Welcome to Jaws Week! When it was announced that Steven Spielberg's Jaws was arriving on Blu-ray, we thought it'd be perfect to dedicate an entire week to the movie that created the summer blockbuster. Every day this week we'll be posting an assortment of really fun features tied to the film, its production, its legacy, its fans, its merchandise and so much more.
For those unfamiliar with it, or those similarly viewing Amity Island from the water, the temptation to harpoon Jaws with the label of “killer-shark movie” is often insurmountable. This tawdry distinction is unfortunate as it overlooks what it is that makes Steven Spielberg’s early opus so memorable, and what keeps us revisiting its shores year after year: the wonderful characters and outstanding performances. This week, as Movies.com celebrates all that is Jaws in the wake of its finally receiving the high-definition treatment, we thought we’d highlight a few of our favorite scenes that cling fast to our heartstrings without so much as a glimpse of a fin in the water or a single set of giant gnashing teeth. Here are our favorite shark-free Jaws moments.
Be forewarned, many of these scenes will feature the salty sea hunter Quint. Robert Shaw was an absolutely brilliant actor and is unarguably among Jaw’s greatest strengths. In this iconic scene, constituting the character’s formidable entrance, Quint silences the chattering masses, first with his nails against a chalkboard and then with his steely assertion that he will bring down the troublesome shark. The voice, the nonchalant chewing, of both his snack and the scenery, and the slow zoom into Shaw’s face should be in film school textbooks in the chapter on introducing your characters.
The Dinner Table
Chief Brody is a deeply empathetic character from start to finish. He’s the chief of police on an island, though he’s afraid of the water, he wants what’s best for his citizens while the local politicos undermine his authority at every turn, and most importantly, he’s a loving husband and father. As Amity Island residents are being gobbled up by a massive shark, and the mayor refuses to uphold his decision to close the beaches, Brody seeks solace in a tender moment with his youngest son. Epitomizing the like-father-like-son maxim, Sean Brody mirrors every exasperated gesture he sees his father execute. It’s an adorable moment of levity.
Comparing of the Scars
The best way for two people to resolve their differences is to organically arrive at the realization that they share common ground. No film has ever constructed a better moment of this realization than Jaws. Quint and Hooper get absolutely hammered and begin comparing the size of their… various scars. It’s a moment of bonding that speaks to both their nautical backgrounds while also showing us the comically unhinged side of Quint. It also fills us with the intense desire to hear more of Quint’s stories of arm-wrestling contests and Boston St. Patrick’s Day shenanigans.
Richard Dreyfuss as the marine biologist Matt Hooper is the perfect balance between Brody and Quint. While he’s far more at home on the water than the chief, his college-educated, highly analytical approach to the sea can’t match Quint’s old-salt sailor sensibilities. When he first arrives on the docks of Amity Island, it’s clear this old world to new juxtaposition is echoed in practically every citizen he encounters. When he tries to assist Chief Brody in stopping a horde of locals from overloading a boat, they openly mock him. His response is a chuckle that will pepper the film and his sardonic observation that, “they’re gonna die.” This moment solidifies in the audience exactly who Hooper is and the uphill battle he will face throughout the movie.
The USS Indianapolis
Easily the most famous, most celebrated, non-shark moment in all of Jaws is the scene in which Quint somberly relays the story of the USS Indianapolis. On the surface, this speech is captivating for the audience and ties in a little bit of actual naval history to contextualize Quint as a character. More than that however, this is the speech that cements the parallels between Quint and Moby Dick’s Captain Ahab. It’s the instant we realize that Quint’s hunt for the killer shark is not motivated by profit, but by a lifelong grudge against the forces of nature. Again, a slow zoom pulls us in as Robert Shaw speaks and the arrested silence of Brody and Hooper is an extension of our own awe.