Forty years later: ‘Jaws’

jaws

I’m pretty much dumfounded to realize that it’s been 40 years since “Jaws” debuted in theaters.

I still remember vividly the day my friend Jim and I saw the movie.

We were early-to-mid-teenagers and movies were a passion of ours – horror movies, science fiction movies, action movies, classic movies – so we went pretty regularly.

Summer movies were different before “Jaws” was released in 1975 and much less blockbuster-oriented. “Jaws” has been credited – or blamed – with creating the summer movie season as we know it: Action movies, sci-fi movies and mass-market fare.

If you think back to the summer of 1974, the last summer before “Jaws,” that theory makes sense. In May 1974, the big releases were “The Lords of Flatbush” and “Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry.” In June 1974, it was “Chinatown,” decidedly adult fare.

But the two of us were there, during opening weekend, to see “Jaws” in June 1975. We were primed for it. I think I had read Peter Benchley’s novel by that point and kind of knew what to expect.

A twist of fate spoiled the movie for us even further.

We’d been dropped off at the theater by his dad or my dad and discovered the showing of “Jaws” that we wanted to see was sold out. We bought tickets for the next showing and decided to kill time until it began at a nearby ice cream shop.

Little did we know that the kids working behind the counter had seen “Jaws” the night before.

As we sat there, eating our ice cream and feeling increasingly stupid, one of the ice cream jockeys proceeded to spoil most of the big moments in “Jaws.”

“And then the head pops out of the hole in the side of the boat …” You know, things like that.

We still saw the movie and the “head scene” still made me jump. But still.

I saw “Jaws” several times in theaters, many times on home video and, to this day, if I come across it on cable TV, I will put down the remote control and watch from whatever point in the movie I’ve tuned in.

There’s little point in my recapping the plot or the high points of Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece. If you’ve read this far, you probably know the movie by heart like I do.

The amazing John Williams score. The high seas adventure. The moments of incredible suspense and fright. The “Indianapolis” scene. The intensely human nature of the characters. The cast!

“Jaws” is perhaps the ultimate summer blockbuster. It is also perhaps the ultimate movie experience.

Forty years on, nothing’s changed that. And I can’t believe anything ever will.

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