|Who is it?||Miscellaneous Crew, Actor|
|Directed by||Steven Spielberg|
|Produced by||Richard D. Zanuck David Brown|
|Screenplay by||Peter Benchley Carl Gottlieb|
|Based on||Jaws by Peter Benchley|
|Starring||Roy Scheider Robert Shaw Richard Dreyfuss Lorraine Gary Murray Hamilton|
|Music by||John Williams|
|Edited by||Verna Fields|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Release date||June 20, 1975 (1975-06-20)|
|Running time||124 minutes|
|Box office||$470.7 million|
The underwater scenes shot from the shark's point of view have been compared with passages in two 1950s horror films, Creature from the Black Lagoon and The Monster That Challenged the World. Gottlieb named two science fiction productions from the same era as influences on how the shark was depicted, or not: The Thing from Another World, which Gottlieb described as "a great horror film where you only see the Monster in the last reel"; and It Came From Outer Space, where "the suspense was built up because the creature was always off-camera". Those precedents helped Spielberg and Gottlieb to "concentrate on showing the 'effects' of the shark rather than the shark itself". Scholars such as Thomas Schatz described how Jaws melds various genres while essentially being an action film and a thriller. Most is taken from horror, with the core of a nature-based Monster movie while adding elements of a slasher film. The second half provides a buddy film in the interaction between the crew of the Orca, and a supernatural horror based on the shark's depiction of a nearly Satanic menace.
The film had broader cultural repercussions, as well. Similar to the way the pivotal scene in 1960's Psycho made showers a new source of anxiety, Jaws led many viewers to fear going into the ocean. Reduced beach attendance in 1975 was attributed to it, as well as an increased number of reported shark sightings. It is still seen as responsible for perpetuating negative stereotypes about sharks and their behavior, and for producing the so-called "Jaws effect", which allegedly inspired "legions of fishermen [who] piled into boats and killed thousands of the ocean predators in shark-fishing tournaments." Benchley stated that he would not have written the original novel had he known what sharks are really like in the wild. Conservation groups have bemoaned the fact that the film has made it considerably harder to convince the public that sharks should be protected.
Benchley had written Jaws after reading about sport Fisherman Frank Mundus's capture of an enormous shark in 1964. According to Gottlieb, Quint was loosely based on Mundus, whose book Sportfishing for Sharks he read for research. Sackler came up with the backstory of Quint as a survivor of the World War II USS Indianapolis disaster. The question of who deserves the most credit for writing Quint's monologue about the Indianapolis has caused substantial controversy. Spielberg described it as a collaboration between Sackler, Milius, and actor Robert Shaw, who was also a Playwright. According to the Director, Milius turned Sackler's "three-quarters of a page" speech into a monologue, and that was then rewritten by Shaw. Gottlieb gives primary credit to Shaw, downplaying Milius's contribution.
Richard D. Zanuck and David Brown, producers at Universal Pictures, independently heard about Peter Benchley's novel Jaws. Brown came across it in the literature section of lifestyle magazine Cosmopolitan, then edited by his wife, Helen Gurley Brown. A small card written by the magazine's book Editor gave a detailed description of the plot, concluding with the comment "might make a good movie". The producers each read the book over the course of a single night and agreed the next morning that it was "the most exciting thing that they had ever read" and that they wanted to produce a film version, although they were unsure how it would be accomplished. They purchased the movie rights in 1973, before the book's publication, for approximately $175,000 (equivalent to $0.96 million in 2017). Brown claimed that had they read the book twice, they would never have made the film because they would have realized how difficult it would be to execute certain sequences.
Although principal photography was scheduled to take 55 days, it did not wrap until October 6, 1974, after 159 days. Spielberg, reflecting on the protracted shoot, stated, "I thought my career as a filmmaker was over. I heard rumors ... that I would never work again because no one had ever taken a film 100 days over schedule." Spielberg himself was not present for the shooting of the final scene in which the shark explodes, as he believed that the crew were planning to throw him in the water when the scene was done. It has since become a tradition for Spielberg to be absent when the final scene of one of his films is being shot. Afterward, underwater scenes were shot at the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer water tank in Culver City, with stuntmen Dick Warlock and Frank James Sparks as stand-ins for Dreyfuss in the scene where the shark attacks the cage, as well as near Santa Catalina Island, California. Fields, who had completed a rough cut of the first two-thirds of the film, up until the shark hunt, finished the editing and reworked some of the material. According to Zanuck, "She actually came in and reconstructed some scenes that Steven had constructed for comedy and made them terrifying, and some scenes he shot to be terrifying and made them comedy scenes." The ship used for the Orca was brought to Los Angeles so the sound effects team could record sounds for both the ship and the underwater scenes.
