Wednesday, April 29, 2009



I used to love that movie, it scared me off of anything I considered deep enough to hold water-life (read: anything that was more than knee deep, and I wouldn’t have been in the least surprised had a great white attacked me in a swimming pool; sure shocked but not surprised).
After reading Carl Gottlieb’s The Jaws Log the movie fell immediately from my best of list, hell it doesn’t appear much on any list anymore (the ‘Movies that really scared me’ list is one of the few still holding it).
The reason?
The fact that they’ve slain a real shark just to hang it on that damn pier. According to Gottlieb Fred Zendar and Teddy Grossman of Universal flew down to Florida and hired a bunch of sports fishers to hunt down a real shark, a tiger shark of 4.5m length to be exact, to be subsequently shipped on to Matha’s Vineyard.
I do not condone the slaying of animals for entertainment purposes; that’s barbaric, inhuman, just outright ethically wrong!

Still, I love that poster artwork. It’s a clever play on expectations and an instant reminder of one of movie history’s most shocking sequences:
the opening shark attack.
There are gorier scenes in the movie and it has moments that made me jump higher, but no other scene burned itself as thoroughly in my mind as this one; and it still doesn’t fail to scare me. There’s also a undeniable sexual component to the way this picture is build up, that even as a child you would pick up on, but for the main part, the part our mind instantly translates into a corresponding fear, it is about terror rising unseen from the depths to strike when we least expect it. You could put the twin towers on top and have Osama rise up to devour them; the metaphor would work much the same way (only the sexual component of the metaphor would change, considerably).

The movie became a huge success, and the poster motive became so iconic that still today you will see artists copying it, although mostly to use it as an analogy to the rise of Hollywood’s blockbuster system or more broadly to the aggressive nature of the capitalistic system in general. And back then, its influence on the market was such one that it became mandatory for every conceivable sea creature to attack rising from below like some kind of aquatic SS-20 preying on another nubile victim (not that the SS-20 was actually known for that kind of behaviour). Needless to say that none of them managed to capture the same sense of dread.

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