Jaws is an American media franchise that started with a 1974 novel that expanded into four films, a theme park ride, and other tie-in merchandise. The main subject of the franchise is a great white shark, and its attacks on people in specific areas of the United States. The Brody family is featured in all of the films as the primary antithesis to the shark. The original film was based on a novel written by Peter Benchley, which itself was inspired by the Jersey Shore shark attacks of 1916. Benchley would adapt his novel, along with help from Carl Gottlieb and Howard Sackler, into the 1975 film Jaws, which was directed by Steven Spielberg. Although Gottlieb would go on to pen two of the three sequels, neither Benchley or Spielberg would return to the film series in any capacity.
The first film was regarded as a watershed film in motion picture history; it became the father of the summer blockbuster movies and one of the first "high-concept" films. The film is also known for the introduction of John Williams' famous theme music, which was a simple alternating pattern of the E and F notes of a piano. Williams' theme would go on to win an Academy Award. The film would win other Academy Awards, and even be nominated for Best Picture.
The success of Jaws led to three sequels, which have amassed almost $800 million worldwide in box office gross. The franchise has also seen the release of various soundtrack albums, additional novelizations based on the sequels, trading cards, inspired theme park rides at Universal Studios Florida and Universal Studios Japan, multiple video games, and a musical that premiered in 2004. Although the first film was popular with critics when it was originally released, the sequels have generally been seen negatively by critics. This reception has spread to the merchandise, with video games seen as poor imitations of the original concept. Nevertheless, the original 1975 film has generally been regarded as one of the greatest films ever, and frequently appears in the top 100 of various American Film Institute rankings.
The original Jaws, directed by Steven Spielberg is based on Peter Benchley's novel of the same name. It tells the story of Police Chief of Amity Island, a fictional summer resort town, Martin Brody (Roy Scheider), in his quest to protect beachgoers from a great white shark by closing the beach. This is overruled by the town council, headed by the Mayor (Murray Hamilton) that wants the beach to remain open in order to sustain the local tourist economy. After several attacks, the police chief enlists the help of a marine biologist Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) and a professional shark hunter Quint (Robert Shaw). The three voyage out onto the ocean in Quint's boat Orca. The shark kills the fisherman, but Brody manages to destroy the shark by shooting at the highly pressurized air tank that he has wedged in its mouth.
The first sequel, Jaws 2, depicts the same town four years after the events of the original film, when another great white shark arrives on the shores of fictional seaside resort of Amity Island. Directed by Jeannot Szwarc and starring Roy Scheider as Police Chief Martin Brody, who, after a series of deaths and disappearances, suspects that the culprit is another shark. However, he has trouble convincing the town's selectmen. He has to act alone to save the group of teenagers, including his two sons, who encounter the shark whilst out sailing.
The plot of Jaws 3-D moves away from Amity Island to SeaWorld in Florida, a water theme-park with underwater tunnels and lagoons. As the park prepares to open, it is infiltrated by a baby great white shark which attacks and kills water-skiers and park employees. Once the baby shark is captured, it becomes apparent that a much larger shark, the mother, is present. The characters of Martin's sons from the first two films are developed in this film: Michael Brody (Dennis Quaid) is the chief engineer, and his younger brother Sean (John Putch) arrives at the resort to visit. The events of the earlier films are implied through Sean's dislike of the water because of "something that happened when he was a kid". The events and character development from Jaws 3-D is independent from the rest of the series.
In the fourth film Jaws: The Revenge, the story line returns to Amity Island, but ignores all plot elements introduced in Jaws:3-D. No mention is made of Michael's girlfriend, Katherine Morgan (Bess Armstrong), or his career change from engineer at SeaWorld to a marine biologist. In fact, one of the Universal Studios press releases for Jaws: The Revenge omits Jaws 3-D by referring to Jaws: The Revenge as the "third film of the remarkable Jaws trilogy." By the start of the film, Martin Brody had died of a heart attack, although his wife, Ellen Brody (Lorraine Gary), claims that he died through fear of the shark. Her youngest son Sean (Mitchell Anderson), now working as a police deputy in Amity, is dispatched to clear a log from a buoy. As he does so, he is attacked and killed by a shark. Ellen becomes convinced that a shark is deliberately victimizing her family for the deaths of the first two sharks. Michael (Lance Guest) convinces her to spend some time with his family in The Bahamas. However, as his job involves a lot of time on and in the sea, Ellen fears that he will be the shark's next victim. When her granddaughter, Thea (Judith Barsi), narrowly avoids being attacked by a shark, Ellen takes a boat in order to kill her family's alleged stalker. Hoagie (Michael Caine), Michael and his friend Jake (Mario Van Peebles) find Ellen, and then proceed to electrocute the shark, driving it out of the water and impaling it on the prow of Ellen's boat.
