It’s hard to keep track of movie anniversaries as you go about your life, so when I was cruising the ‘Net on the morning of June 20, I was very pleasantly reminded that Jaws hit theaters thirty-seven years ago.
Yes, many point to it as the first big summer blockbuster that changed the business forever, not always favorably as a lot of movie pundits put it, but it is indeed remarkable that after all this time the film holds up very well, and shows that Steven Spielberg really had the skills, even way back then.
In recent years there’s been a lot of whining that Jaws and Star Wars ruined movies, making Hollywood increasingly greedy for big grossing blockbusters, but again, Jaws was, and still is, a hell of a movie. Although many other films have tried, Jaws is still the greatest shark movie ever made, and it’s doubtful any other shark flick will ever surpass it.
Spielberg for sure knew he couldn’t, which is one of the reasons he turned down Jaws 2. He also was very against the idea of sequels back then, but started being more involved with the continuing chapters of his stories because he didn’t like the results of the Jaws sequels, which he wasn’t involved in on any level. (He also wisely refused to make a sequel to E.T., even when he could have asked for, and gotten, the sky for it.)
Spielberg named the shark “Bruce,” after his lawyer Bruce Ramer, and that summer Bruce made the cover of Time. In celebrating this year’s Jaws anniversary, the Daily Beast re-ran the Newsweek review of the film, where Arthur Cooper wrote that it was “destined to become a classic the way all terrifying movies, good or bad, become classics of any kind… Directed by Hollywood’s newest wunderkind, Steven Spielberg, Jaws is a grisly film, often ugly as sin, which achieves precisely what it set out to accomplish –scare the hell out of you.”
Spielberg also told Cooper he expected that people would rush to the beaches, instead of flee them, but many were indeed afraid to go in the water that year. As Cooper writes, “When the horror comes from Transylvania, there’s always a comfortable giggle behind the shudders. Sharks cut closer to home.”