1,000 Films You Need to See: Entry #1 – Jaws (1975)

Quint's ready, are you?
Quint’s ready, are you?

What is “1,000 Films You Need to See”? Well, for the most part, it’s pretty self-explanatory, but I’ll go over the specifics for anyone playing along at home. This is a new feature that I’m both proud and honored to be able to bring to the Place to Be Nation. Look guys, I’m no film critic. Chances are if you’re a big fan of good movies, then I’m just like you. I watch films, I have a tendency to armchair direct them and from there, I have a penchant for writing down my thoughts. I do know what I like though and while my tastes don’t fit a certain genre, I’ve seen a lot of fantastic cinema in my day. I’m nearly thirty years old now and it is my goal to present to you a list (an ongoing list) of movies that I’d like to share with you. These are movies that I hope and think you’ll have a good time with, much like I did. Welcome to 1,000 Movies You Need to See!

Entry #1 – Jaws (1975 – Steven Spielberg)
Running Time: 124 minutes
Main Cast: Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, Robert Shaw, Lorraine Gary and Murray Hamilton

It’s July and of course, that means a lot of us are gearing up for our annual vacations. If you’re like a lot of my co-workers, you’ll be heading out the beach this summer and to ensure that you don’t come back with a bloody stump where one of your precious legs used to exist, I suggest you check out Steven Spielberg’s 1975 classic, “Jaws”. With an eerily recognizable score, “Jaws” scared a nation into getting out of the water and burying our toes in the sand instead.

Martin Brody (Scheider) is the newly appointed Amity police chief, just in time for the 4th of July festivities. Brody is a New York City cop and his transfer to the beaches & ocean that come with Amity Island is a little surprising, considering he’s petrified of the water. Right off the bat Brody is faced with a BIG problem, when a late night swimmer named Chrissie Watkins is seemingly mangled to death by a shark. Brody tries his best to get the beaches closed down, but Mayor Vaughn (Hamilton) won’t allow it. The holiday action provides a lot of commerce for the town and the mayor decrees that the beach must remain open. When a second casualty is taken under by a shark, a marine biologist, Matt Hooper (Dreyfuss), is called in to investigate. He notes that the shark they’re after is a monster and that it’s not going to be an easy fish to catch. But one man on the island thinks he has what it takes to catch the fish and his name is Quint (Shaw). His demands are $10,000 and his promise is a guarantee that he’ll bring in the shark, but when it’s revealed that it’s not just any shark, but rather a great white shark, Brody and Hooper insist on going along with him.

Don't turn around Roy, don't turn around!!
Don’t turn around Roy, don’t turn around!!

Before we get into talking about “Jaws”, let me just say that I don’t consider myself a big Steven Spielberg fan. Like most, I’ve seen a lot of his movies and I’ve enjoyed a few of them, but he’s simply always been that guy who puts out the big summer picture and or the big Oscar contender and then goes away for a little while, possibly producing a film or two in the meantime. We kick off our line of “1,000 Movies You Need to See” with Jaws and I got to tell you, it’s really a hard film not to like. There’s not a lot to dislike here at all actually. For starters, you have Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw, all putting on killer performances (especially Shaw). Down the road I’m going to be talking about how big of a Robert Shaw fan I am and I only just realized it today. Isn’t he just a wonderful actor? Not only here, but in other films like “The Sting” and “A Man for All Seasons”. Scheider and Dreyfuss are nothing to sneeze at either and it’s actually Scheider’s character that holds a lot of appeal to me. You have this New York City cop, who’s probably been chasing drug dealers down back alleys and surveying knife fight victims, and you throw him on to an island, you reveal that he’s afraid of water and can’t swim and you put him on a boat with an old sea dog and a marine biologist tracking a shark. I mean, that just sounds appealing. I cheered a little (in my head) when Brody pulls out his pistol and starts firing at the shark, while on the boat – as if the shark were a NYC thug.

Truth be told, I’m not a big fan of adventure stories, but Jaws does a fine job of mixing adventure and horror with staples like great dialogue and character development. Amidst all of the shark hunting you have scenes where the three leads sit around a table in the boat’s cabin and tell “war stories”. Quint’s Indianapolis speech is famous and not only that, this film is quite quotable. Personally, I’ve always enjoyed Quint’s inaugural speech, when he’s first introduced, over his Indianapolis speech.

Y’all know me. Know how I earn a livin’. I’ll catch this bird for you, but it ain’t gonna be easy. Bad fish. Not like going down the pond chasin’ bluegills and tommycods. This shark, swallow you whole. Little shakin’, little tenderizin’, an’ down you go. And we gotta do it quick, that’ll bring back your tourists, put all your businesses on a payin’ basis. But it’s not gonna be pleasant. I value my neck a lot more than three thousand bucks, chief. I’ll find him for three, but I’ll catch him, and kill him, for ten. But you’ve gotta make up your minds. If you want to stay alive, then ante up. If you want to play it cheap, be on welfare the whole winter. I don’t want no volunteers, I don’t want no mates, there’s just too many captains on this island. $10,000 for me by myself. For that you get the head, the tail, the whole damn thing.

A moment of peace

Bottom line is this – Jaws is one of the few films that if you don’t like it, then you almost have to give some sort of explanation. With this one there’s no pussy footing around, chalking it up to boredom or anything of the sort. The words “boredom” and this film DO NOT go hand in hand. They don’t make blockbusters like this anymore. It seems that back then, blockbusters had to be both big budget and quality to boot, and now they just have to be flashy. Jaws is the real deal and it’s a damn good film…a true “must see”!

RATING: 10/10

Next week we continue the vacation theme, but instead of being threatened by great white sharks, we’re instead threatened by the fiercest predator south of the Mason Dixon line: REDNECKS!