Peter Benchley had been thinking for years "about a story about a shark that attacks people and what would happen if it came in and wouldn't go away."Doubleday editor Tom Congdon was interested in Benchley's idea of a novel about a great white shark terrorizing a beach resort. After various revisions and rewrites, Benchley delivered his final draft in January 1973. The title was not decided until shortly before the book went to print. Benchley says that he had spent months thinking of titles, many of which he calls "pretentious", such as The Stillness in the Water and Leviathan Rising. Benchley regarded other ideas, such as The Jaws of Death and The Jaws of Leviathan, as "melodramatic, weird or pretentious". According to Benchley, the novel still did not have a title until twenty minutes before production of the book.
The Book of the Month Club made the novel an "A book", qualifying it for its main selection, then the Reader's Digest also selected it. The publication date was moved back to allow a carefully orchestrated release. It was released first in hardcover in February 1974, then in the book clubs, followed by a national campaign for the paperback release.Bantam bought the paperback rights for $575,000.
Richard D. Zanuck and David Brown, film producers at Universal Pictures, heard about the book at identical times at different locations. Brown heard about it in the fiction department of Cosmopolitan, a lifestyle magazine then edited by his wife, Helen Gurley Brown. A small card gave a detailed description of the plot, concluding with the comment "might make a good movie". The producers each read it overnight and agreed that it was "the most exciting thing that they had ever read" and that, although they were unsure how they would accomplish it, they had to produce the film. Brown says that had they read the book twice they would have never have made the film because of the difficulties in executing some of the sequences. However, he says that "we just loved the book. We thought it would make a very good movie."
Zanuck and Brown had originally planned to hire John Sturges to direct the film, before considering Dick Richards. However, they grew irritated by Richards' vision of continually calling the shark "the whale"; Richards was subsequently dropped from the project. Zanuck and Brown then signed Spielberg in June 1973 to direct before the release of his first theatrical film, The Sugarland Express. Spielberg wanted to take the novel's basic concept, removing Benchley's many subplots. Zanuck, Brown and Spielberg removed the novel's adulterous affair between Ellen Brody and Matt Hooper because it would compromise the camaraderie between the men when they went out on the Orca.
Peter Benchley wrote three drafts of the screenplay before deciding to bow out of the project. Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Howard Sackler happened to be in Los Angeles when the filmmakers began looking for another writer and offered to do an uncredited rewrite, and since the producers and Spielberg were unhappy with Benchley's drafts, they quickly accepted his offer. Spielberg sent the script to Carl Gottlieb, asking for advice. Gottlieb rewrote most scenes during principal photography, and John Milius contributed dialogue polishes. Spielberg has claimed that he prepared his own draft. The authorship of Quint's monologue about the fate of the cruiser USS Indianapolis has caused substantial controversy as to who deserves the most credit for the speech. Spielberg described it as a collaboration among John Milius, Howard Sackler, and actor Robert Shaw. Gottlieb gives primary credit to Shaw, downplaying Milius' contribution.
