Monday, June 2, 2014

Flick Pick: Jaws

(Universal, 1975)

A surprisingly successful but little-known director, essentially self-taught, was given this story because he'd consistently brought his earlier projects in on time and under budget, and the studio had what they thought was an incredible mechanical shark that didn't look fake.
Except it did look fake, plus it was a mechanical disaster broken throughout most of the production, and the filmmaker was forced to concentrate on plot and character development, and use the mere suggestion of the shark in a style worthy of Alfred Hitchcock. It also helped that his actors were Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, and Robert Shaw, and that he picked a young composer who'd also done a lot of work for TV to do his film score, named John Williams. The production was nearly cancelled by the studio several times, going horribly long and over-budget, but Steven Spielberg persevered, and brought it home in time to become not just that summer's runaway blockbuster, but the highest-grossing film of all time to that point (the first of three times Spielberg has accomplished that feat) on only his second feature film. John Williams got an Oscar, and Universal got $470M. And a mere 39 years later, it remains a marvelous piece of movie making, and still makes people think twice before they go into the water. The opening vignette is among the most horrifying scenes ever filmed, and if it doesn't scare the bejeezus out of you, you aren't human.

{This was the first major non-Disney movie I got to see in an actual sit-down theatre, rather than in the backseat of the family sedan at a drive-in, and when I saw what certain moments of this flick did in sending people into momentary hysterics, I can truly say I realized the power of film to reach out and grab an audience. If I recall correctly, my mother's fingerprints on my arm lasted about a solid week.}

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