“Jaws,” August 15, 2021 (1975), DVD. I had the unusual experience of watching this with an adult who had never seen it before. Hard to imagine. And she’s a serious swimmer in open water including oceans and Long Island Sound. Now she swims miles in Walden Pond every week. My wife, Bronwen, has always been a mermaid. So the idea that she’d never seen this monster movie from the 1970s never even occurred to me. And we watched it a couple weeks after we returned from Fire Island where a surf-caster pulled a 6-ft. shark on our next to last day at the beach. They closed it down the day after we left. Funny, they left it open for the whole weekend. Sound familiar?
Anyway, how does the film stand up? Well, the acting is still excellent. Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfus, and Roy Scheider make this work. Shaw is remarkable. The directing, the editing, the use of live shark footage are all great.
The horror pieces, especially the first dive to check out the drifting boat, is still one of the scariest things I’ve ever seen. As in 1975, I screamed and jumped out of my chair. I knew it was there and coming and it still did that. That’s really good filmmaking. Even the dialogue works well, especially that amazing scene in the boat where Quint does his soliloquy about the sinking of the USS Indianapolis. (Shaw wrote that based on the original script and some other edits. The attached feature on “The Making of Jaws” takes you through this.)
And then there’s the small matter of the music. Brilliant doesn’t even begin to express my admiration for Williams’ work here. And I’m not a groupie. This is simply great. As Spielberg said in the attached feature, probably half of Jaws’ success was because of the music.
All things considered, this has aged very well. The shark had always felt ‘fake’ to me in the film’s final scenes aboard the boat. But Bronwen was able to suspend disbelief for the entire film. Her response to the climax of the film was a scream of “yes” just as Spielberg hoped. She went and swam Walden today and didn’t bat an eye. I wonder if she’d have felt as comfortable out on Fire Island? If you’ve not seen this for a while, it would be fun revisiting it, and watch it on the DVD if possible.