How the ‘Jaws’ movie gave the world a terrifying shark attack (1975)

Iconic image from JAWS

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Released in the summer of 1975, Jaws single-handedly drove more Americans away from the beaches and into the theaters than any storm or other force of nature ever possibly could have.

Though the cast featured Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss, the star of the film was undoubtedly Bruce — the 25-foot-long mechanical shark — and of course, the now-iconic theme music by composer John Williams.

While filming ran long and went horribly over budget, it didn’t matter in the end — Jaws would rake in over $400 million at the box office, becoming the highest-grossing film of all time… until a little movie called Star Wars came along two years later. – AJW

Don’t miss a HD version of the Jaws movie trailer at the end of this page.

The 1975 JAWS movie poster

‘Jaws’ will scare the hell out of you

Movie review by Richard Taylor

There are moments in Jaws that will literally lift you out of your seat with suspense and shock.

Jaws is that rarest of films — a genuine horror movie. This is the real thing. There are no phony creatures in rubber suits, no tall, dark men with long sharp teeth, nobody changing into a wolf when the moon is full and bright.

Jaws deals with the horror of man confronting a real monster, a great white shark, and the terrifying results.

Yes, I know the shark is just a mechanical model, but in this film, it doesn’t make a bit of difference. In the first place, you don’t see the shark until more than two-thirds of the film is over, and once you do see him, you’ll believe. You’ll believe!

Jaws movie - People running out of the water

Based on a bestselling novel

For those of you who may have been living on a desert island for the past several years, Jaws is based on Peter Benchley’s perfectly awful best seller of the same name.

Had the film followed the book to the letter it would have been a disaster, but luckily for us, Benchley, along with director Steven Spielberg, trimmed off most of the trash in the novel and left us with a straightforward adventure story that slowly evolves into a nightmare.

Gone is the tacky and rather unbelievable romance that slowed the book down to a crawl, and gone too are the overblown philosophical statements and landlocked plotting that kept things from really getting going until the last couple of chapters.

What we are left with is the story of a small resort town whose economy is kept alive by the summer tourist trade. To the horror and concern of the townfolk, a shark begins to stalk the beaches, attacking several bathers.

ALSO SEE: Man-eating shark attacks on the New Jersey shore made headlines nationwide back in 1916

After the first attack, the city fathers persuade the town’s police chief (Roy Scheider) that this single incident isn’t sufficient to close the beaches. He reluctantly agrees with the predictable disastrous results.

The showdown is not long in coming when an old shark hunter named Quint (Robert Shaw) is hired to destroy the marauder. He and the Police Chief, with the help of Hooper, a young ichthyologist who tries to persuade them that they’re in for more of a fight than they think, set out in Quint’s rather shabby old boat for the final confrontation.

Scheider Shaw Dreyfuss in Jaws

Jaws is superbly-crafted

Jaws is a superbly-crafted film. The photography is excellent, the special effects flawless and the direction, by 27-year-old Steven Spielberg, is assured and often brilliant. Spielberg directed last year’s excellent, but little seen, Sugarland Express, and was also at the helm of one of the best TV movies ever made, Duel.

His work in Jaws is faultless as he builds the suspense to the ultimate pitch, and then slams you into your seat with climax after climax. The acting is equally exciting. Scheider’s Police Chief is a real and human character. He is heroic, yet believable.

One scene at the dinner table with his small son manages to be very moving, a difficult feat in this action-crammed film. Robert Shaw overacts just the right amount to make his Quint the larger than life character he needs to be.

Jaws - the movie - 1975

Richard Dreyfuss steals the film as the engaging Hooper, the catalyst that keeps Shaw and Scheider reacting. Dreyfuss played Curt in American Graffiti, and recently scored with the critics in The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz. His work here is his best ever.

The star of the cast is “Bruce” the shark. He’s a 25-foot hydraulically-run, metal and plastic Great White shark, built by a former Walt Disney effects man.

“Bruce” looks very real on the screen, and Spielberg is careful not to show us too much of him at one time. He is often just a terrible shadow waiting beneath the waves.

MORE: Raiders of the Lost Ark movie with Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones was an instant classic (1981)

Jaws will have you clawing the arms of your seat (or your date) in delicious suspense and sighing with relief at the conclusion of each bit of terror that is presented.

The film builds slowly to an almost unbearable finish, starting with the first attack on a young woman swimming at night, moving on to a terrible attack on a crowded beach, and finishing with the final assault from Quint’s boat.

The terror is made even more real by the fact that sharks are real and they do attack people. This isn’t some made-up creature that might provoke more snickers than screams — this is the genuine article.

Jaws Time magazine cover 1975

Watching the film, you know that if you met up with this baby out in the water you wouldn’t have a chance.

The shark is really the ultimate movie monster. Frankenstein and Dracula will have to take a back seat to “Bruce.”

Jaws is no rip-off. It’s a quality film, far better than the book, that will scare the hell out of you, not by gore or cheap tricks, but by good tight direction, beautifully staged scenes, fine acting, and a just plain terrifying story.

A trip to the ocean for a little swimming will not be on your agenda after you see Jaws.

You’ll probably stay away from lakes and swimming pools for a while, too.

Jaws movie trailer (video)

“You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

YouTube video

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