Horror: A man-eating shark terrorizes a small beach town.
The small beach-side town of Amity is a big tourist draw. Every summer thousands of visitors descend there for rest and relaxation in the sun and sand. This summer, though, a new visitor has arrived in the form of an enormous man-eating great white shark. The town's prospects for a good summer are endangered when Brody (ROY SCHEIDER) a former big city cop and now the local sheriff, finds the remains of a college girl and orders the beaches closed. Mayor Vaughan (MURRAY HAMILTON) and other city officials, however, rescind that order for fear of what it will do to the town's tourism. Brody and his wife Ellen (LORRAINE GARY) don't think that was the right thing to do and worry about the safety of their two boys. After several more people are killed by the shark, though, Brody closes the beaches and brings in Hooper (RICHARD DREYFUSS), an oceanographic expert, to help find the shark. In the end, however, they need Quint (ROBERT SHAW), the local, grizzled "old man of the sea" to hunt down and kill the shark. The three men then head out into open waters and bait, and wait, for their encounter with the dangerous shark.
WILL KIDS WANT TO SEE IT?
If they haven't already seen it, they've probably heard about it and will want to see it, especially if they like realistic "monster" movies.
WHY THE MPAA RATED IT: PG
This movie was rated before the creation of the PG-13 rating that it would definitely get if rated today. Scenes too intense for younger children, along with attack-related gore and brief use of marijuana would give it a PG-13.
CAST AS ROLE MODELS:
ROY SCHEIDER plays the sheriff concerned with the safety of everyone in town and orders the beaches closed. The worst of his behavior is that he gets a little drunk in one scene after a bad day dealing with the shark.
RICHARD DREYFUSS plays the spunky ocean expert who assists Brody.
ROBERT SHAW plays the grizzled, gruff, beer-drinking man who will do anything to hunt down and kill the shark, including endangering the lives of Brody and Hooper.
The granddaddy of the summer blockbuster film, this "must see" feature of 1975 is every bit as suspenseful and entertaining as it was then. Of course not everyone thought it would be a big hit -- in fact, many people thought it would be a flop what with "Bruce" the mechanical shark and the reported shooting difficulties they had with it. Yes those problems actually helped the production as they forced director Steven Spielberg to resort to different, and much more effective techniques to make a masterfully suspenseful film. Based on the Peter Benchley novel, the film jettisoned much of the book's subplots and deeper characterizations, leaving a lean and powerful story. The film works so much better than most of today's "monster" films because we rarely see the shark. This causes the audience's imagination to work as hard as the director, and when combined create a powerful film. Of course that wasn't Spielberg's initial plan, yet the other parts of his direction are first-rate, with effectively imaginative shot choices, pacing and editing. The use of "pass by" editing (where a person passes by and blocks the foreground, leaving a new shot after they pass by) is something you don't see anymore and makes the film visually fun to watch. Likewise, Spielberg uses deft touches such as a scene where Brody's young son imitates his dad's movements, to impart fine little characterizations that are all but missing in more recent films. While it was the first true blockbuster, "Jaws" was made in an era when strongly developed characters and plot ruled, not special effects and shallow extravaganzas that you see in today's films. What's most impressive are the performances that are something you'll likewise not find in most current summer movies. As a matter of fact, the most impressive and effective scene doesn't involve the shark, but instead focuses on the three main characters trading "war" stories and scars. Robert Shaw's moving account of a doomed WWII ship and its survivors' encounters with sharks is more spellbinding and powerful than any other scene in this, or many other movies. Shaw is impressive in his role as the grizzled sea veteran and easily commands the screen whenever he appears, but Dreyfuss and Scheider aren't slouches either. This film briefly turned all of those actors into big stars, and for the next few years they headlined many of biggest released movies. Of course the big star of the film is Bruce the shark. When compared to recent computer generated effects and realistic animatronics the shark looks even more fake today than it did then. Still, the film survives the ending scenes where the shark is seen in full since we've been drawn deep into the story, and the horror of the attack is as much in our heads as it is on the screen. Probably Spielberg's most impressive film of his early career (the other one being "Close Encounters"), this is a fabulous feature that most of today's directors, including Spielberg himself, should be forced to watch to learn (or relearn) how to make compelling features. We give this film a 9 out of 10.
OUR WORD TO PARENTS:
I vividly remember going to the beach with a group of fifth graders the summer this movie was released. I had yet to see the film, but most of them had and wouldn't go anywhere near the water. After seeing it, I completely understood. Your kids will probably have the same reaction that may extend to lakes, ponds, or perhaps even the swimming pool. While the film does have its share of gory moments (a man being chomped on by the shark, a sinking cut off leg, etc...) most of the movie's frightening element comes from not knowing when the shark will attack or where it is under the murky water, and from the now infamous "da da, da da" symphonic theme. At the time of its original release (summer of 1975), many parents complained that this film was too violent and intense for a PG rating (there was no PG-13 at the time). While that was particularly true then, this film would probably receive a PG-13 if it was reviewed today. This would be due to the gore, suspense, and brief drug use in an early scene. Beyond that, most of the categories don't rank above a mild rating and seem relatively tame when compared to the content found in most of today's films. Due to the severity of several scenes and the high probability that young children will be scared silly by this, we strongly suggest that you read through the content before allowing your children to see this film.