Three mechanical sharks were made for the production: a full version for underwater shots, one that moved from camera-left to right (with its hidden side completely exposing the internal machinery), and an opposite model with its right flank uncovered. Their construction was supervised by production designer Joe Alves and special effects artist Robert A. Mattey. After the sharks were completed, they were shipped to the shooting location, but had not been tested in water and when placed in the ocean the full model sank to the ocean floor, forcing a team of divers to retrieve it. Location shooting occurred on the island of Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, chosen because the ocean had a sandy bottom while 12 miles (19 km) out at sea. This helped the mechanical sharks to operate smoothly and still provide a realistic location. The film nonetheless had a famously troubled shoot and went considerably over budget. David Brown said that the budget "was $4 million and the picture wound up costing $9 million". Shooting at sea led to many delays: unwanted sailboats drifted into frame, cameras were soaked, and the Orca once began to sink with the actors on board. The mechanical shark frequently malfunctioned, due to the hydraulic innards being corroded by salt water. The three mechanical sharks were collectively nicknamed "Bruce" by the production team after Spielberg's lawyer. To some degree, the delays in the production proved serendipitous. The script was refined during production, and the unreliable mechanical sharks forced Spielberg to shoot most of the scenes with the shark only hinted at. For example, for much of the shark hunt, its location is represented by the floating yellow barrels. Spielberg also included multiple shots of just the dorsal fin due to its ease of filming. This forced restraint is widely thought to have increased the suspense of these scenes, giving it a Hitchcockian tone.
The studio ordered a sequel early into the success of Jaws. The success of The Godfather Part II and other sequels meant that the producers were under pressure to deliver a bigger and better shark. They realized that someone else would produce the film if they didn't, and they preferred to be in charge of the project themselves. Spielberg declined to be involved in the sequel.
Like the first film, the production of Jaws 2 was troubled. The original director, John D. Hancock, proved to be unsuitable for an action film and was replaced by Jeannot Szwarc. Scheider, who only reprised his role to end a contractual issue with Universal, was also unhappy during production and had several heated exchanges with Szwarc.Martha's Vineyard was again used as the location for the town scenes. Although some residents guarded their privacy, many islanders welcomed the money that the company was bringing. The majority of filming was at Navarre Beach, Florida, because of the warm weather and the water's depth being appropriate for the shark platform. Like the first film, shooting on water proved challenging. After spending hours anchoring the sailboats, the wind would change as they were ready to shoot, blowing the sails in the wrong direction. The corrosive effect of the saltwater damaged some equipment, including the metal parts in the sharks. As with the first film, footage of real sharks filmed by Australian divers Ron & Valerie Taylor was used for movement shots that could not be convincingly achieved using the mechanical sharks.
The producers of the first two films considered originally pitched the second Jaws sequel as a spoof named Jaws 3, People 0.National Lampoon writers John Hughes and Todd Carroll were commissioned to write a script. The project was abandoned due to conflicts with Universal Studios.
Alan Landsburg bought the rights to produce the third film. The second sequel capitalized upon the revived interest of 3-D film in the 1980s, amongst other horror films such as Friday the 13th Part III and Amityville 3-D that also make dual use of the number three. As it was Joe Alves' first film as director, having been the production designer for the first two films, he thought that 3-D would "give him an edge". Cinema audiences could wear disposable cardboard polarized glasses to create the illusion that elements penetrate the screen.Richard Matheson worked on the story and script, although many of his contributions were unused: the writer is unhappy with the finished film.Carl Gottlieb, who had also revised the screenplays for the first two Jaws films, was credited for the script alongside Matheson.
Joseph Sargent produced and directed the fourth and final film in the series. Jaws The Revenge was filmed on location in New England and in the Caribbean, and completed on the Universal lot. Like the first two films of the series, Martha's Vineyard was the location of the fictional Amity Island for the opening scenes of the film. Principal photography moved to Nassau in The Bahamas, but the location did not offer the "perfect world" that the 38-day shoot required. The cast and crew encountered many problems with varying weather conditions.
In February 2010, film website Cinema Blend reported that a source from Universal Pictures has indicated that Universal is "strongly considering" remaking Jaws in 3-D, following the commercial success of Avatar. The source also reported that 30 Rock star Tracy Morgan was considered to portray Matt Hooper in the remake, which they say could be more comedic and make more use of special effects. The studio has not officially commented upon the rumor.
