Decades Blogathon – Jaws (1975)

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1975

It’s the penultimate day of the Decades Blogathon, hosted by myself and the immense Tom from Digital Shortbread. The blogathon focuses on movies that were released in the fifth year of the decade. Tom and I are running different entries each day; and this one comes from the man, the legend that is Eric from The IPC. For those who don’t know, Eric’s site is a true one-off, full of his ribald opinions on the world of film.

Jaws Poster

My dad took me to see this in the theater back when I was a kid and it scared so much shit out of me that I was afraid to take a bath for a month. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve taken a bath ever since. But, thinking about this… for this blogathon that ends in “5”…. my mom didn’t marry my dad until I was seven so that would have put me seeing this in 1978.

Jaws

The sperm donor that helped make me was an Easy Riding hippie that split on me and My Creator when I was three so the math doesn’t add up, but when I agreed to join this blogathon I understood there would be no math. Now that I think about it (I’ve had some cocktails) I think the theater we saw this in was one of those “two theater” jobs inside of a small shopping mall that showed new releases after market. Yes – I think that’s it and that makes sense! BOOM! I rule.

#thebestrememberer

Anyway, so I saw this back then and haven’t ever really watched this since. Not that I was still scared that I would shit myself but just never felt the need. Seen it – big shark, gotcha. Then, the lads announced this run and I wanted in and looked at some things from ’75 and thought – what a good time to look at this movie again. I’ve never seen any of the sequels and I’ve always liked Roy Scheider so – let’s do this thing! And I don’t mean Tom! SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO I watched this earlier today and…

Jaws

I LOVED IT! What a good movie! I mean – I lived in Southern California so I’ve been to that ride at Universal Studios and seen the shark robot a dozen times, but this movie was fantastic. I guess, now that I’m older I can appreciate thing like: Direction, Acting, Effects and what I like to call The Incidentals. I’m sure ALL of the people reading this piece know about this movie – a big shark is eating people and people are trying to kill the shark before it eats more people. And that’s what it is but…

I thought this movie was going pretty OK until they went full in with Robert Shaw. What a character! What an actor! Screw that little part at the community meeting at the local Ju-Co. This guy’s a stud! What a deal! Here’s an example of what I call The Incidentals:

Jaws

Brody and Hooper are working with Shaw, agreeing to his ridiculous demands. “Yes. Yes. Yes. You can have your caviar.” Brody agrees.

“‘ave some of thees whisky,” Shaw says, centered in the middle of the “rule of three” shot setting. “I made it myself and I quite leek it.”

To the left, Brody;  to the right, Hooper.

*Center shot: Shaw slugs his shot.

*Pan Right: Brody sips his, to the disappointment of Shaw who goes about his way, gathering rope.

While Shaw is upstairs in the loft, gathering his shit, Brody spits out his alcohol and talks to him about something or other. Out of curiosity, Hooper reaches for the shot glass. Absently, Brody allows him to take it and barely says “Don’t drink that” and starts talking to Shaw again. Hooper takes the shot, drinks it and does a shudder. Right then, while he’s talking to Shaw he glances at the grimacing Hopper, does a little point with his finger, smiles and does a little eyebrow raise before going back to Shaw.

Jaws

Was that in the script or was that something that just happened while they were filming? That was epic!

Anyway – this movie was fantastic! I loved it! I could probably have done without the scar comparing and what’s basically a musical number but other than that, excellente!

4 Cold, Dead Eyes out of 5

P.S. How in the world is this rated PG (in the U.S.)??? There was a fully naked woman, lots of blood and gore and people were smoking inside buildings!

Great Films You Need To See – Sorcerer (1977)

This is my latest contribution to The Big Picture, the internationally recognised magazine and website that offers an intelligent take on cinema, focussing on how film affects our lives. This piece about William Friedkin’s criminally underseen 1977 existentialist thriller Sorcerer was written as part of The Big Picture’s Lost Classics strand, although I am including it within my list of Great Films You Need To See.

