Five Things You May Not Have Known about JAWS– on its 37th Birthday!

Even if you’ve never seen this classic 1975 thriller, odds are you’d recognize (and fear) John Williams’ suspenseful Jaws score after the first two notes. DA DUM (DA DUM…DA DUM…DA DUM…etc.). Sound familiar?

Often rated as one of the greatest films of all time, Jaws is in a large part so effectively terrifying for what it doesn’t show. For most of the movie it’s just the ominous aforementioned music and some clever camera work that lets you know danger is near. When we do finally see the shark, it’s unexpected and jump-out-of-your-seat alarming. Do you remember this scene when Jaws first appears in all his toothy glory?

In honor of the nationwide release date 37 years ago today, here are a few bite-sized Jaws tidbits you may not have known:

  1. Jaws the film is based on Peter Benchley’s novel of the same name. The producers thought the manuscript was so exciting that they bought the movie rights before the book was even published.
  2. The mechanical sharks used for filming were so troublesome that the film went way over budget, and frustrated director Stephen Spielberg was forced to hint at Jaws’ presence with music, camera angles, and a fin for most of the film.
  3. Jaws and its obsessed shark-hunter Quint are often compared to Herman Melville’s Moby Dick and the vengeance-bent Captain Ahab. In an early version of the screenplay, Quint is actually shown watching the film version of Moby Dick.
  4. Jaws was the highest grossing movie of all time until Star Wars surpassed it in 1978.
  5. There are three sequels to Jaws, although none achieved the accolades of the original (and none of the sequels were directed by Spielberg) – Jaws 2 (1978), Jaws 3-D (1983), and Jaws: The Revenge (1987).

Do you remember seeing Jaws for the first time? Did it make you think twice before heading into the ocean?

— Kate

Top 5 Summer Blockbusters of the Past

With the temperatures consistently going into the triple digits for about half the nation and the theatrical release of Cowboys & Aliens, Harry Potter and Captain America now behind us, it’s obvious we are in the middle of the summer movie season. So, what makes a great summer movie besides getting out of the heat and the usual soda and bag of gummies? To me, summer movies have been about having a good time through loud explosions, funny moments and too many special effects to count. Here are my Top 5 Summer Blockbusters of the Past:

1. The Granddaddy of them all. The film that taught us “Don’t go in the water,” Jaws (1975). This really is the one that started opening-weekend blockbusters. Hollywood changed their thinking – instead of releasing limited prints of the film and going from city to city, they flooded the country with the film, creating lines around the block, box-office records and the first-ever “summer blockbuster.” On top of that, it is a truly remarkable film. Maybe I am showing my age here, but I remember when and where I first saw Jaws at the theater. Unfortunately, I also remember the nightmares of white teeth and refusing to swim at the Motel 6 swimming pool while on a family vacation. Robert Shaw gives a terrific performance and should have received an Oscar nomination for his “Indianapolis” speech alone. Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, Lorraine Gary and Murray Hamilton – all spot on with their performances. Can’t recommend this film enough – it is as near perfect a movie as they come.

2. The runner up, from a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away… Star Wars (1977). What person my age didn’t see Star Wars a dozen times every time it came to town? Watching it again brings back memories of camping out all day with my brother just to be the first to get tickets. Maybe the older generation had the same rush of excitement seeing The Wizard of Oz (1939) for the first time (who knows?), but to kids in grade school at the time, Star Wars was pure magic. From the thundering opening credits to the final credits, as the type disappears in space, Star Wars took us all over the galaxy in this classic good versus evil movie. With the current day use of Droid phones, it is hard to deny that Star Wars is a piece of Americana.

3. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). I guess we should just refer to Mr Spielberg as Mr. Summer Blockbuster. There may not be any more recognizable character than Indiana Jones: Harrison Ford, sporting his fedora and leather jacket cracking his iconic whip. This film is pure entertainment – a great nonstop action movie with a fantastic story modeled after the cliffhanger serials.

4. An adventure 65 million years in the making: Jurassic Park (1993). I consider Jurassic Park one of the milestone movies for special effects. Just as Star Wars set the bar in the late 70s and Avatar a few years ago, Jurassic Park did the same for its time. Some really great work from Industrial Light and Magic integrating CG and live action. Great summer fun.

5. The Dark Knight (2008). After the success of Batman Begins (2005), director Christopher Nolan gets very dark and sinister with this sequel. This film was going to be a box office smash anyway, but the untimely death of Heath Ledger had the masses buying tickets in droves. What makes this one great is that between the car chases and crazy stunts, there is a well crafted story with all involved giving very good performances – and in Heath Ledger’s case, a truly great performance, earning him the Best Supporting Actor Oscar.

An honorable mention: Independence Day (1996) which had everything you would want for the summer – cities being reduced to a pile of rubble and plenty of entertaining visuals. Unfortunately, it also had every cliché character all packed in one film.

But hey, these are only my opinions. What are some of your favorite summer blockbusters of the past? Whatever you watch this summer, just remember, no talking or texting during the feature presentation.