Some college students drink beer and a few pass around a marijuana joint. One of these students, who runs after a woman heading for the beach, is drunk and repeatedly stumbles as he tries to follow her.
Ellen brings Brody a drink and she has one as well.
Hooper brings two bottles of wine over to the sheriff's home and the three drink some of it. Later, Brody carries one of the bottles and appears slightly drunk.
Quint and Brody drink a shot of homemade liquor, but Brody spits his out.
Quint drinks down an entire can of beer in one gulp.
The three men appear to be drinking while exchanging old "wound" stories.
Parts of the remains of a female swimmer are seen washed up on the shore (mainly her hand covered with crabs) and later Hooper lifts up that arm, revealing the bloody stump.
A boy is pulled from his blow up raft and blood squirts up into the air and paints the water red.
Brody briefly looks at some real-life pictures of shark attack victims and their wounds, including some rather graphic (but not bloody) images (leg flesh hanging from the bone, chunks taken out of bodies, etc...).
There are several scenes where chum (a bloody mixture of fish parts) is thrown into the water (turning it red) in an attempt to attract the shark.
A dead shark is seen as is its bloody mouth. Later, Hooper cuts the shark open (seen from behind the shark) and white stomach fluid spills onto the floor as do a few dead fish.
A slightly decomposed head (with an eye missing) pops out at Hooper as he dives on a partially submerged ship.
A man's cut off leg (with a bloody stump) sinks to the ocean floor after a shark attack and the water's bloody from that.
A rope gets yanked from Hooper's hand creating a bloody cut.
The men shoot the shark several times leaving slightly bloody bullet holes.
Blood squirts from Quint's mouth and flows from his body as the shark bites down on him.
The shark's body is ripped apart in an explosion of lots of blood and shark meat. As its body sinks in the ocean, large amounts of blood mix into the water.
Mayor Vaughan and the city officials make Brody change his police report on a shark attack to that of an accidental death. Thereafter, Vaughan continually does what he can to keep the beaches open (for business purposes) despite the repeated warnings from Brody and Hooper and is inadvertently responsible for several more deaths.
A woman swimming in the ocean at night is attacked by the shark and pulled underwater. While we never see the shark, we see and hear her panicked reactions as well as her struggle to stay above the water until she finally goes under.
A boy is pulled from his raft by the shark, while others in the ocean panic and try to race out of the water.
Two locals have a close encounter with the shark after the dock they're standing on collapses into the water and one of them has to swim to safety.
A man on a boat, and several kids on another boat, are knocked into the water by the shark. The man is pulled under and Brody's son is paralyzed by fear.
The entire end of the movie involves the men and the shark switching back and forth between hunter and hunted, and several scenes have the shark attacking the boat.
Hooper has a close encounter with the shark while submerged in a "shark proof" cage.
The shark attacks the boat, Quint slides down toward the shark's open mouth (and is eaten with lots of screams) and later it tries to get Brody as the boat begins to sink.
There's the now famous musical bar that's associated with this movie that appears in several scenes and does create a rather suspenseful atmosphere. A few other scenes have similarly suspenseful music in them.
2 "s" words, 5 damns, "ass words," S.O.B.'s and hells, 2 craps, and 4 uses of "G-damn," 3 each of "Oh my God" and "For Christ's sakes," 2 uses of "Jesus H. Christ," and 1 use each of "Oh Jesus," "Oh God," "Good God," "Jesus Christ," "Christ Almighty," and "My God" as exclamations.
A female college student disrobes as she runs for the beach in the moonlight. Although it's rather dark, the sides of her bare breasts can be seen and while she runs completely nude, it's too dark to really see anything else. Moments later, she's seen from underneath the water (Shark Point of View), and again due to the darkness, you can't really see anything although you might think there's some nudity).
Ellen gives Brody a drink and asks, "Wanna get drunk and fool around?" to which he replies, "Oh yeah."
Quint repeats an ode: "Here lies the body of Mary Lee. Died at the age of 103. For 15 years she kept her virginity. Not a bad record for his vicinity."
A woman swimming at night in the ocean is attacked and killed by the shark (the actual attack isn't seen -- but her reactions are).
A boy is pulled from his raft and killed by the shark (all we see is blood squirting into the air). In the same scene, it's implied that a dog is also killed by the shark (but there's no visual evidence of this).
A shark attack victim's mother smacks Brody for letting the beaches stay open (which is actually Vaughan's fault).
Another man is attacked and killed by the shark.
The men shoot at the shark with guns and small harpoons in an attempt to kill it and Hooper stabs his knife into its nose in another scene.