the coastal waters of Britain home, although many are plankton eaters, such as the Basking Shark.

But bonafide killers do lurk on the list, such as the Blue Shark, which has been held responsible for? worldwide deaths. More disconcerting still is that our waters are also frequented by both the Porbeagle and Mako, both of which look like smaller versions of the Great White for a reason, they are both first cousins, and again are on the list known as man-eaters.

It may come as a further surprise then that the UK has already seen its first shark attacks, two, one in Poole in Dorset and the other in Cork in Scotland, both were non-lethal and they are, up until now the only recorded shark attacks in the UK since records began in 1847.

Of course when it comes to Great White Shark attacks we think of such shark hotspots as South Africa, Australia and California, and you’d be right, but the oceans number one predator has also preyed on mankind much closer to home, in a place frequented by many Brits, the Med. To the millions who use the beaches and the clear blue sea this may come as something of a shock, but it is a renowned breeding ground for them. Let the fictional Amity Island though the Med isn’t really going to want to actively promote such a fact.

We do, naturally, have to put all of this shark attack business in some kind of context and yes more people do die from snake bites and bee stings than they do shark attacks, that maybe but those words are scant consolation if you are the one staring down the snout of what Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) called the ‘perfect killing machine’.

In investigating over 70 claimed Jaws UK sightings and encounters the Shark Trust Chairman, Richard Peirce, has found less than 10% remain credible. In 2007 he was quoted as saying: “Whilst there is no reason why these animals should not be found in British waters there is no concrete evidence to support their presence…(but) if we can prove Great White Sharks are occasional vagrant visitors to UK waters then this may be nothing new, they could have been visiting here for tens of thousands of years.”

All of this makes that once 12 year old boy pleased but also fearful of the water, still this in no matter as ‘Jaws’ had already put pay to that many years ago. At present the line between fact and myth may be like that of the UK coastline, rather murky, but one thing that is for sure is that with rising sea temperatures and rapidly changing eco-systems it can only be a matter of time before the large dorsal fin of the Carcharodon carcharias breaks the water of the south coast of England.

Men Vs Beast: Jaws – the making of a modern classic

Jaws, is one of the most iconic, oft-imitated, readily quotable movies ever, but like Gone With The Wind and The Wizard of Oz, its making of is almost as legendary as the movie itself.

It’s hard to think that the then 27 year old Steven Spielberg almost turned down the chance to direct the movie that launched a thousand nightmares and was the first film to smash the $100 million barrier, but at the time the Director felt that the film was too similar to the man versus (mechanical) beast of Duel (1971).

The original schedule of 52 days tripled due to the problems of filming on location, not so much filming at Martha’s Vinyard, which doubled as the quaint Amity Island, but more the filming at sea, which almost left the whole production at sea. Previously most movies set at sea were filmed in giant tanks with a pre-filmed backdrop but being on a real sea, on a real boat it was made the experience that successful.

The 12 hour days were not wholly productive as only four were devoted to actual filming, due to the poor weather and the not wholly co-operative shark (it sank on its first test and practically exploded on its second), but in the end these were the elements that helped make the film the success it was.

The Beast

Initially the Producers, Richard Zanuck and David Brown, thought(!) that they might be able to hire a man to train a Great White to perform a few simple tricks and do the rest with miniatures. Thankfully this route was not pursued and it soon became very clear that there was only one man who could make this monster fish a reality, the retired Bob Mattey, who created the giant squid for Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea some 20 years earlier.

Jaws and Christian Bale both might have too many teeth but his strops pale into insignificance next to ‘Bruce’ (the name Spielberg fondly called the shark after his Lawyer) who was cross-eyed and his jaws would not shut. This, however, proved to be Spielberg’s masterstroke as he had to be more inventive and hide the shark behind the camera for as long as possible, its presence suggested by twisting camerawork and the now unmistakable primeval music composed by John Williams, thus allowing the audience’s mind to create the horror of the shark, all 25 feet of him. And of course those rather cannily placed yellow barrels!

No matter how well the shark performed or how well it was hidden when it didn’t the filmmakers knew that the audience would need to see real sharks, and that is exactly what they got with amazing footage from Australian husband and wife diving team, Ron and Valerie Taylor.

Thankfully Great Whites do not grow to 25 feet in length so to make the shark look larger for the Hooper cage dive a smaller cage and midget were used to get some spectacular footage. But the best was yet to come when the shark destroyed the cage, and almost the boat, thankfully the pint size stuntman, Carl Rizzo, was not in it at the time and after seeing the ‘attack’ on the boat promptly locked himself in the toilet. The footage remains in the film, which effectively meant the shark helped rewrite the book and ensure the survival of Richard Dreyfuss’ character.

The Men

The original books author, Peter Benchley, and old pal of Spielberg, Carl Gottlieb, are listed as the screenwriters of the project but beneath the surface of the credits it is revealed that several different people helped stamp their authority on the project.

Benchley had two passes at the script and then the Pulitzer winning playwright (and scuba diver), Howard Sackler, was brought in to beef up the script. One of his greatest additions was the Quint USS Indianapolis monologue. This one moment, more than any other, has been the one that has become fabled in who should take the credit for the powerful moment when Robert Shaw’s character retells his World War 2 shark encounter. Future Apocalypse Now and Conan scribe, John Milius, had a crack at it with Shaw himself, an accomplished playwright, also gave it a polish and honed it to the perfection you see on scream, depending on whose tale you listen to of course.

The great thing about the hours of waiting to film meant that the main actors (Scheider, Dreyfuss and Shaw) all got to hone their characters, got to know each other and also got to rework their dialogue with co-screenwriter, Gottlieb (who also played opposite Mayor of Sharksville, Murray Hamilton) who often updated dialogue only 24 hours before the shoot, which perhaps goes someway to explaining why these three characters and their words – which even Tarantino would be proud of – and every nuance is so spot on and crisp almost 35 years later.

Other unsung heroes of the movie also had to include camera operator, Michael Chapman, who practically filmed the last third of the movie handheld, which helped give it that realistic, fresh look. And he even saved vital film from a sinking Orca, narrowly saving his skin and the dailies. Finally, there is Editor, Verna Fields, who won one of the three Oscars (it was nominated for four) for the film and edited the movie on location as the footage slowly crept in, not only editing around the underperforming shark but also continuity problems of an ever changing sea and sky, not that you’d notice.

She was also instrumental to adding the ‘head in the boat’ scene that was shot in a swimming pool and added long after filming had wrapped.

Unfortunately due to the many plaudits Fields got for the film, she was seen as its hero, rather than Spielberg, that Oscar can’t have helped either. As a result the two never worked together again.

By the end of the film the shark may have been dead but the blockbuster as we know it today had been born.