Spielberg’s thriller returns to the cinema, restored and digitally remastered
Just as the pursuit of its colossal predator cries out for a bigger boat, the much-televised Jaws demands to be seen on a bigger screen – and here’s your chance. Restored and digitally remastered to mark Universal Pictures’ 100th anniversary, Steven Spielberg’s 1975 thriller remains exceptional entertainment. The ninth highest grossing film of all time (when adjusted for inflation) is the original summer blockbuster. Based on Peter Benchley’s bestseller it’s part affable adventure, part hydrodynamic horror. For all Jaws’ eventual success, it was so dogged with production problems – particularly involving the mechanical sharks – that the crew referred to it as Flaws.
The high-concept story sees the residents of Amity Island terrorised by a rogue great white shark as they prepare for their 4th July celebrations. With Mayor Vaughn (Murray Hamilton) determined to keep the beaches open despite fatalities, conscientious police chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) is tasked with disposing of the slippery fish. He’s an aquaphobic New Yorker who’s recently moved to the island with his devoted wife Ellen (Lorraine Gary) and two button-cute kids. Jaws is a movie that thrillingly spends half its duration in chase mode; Brody is accompanied on the hunt by maverick seaman Quint (Robert Shaw) and oceanographer Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss).
The trio’s cracking camaraderie has seldom been bettered and the aquatic terror is deftly balanced with lively, likeable characterisations. Unlike Spielberg’s subsequent films, Jaws avoids sentimentality. More out of necessity than design, the (disappointingly rubbery) shark features fleetingly; instead its presence is ingeniously felt in John Williams’ iconic ‘da-dums’, in a section of broken pier returning to pursue a fisherman, in the ordeal of a skinny dipper and in the ominous appearance of barrels. It may indeed be the shark that ate Hollywood but alongside this buoyant beast all those it inspired sink like stones.
General release from Fri 15 June.