Watching the Classics with Grant

Watching the Classics with Grant

Blog PhotoThe Film: Jaws

Synopsis: A rogue great white shark has taken up residency off the coast of Amity Island, a resort community that depends on tourists coming to visit and spend during the summer to sustain their economy all year long.  However, when the remains of a young woman washes up on shore and a young boy is munched up in front of a beach full of people, visitors start to think about making other vacation plans.  As the attacks continue, drastic steps are taken and it’s up to three men to take down this ferocious eating machine – Sheriff Martin Brody (Roy Scheider), a newcomer to the island who happens to be afraid of the water; Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss), a marine biologist who admires sharks more than he fears them and Quint (Robert Shaw), an independent fisherman with a zealous hatred of sharks due to a traumatic experience in his past. 

Not sure how it came up – I think one of his friends from school had mentioned it – but my son Grant asked me not too long ago, “Have you ever heard of a movie named Jaws?” I told him that I was vaguely aware of it and he then asked if I happened to have it.  Testing his alphabetical skills, I told him to go to the basement where all the DVDs are and look under “J” to see if I had it.  I knew it was there so I was not surprised when he came up with the case that had the familiar image of the great white shark, furiously propelling itself to the surface in order to devour that poor unsuspecting swimmer.  (I’m pretty sure that artist Roger Kastel, who came up with this design for the paperback edition of Peter Benchley’s novel that was later used for the poster had no arrangement for royalties, which is a shame as it still is being used today to sell t-shirts at Old Navy.)

Blog PhotoMy wife having never seen the film either, the three of us settled in the living room and started the movie, I watching Grant more than the screen as I knew when the big scares were going to come about and wanted to gauge his reaction.  I wasn’t disappointed as he was gripped from the first scene, in which Chrissie Watkins (Susan Backlinie) is attacked and killed, through the final sequence in which Quint meets his bloody demise.  However, the coup de grace was the moment in which Brody and Hooper are on the water at night and encounter a mangled boat, only to have Hopper see a chewed-up human head tumble out of towards him when he swims underneath to investigate.  My son’s eyes widened so far I thought they’d fall out as he shrunk beneath a blanket like a turtle into his shell as if to hide from what he saw.  It was all I could do to suppress my laughter.

I was surprised that the amount of blood in the film didn’t make him squeamish but the fact that Jaws is tame in comparison to even The Walking Dead which is on free television says something about how radically our acceptance of violence in media has become.  The moment in which a boater’s severed leg silently floats from the top of the frame to the bottom didn’t faze him at all and as for the final scene in which Quint is eaten by the shark in front of us, it wasn’t the massive amount of blood that fazed him but the sheer terror of the moment itself.

Blog PhotoI know that Grant liked the film for a couple of reasons. For one, I know he was captivated by it because he didn’t complain that the shark looked fake as so many modern first-time viewers too.  Secondly, he didn’t reach for his I-Pod once to play a game or text.  This is a testament to the brilliant sense of tension and pace Steven Spielberg created to propel us through the story.  When I asked him if he liked the movie he said, “Of course.  People got eaten in it.  Why wouldn’t I like it?”  Obviously, this was a stupid question on my part.

Next time, we’ll get Grant’s take on Back to the Future and his first inkling as to what an Oedipus Complex is.


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rsp wrote on August 01, 2014 at 9:08 am

I first saw this on base at the Fort Bragg movie theatre. We were visiting my older brother and the movie had just come out. The place was full of soldiers many in uniform but all looking very brave. Then the lights went out and the movie started. It was a great movie to relieve stress and have fun.