Monday, December 14, 2015

AFI Top 100, #48: "Jaws" (1975)

Movie Stats:
Released 1975 (USA)
American, in English
Director - Steven Spielberg
Stars - Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss

Plot Summary:
When an enormous, seemingly intelligent, great white shark terrorizes a small island community, police chief Martin Brody (Scheider), hunts it down with the help of marine biologist Matt Hooper (Dreyfuss) and professional shark hunter Quint (Shaw).

Extreme violence; lots of gore; minor blue language; brief female nudity (side boob only).

Bad Stuff:
It’s a little too long. Could have done with one less someone-gets-eaten-while-people-on-the-beach-panic scene. By the third or fourth, I certainly got the point.

I’m giving the “science” of this film a very hard side-eye.

It has a few of that type of scene that tends to plague horror movies, where people do dumb things in order to further the plot, such as when they send the guy who already dropped something once when startled underwater back underwater with the very important poison stick.

Good Stuff:
Really excellent acting from everyone, although Shaw was probably my favorite - Quint is such an interesting, complex character. Even a lot of the secondary characters are great, especially the mayor of poor decisions, Larry Vaughn (Murray Hamilton), and Brody’s wife, Ellen (Lorraine Gary).

The special effects are SO good! I’ve heard that the shark isn’t actually shown much because they were having trouble with the prop, but what you do see of it, it looks great. There’s a lot of CGI these days that looks far, far worse. It’s not all about the shark, though. There were several scenes that impressed me by how realistic they looked. A particular favorite was the scene where Brody and Hooper go out on a boat together and are socked in by fog. It was very creepy.

It’s a lot funnier than I remembered it being. A lot of the dialogue had me chuckling, “Here’s to swimmin’ with bow-legged women,” “string them up by their Buster Browns,” “What are you, some kind of half-assed astronaut?” Etc.

The Verdict:
This is one of those movies that I always expect to not like. I’ll think to myself, “It can’t possibly be as good as I recall.” Then I watch it again and I’m like, “Nope, it really is that good.” On top of the excellent acting (god, that look on Scheider’s face as he utters the iconic words, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat,” just magnificent), the great dialogue, and the impressive practical effects, it’s genuinely frightening. To me, it’s not scary so much as horrifying. It does a great job at ramping up the horror, leaving the viewer like the proverbial frog in the pot of boiling water. The music goes a long way toward helping build that tension. If all horror movies were like this, I’d watch more of them.

I give it 4.5 stars.


Patricia said...

Hey, you know those movies I check out from the library and don't get around to watching? This is one of them. I've never seen it. I KNOW! I think I had to wait to get it too, and then ended up not being able to renew it because there was a hold. So it's still pretty popular, even though it's many decades old.

balyien said...

Wow, I really can't believe you've never seen it! My mind is blown.It's still popular because it's good. You should give it another try one of these days. :)