The Test of Time: Jaws (1975)

We all have certain movies we love. Movies we respect without question because of either tradition, childhood love, or because they’ve always been classics. However, as time keeps ticking, do those classics still hold up? Do they remain must see? So…the point of this column is to determine how a film holds up for a modern horror audience, to see if it stands the Test of Time.

Director: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, and Robert Shaw

So it’s summer time (in case you haven’t been outside for a few months), and here in the States it’ll quickly be the Fourth of July. That means barbeque, fireworks, American beer, and (for many people) swimming on the beaches (I live in Kansas so not so much for me). Anyway, with Independence Day here, only one movie comes to mind. No…not the one with Will Smith. I think of Amity Island. Of Quint. Of Brody. Of Mayor Vaughn. Of sharks. With THE SHALLOWS attempting to recapture some deep sea terror this weekend, there couldn’t be a better time to see if the ultimate summer blockbuster holds up against the test of time.

Under the examination: JAWS.

Eat it.

THE STORY: It’s July 4th on Amity Island, which means big summer dollars on the beach. Unfortunately, this summer also has brought along a hungry Great White shark. After a kid gets chewed up, Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) wants to shut down the beaches but greedy anchor sport coat wearing Mayor Vaughn (Murray Hamilton) refuses. Brody brings in expert Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) who backs up his claim. Meanwhile, fishermen from all over swarm the sea looking for the shark. Only bold shark hunter Quint (Robert Shaw) is man enough for the job. After Brody’s own kid ends up nearly eaten at the beach, he and Hooper join forces with Quint to hunt down the beast, but can they stop it before they become chopped meat?

Quint's attempt to catch Hooper.

WHAT STILL HOLDS UP: The term masterpiece is thrown around way too often for way too many films. JAWS is not one of those. Of all movies to be slapped with that label, JAWS deserves it. The movie has so much style, suspense, and terror that it doesn’t matter how much modern technology improves, JAWS will always play perfectly. From John Williams score (he never wrote a better one…ok, ok, maybe he did, but no one wrote anything more memorable or terrifyingly simple) to Spielberg’s subtle directing (nothing too over the top here as he underplays many scenes), JAWS hits in all the right places. When it’s funny, it’s funny. When Spielberg wants us to care about the characters, we care. When we’re supposed to jump, we shit ourselves.

JAWS ends up being one of those perfect storms that could have been just terrible. As the legend goes, Bruce the mechanical shark never worked like they hoped he would, but that only made Spielberg hide the monster as long as he could. We really don’t even see it until an hour into the movie, yet even then we only get glimpses here and there. Instead, Spielberg uses that fantastic Jaws point of view where we watch the helpless swimmers swim as the shark chooses his next victim. It’s not until about an hour and twenty minutes in when the shark finally starts to appear…right when Brody delivers his “You’re going to need a bigger boat” line. And when Jaws finally attacks them, it still looks fantastic. Sure, today we’d have CGI out of the ass and we could see the shark every five seconds, but it’s not needed.

Hello. I'm a badass.

All the actors bring it here, but this is Robert Shaw’s film. It’s a damn shame he not only didn’t win an Oscar for Quint, but he wasn’t even nominated (George Burns won that year). Even worse, he died of a heart attack only three years after JAWS. The man was a force of nature, and Quint remains an iconic character if there ever was. When he talks, everyone listens. He’s a cocky asshole, and even better his anger towards Hooper was real as Shaw and Dreyfuss didn’t get along. That shows on screen, and only makes everything more realistic.

WHAT BLOWS NOW: Nothing. It’s freakin’ JAWS. It has a 25-foot killer shark. It has Robert Shaw as the ultimate badass…what’s not to love. I suppose someone could complain about the dated elements, but I think it only adds to it, making things even more interesting.

If only smoking was that cool.

THE VERDICT: It’s. The. Best. Summer. Movie. Ever. No argument required.



"I said he needs to be in the water!"



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