JAWS

Just when you thought it was save to go back in the water was the tagline for one of the best water movies ever made:  “Jaws” thrilled, delighted and scared audiences across the country in the summer of 1975. Playing to packed, standing room only crowds this landbreaking movie became so popular it was the first film in history to clear the 100 million dollar mark and forever changed the way we look at swimming in the ocean.

But it didn’t start out that way. Jaws was based on the bestseller by the same name by Peter Benchley and expectations were high when filming began at Martha’s Vineyard in the spring of 1974. Universal was eager for a hit  but it was apparent from the start that things weren’t working out, they weren’t working out at all.

Few films are shot in open water. It can become a logistics nightmare and that is just what happened here.  Bruce, a 25 foot mechanical shark and “star” of the movie was a let down as it kept breaking down in the salty water and causing numerous delays in production.

And it was a nightmare for Steven Spielberg, a then 26-year-old fresh face on the scene. He was untried as he took over as director after the first one dropped out and it was soon clear to him why.

Besides the endless delays due to Bruce, the shark, ( Interestingly named after Spielberg’s lawyer) and the unpredictable Atlantic weather, there was an ever evolving script due to rewrites on top of rewrites. This was all adding up.

Filming was taking longer than expected. The actors soon grew restless and some even became ill as the demands of filming in the open sea started to take their toll on the human principles as well as the mechanical ones.

Everyone was exhausted and bereft of hope as production finally ceased that autumn. A shoot that was supposed to take 10 weeks had ended up taking 23 and was massively over budget to boot.

It just goes to show that you never can tell how something will work out in the end. I suppose they were all surprised when the film became so popular that summer. I remember all the hype at the time and how a mechanical shark, a budding great director and the public’s imagination can set box office records.

famous poster

famous poster (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So what happened?  Why was a film so wrought with difficulties in its creation become so successful?  Most credit the brilliant score by John Williams.  The  theme song  dedicated to the shark and the skilled editing by Vera Fields.  These factors contributed a great deal to the film’s success as did Bruce the shark himself.  It has been said that the mechanical shark’s many breakdowns forced Spielberg to only include it at the end and that led to the suspense of the movie.

Jaws is a character study of three men and their collective shark obsession:

 Chief Brody the local cop, played by Roy Scheider, a man  who’s afraid of water but is bound to duty and to the safety of the people of Amity. Hooper, A privileged shark expert portrayed by Richard Dreyfuss and Quint, the salty shark hater brilliantly performed by Robert Shaw.

These three men are brought together by fate and bound together by the need to hunt down that shark, whatever it takes…

…and it ends up taking a lot.  If you haven’t already, watch this film and find out what happens in the end and if you have seen this film, experience it again and remember why it was so good the first time.

Damn good movie

Marc Marrs

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The Day of the Ultimate Tourist

The Day the Earth Stood Still

The Day the Earth Stood Still (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“The Day The Earth Stood Still” was a landmark film directed by the versatile Robert Wise that was released along with the cold war, McCarthyism and the Korean conflict.  Told from a tourist point of view there is a deeply ingrained sense of country that’s tied to monuments and places in downtown Washington D.C.

This film vibrates with life; The sights, the sounds of the early 1950’S.  A time capsule with a message reflecting the tenor and times of a war-weary populace.

This movie scored by Bernard Herrmann uses a theremin which gives the eerie shimmering quality that holds the film up.  This film is so tied up with the music it is hard to think of one without the other.  Few movies have those bragging rights.

Shot in black and white it gives the shadows and shades of a deeper fear that only the best cinematography could convey.

Associated with science it awakens a deeper curiosity about what we were afraid to ask.  This nightmarish quality from the deeper recesses of our being is mainly considering the continuing survival of the planet Earth and the religious overtones of a visitor named Carpenter who was brought back to life with a message to save us all that is still very relevent today.

Klaatu Barada Nikto!

Gort (The Day the Earth Stood Still)

Gort (The Day the Earth Stood Still) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Marc Marrs

 ♦    http://www.moviemadnessvideo.com/  (The best independent video store in the world)

The Bridge on the River Kwai

The Bridge on the River Kwai

The Bridge on the River Kwai (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Bridge On The River Kwai is considered to be one of the finest movies to come out the fifties.

When I think about this particular film one of the first things that comes to my mind is the theme in music and script.  It somehow captures the feeling and meaning of this movie’s message. It means different things to different people.

For some reason a lot of folks got emotional about this film. My father got choked up whenever the movie was mentioned.  “Yes, The Bridge”  he would sigh and at that point the conversation was over, at least for him. It was an emotional thing. It was as if he had made the movie himself.  And he wasn’t the only one overly involved with it.

When this film was released in 1957 it was an instant hit and eventually it became a staple at drive-in movies for years to come. This became the first big screen summer escape.

A good story has that extra boost when there needs to be something done, something built or just a purpose that people will remember.  This bridge has all three.

