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Jaws

Year: 1975
Production Co: Zanuck/Brown Productions
Studio: Universal
Director: Steven Spielberg
Producer: Richard D Zanuck/David Brown
Writer: Carl Gottlieb/Peter Benchley
Cast: Roy Schieder, Richard Dreyfuss, Robert Shaw, Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton
When one sits down to review a film like Jaws, what can one possibly say about it that hasn't been said a million times before?

How many critics, bloggers and random thinkers haven't been astounded by the mastery of emotional manipulation, the most iconic piece of music in cinema history, the acres of coverage about how it changed the way films are made and marketed, the beautiful simplicity and staggering irresponsibility of the idea - single handedly giving the ocean a reputation it didn't deserve among an entire generation?

Instead, I'll mention an aspect I haven't seen as much written about. With Star Wars, Jaws effortlessly stands the test of time. Why? Watching Star Wars thirty years later is as fresh an experience as it was the first time you saw it on a cinema screen. The science fiction genre is one fraught with the spectre of dating too fast as once-cool technologies quickly become clunky, passé and embarrassing. Lucas avoided it by planting the fashions, machinery and mythology outside our own time and culture so they never get older.

Likewise, Spielberg dressed his characters in a very generic way. Apart from Mayor Vaughan's huge lapels and sideburns, the clothes, hair, language and backgrounds are unmistakably the seventies but they don't wear it proudly on their sleeves. The odd 'time-anchor' is easily overlooked and we can just concentrate on the characters.

By all accounts the industry standard monster movie shouldn't have been made, the result of so many happy accidents and quick fixes. The now-stock standard practice of not showing the monster too early was the result of filming being underway without a rubber shark that worked, for one thing. The famous 'Ben Gardner' sequence was done in Spielberg's backyard pool when rough footage didn't produce enough screams. And in the pre-digital age, filming had to stop whenever a pleasure craft from nearby Martha's Vineyard cruised by in the background and ruined the illusion that the Orca was miles out to sea.

Barely greenlit by Universal, who told Spielberg to take all the effects and prop making off the lot and get them done himself, it's the movie that started The Movies as an institution in the lives of millions of kids, many of whom who grew up to work in the industry are forever trying to capture the same magic.

A giant shark menaces a summer holiday town. An unlikely alliance between a police chief, nerdy shark scientist and a pirate-like game fisherman forms to track the shark down and kill it. That's it - if you don't know any more, you not only have probably never been to the movies, you must also never have read a book, watched TV or been exposed to modern entertainment. To say it's the most famous movie ever made is to not even scratch the surface of its influence on popular culture.

It also marks something of a sad passing of many an old art form. Interviewed for the 30th anniversary DVD release in 2005, production designer and Bruce's creator Joe Alves said if they made it again nowadays 'they'd do the shark with CGI'.

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