March 22, 2023

By Ahmet Abdulaziz….

47 years ago, on 20th June 1975, “JAWS” had emerged as one of the most sensational films of all time. The film generated  472 million dollars at the box office, which remained a record till the screening of “Star Wars” two years later. “Jaws” however still a film worthy of watching, on our television screens, at home.

But things were somewhat different in those days. “JAWS” was the first major motion picture that was shot on the somewhat unknown topic of “killer sharks”. Though in past incidents of sharks attacking humans, had been recorded, but never before this issue was taken so seriously, till first Peter Benchley wrote a novel in 1974, and secondly, the same novel became the base to be filmed with the name “JAWS”. In the post “Jaws”, for quite some time, authorities the world over had to work hard letting the tourists overcome the “sharkfobia”.

The very reason for the “sharkfobia” during that time, was nothing but “JAWS”, which had for the first time shown the people the world over, how dangerous the sharks could be. The very emergence of “sharkfobia” speaks of the high quality of the film, which had successfully created a particular impact on the minds of the moviegoers. The credit for all this goes to none else but Steven Spielberg, the film director.

Steven Spielberg did have made some films earlier too, but there are no two opinions about the fact that “JAWS” brought him into the limelight. That was the turning point of his life. The post “JAWS” era installed Spielberg as the “maker of the top class movies”. “Raiders of the Lost Arc”, “Jurassic Park”, “Saving Private Ryan”, Shindler’s List”, and “The Terminal”, are some of his best works.

Initially, it was a big gamble that the producers had played. Under very difficult conditions, they managed to bring out the best. I recently came to know about (of course through the internet) some very interesting things related to the filming of this particular film.

  1. Everyone remembers the iconic poster of the film, showing a girl swimming and a massive shark about to attack her from below. This, in fact, was based on an illustration drawn for the paperback edition of the novel. The artist had sketched the swimming woman from a model, whom the artist had asked her to perch on a stool, pretending swimming. The illustration was later on used as a poster for the film.
  2. People had generally thought that the film was picturised on the New England island. But in fact, while they were searching for the perfect place to shoot, around Nantucket Island, the stormy weather had turned their ferry towards Martha’s island, which ultimately became the location for the film.
  3. As we all know an artificial shark was used in the film. So once the artificial shark was complete, Steven Spielberg invited some of his friends from Hollywood, to show it. George Lucas, one of the guests, playfully put his head inside the mouth of the shark. By way of a joke, Spielberg and his friends used the control and clamped his head. But the joke took a serious turn, when the controls of the mechanical shark got stuck, with a head of Lucas still clamped in the jaws of the fish. Luckily they managed to overcome the problem and got his head released from the mouth of the shark. Thus he was perhaps the only person who had physically experienced the horror of being inside the jaw of a shark.
  4. As part of the script, the film was required to show the shark caught ultimately. For that, they did need a real dead shark. So they managed with great difficulty to have a real shark caught around Florida. The dead body of the shark had started giving a foul smell and by the time it was brought from Florida to the film location at the Martha’s Vineyard. By the time the fish was hung up for the scene, there had been an unbearable foul smell coming out of the flesh. But the actors did not have any other option but to work with that stinking dead shark.
  5. The scene of the first shark attack in the film stunned many, due to its excellent presentation. The shark had attacked the girl and dragged her back and forth in the water. Spielberg had managed to picturise the real facial expression, of Susan Backlinie, by using the underwater cables to literally drag her through the water. Interestingly Spielberg had not told the actress at what moment the jerking would begin. Thus the surprised facial expression on her face, as shown in the film was in fact real.
  6. The shark was camera shy, since the first appearance of the great white shark, first appear on the screen after the lapse of one hour and 21 minutes of the two-hour movie.

In fact, every production does have many off the scene unforgettable incidents. The same was with “JAWS” also, which are still being quoted, even after the expiry of 47 years. This in fact speaks for the quality of the film.

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