The release of one film in 1975 has caused untold concern over the years, over the poor PR its main antagonist received – and that film is Jaws.
Such was the phenomenal effect this film had on audiences, that not only did it see a reduction in the number of people on beaches that year, but more seriously, perpetuated the negative image of sharks that has seen their numbers dwindle by an incredible 71% since its release, with more than 100 million sharks still killed each year.
On top of that, it also was the film to herald the term of blockbuster, featuring a high concept that would have audiences swimming into cinemas in their droves, which they did.
And although it went heavily over budget – from $4 million to 9 million – it went on to make over $475 million at the box office, which isn’t a bad return.
It’s an incredible legacy, especially when you consider it was only the third film to be directed by a young Steven Spielberg.
Settling into his first year in his new role as Chief of Police of Amity Island is Martin Brody (Roy Scheider). The irony isn’t wasted on him that he has a fear of water, but as most crime takes place on land, it’s not a real issue.
One morning, the remains of a young woman’s body washes up on shore, believed to be someone last seen skinny dipping the night before. Unconfirmed reports are that it was caused by a shark attack, which is highly unusual for this part of the world.
Brody is concerned to the point where he wants to close the beaches, but his mayor (Murray Vaughn) informs him to do no such thing; after all, the town is coming up to its big summer event, and the last thing they want to do is scare off the tourists.
Brody begrudgingly agrees, but soon regrets it when another body falls victim in the deadly waters.
Despite his fear, Brody soon finds himself out in deep water, on a boat belonging to an old sea dog Quint (Robert Shaw), and a young oceanographer Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss), in a hunt for this great predator. But who’s hunting who?
Parking the impact the film has had on the shark population to one side, there is no denying that Jaws symbolises a massive new direction in Hollywood cinema, that is still existent today, because it’s fair to say without it, there would be no Marvel Cinematic Universe and the like.
It was based on the novel of the same name, released the year before by Peter Benchley, who also has a brief cameo in the film.
It is a cultural phenomenon that has remarkably stood the test of time, 47 years on. This re-release back on the big screen only goes to prove that its impact on audiences is still there to this day; so much so that it still manages to make those watching it, jump out of their skins. Which is all the more impressive considering that this was long before CGI. The shark used primarily was an early example of an animatronic, affectionately named Bruce, with a few other inferior models used for various scenes. It may not look life-like, but it still manages to instil a real fear on its appearance.
But it’s not just the look of the film that impressed, it was also the sound. Spielberg called in composer John Williams, who also scored his previous film Sugarland Express, who went on to create one of the most memorable scores in cinema history; very few films can be identified with merely just a handful of the very first opening bars, that when heard, can still produce chills down the spine.
And although it was a notoriously troubled shoot, with even two of its stars in Shaw and Dreyfuss having a long-running feud throughout, the film has gone on to be recognised as a true classic. And rightly so.
It still remains the perfect example of masterful storytelling and direction, with the impressive ability to still shock audiences now, despite its years.
The film spawned a further three sequels, all diminishing in quality with each instalment, with none of them even coming close to the raw terror found in this original.
If you haven’t seen it in a number of years, or are lucky enough to never have seen it at all, this rare opportunity to dive right in on the big screen is a must. Because from the opening scene alone, you know you’re in for quite the experience, one with serious bite.