Shark Week: Jaws 1-5 (1975)(1978)(1983)(1987)(1995)

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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Shark Week: Jaws 1-5 (1975)(1978)(1983)(1987)(1995)

In observance of the greatest of all holidays, Discovery Channel’s Shark Week 2013, we will devote the entire week to films related to and inspired by nature’s perfect little terror machine.  I should probably point out that the ones I will be talking about tonight most likely will be the high point in shark related cinema.  Sharks are most often portrayed as the bad guys in film.  And also, yes even though it was not “officially” recognized as a sequel “Cruel Jaws” was billed as Jaws 5 so it is going to be included among it’s namesakes.

Jaws is a 1974 novel by Peter Benchley.  It tells the story of a great white shark that preys upon a small resort town, and the voyage of three men to kill it.

Benchley was inspired by several real-life incidents, such as the Jersey Shore shark attacks of 1916 that resulted in four deaths over 12 days and the exploits of shark fisherman Frank Mundus.  Doubleday commissioned him to write the novel.  Film producers Richard D. Zanuck and David Brown read the novel before its publication and bought the film rights.  They helped raise the novel's profile and when it was published in February 1974 it became a great success, staying on the bestseller list for some 44 weeks.

The film adaptation was directed by Steven Spielberg and released in June 1975.  Many of the novel's minor subplots were omitted from the movie, which instead focused more on the shark.  Jaws became the highest grossing movie in history up to that point, and is regarded as a watershed film in motion picture history, the father of the summer blockbuster film.

Jaws (1975)

  • Actors: Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss, Lorraine Gary
  • Directors: Steven Spielberg
  • Writers: Carl Gottlieb, Peter Benchley
  • Producers: Richard Zanuck, David Brown
  • Format: Color, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: Universal Studios
  • DVD Release Date: August 14, 2012
  • Run Time: 124 minutes
There is a reason that almost forty years later this film is still considered one of the greatest horror films ever made, often ending up in many a horror reviewer’s top three movies of all time.  For all the problems Spielberg had with keeping the shark working and having to work around it when it inevitably didn’t, his film in my opinion works better with the little screen time Bruce gets.  The ominous feeling that accompanies the yellow barrels breaking the surface still comes across even with today’s seen-that-before viewers, and as a resident of a mid-west state with lots of road repairs, seeing those traffic barrels brings scenes of this film to mind.  I have watched this movie at least twenty times and even though I know it is coming, the scene with Brody chumming the water and Bruce surfaces still makes me jump each and every time like I had never seen it before.

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 it with the help of a marine biologist and a professional shark hunter. The film stars Roy Scheider 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.

Yeah, them barrels!
Shot mostly 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, employing 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, and it was the most successful motion picture of all time until Star Wars.  It won several awards for its soundtrack and editing, and is often cited as one of the greatest films of all time.  Along with 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 during the summer in 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.  In 2001, Jaws was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the United States National Film Registry, being deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

Jaws 2 (1978)

  • Actors: Roy Scheider, Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton, Joseph Mascolo, Mark Gruner
  • Directors: Jeannot Szwarc
  • Writers: Carl Gottlieb, Howard Sackler
  • Producers: Richard Zanuck, David Brown
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: Universal Studios
  • DVD Release Date: May 22, 2001
  • Run Time: 117 minutes
Directed by Jeannot Szwarc, it stars Roy Scheider reprising his role as Police Chief Martin Brody, who must deal with another great white shark terrorizing the waters of Amity Island, a fictional seaside resort.
Like the first film, the production of Jaws 2 was troubled. The original director, John D. Hancock, proved to be unsuitable for an action film and was replaced by Szwarc.  Scheider, who only reprised his role to end a contractual issue with Universal, was also unhappy during production and had several heated exchanges with Szwarc.

Jaws 2 remained on Variety's list of top ten box office hits of all time until the mid-1990s, and was the highest-grossing sequel in history until Rocky II the following year.  The film's tagline, "Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water...," has become one of the most famous in film history and has been parodied and homaged several times.  It is widely regarded as being the best Jaws sequel.
The small island resort town of Amity is trying to bounce back from the financial troubles that suffered after becoming known as the site of shark attacks four years earlier.  Mayor Larry Vaughn is welcoming developer Len Peterson and his new resort to Amity. 

Two scuba divers are exploring the area where the Orca sank after police chief Martin Brody killed a huge shark four years ago.  A shark shows up and devoured the two divers, but not before one of the divers takes a close-up picture of the shark's eye, and sometime later, while a mother is driving a boat that's pulling her water-skiing teenage daughter, the shark devours the daughter and causes the mother to accidentally blow up the boat, then a killer whale is found on the shore with a huge bites on it.  After Brody sees this, he knows there's another huge great white shark in Amity's waters, but Vaughn and Peterson explain these attacks away as non-shark accidents, because the thought of another shark in Amity's waters would drive tourists away from the new resort and cause the new resort to lose money.

