Movie Feature: My First Bite Of Jaws
Words: Rory Cashin
It would be impossible for me to talk about my first time seeing "Jaws" without mentioning my Dad. As a kid, I looked up to my Dad. Literally. While he was a great Dad, he was also a 6’3 hulking brute of a man, who had been in the army for years, and had more than a passing resemblance to one Arnold Schwarzenegger. As a kid I slept soundly, never fearing the boogie man or whatever else might be under my bed, because I knew my Dad was in the next room. One year we were away on holidays and we were at the beach and we were all in the water… Except my Dad. I asked my Mum why he never got into the sea and she said three little words. "Because of Jaws." So this was what I had at the back of my mind the first time I watched it, that this was the thing that scared the biggest, strongest man I knew.
The movie came out eight years before I was born, so I first caught "Jaws" on TV at the age of eight or nine, following a long conversation by my parents as to whether or not I was old enough to watch it. At the time I obviously knew nothing of the movie’s production background, with the shooting schedule going from 52 to 155 days, or the surreptitiously malfunctioning mechanical shark which led to Spielberg having to use it less, accidentally amping up the "What you don’t see…" fear factor. And then there was the film’s ground-breaking cinema statistics; the first movie to be given a wide-release (409 theatres at the time was a lot, as opposed to, say, The Avengers' 4,349 screens today), or the first movie to ever make more than $100 million at the US box office, or that the word “blockbuster” was created entirely because of this movie. No, little eight or nine year old me was completely oblivious the first time I sat down and heard those two dreaded notes of imbued horror. Duuuuun Dun. Duuuuun Dun.
For its re-release, "Jaws" has been given a 12a-rating, for while there is some violence (not THAT much, mind you. Most of the damage is done upon sea life), there is barely a jot of bad language or sexy scenes. But just because “Jaws” can be seen by children, doesn’t necessarily mean it should. Like any good rollercoaster, if your child is of a nervous disposition, maybe bring them to the bumper cars. Or The Avengers.
But eight or nine year old me just ate it up. Yes, I was terrified. And that first viewing was probably 75% watched with my fingers over my eyes. From the opening attack on the frolicking couple, I was as hooked as that poor, wrongly convicted tiger shark. Police Chief Brody was just trying to protect the townspeople from an unseeable evil, and nobody would believe him. He was concerned for his wife and his kids and he was afraid of the water, too, so the beginning of Spielberg’s career-long motif of movies dealing with daddy issues struck a particular chord with me.
Continuing to watch for another hour, still watching behind my eyes behind a pillow behind the couch, as frightened as I was, I still couldn’t see what it was exactly that had frightened my Dad so much that he swore off all seas and oceans for life. And then it happened. If there’s anyone I know who hasn’t seen "Jaws", I demand to be in their company the first time they watch it so I can watch their reaction to this scene. I’m no longer looking at the movie, I’m looking at them looking at the movie, and then when it happens, I’m looking at them flinging a bowl of popcorn through the air and screaming as high pitched as their vocal chords will allow. The scene, of course, is the "Suddenly There’s A Head" scene.
Brody and Hooper are out at night and they find a guy’s half-sunk boat, and Hooper goes to investigate in his scuba gear. So off he pops with his air-tanks and his flashlight, and he soon finds a big gaping hole in the bottom of the boat. He pulls a tooth out of the hole, investigates a little bit more, and then SUDDENLY THERE’S A HEAD. It just pops out of the boat and fills the hole and one of its eyes are gone and Hooper screams underwater and drops the tooth (DAMN!) and swims away. In my living room, eight or nine year old me has just paled out and, like father like son, sworn off any future foray into any sea or ocean or body of water bigger than a bathtub.
As I grew older, the rest of the movie’s obvious greatness became apparent to me. While now I realise that the USS Indianapolis speech is amazing, eight or nine year old me wanted Quint to shut up and shoot the shark some more. And as I grew older, I was able to reintroduce myself to the seas and oceans, so my fear of sharks was short-lived. But my fear of decapitated, one-eyed heads popping up out of nowhere? That’s for life.
Story by entertainment.ie | 12:18 | Friday 8th June 2012 | Movie News
Love this, really sweet and funny. Reminds me of my first time watching Jaws, about 6 years old, munching on a ham sandwich, Jaws enters, ham sandwich is dropped and i'm in my bed within 2 minutes. My mother never lets me live it down. A genuine classic, no matter how many times i see it, it never gets old, it's aged so well. Also love Jaws 2, almost just as much, shame about the other two turkeys that murdered the Jaws franchise.Posted 13:33 | Fri 8th Jun 2012
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