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Thread: 'Jaws' 35th anniversary: How Jaws changed summer movie blockbusters

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    Elite Member celeb_2006's Avatar
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    Default 'Jaws' 35th anniversary: How Jaws changed summer movie blockbusters


    'Jaws' changed summer movie blockbusters forever. In this 1975 file photo, movie director Steven Spielberg talks with producer Richard Zanuck on the set of 'Jaws.'

    WENN Photos/Newscom


    'Jaws' 35th anniversary: How Jaws changed summer movie blockbusters - CSMonitor.com

    In the summer of 1975, the movie “Jaws” made people across America stop thinking it was safe to go into the water.

    Instead, they went to the movies to get scared half to death by a wunderkind director named Steven Spielberg, a testy mechanical shark and perhaps the most menacing musical score in the history of cinema.

    “Jaws” debuted on June 20, 1975. Universal Studios gambled that by unleashing the movie in wide release to theaters across the country, then an uncommon practice, and coupling the release with a massive TV ad campaign, the film would be big. They were wrong.

    It was huge.

    “Jaws” played in theaters for months and earned more than $470 million, thus becoming the first summer movie blockbuster, according the book “Blockbuster: How the Jaws and Jedi Generation Turned Hollywood into a Boom-Town” (Simon & Schuster, 2004).

    The picture remained the biggest box-office hit of all time until George Lucas bumped it from the top spot two years later with another summer smash, “Star Wars.”

    What makes the story even more remarkable is that “Jaws” was a movie plagued by production problems.

    Spielberg, who had previously directed only one feature, “The Sugarland Express,” was running behind schedule and way over budget. The movie was filmed on Martha’s Vineyard and shooting lasted nearly 160 days, instead of the scheduled 55, and cost more than double its original $4 million budget, according to “America’s Film Legacy: The Authoritative Guide to the Landmark Movies in the National Film Registry” (The Continuum International Publishing Group, 2010).

    To make matters worse, the film’s title player, the actual shark, was a malfunctioning mess that rarely worked. In the “Making of Jaws,” a documentary produced for the movie’s 30th anniversary, Spielberg talked about the frustration he felt with the nonfunctioning Great White.

    But those mechanical mishaps may have been the most important technical snafus in movie history.

    The frequent delays allowed for the script to be continually refined. And because his primary special effects prop wasn’t working properly, Spielberg had to improvise. As a result, the shark (nicknamed Bruce, after the director’s lawyer) didn't make its first full appearance onscreen until 81 minutes into the 124-minute movie.

    In keeping images of the shark off-screen for most of the film, Spielberg employed a strategy often used by the master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, wrote film critic Roger Ebert in his book, “Great Movies II” (Random House, 2005).

    "A bomb is under the table and it explodes. That is surprise," Ebert quotes Hitchcock. "The bomb is under the table but it does not explode. That is suspense."


    Spielberg leaves the toothy shark under the table for most of the movie, Ebert explains, and the payoff is one of the most effective thrillers ever made.

    The eerie suspense, combined with the crisp cinematography and John Williams’ unforgettable score, made “Jaws” a spine-tingling sensation.

    The astounding success of “Jaws” opened the eyes of studio executives to the moneymaking ability of summer movies. It may be hard to believe today, but in 1975, the summer months were considered a dumping ground for movies, according to the industry compendium “George Lucas’s Blockbusting” (Harper Collins, 2010).

    “In the early 1970s, the only movies that got simultaneous wide release were big-budget turkeys that the studios wanted to play off quickly before word [got out],” according to “George Lucas’s Blockbusting.”

    After “Jaws,” studios reversed course and started programming big-budget, high-concept films for the summer. And instead of slow burning, word-of-mouth "platform" release patterns, Hollywood started rolling out its high-profile films in wide release, for maximum impact.

    For better or worse, “Jaws” and its fellow 1970s phenomenon “Star Wars” ushered in the modern era of movies as mass commercial commodities, so-called tentpole pictures that could sell as much merchandise as movie tickets, according to “Easy Riders, Raging Bulls,” (Simon & Schuster, 1998). "Jaws" merchandise included t-shirts, plastic fins for swimmers and a game.

    One can only wonder how it all would have turned out if the shark had actually worked the way Spielberg wanted it.

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    Elite Member heart_leigh's Avatar
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    Jaws is one of my favorite movies of all time. The musical score terrified me just as much as the shark did.
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    Elite Member qwerty's Avatar
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    I remember when Jaws came out. Before then, my father would always swim out hundreds of yards in the ocean freaking out my family and the lifeguards every summer. His head would be this tiny dot on the horizon.

    Thankfully Jaws put a swift end to that crazy behavior.

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    Elite Member msdeb's Avatar
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    i was out of high school when this movie came out. we'd spend every day at the beach, until we saw this movie.

    I still have a fear of the water at times.
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    Elite Member Kittylady's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by heart_leigh View Post
    Jaws is one of my favorite movies of all time. The musical score terrified me just as much as the shark did.
    For as long as I can remember, the Jaws theme has been referred to as the "eating music" in my family.