Jaws spawned three sequels, none of which approached the success of the original. Their combined domestic grosses amount to barely half of the first film's. In October 1975, Spielberg declared to a film festival audience that "making a sequel to anything is just a cheap carny trick". Nonetheless, he did consider taking on the first sequel when its original Director, John D. Hancock, was fired a few days into the shoot; ultimately, his obligations to Close Encounters of the Third Kind, which he was working on with Dreyfuss, made it impossible. Jaws 2 (1978) was eventually directed by Jeannot Szwarc; Scheider, Gary, Hamilton, and Jeffrey Kramer all reprised their roles. It is generally regarded as the best of the sequels. The next film, Jaws 3-D (1983), was directed by Joe Alves, who had served as art Director and production designer, respectively, on the two preceding films. Starring Dennis Quaid and Louis Gossett, Jr., it was released in the 3-D format, although the effect did not transfer to television or home video, where it was renamed Jaws 3. Jaws: The Revenge (1987), directed by Joseph Sargent, starring Michael Caine, and featuring the return of Gary, is considered one of the worst movies ever made. While all three sequels made a profit at the box office (Jaws 2 and Jaws 3-D were among the top 20 highest-grossing films of their respective years), critics and audiences alike were largely dissatisfied with the films.
Jaws opened with a $7 million weekend and recouped its production costs in two weeks. In just 78 days, it overtook The Godfather as the highest-grossing film at the North American box office, sailing past that picture's earnings of $86 million to become the first film to earn $100 million in US theatrical rentals. Its initial release ultimately brought in $123.1 million in rentals. Theatrical re-releases in 1976 and 1979 brought its total rentals to $133.4 million.
Considered one of the greatest films ever made, Jaws was the prototypical summer blockbuster, with its release regarded as a watershed moment in motion picture history. Jaws became the highest-grossing film of all time until the release of Star Wars (1977). It won several awards for its music and editing. Along with Star Wars, Jaws was pivotal in establishing the modern Hollywood Business model, which revolves around high box-office returns from 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".
The first ever LaserDisc title marketed in North America was the MCA DiscoVision release of Jaws in 1978. A second LaserDisc was released in 1992, before a third and final version came out under MCA/Universal Home Video's Signature Collection imprint in 1995. This release was an elaborate boxset that included deleted scenes and outtakes, a new two-hour documentary on the making of the film directed and produced by Laurent Bouzereau, a copy of the novel Jaws, and a CD of John Williams's Soundtrack.
Jaws set the template for many subsequent horror films, to the extent that the script for Ridley Scott's 1979 science fiction film Alien was pitched to studio executives as "Jaws in space". Many films based on man-eating animals, usually aquatic, were released through the 1970s and 1980s, such as Orca, Grizzly, Mako: The Jaws of Death, Barracuda, Alligator, Day of the Animals, Tintorera, and Eaten Alive. Spielberg declared Piranha, directed by Joe Dante and written by John Sayles, "the best of the Jaws ripoffs". Among the various foreign mockbusters based on Jaws, three came from Italy: Great White, which inspired a plagiarism lawsuit by Universal and was even marketed in some countries as a part of the Jaws franchise; Monster Shark, featured in Mystery Science Theater 3000 under the title Devil Fish; and Deep Blood, which blends in a supernatural element. The 2009 Japanese horror film Psycho Shark was released in the United States as Jaws in Japan.
MCA Home Video first released Jaws on VHS in 1980. For the film's 20th anniversary in 1995, MCA Universal Home Video issued a new Collector's Edition tape featuring a making-of retrospective. This release sold 800,000 units in North America. Another, final VHS release, marking the film's 25th anniversary in 2000, came with a companion tape containing a documentary, deleted scenes, outtakes, and a trailer.
