By Mike Derderian
The first time I heard about Jaws was in 1987, although I didn’t watch it until later—my parents decided then that it was too much for a nine-year-old. Ironically, and for no apparent reason, Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, the darkest and scariest of the archeological-action trilogy, managed to slip into my already film-packed mind. Think of the consequences: allowing a child to watch such a graphic film at an early age, I might’ve grown up into the next Buffalo Bill, Jeffery Dahmer or “I ate his liver with fava beans and a nice Chianti” Hannibal Lector. So, if I were in America, which I ain’t, I would’ve sued my parents for every penny they have.
During the past 17 years, on various occasions, I found myself face-to-face with this man-eating great white in a trailer where it jumps onboard the Orca, which was the name of the ship that Quint, Brody and Hopper used to hunt down this rogue fish. Can you believe destiny’s idea of a prolonged trailer; watching the very same scene at exactly the very same moment for about six times and never being able to watch the complete 130 minutes of the hair-raising film that was enhanced by the sound of an ominous cello surging through the waters until a few days ago.
As the Jaws of death approach the non-suspecting swimmer, the electric reverberations created by the man’s splashing through the water grows stronger drawing death nearer with every paddle. Suddenly a hoarse growl benumbs the swimmer, who is now facing a shark that laughingly reveals a mouth full of razor sharp teeth. Ahhh. What next? Will the unfortunate swimmer be painfully devoured or swallowed without chewing?
Will, to his amazement, the Carcharodon Carcharias turn out to be the Sesame Street Groovy Shark, who joyfully started singing the Perfectly Pearl White Teeth song, “Gotta brush my pearly whites, so they don’t lose their bite, and when I swim downstream, I make those other fishes scream”?
Well, in Jaws’ case it was more than fish that had a scream, for according to movie reviews adult viewers run out of the theatres screaming in horror. In fact, Jaws not only changed man’s view about having a nice dip under the pale-moon light meters away from the shoreline at that time but also introduced the “not-very-often-seen creature lurking and waiting to meat you, literally” cinematic technique.
Now, why did a mechanical shark, pet named Bruce that looked really fake and failed to operate at times during shooting, giving both Spielberg, who nearly drowned, and his crew a hellish experience, manage to spread terror among worldwide beach-goers?
Psychologically-speaking, unlike other cinematic creatures, like aliens, predators, tremors and even the bad boy Freddy Krueger from Elm Street, which only exist in our imagination, sharks are real. So, when the myth surrounding the habitual feeding of these creatures is mixed up with the human paranoia, the end result is Jaws.
Based on Peter Benchley’s novel and screenplay, this 1975 deep blue horror stars Robert Shaw, Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfus, Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton and Susan Backlinie, who should have won an Oscar award for best enactment of a victim being devoured as Christine Watkins, the shark’s entrée at the films blood chilling opening sequence.
The story goes as follows: A peaceful seaside town called Amity is suddenly facing the terror of a man-eating huge great white shark. And it is up to its police chief Martin Brody (Schieder) to try and convince the town’s people and greedy mayor (Hamilton) of its existence with the help of scientist Matt Hooper (Dreyfuss).
So after failing to hunt for it on their own, they decide to hire an experienced shark hunter by the name of Quint, played by Irish born actor Robert Shaw who probably gave one of his best career performances, parodying his character around the man and beast mortal struggle—a la captain Ahab and Moby Dick.
Best hair-raising scene in Jaws is when Brody realizes that the shark ate up a little boy and is now roaming among the bathing crowd. The shrieking of violins, accompanying the forward tracking zoom-out shot of Brody’s facial expression of alarm, created quite an uneasy feeling of horror.
In 1978, Scheider, Gary and Hamilton reprised their roles in Jaws II that actually wasn’t as scary as the first in terms of suspense, fast moving action, dialogue and plot. One has to admit yet that Jeannot Szwarc’s taking over the helm of Jaws II’s direction certainly increased the number of victims, death scenes and reprised Bruce’s (the shark) previous role as the man-eating stalker; however, this time with an appetite for fresh teenage meat and a super-duper ability to drag a helicopter deep into water.
The third part and fourth part are so inferior on all levels except for acting. Now you wouldn’t blame Dennis Quaid for Jaws 3-D, he was still an aspiring actor looking for a buck, as you’d blame Michael Cain for bad choice of acting in a film entitled Jaws: the Revenge. The prodigal son has returned to avenge his father—imagine the headlines.
Anyway, in order to feel and experience the Jaws fright syndrome and for best scare results all you have to do is rent the film, watch it all alone, head to Aqaba and jump right into the water a kilometer afar from the shore. Then you’ll know how bad it feels to be swimming in the sea not knowing if suddenly a cello will be playing right under you.