Well we’ve looked at the worst, we’ve looked at the weirdest and the most laughable, it’s time to look at the best. I thought I would conclude the Sinful Celluloid Craptacular Shark Week with the one film that is anything but, the original 1975 timeless classic, JAWS. This film scared me out of the water. I was only about 4 or 5 when I saw it and then around 11 when we pretty much went to the movies to see it every day on the rerelease. It has remained a big part of my life ever since. Jaws is such a great film that set the bar high, mainly because there is a lot more going on here than just man vs shark. There are a few key differences between the film and the original novel. That’s to be expected, so we’ll look at those as well. Come with me now, back into the water.
JAWS opens in 1975 on a beach in Amity, Long Island. Martin Brody, his wife, and two boys have recently moved to the Island, an interesting choice for Martin because he doesn’t like the water or boats for that matter. After a young woman is found in pieces washed up on the beach, Brody is sucked into a whirlwind of sea going madness that he was never prepared for. The death, being ruled as a boating accident, doesn’t sit well with the new Chief , so he makes some calls to get an expert out to Amity, what he gets is Matt Hooper. Matt is a fun loving but extremely educated young man who comes in and basically sets everyone straight. Everyone is all ears of course, except for the Mayor. Larry Vaughn, the Mayor of Amity, is a weasel, a sniveling politician who is a slave to his own greed. That description may sound mellow dramatic, but my god is it true!
Larry forbids the beaches to be closed or any action taken. Well, there’s action all right, and a young boy is eaten in front of everyone during 4th of July weekend! After that its “shark season” off the coast, cause every yahoo on the East coast is hunting sharks. However it’s not until The Mayor’s son is put in harm’s way that he begins to take the problem seriously, and seriously means Quint! A sharkin man by trade, Quint is the one Captain on the Island that isn’t losing his mind over the $3000 reward. Quint wants $10,000 and he gets it, so in the morning, he, Chief Brody, and Matt Hooper head out to slay the beast.
It’s easy to forget that Jaws was a low budget film, by an inexperienced director. Now we all know that Spielberg is a god, but back in 1974, no one cared. The shark itself didn’t work well and even sank to the bottom of the water at one point. This forced Spielberg to scrap his originally planned shots and rely on suggestion, music and effects for most of the film, an involuntary decision that would prove one of the films greatest strengths, fear of the unknown.
Another great thing about the film is that the camera is often at water level, even dipping below. As a child, I would constantly be lifting my head up to keep it “above the water”. Silly now, but it goes to show you how effective that angle was.
One of the greatest accomplishments was the trio of Brody, Hooper and Quint. These characters didn’t just represent specific types of men, they represented every man. Brody is the man most of us find that we are when pushed out of our comfort zone. Hooper is the light-hearted boy in all of us and Quint is the ultimate grizzled warrior we like to think we’d be (and seldom are).
These are the kinds of things that are going on beneath the surface of the film and they are welcome. Also welcome is the fact that the book from which it is based is stripped down to its essentials. Spielberg saw it as a simple adventure story and jettisoned the unnecessary baggage. Some of it more interesting than others, there is still no place for it. What are the key differences between the book and the movie? Let’s see.
For one thing, Mayor Larry Vaughn is in bed with the mob. They are the ones keeping pressure on him to keep the beaches open. Though not seen in the film, it is an added dimension that gives Larry a little sympathy (though not much).
Quint isn’t much of a talker in the book but in the movie, he does nothing but bark at everyone! I much prefer Robert Shaw’s embodiment of the character. There is also less lounge time in the book because our Orca crew only goes out for the day and returns every night.
Probably the biggest change and most welcome I might add, is in the characters of Brody, Ellen and Hooper. In the novel, Ellen is miserable all the damn time. She seems to resent Martin for marriage and kids, you name it. They fight all the time. And once Matt Hooper comes into the picture, they fight even more. Why? Cause in the book Hooper is doing some deep sea fishing in Ellen’s pond! Martin’s not too happy about that either so he attempts to kill him at one point. Yeah, everybody kinda sucks in the book.
Keep these things in mind next time you watch the flick and you’ll definitely get something new out of it. Speaking of getting something new outta it, there’s one last thing I want to talk about. It’s called JAWS: The Sharksploitation Edit.
This is probably the greatest Fan Edit of all time. For those of you that don’t know, a fan edit is basically a new version of the film made by fans. They either cut stuff out or add it back in to achieve whatever effect they feel the film is lacking. However, JAWS doesn’t lack anything, so this is just for the fun of seeing Jaws as a less prestigious grindhouse release.
The film is now broken up into days which actually kinda wrenches up the tension. There is a lot more shark kills and shark killing in this version and one of the most authentic 70’s low budget soundtracks ever. Another great thing is that the Sharksploitation edit actually steals back from those who stole from it. There is footage from The Last Shark, Cruel Jaws, as well as Jaws 2 and 3. Trust me it rocks! Here is a vague breakdown from fanedit.org:
New opening credits
I will not list all the cuts because there are to many of them, some big and some very short.
Grainy picture, scratches and noises. Warm and cold tint added.
Some almost entire scenes from JAWS 2 added (as well as a lots of shots from various movies and documentaries)
Most of the deleted scenes and alternate takes are back in the movie, not all of them though; And some are a bit poor quality.
New music here and there (70′s style JAWS theme, pop, rock etc..)
Few, but noticeable, special effects to add more blood into some shots.
NEW ENDING (a bit cheesy, but hey, it’s a grindhouse edit after all!)
New ending credits.
I can’t go into detail without spoiling the fun so do yourself a favor and track it down. The ending alone will BLOW YOUR MIND and is worth the price of admission alone!
Well that puts an end to Craptacular Shark Week. I hope you’ve enjoyed it. I have. Now I’m gonna go watch my new JAWS Blu Ray. Later.
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