Jaws was the film that solidified director Steven Spielberg as one of the most powerful rising filmmakers in the world. It’s a film that came aptly placed in between his debut film, and one of his weirdest films in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Jaws was a small, self-contained film at first, but it went on to become so much more through the use of a mechanical shark, a terrified cast of actors, and shooting on actual location.
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The Movie Review
The film is based on the 1974 novel of the same name by Peter Benchley. In fact, the film was so inspired by the novel that the original author was credited with the screenplay. The film follows the story of a great white shark attack. The man-eater finds its way near a beach house resort and begins to wreak havoc. What follows after that attack, is a police chief hunting down the shark with a marine biologist and a professional shark hunter.
Okay, first off, let’s get this right out of the way. Jaws is absolutely terrifying, it’s one of the scariest movies without actually having anything that could really be considered as supernatural. Usually, that’s the main thing with most scary movies.
Scary films always have something supernatural, or mythical to scare us of the otherworldly. However, Jaws took something that is very real and turned it into a horrifying experience for all cinema-goers. Combine that with an actual mechanical shark, which looks eerily similar to a real-life shark: you have a recipe for terror.
Director Steven Spielberg went into this film with the intention of absolutely wrecking our minds in the theatre. Due to this, he used some techniques which would get genuine reactions out of his actors.
These techniques were often, not telling them when a scene is being shot, as well as some sequences in which they didn’t know the shark was nearby. This resulted in some extremely naturalistic reactions, and if the actors are scared, so should you be.
The three R men genuinely take over this film with some absolutely fantastic performances. Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, and Richard Dreyfuss provide us with some incredibly realistic performances, which immerses the viewer into the world of Jaws even more. But the film was a genuinely terrifying experience for these actors to film, which is why such natural performances were so immersive and realistic back in the day.
As I mentioned, the film is mainly shot in an open location. The film was shot on Martha’s Vineyard in the state of Massachusetts. The island had a specific shoreline, which made it so that the water didn’t go deeper than 35 feet. This made it easier to control the mechanical sharks and keep them out of sight. This gave cinematographer Bill Butler the creative freedom to ride around in a boat with his camera within the shoreline.
Not to mention, the soundtrack for this film was done by the great John Williams. Now John Williams is helmed as one of the greatest composers in film history. His score for Jaws is something that still is nightmare fuel for people to this day. He chose to create a soundtrack that wasn’t anything that he hadn’t done before, yet it was something refreshing and terrifying for the viewers.
The Bottom Line
In conclusion, Jaws is a film that does everything right. Whether it was the choice of being shot on location, to using a mechanical shark instead of puppets, and the terrifying soundtrack at the hand of John Williams, director Steven Spielberg made sure everything was of above and beyond quality.
Jaws went on to be a commercial and critical success, and for good reason because this film upon release was automatically an instant classic.