Sunday, May 20, 2012

Jaws


Jaws (Two-Disc 30th Anniversary Edition)

#48 (1998) and #56 (2007) on the AFI Top 100 Movies List

Jaws is a 1975 American thriller film directed by Steven Spielberg and based on Peter Benchley's novel of the same name. The prototypical summer blockbuster, its release is regarded as a watershed moment in motion picture history. In the story, a giant man-eating great white shark attacks beachgoers on Amity Island, a fictional summer resort town, prompting the local police chief to hunt the shark with the help of a marine biologist and a professional shark hunter. Roy Scheider stars as police chief Martin Brody, Richard Dreyfuss as oceanographer Matt Hooper, Robert Shaw as shark hunter Quint, Murray Hamilton as the mayor of Amity Island, and Lorraine Gary as Brody's wife, Ellen. The screenplay is credited to both Benchley, who wrote the first drafts, and actor-writer Carl Gottlieb, who rewrote the script during principal photography.

Shot largely on location on Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, the film had a troubled production, going over budget and past schedule. As the art department's mechanical sharks suffered many malfunctions, Spielberg decided to mostly suggest the animal's presence, using representative props and an ominous, minimalistic theme created by composer John Williams to indicate the shark's impending appearances. Spielberg and others have compared this suggestive approach to that of classic thriller director Alfred Hitchcock. Universal Pictures gave the film what was then an exceptionally wide release for a major studio picture, over 450 screens, accompanied by an extensive marketing campaign with a heavy emphasis on television spots and tie-in merchandise.

Generally well received by critics, Jaws became the highest-grossing film in history at the time. It won several awards for its soundtrack and editing, and it is often cited as one of the greatest films of all time. Along with 1977's Star Wars, Jaws was pivotal in establishing the modern Hollywood business model, which revolves around blockbuster action and adventure pictures with simple "high-concept" premises that are released in the summer at thousands of theaters and supported by heavy advertising. It was followed by three sequels, none with the participation of Spielberg or Benchley, and many imitative thrillers.

* Roy Scheider - Chief Martin Brody
* Robert Shaw - Sam Quint
* Richard Dreyfuss - Matt Hooper
* Lorraine Gary - Ellen Brody
* Murray Hamilton - Mayor Larry Vaughn
* Carl Gottlieb - Meadows
* Jeffrey Kramer - Deputy Leonard 'Lenny' Hendricks
* Susan Backlinie - Christine 'Chrissie' Watkins
* Jonathan Filley - Cassidy
* Ted Grossman - Estuary Victim
* Chris Rebello - Michael Brody
* Jay Mello - Sean Brody
* Lee Fierro - Mrs. Kintner
* Jeffrey Voorhees - Alex Kintner
* Craig Kingsbury - Ben Gardner

John Williams composed the film's score, which earned him an Academy Award and was later ranked the sixth greatest score by the American Film Institute. The main "shark" theme, a simple alternating pattern of two notes—variously identified as "E and F" or "F and F sharp"—became a classic piece of suspense music, synonymous with approaching danger (see leading-tone). Williams described the theme as "grinding away at you, just as a shark would do, instinctual, relentless, unstoppable." The piece was performed by tuba player Tommy Johnson. When asked by Johnson why the melody was written in such a high register and not played by the more appropriate French horn, Williams responded that he wanted it to sound "a little more threatening". When Williams first demonstrated his idea to Spielberg, playing just the two notes on a piano, Spielberg was said to have laughed, thinking that it was a joke. As Williams saw similarities between Jaws and pirate movies, at other points in the score he evoked "pirate music", which he called "primal, but fun and entertaining". Calling for rapid, percussive string playing, the score contains echoes as well of Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring.

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