Tuesday, August 21, 2012

We're Gonna Need A Bigger Blog

Karen: Last week I received the blu-ray edition of Jaws, one of my favorite films. Universal has done a spectacular job cleaning up the image; this is the best I have ever seen the film look, and I've watched it plenty of times. Even after repeated viewings over the years, I am still drawn to it. There's an undefinable quality to it that makes it eminently re-watchable (to me at least). The details behind the film's troubled production only make it more interesting. I think we're probably lucky that the robo-shark didn't work very well, because instead of a straight-up monster shark film, we got a movie dripping with suspense. It's much more exciting that way and the final battle at the end, when the shark is shown in all his toothy glory, is a more effective pay-off. I know I'll be throwing this disc in the player repeatedly, especially in summer time. Has it ever been safe to go back in the water since Jaws?

Doug: I'll add only this -- there are a handful of films I'll always stop for when surfing channels. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the original Universal monsters films, the Planet of the Apes series, and Jaws. It is always a treasure.


david_b said...

Must confess right here, right now.. I've never sat through Jaws.

(I feel the jeers already...)

However, I understand it to be how good suspenseful horror movies are made (well, not horror as in 'Dracula', but you get my jist..). Like "Alien", it's all in the subtle build of suspense, the music, the non-appearance of the enemy (the darling shark in this case..), the fear/anquish, everything. Sounds like this is a great example of how good classic movies should be made.

I never had any interest in the 70s/80s films with Jason, Halloween, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and all the other slasher gore-fests. Hate 'em. I'm considered more of a Hitchcock fanatic.

david_b said...

Oh, and Doug, as for 'that list' of movies I have to sit and watch, I count, National Lampoon's Vacation, Love Actually, Ferris Bueller, POTA (original, perhaps Beneath..), Animal House, and perhaps a couple others.

Dougie said...

I've taught Jaws a couple of times as a media text in the last four years, so I don't need to see it for a while. Kids (16 years old) generally jeer at the shark effects but they still jump out of their skins at certain points!

If I'm channel surfing I can't bypass: either of the Cushing Dalek movies, any of the Bonds up to View to a Kill, the Sinbad movies and War of the Worlds. I am a bronze age boy, all right.

Edo Bosnar said...

I like Jaws, and although it's not one of my very favorite movies, I understand the 'stop channel surfing and watch' reflex. There is something quite compelling about it.
And since we're on the subject, here's a few of my 'stop everything and watch' movies: both Fletch and Fletch Lives (yeah, I know, that'll get me a few jeers), Midnight Run, Quick Change, 48 Hours, Trading Places and the Blues Brothers (regardless of the fact that I have the DVD).

Steve Does Comics said...

Hmm, let's see...

...the films I always have to watch:

Any Ray Harryhausen.

Any Hammer horror.

The Peter Cushing Dr Who movies.

Any 1950s American sci-fi flick.

Carry On Cleo, Carry On Cowboy, Carry On Up The Khyber and Carry On Screaming.

Quatermass and the Pit.

James Mason's Journey to the Centre of the Earth.

Rod Taylor's The Time Machine.

Charlton Heston's Planet of the Apes.

Night of the Demon.

Bring It On.

The Innocents.

Gregory's Girl.

Let The Right One In.

Drop Dead Gorgeous.

Any Marvel super-hero movie - even the bad ones.

dbutler16 said...

I agree with david_b about Jaws (sorry) as well as the slasher movies. National Lampoon's Vacation and POTA are also on my "have to sit and watch" list as well as Road Warrior, A Christmas Story, Raider of the Lost Ark, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, The Princess Bride, Escape from New York, Five Deadly Venoms, any Bruce Lee movie, Highlander, Adventures in Babysitting, Lethal Weapon 1 & 2, Strange Brew, and romancing the Stone. Whew! The above is not an all inclusive list.

Anthony said...

I remember the first time I saw Jaws with my dad and my sister in the summer of '75. If memory serves we had fish for dinner that night. Wasn't there a slogan that summer along the lines of get revenge -eat fish ? I would see it twice more that summer with friends and I jumped a little each time when Ben Gardner's head comes out of the hole in his boat. I knew it was coming on those last two viewing but combined with the music it still made me jump.

Jaws definitely stands the test of time despite Benchley's later regret about making a shark a villain in light of new information about sharks and the supposedly bogus theories presented in the film like territoriality. If I'm channel surfing Jaws is one of the films I will stay and watch to the end.

I also find the behind the scenes documentaries just as fascinating as the film. I watched one when I worked in a video store and loved the E! True Hollywood Story that I watched a few years ago. Does anyone knew which version of the film besides Blu-ray has the best bonus features as well as the cleanest print ? I would love to have the E! documentary if possible.

We are definitely very fortunate that Bruce didn't work all that well. One documentary I watched said all you heard during the shooting of the film was - the shark isn't working or the shark is sinking ! The POV shots plus the John Williams score plus our imagination work much better than any mechanical monster. I totally agree that when we do finally see the shark in the film's climax it's a better payoff for not having seen him from the opening shot. And how terrifying is that opening scene with just the actress and the film crew pulling her about with ropes or cables.

Lastly I can't help but feel fortunate that the original casting choices turned down the roles. I can't imagine Jaws with any other actors. Oh and Karen it still isn't safe to go back in the water especially with a Blu-ray to recapture the film in all its theatrical glory.

Karen said...

Anthony, thanks for that very thoughtful post on Jaws. I believe the blu ray has the documentary, "The Shark is Still Working" on it. I haven't gotten around to the extras yet, but there appeared to be a good lot of them.

Watching the film Sunday, I realized that I enjoyed the parts before the shark was shown perhaps more than once the shark is revealed. Seeing poor Alex Kittner disappear into a gout of blood was more horrifying than seeing the shark actually chow down on Quint -although that still makes me cringe. And Ben Gardener's head popping out - what a great scare!

Fred W. Hill said...

Been a long time since I last saw Jaws but I remember the first time I saw it, with my family at a drive-in in the San Francisco Bay area -- my dad, who liked teasing the rest of us unmercifully often, actually jumped the first time the shark was shown rising up to take a bite of someone! I'd actually read the book before seeing the film (along with the Godfather and the Exorcist). I also remember the Mad parody, including that great cover with the shark going "bleah" at the prospect of taking a bite out ol' Alfred E. Neuman. Guess Bruce thought Alfred just didn't have good taste.
This morning I read an interesting article in the NYTimes (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/21/science/guardian-of-ocean-life-armed-with-pen-and-brush.html?_r=1&ref=science) about a science artist, Richard Ellis, who became good friends with Jaws author Peter Benchley and helped Benchley with his research on great whites.

Anonymous said...

The unforgettable John Williams theme still resonates in my mind many years after watching it.

Bruce the (malfunctioning) mechanical shark was a story in its own right behind the scenes.

It definitely was a good idea to show the aftermath of the attacks rather than explicitly showing the shark chomping up its victims. Horror always works best when the audience has to use its imagination, otherwise even with modern CGI effects it becomes too cheesy and overdone.

RIP Roy Scheider.

- Mike 'I can't swim' from Trinidad & Tobago.

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