Celebrating 45 Years of Jaws
Screen Editor Olivia Garrett celebrates the classic horror Jaws on its 45th anniversary.
You know the music. You know the fin. Chances are you know the meaning of Thalassophobia. And you know that they needed a bigger boat.
It’s been Forty-five years since the release of Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, and coincidentally, the biggest collapse of rubber ring sales ever seen. With three sequels, a theme-park ride, and countless knockoffs (looking at you Sharktopus), this film has spawned a legacy so absolute, that even the most reluctant of movie-goers would know the quotes. As Hollywood’s original summer blockbuster, Jaws hit over 400 US theatres in 1975, and earned over $100 million in the box-office, making it the highest grossing film ever seen at that point. In today’s movie culture the words ‘timeless’ and ‘iconic’ are often used too liberally, and for shallow purposes, but if there was ever a movie that truly deserved such labelling, then it’s this one.
As a long film, Jaws can easily be split into two halves. The first being marked by terror, dismembered limbs, and the surprisingly simple repetition of notes E and F. For the first hour and twenty minutes, nothing is seen of the shark except the fin and the murky underwater shots of its perspective. Instead, you get all tropes of a cheesy 80s horror (except this was before they were insufferable), like naked teens, useless adults who are saved by the cryptic exposition-guy, and jump-scares (some of which have a heady notoriety). These initial encounters with the shark encapsulate all the things that keep this film notable and relevant, such as the fear of the unknown, the anxiety around facing something that might be greater than man, and even the ignorance of a stubborn governing body.
No floating away like dust for this villain, instead, a killer line and an enormous explosion.
Once this first half is over however, the story turns into a Moby Dick style adventure, with John Williams’ score marking this crucial shift in tone. The almost uplifting music would have you fooled that this was some kind of heroic quest if not for the sparse encounters and haunting moments of stillness (such as Quint’s U.S.S Indianapolis speech). The shark itself is still barely visible, which was less to do with story and more with the fact that the mechanical version is so rubbery and inflexible it looks like a Botox victim. But despite the bad model, and despite the film being over-budget and under-scheduled, Spielberg keeps the audience on tenterhooks throughout. At the end of two hours our tense patience is rewarded with the one of the most spectacular deaths in cinema history; no floating away like dust for this villain, instead, a killer line and an enormous explosion.
So, If you’ve ever had a dream of a shark chasing you in a swimming pool, then it’s probably because of this movie. And if you’ve ever wanted to go into a shark tank, well then farewell and adieu because I will not be joining you. If you’re looking to for something to scare you in the next few days, then revisit Jaws, and think carefully about the next time you go in the water.