In a way, Jaws is a film composed of rivalries—Brody vs. Mayor Vaughn; Bruce vs. unsuspecting sea bathers; and finally, Brody, Hooker & Quint vs. Bruce. Most enjoyable, however, is the central clashing chemistry of Hooker and Captain Quint. Hooker’s bookish approach to field practice contrasts just perfectly against Quint’s grizzled swagger, and the evil gleam in his eye as he stares at Hooker while shotgunning a can of Narrangansett is unforgettable. Though as cool a cucumber as Quint may be, he plays a role in teaching us a lesson in how, ultimately, ego is an inadequate defense against a bloodthirsty leviathan.
The movie’s quintessential two-chord theme, whether hummed or spoken, conjures the tension of a fin slowly slicing through the water. Spielberg first laughed when composer John Williams played the simple two-note E-F riff for him on the piano, but after turning it into a grand piece backed by a 73-piece orchestra it climbed the ranks of infamy and in 2005 AFI ranked it among the top 10 most memorable scores in film history.
However essential its iconic score might be, the power of Jaws lies undeniably in its shark star, and 42 years has done surprisingly little to dim its effects on the ocean-fearing psyche. The pneumatically powered 2000-pound, 25-foot behemoth (nicknamed “Bruce” after Spielberg’s lawyer, Bruce Ramer) is fearsome to behold, and fearsome to contemplate as a reality. The larger-than-life terror of Bruce was successfully created on camera with the help of three full-size mechanical great whites, towed by underwater sleds and divers. When George Lucas visited Spielberg on set, he got trapped in the beast’s maw accidentally when Spielberg closed its jaws on him as a prank—arguably its most high-profile snack, and perhaps truest claim to fame.
As Mayor Vaughn said, “Amity is a summer town.” Well, relatively sharkless as our waters may be, so is Jacksonville. Come out and crush a can of Narrangansett for Cap’n Quint at Sun-Ray’s fifth annual 4th of July screening of Jaws on Tuesday, July 4th at 6:30 pm, with room for fireworks on da beach afterwards—because nothing says “Happy Independence Day” like blood in the water.- An Banh