Peter Benchley, Carl Gottlieb & Howard Sackler (uncredited)
David Brown & Richard D. Zanuck
2. Jaws 2
Carl Gottlieb & Howard Sackler
3. Jaws 3-D
Carl Gottlieb & Richard Matheson
4. Jaws: The Revenge
Michael de Guzman
John Williams composed and conducted the score for the first two films. The main "shark" theme, a simple alternating pattern of two notes, E and F, became a classic piece of suspense music, synonymous with approaching danger. Williams described the theme as having the "effect of grinding away at you, just as a shark would do, instinctual, relentless, unstoppable." When the piece was first played for Spielberg, he was said to have laughed at Williams, thinking that it was a joke. Spielberg later said that without Williams' score the film would have been only half as successful, and Williams acknowledges that the score jumpstarted his career. Williams won an Academy Award for Original Music Score for his work on the first film.
The shark theme is used in all three sequels, a continuity that Williams compares to "the great tradition" for repeating musical themes in Hollywood serials such as Roy Rogers and The Lone Ranger.Alan Parker composed and conducted the score for Jaws 3-D, while the final film was scored by Michael Small. The latter was particularly praised for his work, which many critics considered superior to the film.
Jaws was the first film to use "wide release" as a distribution pattern. As such, it is an important film in the history of film distribution and marketing. Prior to the release of Jaws, films typically opened slowly, usually in a few theaters in major cities, which allowed for a series of "premieres." As the success of a film increased, and word of mouth grew, distributors would forward the prints to additional cities across the country. The film became the first to use extensive television advertising. Universal executive Sidney Sheinberg's rationale was that nationwide marketing costs would be amortized at a more favorable rate per print than if a slow, scaled release were carried out. Scheinberg's gamble paid off, with Jaws becoming a box office smash hit and the father of the summer blockbuster.
When Jaws was released on June 20, 1975, it opened at 464 theaters. The release was subsequently expanded on July 25 to a total of 675 theaters, the largest simultaneous distribution of a film in motion picture history at the time. During the first weekend of wide release, Jaws grossed more than $7 million, and was the top grosser for the following five weeks. During its run in theaters, the film became the first to reach more than $100 million in U.S. box office receipts.Jaws eventually grossed more than $470 million worldwide ($1.9 billion in 2010 dollars) and was the highest grossing box office film until Star Wars debuted two years later.
Jaws 2 was the most expensive film that Universal had produced up until that point, costing the studio almost $30 million. According to David Brown, the film made 40% gross of the original. This was attractive to studios because it reduced market risk. The film became the highest-grossing sequel in history, succeeded by the release of Rocky II in 1979. It opened in 640 theaters, making $9,866,023 in its opening weekend. The final domestic gross for Jaws 2 was $81,766,007, making it the sixth highest domestic grossing film of 1978.
Jaws 3-D grossed $13,422,500 on its opening weekend, playing to 1,311 theaters at its widest release. It has achieved total lifetime worldwide gross of $87,987,055. Despite being #1 at the box office, this illustrates the series' diminishing returns, since Jaws 3-D has earned nearly $100,000,000 less than the total lifetime gross of its predecessor and $300,000,000 less than the original film.
The third sequel would attract an even lower income, with around two thirds of Jaws 3-D's total lifetime gross.Jaws: The Revenge received a poor critical reception, and earned the lowest amount of money from the series. It is considered one of the worst movies ever made. Even though it received negative reviews, the film was able to cover costs (estimated US$23 million) with a worldwide box office take of $51,881,013. The film, though, continued the series diminishing returns. It only grossed $7,154,890 in its opening weekend, when it opened to 1,606 screens. This was around $5 million less than its predecessor. It has also achieved the lowest total lifetime gross of the series.
U.S. release date
Box office revenue
June 20, 1975
June 16, 1978
July 22, 1983
Jaws: The Revenge
July 17, 1987
Jaws film series
Jaws is regarded as a watershed film in motion picture history, the father of the summer blockbuster movie and one of the first "high concept" films. Due to the film's success in advance screenings, studio executives decided to distribute it in a much wider release than ever before. The Omen followed suit in the summer of 1976 and then Star Wars one year later in 1977, cementing the notion for movie studios to distribute their big-release action and adventure pictures (commonly referred to as tentpole pictures) during the summer. Jaws is widely regarded as one of the greatest films of all time. Jaws was number 48 on American Film Institute's 100 Years... 100 Movies, a list of the greatest American films of all time, dropping down to number 56 on the 10 Year Anniversary list. It was ranked second on a similar list for thrillers, 100 Years... 100 Thrills.
