Combustible Celluloid Review - Jaws (1975), Carl Gottlieb, Peter Benchley, based on the novel by Peter Benchley, Steven Spielberg, Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss, Lorraine Gray, Murray Hamilton
Combustible Celluloid
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With: Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss, Lorraine Gray, Murray Hamilton
Written by: Carl Gottlieb, Peter Benchley, based on the novel by Peter Benchley
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
MPAA Rating: PG
Running Time: 124
Date: 06/19/1975

Jaws (1975)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Thumping the Shark

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

I was too little (and too scared) to see Jaws on its original release, and it was a long time before I finally saw it on video. Nowadays, it doesn't really scare me anymore, but I love watching it for the way it moves, and for the young, 28 year-old Steven Spielberg's potent, full-of-beans talent. None of his subsequent films seems so confident or commanding.

Roy Scheider stars as a big city cop who moves to the small beach town of Amity, but finds an even bigger adventure there when a giant, killer great white shark turns up. Richard Dreyfuss plays a shark expert who helps in the hunt, and Robert Shaw steals the show as the salty captain who takes our heroes to sea.

Based on Peter Benchley's best-selling novel, the screenplay by Carl Gottlieb and Benchley intelligently captures the way adults talk and does not pander to younger crowds, though when the three men get out to sea and away from civilization their behavior naturally regresses to childish playground antics and the famous scar-comparing contest.

Spielberg manipulates the audience as joyously and effectively as Hitchcock, notably in his use of John Williams' famous theme music ("da-DUM, da-DUM"). He spends the first two-thirds of the film building up the shark's suspenseful approach, accompanied by the rising music. But later, the shark suddenly attacks with no musical prelude, and it's a terrifying jump-shock. Moreover, we know that for the rest of the film the gloves are off and we will have no more warning.

Jaws was a true phenomenon, created less by studio hype than by audience demand and enthusiasm. It quickly catapulted to the number one, all-time box office slot and remained there for two years until Star Wars came along.

For the film's 30th anniversary, Universal released a brand new Jaws DVD, replacing their 25th anniversary edition from 2000. This new one comes with a "collectible" booklet full of pictures and quotes, as well as outtakes and deleted scenes, an interview with Spielberg (but no commentary track), a two-hour making of documentary and other archival materials. As of 2013, a sparkling new Blu-ray is available.

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