It looks like Vaughn is still a mayor who puts money ahead of people's lives.  Brody tips his gun's hollow point bullets with cyanide and melted candle wax and tells his sons Michael and Sean to stay away from the beaches and told them to not go sailing with Mike's friends, who include Vaughn's son Larry Vaughn Jr.  Everyone thinks Brody's fears are shark trauma-induced paranoia.

Brody even tries to call his friend Matt Hooper, who is doing research on a boat in the Antarctic Circle, and Matt will be in the Antarctic Circle for a few more months.  While keeping an eye on the waters from the beach's shark tower, Brody sees a huge dark spot in the water and rings the tower's alarm bell, but it turns out to be a school of bluefish.  Vaughn fires Brody for causing this panic at the beach and scaring tourists and their money away, and even though they were told not to, Michael and Sean go out sailing with Junior Vaughn and their friends, unaware that the shark is trailing them.  Brody knows it's up to him to find them before its too late.

Jaws 3-D (1983)

  • Actors: Dennis Quaid, Bess Armstrong, Jr. Louis Gossett, Simon MacCorkindale, John Putch
  • Directors: Joe Alves
  • Writers: Richard Matheson, Carl Gottlieb
  • Producers: Rupert Hitzig
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: Universal Studios
  • DVD Release Date: June 3, 2003
  • Run Time: 99 minutes
As SeaWorld, a Florida marine park with underwater tunnels and lagoons, prepares for opening, a young great white shark infiltrates the park from the sea, seemingly attacking and killing water skiers and park employees. Once the baby shark is captured, it becomes apparent that it was the mother, a much larger shark who also entered the park, who was the real killer.

The film is notable for making use of 3D film during the revived interest in the technology in the 1980s, amongst other horror films such as Friday the 13th Part III and Amityville 3D.  Cinema audiences could wear disposable cardboard polarized 3D glasses to create the illusion that elements penetrate the screen.  Several shots and sequences were designed to utilize the effect, such as the shark's destruction.  Since 3D was ineffective in home viewing until the advent of 3D televisions in the late 2000s, the alternative title Jaws III is used for television broadcasts, VHS and DVD.

Michael Brody and Sean Brody, the sons of former Amity police chief Martin Brody, work at Florida's Sea World, a seaside park run by Calvin Bouchard.  Sean befriends Kelly Ann Bukowski, and Michael's girlfriend Kathryn Morgan is Sea World's head scientist who always works with Sea World's dolphins Cindy and Sandy.  In its man-made lagoon, about 40 feet under the water, Sea World opens the Undersea Kingdom, a new set of underwater glass tunnels that have their own control room, and Calvin's friend Philip Fitz Royce is there to do some filming.

When Sea World diver Shelby Overman vanishes, everyone is worried.  Michael and Kathryn head into the water, where they find a baby great white shark and decide to bring it to Sea World to put it on display, but at Sea World, the baby shark dies.  When Overman's body is found, Michael vomits when he sees it.  Kathryn looks at the body and knows that the baby shark could not have been the shark that killed Overman, because the baby shark's bite radius is too small its 35-foot-long mother killed Overman.  When Kathryn and Michael tell Calvin and Philip about the shark, they all try to evacuate the park, including the park's beach, as they try their best to protect Sea World's visitors from the shark.

The film opened in more than a thousand screens across the U.S.  There were many promotions to accompany the release of the film.  As with Jaws 2, Topps produced a series of trading cards.  Television stations were encouraged to broadcast the featurette, Making of Jaws 3-D: Sharks Don't Die, in a prime-time slot between July 16 and 22, 1983 to take advantage of an advertisement in that week's issue of TV Guide.  Alan Landsburg Productions found itself in trouble for using 90 seconds of footage from the National Geographic's 1983 documentary film “The Sharks” in the featurette without authorization.

In this authors opinion, this is not a terrible film.  The story is pretty good and it will hold your attention.  The problem comes from the 3D technology.  The film is mostly panned for it’s terrible effects that only got worse when converted to traditional flat movie visuals.  The one that comes to mind most is how the shark looks like a cardboard cutout being moved on a stick against a static background.  The shot above is an excellent example of how it looks like it isn’t in the same grain and format as the scene behind it.  I have never been a fan of any of the 3D technologies but converting back to flat always creates problems.

Jaws: The Revenge (1987)

  • Actors: Lorraine Gary, Michael Caine, Mario Van Peebles, Lance Guest, Karen Young
  • Directors: Joseph Sargent
  • Writers: Michael De Guzman
  • Producers: Joseph Sargent
  • Format: Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, NTSC
  • Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: Universal Studios Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: June 3, 2003
  • Run Time: 91 minutes
The film focuses on Ellen Brody (Lorraine Gary), and her convictions that a shark is after her family, especially when a great white follows her to the Bahamas.  Jaws: The Revenge was shot on location in New England and in the Bahamas, and completed on the Universal lot.  Like the first two films, Martha's Vineyard was the location of the fictional Amity Island for the opening scenes.  Although preceded by Jaws 3-D, The Revenge ignores plot elements introduced in that film.

