Jaws: The Film That Changed The Summers

jaws photo

Forty years ago, on June 20 to be exact, Jaws premiered in theaters and forever changed the summer film environment. Before Jaws came along and scared recreational swimmers out of the waters, summer film schedules were filled with lightweight, forgettable fare. Most often they were aimed at children who needed something to do in the summer. The theaters were terrific time killers and babysitters for parents so off the little ones went. Though there have been big hit films that were released during summers none of them had the effect that Jaws had.

Based on the eponymous novel by Peter Benchley, Jaws was a one of Steven Spielberg’s earliest films and a breakout hit for the then-young director. A nature/horror film, Jaws was about a New England beach community being terrorized by a monstrous great white shark that decided to use the sleepy town’s popular beach for a feeding ground. The novel was terrifying enough, but the film brought the visceral horror of the shark to vivid life and stating that it was a huge hit is an understatement.

brody v shark

As someone who was around when the film first came out, I can testify that the film was a genuine blockbuster. There were literal lines of anxious moviegoers that went around blocks waiting to see this film. In this day and age of multiplexes that jam several theaters with the same film, this is unheard of. Sure, there would be a line, but usually that would be on opening weekends and they hardly snake around blocks like in the old days.

As with many films since, Jaws tapped into the public consciousness in a certain way and the film had a distinct impact past the movie theaters. Unfortunately, it wasn’t so positive. Aside from the ripoff horror/nature films that followed (Grizzly, Orca, Tentacles, etc.), sharks received a very bad reputation and people went out of their way to hunt down and kill the aquatic predators, bringing down their population. People were terrified of going into the water. Their overactive imaginations kept playing scenarios of them becoming shark attack victims. This fear still persists today, but it’s more balanced as we celebrate Jaws’ 4oth anniversary.

Jaws is so revered thanks to the skills of Steven Spielberg who assembled a topnotch team both in front and behind jaws castthe camera. Who can forget the stellar performances by Roy Scheider as Sheriff Brody, the everyman law officer out of his element? Or Richard Dreyfuss as Hooper the hippie marine biologist who clashed with Quint, the salty fisherman so terrifically played by Robert Shaw? The conversations and arguments between the three are beloved and often copied and honored by other films. The line uttered by Brody when he first sights the humongous shark “You’re gonna need a bigger boat” is beyond legendary.

That scene itself sold the film for me as a youngster. I actually screamed and ripped up my popcorn bag when the shark first popped it’s mechanical head out of the water as Brody was shoveling chum into the water. I never expected to see the shark because I thought that all that would be shown was just a fin. Yes, the shark is an obvious fake, but no one cares. Spielberg, stuck with malfunctioning shark robots, was forced to make do with less and it worked. So when the shark finally appears in the gripping final act, we the audience are both relieved at having finally seen the white terror and invigorated by the music, the editing and camera work. Again, Spielberg is rightfully credited for using John Williams, who came up with the famous film score, Verna Fields for the crisp editing and Bill Butler for the beautiful cinematography.

chum

It’s hard to imagine how the film would’ve turned out if another director was used. And remember the film was so plagued with problems that Spielberg was almost fired. It’s a good thing that didn’t happen.

With Jaws’ success (it was the number one movie of all time until Star Wars came along), film studios realized what a gold mine the summer season was and soon enough we began to see the big-event films coming out in the summer. That pattern is still in effect today and will likely stay that way for a long time. Some snobs may decry this and proclaim that these blockbusters are for empty-headed masses. They’ve tried to blame Jaws for this, but they overlook the fact that Jaws is simply a great, edge-of-your-seat adventure film. That is why it has endured and I’m thankful because without Jaws we wouldn’t have so many memorable summer films.

Waldermann Rivera

 

 

 

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2014 Hallmark Sci-Fi Ornaments

scout trooper 2This holiday season’s Hallmark ornaments for sci-fi and other genre fans has been a bit lacking. Don’t get me wrong, they’re beautifully crafted, but there isn’t a lot to choose from. Next year, on the other hand, promises a treasure trove not just for Star Wars ornaments, but for other popular films and TV shows.

