It has been forty years since Mary and I viewed a movie that would change film history. As the movie began, college kids were having a party on the beach, complete with a bon-fire and music. Before long two of the partiers decided to escape to a lonely stretch of darkened beach for a moonlight swim. The seemingly inviting waters of the Atlantic were bathed in the blueness of the summer night. The young lady, Chrissie, quickly stripped down to her birthday suit and dove into the empty ocean. She called to her friend, inviting him to join her as she swam to the nearby channel marker.
Suddenly, Chrissie realizes something was nibbling on her big toe, then her foot and finally her leg. Well, I don’t have to tell you what came next. Poor Chrissie became a midnight snack for a squalis. You know a Carcharodon Carcharias. Oh, alright – A GREAT WHITE SHARK! By now you realize I am talking about 1975 summer movie hit, Jaws.
After seeing the movie, people felt like we lived on an island; surrounded by people eating sharks, (politically correct term) you know I really mean, man eating sharks. I realize, we live on the North America continent, but, if you look at globe you will see the North and South American continents are surrounded by water. That means we do live on an island, a real big island and it is surrounded by sharks. After Jaws came out, no matter where you lived, if it was near salty water, the possibility of a hungry shark was on people’s minds. Tourists that flocked to the ocean for a summer vacation did not go into the water in fear of ending up like poor Chrissie.
Those who watched the film were so frighten because the shark was not seen for much of the first half of the movie. Chrissie met her end on screen as she was being pulled around like a bobbin on a fishing line. Fish first taste the bait. Next, they take a sample bite. Finally the fish decides it is time for the main course. Chrissie was the main course. As the last bubbles of her life drifted to the surface, audience screams were replaced by the sound of the channel bell clanging. Chrissie was gone beneath the waves. Not a glimmer of what had taken her into the empty ocean.
The next time you realize the shark is near is when a poor unsuspecting dog playing in the surf suddenly disappears. Now, I think feeding a dog to the shark is just downright cruel. The poor dog did not even get his name in the credits at the end. He did not even get his big death scene played out on the theater screen. The only thing you see is his owner calling for his poor lost dog as his play toy floats to shore.
Finally audiences are rewarded with a hint of what lurks below the waves as he takes his next victim. If you weren’t hiding your eyes you saw a tiny bit of something in the surf as a young boy is eaten. The oceans waves where the victim, just moments before was playing is now filled with blood. A few squeamish audience members moved toward the lobby at this point in the film. The still unseen monster has once again taken his meal and left the scene without so much as a single toothy grin for the camera. Those watching the film are left with a bite mark in the deflated raft. In less than an hour, the unseen predator has devoured two swimmers and a dog name Pippin. Three dead and still the evil monster had not appeared on screen.
Oh yea, don’t forget Ben Gardener, his damaged boat is found drifting in the ocean at night. Richard Dreyfuss’ character dives into the dark waters to investigate and find a large tooth stuck in Ben’s boat. Suddenly Ben’s head pops out of a darken hole in the boats bottom. It scares the daylights out of Dreyfuss and he drops the tooth. I’m not real sure why the shark killed old Ben, but he took only one of his eyes for supper, must be a shark thing.
Director Steven Spielberg used a page out of an old Hitchcock movie. He allows the audience to create the fear in their minds. In a darken theater with only the sights and sounds on the big screen, surrounded by screaming people, it was not hard to imagine the worst.
Spielberg found movie magic that entertains and frightens people at the same time. With hands covering eyes, people could not help but to peek between their fingers to see what happens next. Movies with sharks were made before Jaws and several afterwards, but none came close to the real fear people experienced with this movie.
If the first few notes of the Jaws theme song were to be played anywhere in the world, people would know what movie it came from instantly. Over the years the music has been used to produce a since of impending fear and dread. It is one of the most recognized music scores in movie history.
Since the movie’s 1975 release, sharks have been killed at an ever increasing rate in the world’s oceans. It is estimated that one hundred million are killed annually. These natural predators have been part of the oceans delicate balance for millions of years. Each summer season on average 16 people are injured by sharks while spending time in the ocean. Fortunately deaths from shark injuries are rare. This summer has seen an increase in attacks along the Atlantic coast. Scientists are trying to answer the question, why. Perhaps sharks remember the anniversary of the movie too.
Fifty to one hundred people die each year from bee stings. Go onto any beach and call out, BEE! Most likely only a few people will take notice. But, if you were to call out, SHARK! I highly recommend you don’t, I guarantee you will get people’s attention very quickly. They will be scared and they won’t be happy. Jaws, the movie helped to instill this fear into our lives forty years ago.
If you are like me you may be planning a trip to the beach this summer. When you venture into the ocean, remember what happened to poor Chrissie. Her movie fate probably won’t keep you out of the ocean, but you may think about her if something brushes across your foot in the surf. For me, I won’t give sharks a second thought. That is, unless I see a shadow beneath the waves as I hear the theme song from Jaws. Then I’m heading for the dry beach and tell myself, it was only a movie, I watched 40 years ago Through the Lens.