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Strange and Fantastic Tales of the 20th Century: ‘Jaws’

It’s Shark Week, y’all!

Strange and Fantastic Tales of the 20th Century is a look back at the weirdest, most memorable, and most off center movies of the 20th century. From head turning horror to oddball science fiction this column examines the films that will leave a lasting impression for centuries to come.

Raise your hand if you have been personally victimized by Jaws. If you saw Steven Spielberg’s 1975 epic sea monster movie, you have probably found yourself scared to go into the ocean. You may have even felt trepidation about entering a public pool. And maybe, just maybe, you were creeped out to even look into the bubbly depths of your bath to see what might be lurking around your ankles. Jaws is bloody, it is graphically violent, its score is enough to stir fear in the audience; so why is it so watchable? This week’s strange and fantastic feature looks at Jaws, a blockbuster film that spawned four sequels and is probably single handedly responsible for galeophobia (shark phobia- I looked it up). 

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Roy Scheider plays Brody, the police chief of Amity, a seaside town that is pumped for the 4th of July festivities. Scheider’s job becomes much more difficult when a body washes up on the beach disrupting the crime free town. It is clear from the remains that the teenage girl met her fate in the carnivorous clutches of a shark. However, the situation intensifies when the shark brutally devours a young boy playing in a large group of swimmers. At this point, the movie shifts as the town realizes the shark is relentless and will not be easily stopped. Enter nerdy little Richard Dreyfuss who plays Hooper, an oceanographer. Brody and Hooper are joined in their efforts to capture the great white shark by Quint (Robert Shaw), who looks and acts exactly like a man who has been out to sea his entire life. 

Strange and Fantastic Tales of the 20th Century: 'Jaws'

Bloodshed aside, Jaws is legendary in the pantheon of cinema. Written by Peter Benchley and Carl Gottlieb, Jaws tells a remarkable story of three men coming together to face off against the strength of nature. Brody, Hooper, and Quint are motivated by different passions, but all three feel the intense need to capture/kill the shark. A bond is created between the three adding to the friendly and inviting nature of the film. 

The story is moving, and the dialogue is engaging. I don’t really like to write about the big movies in this column, or the ones that are universally beloved. But Jaws is a big budget creature feature and it is Shark Week. Throw on a fin and play some John Williams. I don’t recommend sneaking up in someone’s bath, but maybe scare a stranger at the public pool. Watch Jaws with someone who has yet to experience the fear and scar them for life.

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