Jaws (1975)

Genres - Thriller, Adventure  |   Sub-Genres - Creature Film, Sea Adventure, Natural Horror  |   Release Date - Aug 23, 2012 (USA - Rerelease)  |   Run Time - 124 min.  |   Countries - USA  |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Shooting on Martha's Vineyard with a mechanical shark dubbed "Bruce," 27-year-old Steven Spielberg wanted to shoot Jaws on the open water for as much terrifying realism as possible. Between rewrites of Robert Benchley's and Carl Gottlieb's script, the unruly ocean, and the glitch-laden shark, the shoot went way over schedule and the budget ballooned to $10 million, leading everyone to believe that they had a B-movie disaster on their hands. However, Spielberg and editor Verna Fields turned the liability of an obviously fake Bruce into a potent source of fear by leaving the shark unseen until the final battle. Instead, swift cuts between swimmers above the surface and underwater shark's-eye views of helplessly dangling legs, combined with John Williams's pounding score, create a relentless atmosphere of primal horror. With an ad image of a giant shark aiming for a tiny female, Universal Studios aggressively marketed Jaws as a thrilling "event," especially in primetime spots on TV, a then seldom-used advertising venue for movies. Bucking the old practice of using wide releases for stinkers, Universal opened the heavily-anticipated film in over 400 theaters in June 1975, and it shattered box office records. Tapping into an abiding dread of the unknown, made scarier by the reality of Great White sharks and corrupt bureaucrats as well as by Spielberg's effective orchestration of excitement, Jaws became the first film ever to return over $100 million to its studio. Producers David Brown and Richard D. Zanuck received a Best Picture Oscar nomination, but wunderkind Spielberg was passed over for Best Director. The film's technical achievements were rewarded with Oscars for Editing, Sound, and Score. With the lines at the box office, the proliferation of Jaws products, and a rash of reported shark attacks, Jaws became a cultural phenomenon and the first bona fide summer event movie, leading the thrill-packed and profitable way for summers to come.