It's 35 years since Jaws hit multiplexes, become an instant classic, made bucket loads of money, turned its director into a star and made bathers think twice before going into the water. Since then we have had some toothless sequels, countless rip offs, lots of movie referencing (Airplaneand Back to the Future Part IIbeing the best) and a shark mythology that refuses to die. But what were the essential elements that made Jaws a phenomenon? In the fourth of our giant sized movie celebration articles (various OWF writers have previously argued for Ghostbusters, Gremlins, Back to the Future and Psycho) and in no particular order here are 50 reasons why Jaws may in fact be the greatest film of all time...
1. The Invisible Shark
Whether it was mechanical shark difficulties or a wise directors' decision (or probably a bit of both), there's no denying that less is considerably more with old rubber teeth. The shark (nick-named "Bruce") in Jawsis scary precisely because we don't see it properly for at least an hour - those glimpses during the beach attacks are a wonderful tease, conjuring up fear in the audiences' mind of something far greater than can be realised on screen. As history has proven the unseen enemy wins every time. Which leads us nicely onto...
2. John Williams Iconic 'Shark Theme'
It may have provoked more laughter than shrieks from Spielberg at first, but terror was very much in the tune when audiences first heard those menacing opening bares. The reason why the shark is so terrifying is all down to Williams' haunting notes. Acquiring iconic status it is, next to Monty Norman's 007 tune, one of cinema's must recognisable themes.
3. Steven Spielberg
Jaws is Spielberg's baby. His third feature, following the TV movie triumph of Duel ("Shark as truck thriller") and the Goldie Hawn crime drama Sugarland Express. Would it have been as memorable had original choice director Dick (who the hell is he) Richards helmed? Ultimately Jaws' success subsequently made Spielberg a household name and allowed such classics as Close Encounters, E.T, Indiana Jones and Schindler's List to come into being.
4. The Flawless Cast
Author Peter Benchley wanted Paul Newman for city cop Brody, Robert Redford for defiant shark enthusiast Hooper and Steve McQueen as weathered fisherman Quint. Zanuck wanted Charlton Heston, Sterling Hayden and Jon Voight respectively. Spielberg was adamant on Lee Marvin for Quint. But when Marvin passed and the brilliantly uncompromising Robert Shaw became the old sea dog the flawless ensemble started falling into place. Fresh off the success of The French Connection Roy Scheider gave Brody a loveable weakness, wit and charm. While a young Richard Dreyfuss brought a sense of boy wonder adventure to rich scientist Hooper.
5. Life Saving Editing
No other film is more worthy of the saying 'all films are made in the editing room'. Known as 'mother cutter' Verna Fields is rightfully acknowledged as the one who put some of the bite into Jaws, working through hours of mangled mechanical shark footage and structuring the mess into a coherent whole.
Oliver Pfeiffer is a freelance writer who trained at the British Film Institute. He joined OWF in 2007 and now contributes as a Features Writer. Since becoming Obsessed with Film he has interviewed such diverse talents as actors Keanu Reeves, Tobin Bell, Dave Prowse and Naomie Harris, new Hammer Studios Head Simon Oakes and Hollywood filmmakers James Mangold, Scott Derrickson and Uk director Justin Chadwick.
Previously he contributed to dimsum.co.uk and has had other articles published in Empire, Hecklerspray, Se7en Magazine, Pop Matters, The Fulham & Hammersmith Chronicle and more recently SciFiNow Magazine and The Guardian. He loves anything directed by Cronenberg, Lynch, Weir, Haneke, Herzog, Kubrick and Hitchcock and always has time for Hammer horror films, Ealing comedies and those twisted Giallo movies.
His blog is: http://sites.google.com/site/oliverpfeiffer102/