Unwittingly foreshadowing the fate of its four displaced protagonists, William Friedkin’s existential follow-up to The Exorcist was doomed the moment a certain lightsaber-rattling space opera arrived in cinemas from a galaxy far, far away.

Still Friedkin's most enigmatic and idiosyncratic film, Sorcerer's bewitching spell deserves to be cast far more widely

Still Friedkin’s most enigmatic and idiosyncratic film, Sorcerer’s bewitching spell deserves to be cast far more widely

Sorcerer (1977) has been cited by some as the beginning of the end for the New Hollywood movement. However, a giant nail had been hammered into its coffin several weeks earlier with the release of George Lucas’ Star Wars.

In light of this new paradigm of droids, Death Stars and Darth Vader, it’s no great surprise the film bombed on its release and disappeared without trace. That said, Sorcerer was (and still is) one of the most unashamedly offbeat big budget films ever released and was always going to be a tough sell.

Mexican assassin Nilo (Francisco Rabal), Palestinian terrorist Kassem (Amidou), fraudulent French businessman Victor Manzon (Bruno Cremer) and New Jersey gangster Jackie Scanlon (Roy Schneider) weigh up their options in Sorcerer

Mexican assassin Nilo (Francisco Rabal), Palestinian terrorist Kassem (Amidou), fraudulent French businessman Victor Manzon (Bruno Cremer) and New Jersey gangster Jackie Scanlon (Roy Schneider) weigh up their options in Sorcerer

Although Friedkin insisted it wasn’t a remake of Henri-Georges Clouzot’s classic The Wages Of Fear, financiers Universal Studios and Paramount Pictures didn’t share the same opinion, changing its name to Wages Of Fear and re-editing the picture for international release.

The plot is certainly familiar. Four criminals – a Mexican assassin (Francisco Rabal), a Palestinian terrorist (Amidou), a fraudulent French businessman (Bruno Cremer) and a New Jersey gangster (Roy Schneider) – flee the scenes of their respective crimes and end up in a squalid Dominican Republic backwater working for a dodgy oil conglomerate. When one of the firm’s wells is blown up by ‘terrorists’, the desperate quartet sign-up to drive two truckloads of nitroglycerin across more than 200 miles of unforgiving jungle to put out the resulting blaze and pocket a big payday. The only problem is the dynamite is highly unstable and one false move could lead to an abruptly explosive end.

Getting ready for a dangerous trip in Sorcerer

Getting ready for a dangerous trip in Sorcerer

Friedkin has never been one to do things by half and employed the same guerilla style of filmmaking that won him an Oscar for The French Connection (1971) to down and dirty effect for what the director declares is the most important film of his career.

In his autobiography, The Friedkin Connection, he regales how scenes filmed in Jerusalem for the film’s globe-trotting first reel were given added authenticity by a real-life terrorist bombing that took place near to the shoot. In true Friedkin fashion, he made sure to train the cameras on the chaos that was ensuing rather than getting the hell out of there.

Crossing the most dilapidated bridge in the world in Sorcerer

Crossing the most dilapidated bridge in the world in Sorcerer

This is nothing, however, compared to what comes later in the film. Five years before Werner Herzog dragged a steam ship over a hillside in Fitzcarraldo (1982) in the name of art, Friedkin risked life and limb by having the trucks cross possibly the most dilapidated bridge in the world. The panic-inducing drama as the trucks swing violently back and forth over a raging torrent through almost Biblical levels of rain is almost unbearable to watch and is given extra power by Tangerine Dream’s nightmarish score.

Death and violence seep out of every frame and Friedkin takes an unholy pleasure in stripping hope away from his damned characters at every turn. The look of madness that creeps into Schneider’s eyes as their journey descends further into hell is startling and the hallucinogenic final reel is genuinely unsettling.

Still Friedkin’s most enigmatic and idiosyncratic film, Sorcerer‘s bewitching spell deserves to be cast far more widely.