— Jim

Top 10 Summertime Movie Classics

Whether it’s a vacay for the whole family, taking a long holiday overseas, enjoying the sunshine at the beach, or off to summer camp for the kids, summer is a time for new adventures and a break from the old routine. And in the spirit of summer, here’s a top ten list to consider for a fun movie night with friends and family, my Top 10 Summertime Movie Classics.

1. Roman Holiday (1953). One of my all-time favorite Audrey Hepburn movies, and the only one that earned her an Oscar. Hepburn is a princess who, on the Roman leg of her European capitals tour, rebelliously sneaks away from her entourage and sets off on her own. She is discovered by an American reporter (Gregory Peck), who is thrilled that he can get the inside scoop on the runaway princess. A charming romance, of course, ensues. Rome often looks beautiful in the movies, and this film is no exception. See the sights like a tourist through this classic film. Perhaps for a moment you’ll feel like you’re vacationing abroad, zipping through the streets of Rome on a Vespa.

2. Dirty Dancing (1987). A sensational summertime movie. Baby (Jennifer Grey) goes up to the Kellerma’s resort in the Catskills with her parents (Jerry Orbach, Kelly Bishop) and older sister (Jane Brucker) and falls in love with the dance instructor (Patrick Swayze). Well known not only for its music and choreography, but also for famous lines like, “Nobody puts Baby in the corner.” The big final dance scene sends an epic farewell to summer vacation at the end.

3. Jaws (1975). This movie put Steven Spielberg on the map, scared a whole generation out of the water, and changed the way the general public thinks about sharks. It spawned classic lines like, “We’re gonna need a bigger boat” and “Shaark!” Incidentally, this movie also spawned sequel-itis. While the shark obviously looks fake now, the movie still holds up in terms of its look and feel, and may keep you off the beach for a while after viewing it.

4. The Parent Trap (1961). Hayley Mills plays twins who, unbeknownst to their divorced parents, meet at a summer camp. Products of single parent households, they switch places in order to meet the parent they never knew, and then conspire to reunite them (Maureen O’Hara, Brian Keith). In its made-for-tv movie sequel Parent Trap 2 (1986), Mary and Nicki are best friends who want their unsuspecting single parents to marry. Nicki’s mother Sharon (Hayley Mills) wants to move to New York City. With the help of Sharon’s twin sister Susan (Hayley Mills), the girls try to get their parents together. The Parent Trap (1998, remake) updates the tale with identical twins Hallie Parker and Annie James (Lindsay Lohan), who were separated at birth when their parents divorced. After the two meet at summer camp, they begin plotting to reunite their estranged parents (Dennis Quaid, Natasha Richardson).

5. Grease (1978). Good girl Sandy (Olivia Newton-John) and greaser Danny (John Travolta) fell in love over the summer. But when they unexpectedly discover they’re now in the same high school, will they be able to rekindle their romance? A musical melodrama ensues at Rydell High.

6. Summertime (1955). Jane (Katharine Hepburn), a lonely secretary on her dream vacation in Venice, Italy (filmed entirely on location), finds unexpected romance at an outdoor café, where she falls in love with an antique dealer Renato de Rossi (Rossano Brazzi). Hepburn was nominated for an Oscar for this leading role.

7. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986). The tale of a boy (Matthew Broderick) who decides to take a day off. He first recruits his best friend Cameron (Alan Ruck), and the two of them, along with Cameron’s father’s Ferrari, go to get the last member of the trio, Ferris’ girlfriend Sloane (Mia Sara). To get her out of school, they have to fake a death in the family and stage a very convincing escape. The three of them proceed to have the best day off ever.

8. The Seven Year Itch (1955). A professional book reader for a publishing company, Richard Sherman (Tom Ewell), must endure the dog days of a New York summer alone while his wife and son are away in the country for the summer. To pass the lonely hours, the overly-imaginative book reader fantasizes about a young model (Marilyn Monroe) who is lodging temporarily in the apartment upstairs.

9. Forrest Gump (1994). The story follows the life of Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks) and the love of his life, Jenny (Robin Wright). The film chronicles his accidental experiences with some of the most important people and events in America from the late 1950s through the 1970s, including a meeting with Elvis Presley, JFK, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, John Lennon and many more famous faces. It carries a feeling of summer love that suits the season.

10. Rear Window (1954). The scorching summer heat plays a catalyst for the story that unfolds. Thanks to a broken leg, wheelchair-bound photographer (Jimmy Stewart) spies on his neighbors from his apartment window to pass the time, and becomes convinced one of them has committed murder. Eventually, he ropes his girlfriend Lisa (Grace Kelly) and nurse Stella (Thelma Ritter) into snooping with him. It’s an essential must-see Hitchcock film and among my personal favorites.

So let’s have it… What’s your favorite flick to watch during the summer?

Meredith is Associate Creative Director at Half Price Books Corporate.
You can follow her on Twitter at @msquare21.