Herman Melville's Moby-Dick is the most notable artistic antecedent to Jaws. The character of Quint strongly resembles Captain Ahab, the obsessed captain of the Pequod who devotes his life to hunting a sperm whale. Quint's monologue reveals a similar obsession with sharks; even his boat, the Orca, is named after the only natural enemy of the white shark. In the novel and original screenplay, Quint dies after being dragged under the ocean by a harpoon tied to his leg, similar to the death of Ahab in Melville's novel. A direct reference to these similarities may be found in Spielberg's draft of the screenplay, which introduces Quint watching the film version of Moby-Dick; his continuous laughter prompts other audience members to get up and leave the theater (Wesley Strick's screenplay for the 1991 remake of Cape Fear features a similar scene). However, the scene from Moby-Dick could not be licensed from the film's star, Gregory Peck, its copyright holder. Screenwriter Carl Gottlieb also drew comparisons to Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea: "Jaws is ... a titanic struggle, like Melville or Hemingway."
In the years since its release, Jaws has frequently been cited by film critics and industry professionals as one of the greatest movies of all time. It was number 48 on American Film Institute's 100 Years... 100 Movies, a list of the greatest American films of all time compiled in 1998; it dropped to number 56 on the 10 Year Anniversary list. AFI also ranked the shark at number 18 on its list of the 50 Best Villains, Roy Scheider's line "You're gonna need a bigger boat" 35th on a list of top 100 movie quotes, Williams's score at sixth on a list of 100 Years of Film Scores, and the film as second on a list of 100 most thrilling films, behind only Psycho. In 2003, The New York Times included the film on its list of the best 1,000 movies ever made. The following year, Jaws placed at the top of the Bravo network's five-hour miniseries The 100 Scariest Movie Moments. The Chicago Film Critics Association named it the sixth scariest film ever made in 2006. In 2008, Jaws was ranked the fifth greatest film in history by Empire magazine, which also placed Quint at number 50 on its list of the 100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time. The film has been cited in many other lists of 50 and 100 greatest films, including ones compiled by Leonard Maltin, Entertainment Weekly, Film4, Rolling Stone, Total Film, TV Guide, and Vanity Fair.
More merchandise was created to take advantage of the film's release. In 1999, Graeme Turner wrote that Jaws was accompanied by what was still "probably the most elaborate array of tie-ins" of any film to date: "This included a sound-track album, T-shirts, plastic tumblers, a book about the making of the movie, the book the movie was based on, beach towels, blankets, shark costumes, toy sharks, hobby kits, iron-transfers, games, posters, shark's tooth necklaces, sleepwear, water pistols, and more." The Ideal Toy Company, for instance, produced a game in which the player had to use a hook to fish out items from the shark's mouth before the jaws closed.
Jaws was first released on DVD in 2000 for the film's 25th anniversary, accompanied by a massive publicity campaign. It featured a 50-minute documentary on the making of the film (an edited version of the one featured on the 1995 LaserDisc release), with interviews with Spielberg, Scheider, Dreyfuss, Benchley, and other cast and crew members. Other extras included deleted scenes, outtakes, trailers, production photos, and storyboards. The DVD shipped one million copies in just one month. In June 2005, a 30th-anniversary edition was released at the JawsFest festival in Martha's Vineyard. The new DVD had many extras seen in previous home video releases, including the full two-hour Bouzereau documentary, and a previously unavailable interview with Spielberg conducted on the set of Jaws in 1974. On the second JawsFest in August 2012, the Blu-ray Disc of Jaws was released, with over four hours of extras, including The Shark Is Still Working. The Blu-ray release was part of the celebrations of Universal's 100th anniversary, and debuted at fourth place in the charts, with over 362,000 units sold.
In 2001, the United States Library of Congress selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry as a "culturally significant" motion picture. In 2006, its screenplay was ranked the 63rd best of all time by the Writers Guild of America. In 2012, the Motion Picture Editors Guild listed the film as the eighth best-edited film of all time based on a survey of its membership.