A Frenchman wrote it, The British produced it and David Lean directed it. With such dedication while the film was being shot in Ceylon, an island off the southern coast of India, the director’s wife divorced him on the grounds of desertion during the extended shoot.

This film is about  psychological warfare between two colonels in a Japanese prisoner of war camp during WWII. There was no guard towers or barbed wire, the jungle was enough.  One the commander, the other a prisoner.  They have one thing in common though, building a bridge over the river Kwai.  For the English the task can and will be to  improve morale under Colonel Nicholson’s single-minded leadership.  For the Japanese, it is a do or die project. The bridge must be completed on time or else.

As it progresses this film turns into a heart of darkness involving a reluctant American hero in the form of an escaped prisoner and a crack team of british professionals determined to complete their mission:   Timing is everything, especially in this case.

There is a reason why this film garnered seven of the top Oscars in the following spring. The cinematography is the some of the best I have ever seen. It is well paced and the tension never quite lets up.   More than anything else it is about our highest aspirations and deepest intentions. Danger abounds. Simply spectacular entertainment.

Madness! Madness!

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A scene in the film, bridge at Kitulgala in Sr...

A scene in the film, bridge at Kitulgala in Sri Lanka, before the explosion (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Marc Marrs

Alien

Alien (film)

Image via Wikipedia

This is this first terror movie in my memory that disguised itself as Science Fiction. When this film debuted in the late summer of 1979 the caption catch phrase was:

In space no one can hear you scream.

And in theatres across the country,  no one could hear you shivering either.  This movie is cold, ice-cold and full of lots of hardware. Very few films wake themselves up but this one does.

The movie begins with darkness in deep space and a troubling call to Mother. It’s time to wake the crew up. One switch at a time the mother ship comes to life. Its crew members are slowly emerging out of a deep sleep. There is a task to perform and they have to do it.

Soon they find themselves on a planet where once a race of giants lived. Now only the wreckage remains.  It is a literal nightmare.  The climate reminds me of that red spot on Jupiter  where hurricane winds and hostility prevails.  When they left that foresaken place they return to their ship bringing back with them a hidden menace.    At this point a sense of dread begins to permeate the film. There’s trouble afoot and bad news travels fast.

This all becomes apparent when seemingly all is well and then watch out! There’s a major eruption. I may never look at Spaghetti the same way again. That’s what happens when you dine on Chef Boyardee.  What a mess!

This spaceship western ticks out like High Noon only with a gruesome monster picking off each crew member one by one.   Outwit, outplay and outlast in this ultimate survivor movie.

Next summer if the air conditioning breaks down watch this and chill.

Lurking in the shadows

Lurking in the shadows (Photo credit: Alfred Hermida)

Marc Marrs

The Godfather

The Godfather

Image via Wikipedia

 To me “The Godfather” is like a buffet, something for everyone and it tastes great.  I can’t watch that film without eating. It would be a sacrilege to not have Italian food while watching this first rate  film.  It is a movie which promotes a zesty atmosphere, so much so that I threw an Italian Gangster potluck party complete with a paper mache horse’s head on my bed. The flyer suggested “Lavish Attire” and asked the participants to bring Italian cuisine. It was a smash.

 The Godfather is the kind of movie that I enjoy watching every couple of years. It is timeless and it tells a story that says “Without one’s family life is worthless.”  That’s loyalty for you.  “My Three Sons.”

 “I believe in America.” It is the first line of one of the greatest films in the history of American cinema.  “The Godfather” released in the spring of 1972 was eagerly anticipated. No one was quite sure what Marlon Brando would look like in the role of the Don.  He had never played an Italian before on film. The book, a best-seller by Mario Puzo was extremely popular at the time and everyone had their own idea on who  should play the characters.

Brando as Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather (...

Image via Wikipedia

Finding out, I was surprised and disappointed. What did I know?  With the exception of Brando, who were these people? For some weird reason I had envisioned a young Tony Curtis type for the role of Michael.  Who in the hell was Al Pacino?  I was suspicious. All my fears were assuaged after sitting down during the first 20 minutes.

The characters are introduced in the beginning at a garden party. It is the last Saturday in September of 1945 and America is ablaze with hope.  The other two Godfather films introduce their main characters in similar fashion; at the beginning at a party. It is his daughter Connie’s wedding day and according to tradition people line up to ask favors from the mighty. So the Don spends a good part of that day granting wishes in his office.  Can’t he just get a day off?  He’s looking for peace, but life is just one damn thing after another.  “If you don’t mind, I’d like to go to my daughter’s Wedding.”

My favorite part of the movie was Michael and Kay leaving the film :”The Bells of St. Mary’s” and Michael realising that his father had been shot.  The camera follows Kay’s reaction before Michael knows. it’s much as though JFK is coming from behind the Stemonds Freeway sign. At that moment the film changes its tone. Michael is now involved and that involvement will lead him to rule. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Or does it?  Watch the movie and find out and if you already know, watch it anyway.  It’s a movie you can’t refuse.

Always

Marc Marrs