Star Wars

The Star Wars ornaments made by Hallmark are increasingly popular, which is evident from the variety of available ornaments. The 2014 Hallmark Star Wars ornaments are sure to be sought after by many Star Wars fans. They include:

  • The sandcrawler terrain vehicle used by the nomadic Jawas in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.
  • The alien Cantina band from the same film, and the ornament will feature sound. Hopefully it will have the famous, space jazzy music heard in the background when Luke Skywalker and Ben Kenobi entered the Cantina.

CANTINA

  •  An Imperial scout trooper as seen in Return Of The Jedi. Sorry, no speeder bike. Maybe in 2015, unless the new Star Wars film hogs up everything.
  • Darth Vader from the final moments of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith, when he is fitted with his infamous armor for the first time. If all goes well, we won’t hear him screaming “NOOOO!”. Then again that should be good for a laugh around the Christmas tree.
  • A LEGO version of Boba Fett, the bounty hunter.
  • Another Peekbuster ornament with the motion detector that was used last year for Darth Vader. This time Yoda will do the honors and unlike Darth Vader, Yoda looks more suited for the Peekbuster job. That’s because his green skin goes better with the red Santa clothes.

Star Trek

There will be only three Star Trek-based ornaments released by Hallmark in 2014.  They are the U.S.S. Vengeance PA.INT.34205S_H7.Cship featured in Star Trek Into Darkness, Sulu wearing the original series uniform and a diorama featuring Spock mind-melding with a Horta as seen in the classic Star Trek episode “The Devil In The Dark”. Hopefully by the time the 50th anniversary of Star Trek comes around in 2016, Hallmark will beef up their offerings.

Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Superheroes

Unlike this year, there are plenty of inspired Hallmark ornaments planned for 2014. Superhero ornaments will include Spider-Man, the Hulk, Superman in his modern suit shown in The New 52 comic books and the Adam West version of Batman ornament that was delayed previously. Also worth mentioning is that the Batmobile shown in Tim Burton’s Batman will be available.

superman hulk ornament

As interesting as the superhero ornaments are, the 2014 Hallmark sci-fi and fantasy ornaments will really whet genre fans’ appetites. I can already see some of these hanging from the tree next year. Announced so far are:

alien ape

  • The voracious alien xenomorph from the classic film Alien. Sure, it’s probably too ghastly to hang on a Christmas tree, but it sure is lovingly rendered as seen from photos. It will look great on a shelf or desk.
  • Cornelius from the original Planet Of The Apes film. No word yet if ornaments based on the modern Planet Of The Apes movies will be made.
  • Last year’s ornament of the DeLorean car from Back To The Future was very popular. It was Starloggers’ pick for ornament of the year. For 2014, Hallmark will release another version of that famous car, but it will be the flying DeLorean seen in Back To The Future, Part II.
  • Godzilla! No images are available at the time of this article, but it should be awesome. Hallmark gets extra points if the Godzilla ornament has his famous roar.
  • Harry Potter has become a mainstay with Hallmark ornaments and the 2014 ornament will be of him and Professor McGonagall.
  • An ornament based on The Hunger Games films.
  • The great white shark from Jaws! I’m already humming the Jaws theme.
  • Sloth, the deformed, but lovably goofy Fratelli brother from The Goonies.
  • Thorin Oakenshield, the leader of the dwarves from The Hobbit.

 frankenstein

  • Like the Alien and Jaws ornaments, this one about the Frankenstein monster from the classic Universal Studios films may not go with a Christmas tree. But it looks fantastic, too!
  • Another Hallmark sci-fi ornament coming out in 2014 will be of Optimus Prime, the heroic leader of the Transformers. The one shown in photos looks to be based on the toy and not the Transformers films.

Waldermann Rivera