Jaws was, is and always will be perfect. Steven Spielberg's second feature, made when he was just 26 years old, remains his leanest and meanest, its power to shock, thrill and unsettle undiminished. The first film to break 100 million Dollars at the US box office and a winner of four Oscars though none for direction or acting ( but if you ask me it should have) Jaws was more than the first modern blockbuster, it was a cultural phenomenon (people really did stay out of the water in the summer of 1975) that forever changed the way Hollywood viewed the summer season.
Now with it's re-release and re-mastered in the cinema any excuse to watch it again is fine by me. Jaws grabs you by the throat from the start when Susan Backlinie's Chrisse goes skinny dipping only to end up as shark bait and doesn't let up. Famously forced to shoot around his mechanical shark due to technical problems with the beast, Spielberg had to rely on the old "what you don't see is more scary" maxim. The result made Jaws less of a monster movie and more a suspense thriller. In this regard, Spielberg was helped in no small measure by John Williams, whose ominous, primal score was, the director graciously contends, responsible for half the film's success. While Jaws is justifiably remembered for its big "boo'"moments such as the Chief Brody chumming/shark rising/"bigger boat"gag Spielberg elevated it far above its B movie origins, proving as proficient in his domestic detailing (witness the beautifully played out scene at the dinner table with Brody's son mirroring his actions) and character building (the legendary scar scene) as he was at masterminding the jumps in and out of the water.
Viewed with the benefit of hindsight, what differentiates Jaws from almost every other summer blockbuster since is the quality of its performances. Roy Scheider's fearful Chief Brody, Robert Shaw's grizzled fisherman Quint and Richard Dreyfuss' sardonic oceanographer Hooper lend the film its necessary humanity. Looking back through today's tinted glasses,it's a masterclass that should be attended more often by most summer popcorn movie pedlars as Jaws will teach them a thing or two.
Almost forty years old and on it's re-mastered re-release the cinema was full, not only of us who grew up on the movie but also taking their kids along. I took my 14 year old daughter and although she has seen it numerous times the movie on the big screen kept her awe struck from the opening sequence to the end.
They have done a fantastic job on the scrub up, the sound is especially crisp and you can actually hear the indervidual conversations on the opening beach party, and John William's score has never had so much menace. The picture has never looked better and I even noticed new things I had not seen prior in my hundreds of repeated viewings. Watch for the shooting star sequence as after the shark rams the boat you can actually see the barrels and the beacon light in the distance.
It's a classic no doubt and although fans will already own a copy on DVD, from what I saw in the cinema the upgrade will be well worth the money.