Excellent and very detailed documentary on the making of a classic. Filled with appealing trivia, exhaustive interviews with cast and crew members, and never before seen footage.Written by
Marco Rambaldi <email@example.com>
The original cut of this documentary (clocking in at 125 minutes) is featured on the 1995 Laserdisc and the 2-disc 2005 '30th Anniversary' DVD for Jaws (1975). See more »
The version that was on the first "Jaws" DVD (released in 2000) was shortened as follows:
A brief discussion of shooting the underwater opening POV shots, only to discover that the filmmakers had in fact 20 minutes of very visible "beaver" shots of actress Susan Backlinie that had to be darkened to hide the naughty bits.
Spielberg's explanation of two scenes exclusive to the draft of the script that he wrote himself, neither of which made it to the screen: The first is a different introduction to the Quint with the grizzled fisherman watching Moby Dick at the local theater and laughing out loud at the absurdity of it all. One of the reasons that it never made it to film was Gregory Peck's refusal to let the filmmaker use the footage because he wasn't that proud of it. The other abandoned scene was to have the harbor master watching Don't Go Near the Water while in window behind him, we would see the masts of lined up boats begin to wave back and forth one after another to indicate that the shark was swimming directly underneath them. This scene, when it was deemed too difficult to shoot technically, was replaced by the "roast on a hook" scene that does appear in the film.
There are wonderful stories about the late Robert Shaw and his seriously competitive, but ultimately professional, nature that are missing in the new version. A story is told of a day when Shaw was extremely ill on the set and barely had enough energy to get out the line, "Hooper you idiot, ain't you watchin' where you're going?" and pretty much collapsing as soon as Spielberg yelled cut. Richard Dreyfuss also talks at length of his competitive nature and how they didn't always get along on set...
The "Discovery of Chrissie" scene and the hand that is shown is a topic of discussion with the film's effects crew creating what would have been appropriate looking from a realistic standpoint but an effect that Spielberg just thought looked fake. He opted to simply shoot someone's real hand sticking out of the ground because it looked better to him. Not more accurate, just better. At one point, Spielberg headed to the producer's office to quit as director. Knowing that the director was about to give up the ship, producers David Brown and Richard Zanuck quickly threw on JAWS T-shirts before his arrival and abruptly interrupted him when he entered with praise of how great a job Spielberg was doing on the film.
Spielberg talks about the test screenings that were held and goes into more detail about reshooting the Ben Gardner head in the boat scene. He discloses various ways that the shot was altered and the deciding factor in the used shot. After telling how that first scream with the new shot was now louder than the scream they got in the first test screening when the shark first appears out of the water, that shark appearance only received half the scream that they got at their first screening. Spielberg reasons that the audience didn't trust him after the first jolt and were ready for something to happen when the second scream came around.
The end of the film differed from the book with the shark simply getting caught up in cables and drowning. Spielberg changed the ending to get the audience on its feet cheering. Author Peter Benchley disagreed with the decision though and told the director that it was a preposterous end that simply wouldn't happen. Missing here is a short admission by the author that Spielberg was absolutely correct in his decision to change the ending.
An entire section on the rating of JAWS is missing that involves the film's original R rating. The producers argued that the violence was nature and that impressionable children were not going to run out after the movie and imitate the behavior of the shark. A few frames of the severed leg did have to be removed though in order to secure the PG rating that the film eventually got. (The "30th Anniversary Edition" DVD, released in 2005, in the documentary's uncut version.)
almost everything you always wanted to know about Jaws (but didn't think to ask)
Ever watch Jaws and think 'man, I can't believe how they build suspense with showing so little of the shark in the first third of the movie', or 'I wonder how John Williams got the theme that's so bad-ass', or 'was Robert Shaw really drunk as he looked?' These and more are answered in the most in-depth documentary done yet on the making of the seminal Spielberg blockbuster, the one that "changed movies" just by the sheer amount of money it made, but also how it was marketed, and what it intended for a mass audience (what isn't discussed so much is how it was basically an 'A' 'B' movie, that is with a lot of the hallmarks of what one might find in a Roger Corman movie, but with, you know, better actors, a better director and sharper writing, but I digress).
Everything from Peter Benchley's origins with the book, to how quickly the rights were picked up, and then on to the physical production (Spielberg's script changes, the casting, the shark - oh, that darn Bruce - and filming on Martha's Vinyard), and of course through the production problems incurred not just due to the shark (that is, it didn't work like 75% of the time) but that shooting out at sea means a lot of waiting and natural problems. It's all covered; I would think this would be the next best thing if one decided to fore-go the also seminal 'Jaws Log' by writer Carl Gottlieb, which also chronicles the making of the film but from a more insider perspective.
The plus side to this doc from what I imagine is covered in the Gottleib book is that it gives so many voices to what went on, from little things like how the sign they had on the island (the one that says 'Welcome to Amity' and is then defaced as a sharp joke) was not originally there and had to be taken down after one day, to big things like the origin of the greatest scene in the picture, the Indianapolis monologue. It's more like an oral history which, at two hours (that I only finally got to really sink my teeth into, no pun intended, with the Jaws blu-ray recently released), gives enough voice to what was difficult about making the film, but also the happy surprises, such as the camaraderie that happened on set, and the improvisation that came from so much down time as to focus more on the characters and relationships.
So if you want to know it all, from Spielberg's panic attacks to a funny-horrifying tale of the 'little' stunt double in the cage in the water, this is the one to check out. For a film freak like me it's like a bag of chips I don't want to stop eating. For the casual movie-watcher, it's full of facts that will either keep you enthralled, or, if not, the movie's still on the disc!
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