The sequels are not held in such high regard. Many reviewers criticized director Jeannot Szwarc for showing more of the shark than the first film had, reducing the Hitchcockian notion "that the greatest suspense derives from the unseen and the unknown, and that the imagination is capable of conceiving far worse than the materialization of a mere mechanical monster." However, the performances of Scheider, Gary and Hamilton were praised., although the teenagers, who are "irritating and incessantly screaming"... don't make for very sympathetic victims".
Reception for Jaws 3-D was generally poor. Variety calls it "tepid" and suggests that Alves "fails to linger long enough on the Great White." It has an 11% 'rotten' rating at Rotten Tomatoes. The 3-D was criticized as being a gimmick to attract audiences to the aging series and for being ineffective. Derek Winnert says that "with Richard Matheson's name on the script you'd expect a better yarn" although he continues to say that the film "is entirely watchable with a big pack of popcorn."
Jaws The Revenge attracted the poorest critical reception of the series, and was nominated for Worst Picture in the 1987 Golden Raspberry Awards. It is often considered one of the worst movies ever made. It was rated by Entertainment Weekly as one of "The 25 Worst Sequels Ever Made".Roger Ebert said that it "is not simply a bad movie, but also a stupid and incompetent one." He lists several elements that he finds unbelievable, including that Ellen is "haunted by flashbacks to events where she was not present." Ebert also laments that Michael Caine could not attend the ceremony to collect his Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor earned for Hannah and Her Sisters because of his shooting commitments on this film.
In an era in which documentaries were attempting responsible, accurate reporting about the natural world, ecocriticism says that Hollywood continued to produce films that exploited the fear of animals. Scholar Greg Garrard cites David Ingram's suggestion that the Jaws series "represents a backlash against conservationist ideas in which an 'evil, threatening nature is eventually mastered through male heroism, technology and the blood sacrifice of the wild animal'". Greg Garrard observes in Jaws The Revenge that "the marine biologist Mike Brody's environmentalist concerns are effectively ridiculed as his colleague is eaten by the enraged fish; he joins the hunt for it and the shark in turn hunts him down."
Unofficial sequels and Rip-offs:
Many films based on man-eating animals, usually aquatic, were released through the 1970s and 1980s, such as: Grizzly, Orca, Nightwing, Alligator, Creature, Cruel Jaws, Day of the Animals, Eaten Alive, Up from the Depths, the Mexican Tintorera, the French-Italian Killer Fish and the Japanese Jaws in Japan. The betters of these are considered Piranha as a rip-off, and Great White (aka The Last Shark) as unofficial sequel.
Universal "devised and co-ordinated a highly innovative plan" for the first film's distribution and exhibition. The studio and publisher Bantam designed a logo which would appear on both the paperback and on all film advertising. "Both publisher and distributor recognized the mutual benefits that a joint promotion strategy would bring." Producers Zanuck and Brown toured six cities to promote the paperback and the film. Once the film was released, more merchandising was created, including shark-illustrated swimming towels and T-shirts, plastic shark fins for swimmers to wear, and shark-shaped inflatables for them to float on. The Ideal Toy Company produced a game where the player had to use a hook to fish out items from the shark's mouth before the jaws closed.
Jaws 2 inspired much more merchandising and sponsors than the first film. Products included sets of trading cards from Topps and Baker's bread, paper cups from Coca-Cola, beach towels, a souvenir program, shark tooth necklaces, coloring and activity books, and a model kit of Brody's truck. A novelization by Hank Searls, based on an earlier draft of the screenplay by Howard Sackler and Dorothy Tristan, was released, as well as Ray Loynd's The Jaws 2 Log, an account of the film's production.
There have been a number of video game releases based upon the franchise. The first, titled Jaws, was released for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in 1987. A same titled, but different Jaws game was released on the Atari ST and Commodore 64 in 1989.Jaws Unleashed, developed by Appaloosa Interactive, was released in 2006 for the PlayStation 2, Xbox and PC platforms. A game titled Jaws: Ultimate Predator was released on the Nintendo Wii and 3DS in 2011.
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license