Chances are you’ve heard about a Jaws screening this summer—there was one last month at the Lawn on D, and there’s one next month at Somerville Theatre. So why go to this one at the Brattle? Well, for one, I’m somewhat of a popcorn aficionado, and I have yet to find a concession stand that beats this one. (Bonus: they serve beer!) For another, it’s got the added good(?)ness of being a double feature with Jaws 2. But maybe most importantly, it’s Independence Day weekend, and what’s more American than the birth of the American blockbuster?
Jaws starts with the classic horror trope of beautiful, carefree teenagers meeting a horrible fate, but that’s where the similarities with Scream end—the perpetrator isn’t malevolent, nor is the creature responsible for as many deaths as a small plague. Instead, we get beautifully-shot scenes, gorgeous use of light, artfully overlapped dialogue, and, despite a greedy mayor, a significant portion of the flick dedicated to solving the problem rather than just playing victim.
Furthermore, aside from being then-29-year-old(!) director Steven Spielberg’s first big outing, Jaws really did change the face of summer movie season for—well, ever. Before Jaws, summer was a movie wasteland, the time of year when studios dumped their movies they didn’t expect to do well. And since? Well, considering six of the ten highest-grossing movies of all time—The Avengers, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, Jurassic World, Iron Man 3, and Transformers: Dark of the Moon—premiered in May, June, or July, it’s safe to say that studios have changed their business models accordingly. And, despite the bad PR for Carcharodon carcharias, Jaws actually positively affected shark research.
But if none of this compels you, consider that the iconic flick was filmed on Massachusetts summer vacation mainstay Martha’s Vineyard, so nowhere else in the world can the famous “don’t go in the water” hit quite as close—literally—to home. Grab a ‘Gansett and take a seat. You’re gonna need a bigger boat.
dir. Steven Spielberg
Part of the ongoing series: Roy Scheider Revisited