(This entry is part of “Monster May,” a look at classic and iconic monster movies all leading up to the United States premiere of Godzilla on May 16. For more on what’s going on this month, check out our original post here.)
The Monster: Bruce, the scourge of Amity Bay, The Great White Shark.
Average Size: Length, 25 ft; Weight, about 3 tons.
Claim to fame: Shutting down a beach and making everyone generally afraid of the water.
Galeophobia is the technical term for a fear of sharks. In 1975, Steven Spielberg single handedly put that fear front-and-center in everyone’s mind with his hit Jaws.
Based in the fictional island of Amity,some hippies are hanging out at the beach smoking pot and singing kumbaya or talking about how much they hate “the man” or whatever hippies did back then when this girl starts staring at this guy in a really creepy way which in hippie-land means “hey let’s go skinny dipping.”
Which leads us to the famous drowning scene. Mystery hippie girl, having stripped and gotten into the water, suddenly gets pulled under in a glorious spray of bloodied water. After being found missing the next day, a police deputy finds her mangled corpse on the beach. Suspecting a shark attack, Police Chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) asks to shut the beach down but like any self-respecting politician, Mayor Vaughn (Murray Hamilton) chooses instead to keep the beach open and the autopsy of the dead girl changed to read “boating accident.”
It works great till the next day a shark is spotted, and a young boy is the unfortunate victim. Understandably the mom is all sad and finds out about the girl that had died earlier in the movie, which makes the paniced population even worse. Well they Mayor gets smart and calls a meeting this creepy acting Captain Ahab type dude named Quint (Robert Shaw) let’s them know he’ll kill the shark for $10,000, but the mother is just like “nah it’s cool bro” and offers $3,000 to any fisherman that can catch the shark. Well that causes a frenzy and all the fishermen in the area head out to collect their shark.
Which they find. Except Marine expert Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) isn’t so sure that’s the same shark, which makes sense because nobody heard the famous John William’s theme. So after getting drunk out of their minds Hooper and Brody tear open the shark’s stomach and find that there are no human body parts. But, because they’re drunk, they decide they can totally take down the shark and head out to the water to catch it. Well they meet a turned over boat that was clearly attacked by the shark and so, peeing their pants all the way, they go back to the mayor and demand he shut down the beach for Fourth of July. Fearing for the safety of his citizens, the Mayor promptly refuses.
Well of course more people die and everyone freaks out again, leading the town to ultimately take up wannabe Captain Ahab up on his offer to kill the shark. So the three of them head out, Brody, Hooper, and Quint, all geared up to kill a monster shark.
It’s funny, this movie is praised for it’s intensity, suspense, and build up, but the only reason there’s so much build up is because of a stupid prop. The mechanical shark prop they had (lovingly named Bruce) continually broke down on set and took hours to repair. So Spielburg got fed it and said “screw it, let’s just imply the shark is there!” No seriously. That’s the reason. Google it.
That, coupled with the ever-famous “duh-dum, duh-dum, duh-dum” score made this movie scary. REALLY scary. So scary that when they pitched the movie Alien to the studio they described it as “Jaws in space.”
What I’m trying to say is, this movie is great. REALLY great. And will also make you terrified of the ocean forever.
Rating: Print. Just a word of advice? Wait to watch it until after that weekend trip to the ocean, or you’ll be enjoying the hotel pool a lot more than you thought you would.
(Tomorrow we see that adults aren’t the only ones that can fight monsters… sometimes kids are the answer.)