Despite the shark, which even looked dodgy 30 years ago, Jaws was, is and always will be perfect. Steven Spielberg's second feature, made when he was just 26 years old, remains his leanest and meanest, its power to shock, thrill and unsettle undiminished. The first film to break $100 million at the US box office and a winner of four Oscars - - though none for direction or acting - - Jaws was more than the first modern blockbuster, it was a cultural phenomenon (people really did stay out of the water in the summer of 1975) that forever changed the way Hollywood viewed the summer season.
While 30 may seem an arbitrary anniversary to be trumpeting, any excuse to watch it again is fine by us. Jaws grabs you by the (metaphorical) goolies from the start - - when Susan Backlinie's Chrisse goes skinny-dipping only to end up as shark bait - - and doesn't let up. Famously forced to shoot around his mechanical shark due to technical problems with the beast, Spielberg had to rely on the old "what you don't see is more scary" maxim. The result made Jaws less of a monster movie and more a suspense thriller. In this regard, Spielberg was helped in no small measure by John Williams, whose ominous, primal score was, the director graciously contends, responsible for half the film's success. While Jaws is justifiably remembered for its big `boo' moments - - such as the Chief Brody chumming/shark rising/"bigger boat" gag - - Spielberg elevated it from its B-movie origins, proving as proficient in his domestic detailing (witness the beautifully played-out scene at the dinner table with Brody's son mirroring his actions) and character building (the legendary scar scene) as he was at masterminding the jumps in and out of the water.
Viewed with the benefit of hindsight, what differentiates Jaws from almost every other summer blockbuster since is the quality of its performances. Roy Scheider's fearful Chief Brody, Robert Shaw's grizzled fisherman Quint and Richard Dreyfuss' sardonic oceanographer Hooper lend the film its necessary humanity. Looking back through today's tinted glasses,it's a masterclass that should be attended more often by certain Noughties popcorn pedlars. Yes, Tim Story, we mean you.