Jaws: The Revenge earned the least amount of money in the series.  Due to its many plot holes and inconsistencies, it is considered one of the worst films ever made, with a rare 0% rating on the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes (in contrast to the original Jaws film, which once maintained a rare 100% rating, with now a 98% rating). It was nominated for seven Razzie awards.

No reference is made to the character development or events depicted in Jaws 3-D.  In its predecessor, Michael is an engineer for SeaWorld, whereas here he is a marine research scientist.  Sean is not associated with the police force in Jaws 3-D, and there is no mention of their respective partners.  One of the Universal Studios press releases for Jaws: The Revenge omits Jaws 3-D by referring to Jaws: The Revenge as the "third film of the remarkable Jaws trilogy."

Ellen Brody still lives in the island resort town of Amity, and her sons Sean and Michael don't work at Sea World anymore, and some time ago, Ellen's husband Martin Brody died of a heart attack that happened because he was afraid of sharks.  Sean is now a deputy in Amity.  One night, during the Christmas season, Sean is called to untangle a log from a buoy, and when Sean goes to the buoy, he's killed by a great white shark.  After hearing about this, Michael, who is studying to be a marine biologist, visits Amity with his wife Carla and his 5-year-old daughter Thea.  Wanting to get away from Amity and spend Christmas with Michael, Carla, and Thea, Ellen goes with them to their house in the Bahamas on an airplane whose pilot is Hoagie Newcombe, and Hoagie starts falling for Ellen.  Michael's friend Jake, who is also studying to be a marine biologist, lives next door to Michael.

Sometime later, while Michael and Jake are out at sea, their boat is attacked by the shark that killed Sean. Michael and Jake try to tag the shark so they can keep track of it.  Sometime later, while Thea and some of her friends are on a banana boat, a yellow boat shaped like a banana, the shark attacks the banana boat and kills a woman, leaving Thea in shock, but it looks like Thea will be okay.  Carla is mad at Michael for not telling her that the shark is in the waters of the Bahamas.  Michael and Jake didn't mention the shark, because they didn't want to upset Ellen and mess up her visit.  Ellen believes that the shark is after her family and that it was trying to kill Thea instead of the woman it killed, so Ellen takes Michael's boat out to sea on a single-minded mission to find the shark and kill it while Michael, Hoagie, and Jake try to find Ellen because they're afraid the shark will kill Ellen before Ellen can kill the shark.

Did you understand that?  If so you’re one up on me because this movie makes no sense and feels more like a human relationship drama punctuated by shark attacks.  And if you’re going to have the shark in the movie this much maybe you should make sure it doesn’t look like crap.  By this point Jaws is close to fifteen years old and Bruce looks better in that than the mechanical shark in this film.  And because this film is a crime against humanity it ends with the shark leaping out of the water and being run through with the bow of a sailboat.  Yes really, they rammed the shark with a schooner.

Cruel Jaws (1995)

  • Actors: David Luther, George Barnes Jr., Scott Silveria, Kirsten Urso, Richard Dew
  • Directors: Bruno Mattei
  • Producers: Fauci Crudeli
  • Format: Import, PAL, Widescreen
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Stormovie
  • Run Time: 92 minutes
Cruel Jaws, also known as The Beast and Jaws 5: Cruel Jaws, is a 1995 mockbuster, based on the 1975 classic, Jaws and its sequels.  The film stars Richard Dew and was directed by infamous Italian filmmaker Bruno Mattei (under the name of William Snyder).  The movie utilizes footage from the Jaws series, Deep Blood, and The Last Shark plus musical cues from none other than Star Wars.  While marketed in many areas as Jaws 5: Cruel Jaws, it is actually not part of the Jaws franchise.

The coastal town of Hampton Bay is threatened when a 35-Foot Great White Shark starts chomping up their vacationers.  Days before the annual Regatta celebration, the townspeople are faced with financial ruin if something isn't done about their newfound Shark problem.  If that wasn't enough, the owners of the local amusement park have been subject to a hostile takeover from a prospective businessman looking to cash in on their prized property.

It's up to the Sheriff, the Park's Owner, and a Shark Expert to head out and destroy the Shark before the summer economy is slashed and the park is left for the Bulldozer.  Oddly, other summaries of this film say it is a Genetically Modified Tiger Shark created by the U.S. Navy that is threatening the town.
The film was released on DVD in its native Italy in 2009.  In 2013, Retro Vision Entertainment announced a limited edition Region 0 DVD release of only 500 copies.  It will only be able to be purchased online.

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