Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Happy Birthday, Jaws!
It was the summer of 1975, I was three and a half years old, and my brother took me to the movies. It was not to see a Disney cartoon or any other typical kiddie fare released that time. Nope, we went to see Jaws. Yep, you read that right. It was my earliest movie going memory, and I loved every minute of it! My parents MUST have been apprehensive about this, but I wasn't scared at all. I still remember watching the dark opening scenes with that poor girl being dragged underwater, and John Williams' haunting music score, and I remember being a bit impatient (it's nearly an hour's running time before "Bruce", as Steven Spielberg and his crew nicknamed the robotic shark, finally appears on screen.)
Was it worth the wait? Hell, yeah - and while I'm the first to admit I'm not a fan or horror or gory flicks, Jaws still remains one of my favorite scary movies. I'm not sure why - but I think it's a combination of the chemistry between Richard Dreyfuss, Roy Scheider, and Robert Shaw, the long build-up until we finally see the shark, and the fact that even for the mid-70s, the special effects don't come across as cheesy. Jaws, in my opinion, was the first time the movie monster actually appeared real on camera (at least to a three-year old.) Then there's the fact that this was not an easy movie to film, with mechanical sharks breaking down and boats on the horizon ruining a scene.
Not surprisingly, the movie was a mass marketing dream. Did anyone else own or remember The Game of Jaws below? I loved it. You'd wrap rubber bands around the jaws and place the assorted plastic objects in his mouth to hold it open. Players took turns fishing out the trinkets from Jaws' mouth. The first player to successfully remove four junk pieces would win. If his jaws suddenly snapped shut, you were out of the game!
The movie also inspired a pretty cheesy parody song called Mr. Jaws by Dickie Goodman. It features snippets of disco songs and other hits and believe it or not, reached #4 on the Billboard charts! I'd also say the album's cover is definitely a contender for my regular Bad Cover Art feature.
It's a shame that the success of the film led to sequels that were epic failures - such as usually the case with most blockbusters. For most of us there can only be one Jaws - still chewing up the scenery and scaring beachgoers 35 years later.