Today marks the 40th anniversary of the release of JAWS, a film that arguably launched the summer blockbuster phenomenon, sent the career of Steven Spielberg into overdrive, and had us all fleeing from the water.
It was such a shocking film that even the headteacher at our school was moved to make it the topic of assembly the morning after a TV screening. And I would join my friends in the playground recollections of the best gory bits.
It was one of a holy trinity of films I would watch on VHS when returning home from school (well, it was preferable to doing my homework), along with Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark (the latter shared a 240 min tape with two-thirds of The Spy Who Loved Me, a movie featuring a different kind of Jaws. The tape ran out just after the Lotus launched itself into the sea…).
At first I was thrilled by the shark and the bloody deaths and the explosive finale, but the more I watched it, the more I realised that I really liked these guys: the landlubber cop, the cocky oceanographer, the old sea dog. That, of course, is the real secret to the film’s success; these characters are so rich and layered for a monster movie. This is famously put down to the delays in filming caused either by the weather or the faulty shark. These setbacks gave Spielberg and the actors added time to develop their characters. There’s never been a better argument for rehearsal time, something often lacking in the hectic schedules of film making.
It all inspired this fledgling 11 year-old filmmaker who had ambitious plans to remake it: all I needed was a film camera, a few willing classmates as cast and crew, and a papier mâché shark… You can see the flaw in my scheme already, can’t you?
Thankfully, those plans came to nothing but a few enthusiastic storyboards, but sooner or later some idiot will try to remake it. In the meantime, today’s celebrations have reminded me of this excellent documentary by super fan Jamie Benning.
Enjoy, and farewell and adieu to you fair Spanish ladies…