The film was not without its detractors. Vincent Canby of The New York Times wrote, "It's a measure of how the film operates that not once do we feel particular sympathy for any of the shark's victims. ... In the best films, characters are revealed in terms of the action. In movies like Jaws, characters are simply functions of the action ... like stage hands who move props around and deliver information when it's necessary". He did, however, describe it as "the sort of nonsense that can be a good deal of fun". Los Angeles Times critic Charles Champlin disagreed with the film's PG rating, saying that "Jaws is too gruesome for children, and likely to turn the stomach of the impressionable at any age. ... It is a coarse-grained and exploitative work which depends on excess for its impact. Ashore it is a bore, awkwardly staged and lumpily written." Marcia Magill of Films in Review said that while Jaws "is eminently worth seeing for its second half", she felt that before the protagonists' pursuit of the shark the film was "often flawed by its busyness". william S. Pechter of Commentary described Jaws as "a mind-numbing repast for sense-sated gluttons" and "filmmaking of this essentially manipulative sort"; Molly Haskell of The Village Voice similarly characterized it as a "scare machine that works with computer-like precision. ... You feel like a rat, being given shock therapy". The most frequently criticized aspect of the film has been the artificiality of its mechanical antagonist: Magill declared that "the programmed shark has one truly phony close-up", and in 2002, online reviewer James Berardinelli said that if not for Spielberg's deftly suspenseful direction, "we would be doubled over with laughter at the cheesiness of the animatronic creature." Halliwell's Film Guide stated that "despite genuinely suspenseful and frightening sequences, it is a slackly narrated and sometimes flatly handled thriller with an over-abundance of dialogue and, when it finally appears, a pretty unconvincing Monster."
Martha's Vineyard celebrated the film's 30th anniversary in 2005 with a "JawsFest" festival, which had a second edition in 2012. An independent group of fans produced the feature-length documentary The Shark is Still Working, featuring interviews with the film's cast and crew. Narrated by Roy Scheider and dedicated to Peter Benchley, who died in 2006, it debuted at the 2009 Los Angeles United Film Festival.
Richard Dreyfuss made a cameo appearance in the 2010 film Piranha 3D, a loose remake of the 1978 film. Dreyfuss plays Matt Boyd, a Fisherman who is the first victim of the title creatures. Dreyfuss later stated that his character was a parody and a near-reincarnation of Matt Hooper, his character in Jaws. During his appearance, Dreyfuss's character listens to the song "Show Me the Way to Go Home" on the radio, which Hooper, Quint and Brody sing together aboard the Orca.
The film has inspired two theme park rides: one at Universal Studios Florida, which closed in January 2012, and one at Universal Studios Japan. There is also an animatronic version of a scene from the film on the Studio Tour at Universal Studios Hollywood. There have been at least two musical adaptations: JAWS The Musical!, which premiered in 2004 at the Minnesota Fringe Festival, and Giant Killer Shark: The Musical, which premiered in 2006 at the Toronto Fringe Festival. Three video games based on the film were released: 1987's Jaws, developed by LJN for the Nintendo Entertainment System; 2006's Jaws Unleashed by Majesco Entertainment for the Xbox, PlayStation 2, and PC; and 2011's Jaws: Ultimate Predator, also by Majesco, for the Nintendo 3DS and Wii. A mobile game was released in 2010 for the iPhone. Aristocrat made an officially licensed slot machine based on the movie.
Spielberg, who felt that the characters in Benchley's script were still unlikable, invited the young Screenwriter John Byrum to do a rewrite, but he declined the offer. Columbo creators william Link and Richard Levinson also declined Spielberg's invitation. Tony and Pulitzer Prize–winning Playwright Howard Sackler was in Los Angeles when the filmmakers began looking for another Writer and offered to do an uncredited rewrite; since the producers and Spielberg were unhappy with Benchley's drafts, they quickly agreed. At the suggestion of Spielberg, Brody's characterization made him afraid of water, "coming from an urban jungle to find something more terrifying off this placid island near Massachusetts."
Jaws also played a major part in establishing summer as the prime season for the release of studios' biggest box-office contenders, their intended blockbusters; winter had long been the time when most hoped-for hits were distributed, while summer was largely reserved for dumping films thought likely to be poor performers. Jaws and Star Wars are regarded as marking the beginning of the new U.S. film industry Business model dominated by "high-concept" pictures—with premises that can be easily described and marketed—as well as the beginning of the end of the New Hollywood period, which saw auteur films increasingly disregarded in favor of profitable big-budget pictures. The New Hollywood era was defined by the relative autonomy filmmakers were able to attain within the major studio system; in Biskind's description, "Spielberg was the Trojan horse through which the studios began to reassert their power."
For its fortieth anniversary, the film was released in selected theaters (across approximately 500 theaters) in the United States on Sunday, June 21 and Wednesday, June 24, 2015.