    Quote Originally Posted by msdeb View Post
    i was out of high school when this movie came out. we'd spend every day at the beach, until we saw this movie.

    I still have a fear of the water at times.
    Thank you for admitting it and letting me know I'm not the only wuss here!

    Even now, having seens Jaws more times than I care to remember, it still scares the bejeezus out of me. That scene where Hooper is on a dive investigating the boat wreck and the fisherman's head rolls out... that still makes me jump every damn time, even though I know its coming and I've braced myself for it.

    Out of all the films they've remade and will remake I hope they leave Jaws alone. I just don't think they'd be able to top it and would just fuck everything up with overblown GCI. It'd possibly suck even more than the incredibly predictable Deep Blue Sea.

    ETA: For anyone with an interest in sharks and underwater cinematography try and get a copy of the books or films by Ron and Valerie Taylor who provided the footage of real sharks for Jaws. Ron and Val Taylor
    Last edited by Kittylady; June 20th, 2010 at 12:54 AM.
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    Gold Member VeraGemini's Avatar
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    The scene that gets me every time is when Brody is dumping the chum into the water with his head turned away, arguing with Hooper and Quint... and the shark pops up behind him. I know it's coming, but it still makes me jump every time.

    I agree, I don't think they could remake it without ruining it. A bigger effects budget would just mean shit scenes like the one in Jaws 3 where the shark breaks through the glass window. Ugh.
    Last edited by VeraGemini; June 20th, 2010 at 01:06 PM. Reason: becuz eye kan't tyep

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    Elite Member Kittylady's Avatar
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    ^^ Oh yeah, that makes me jump too, but the rolling head is the one that gets me the worst. Few films have the power to make me jump after the first viewing, but Jaws is top of the list. And I still don't like going any more than knee deep in the sea even now!

    I'll bet we've cursed ourselves now. Countdown to "Jaws Remake" thread in 3-2-1...
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    I'm glad the shark doesn't appear on screen until later because the shark doesn't look real. For me it's the music too, the music speeds up and my heart beats faster. The part that freaks me out is when every one is in the water and the little boy goes missing.

    Spielberg hasn't had a good movie in a long time. Indiana 4 and War of the Worlds stunk.

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    Elite Member msdeb's Avatar
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    We've gone to Universal Studios where they have the shark coming out of the water. Its lame!
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    Elite Member Bluebonnet's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by VeraGemini View Post
    The scene that gets me every time is when Brody is dumping the chum into the water with his head turned away, arguing with Hooper and Quint... and the shark pops up behind him. I know it's coming, but it still makes me jump every time.
    The look on Brody's face is classic. That's when he utters his famous line (which wasn't in the script, btw):

    "We're gonna need a bigger boat!"

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    It's funny, the part where Hooper goes diving and finds the shark tooth in Ben Gardner's boat wasn't in the original cut of the film either... Spielberg used his own money to go back and film that scene after the first cut of Jaws, cuz he wanted to get one more scream in there.. arguably the biggest scream of the movie.

    I saw this movie when I was 12 and it scared the shite out of me. After that point, the ocean terrified me.. when I'm in it, I still make sure to do a look around every 5 seconds and to not swim anywhere I can't see the bottom cuz Great White's attack from below
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    Quote Originally Posted by Grimmlok View Post
    It's funny, the part where Hooper goes diving and finds the shark tooth in Ben Gardner's boat wasn't in the original cut of the film either... Spielberg used his own money to go back and film that scene after the first cut of Jaws, cuz he wanted to get one more scream in there.. arguably the biggest scream of the movie.

    I saw this movie when I was 12 and it scared the shite out of me. After that point, the ocean terrified me.. when I'm in it, I still make sure to do a look around every 5 seconds and to not swim anywhere I can't see the bottom cuz Great White's attack from below
    Thanks for that tidbit of info about the scene, Grimm. Spielberg definately made the right decision to film/include it.

    By the way, I remember reading that some species of sharks (Tiger sharks I think) can attack in water as shallow as knee deep. Just sayin'...
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    Quote Originally Posted by GaPeach View Post
    I'm glad the shark doesn't appear on screen until later because the shark doesn't look real. For me it's the music too, the music speeds up and my heart beats faster.
    The music is what does it for me too. When I was a kid, we would be on our inner tubes way out past the waves breaking and my brother would start doing the Jaws music. It scared the hell out of us. I'd start seeing shadows below me everywhere. LOL.


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    Elite Member Grimmlok's Avatar
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    Oh yeah.. tiger sharks will go right up to the beach.. bull sharks will actually go into rivers (they can apparently swim in freshwater for a time).. the incident Jaws is based off of, i think it was 1916 off the coast of new jersey was a bull shark.

    Yeah, here it is..

    Jersey Shore shark attacks of 1916 - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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    Elite Member Kittylady's Avatar
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    That's a really fascinating read, thank you. The only water that I have swum in (since I was a kid, anyway) has been contained in a swimming pool. The water around the British coast is not something that I would want to venture into, not only because I'd probably catch something but because there is bugger all visibility. I've wondered to myself whether I'd swim in the ocean if I was abroad, but then I remember Jaws and... Yeah, I admit it, I'm a pussy lol.
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