The classic ‘I’m Never Going in the Water Again’ story of a killer shark that has taken over the waters near a seaside community, and the three men who set out to kill it.
In the vastly overrated 1998 book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, author Peter Biskind puts the blame for Hollywood’s blockbuster mentality at least partially on Steven Spielberg’s box-office success with this adaptation of Peter Benchley’s bestselling novel. But you can’t blame Spielberg for making a terrific movie, which Jaws definitely is. The story of a Long Island town whose summer tourist business is suddenly threatened by great-white-shark attacks on humans bypasses the potboiler trappings of Benchley’s book and goes straight for the jugular with beautifully crafted, crowd-pleasing sequences of action and suspense supported by a trio of terrific performances by Roy Scheider (as the local sheriff), Richard Dreyfuss (as a shark specialist), and particularly Robert Shaw (as the old fisherman who offers to hunt the shark down). The sequences on Shaw’s boat—as the three of them realize that in fact the shark is hunting them—are what entertaining moviemaking is all about. —Marshall Fine