Filmsite Movie Review 100 Greatest Films
Jaws (1975)
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Plot Synopsis (continued)

No amount of arguing convinces the mayor to close the beaches for the coming holiday. Commercialism and greed reign for the 4th of July weekend:

It's going to be one of the best summers we've ever had. Now, if you fellas are concerned about the beaches, you do whatever you have to to make them safe. But those beaches will be open for this weekend!

As the mayor drives off in his car, a "ONE WAY" road sign - positioned above his head on the far side of the road and pointing in the direction he is heading - accentuates his single-minded stubbornness.

Thousands of people arrive for the 4th of July holiday weekend and the beaches, roads and arcade game areas are jammed with people.

[Note: During this sequence, the second major beach scene, musical scores of other films are heard in tribute - music from a crowd scene in John Ford's The Quiet Man (1952), ragtime music reminiscent of The Sting (1973), and sounds of "In the Good Ole Summertime."]

Ferries unload carloads of people. (One boy plays a video, shoot-'em-up game titled KILLER SHARK.) Brody sets up defense communications on the holiday beach, and has boats and helicopters patrolling the shore. A television reporter (author Peter Benchley in a brief cameo) speaks directly into a camera as he strolls on the beach:

Amity Island has long been known for its clean air, clear water, and beautiful white sand beaches. But in recent days, a cloud has appeared on the horizon of this beautiful resort community - a cloud in the shape of a killer shark.

No one enters the water, until the nervous mayor encourages one of his local town pals (and his family) to be the first to demonstrate that all is well and everyone can safely enter the water. Brody urges his older son Michael and his friends to launch their sailboat in a protected, supposedly safer estuary-pond. As tourists splash in the water, the mayor reassures listeners in an interview on the beach:

I'm pleased and happy to repeat the news that we have in fact caught and killed a large predator that supposedly injured some bathers. But as you can see, it's a beautiful day, the beaches are opened, and people are having a wonderful time. Amity, as you know, means friendship.

One boat spots a giant, black fin shape swimming straight into a group of swimmers. Whistles are blown and the alert is sounded - hundreds panic and run screaming to the shore, and a few of the bathers are trampled. But the "shark" is only a fake - a large cardboard fin propelled in the water as a hoax by boys wearing half-wetsuits and snorkeling masks. The cry of 'wolf' has been heard and everyone is relieved it is only a silly prank.

This shark fin is unreal, but a second one in the pond-estuary is not. A redheaded artist/easel painter screams that another dark fin has been sighted cutting through the water in the pond. It is moving towards the group of boys in the sailboat and toward an unidentified man (Ted Grossman) in a red rowboat. At first her cries of "Shark!" aren't heeded, but then Chief Brody rushes protectively towards his son when Ellen reminds him: "Michael's in the pond." The shark attacks the man in the rowboat and turns it over, throwing him into the water. The turbulence from the rowboat attack capsizes the sailboat and throws the boys into the water. The shark bites off the man's leg, claiming yet another victim. Michael, who witnesses the attack, is immobilized in the water. The unseen shark seems to brush past him as it heads back to sea. Brody reaches the scene in time to pull his son to the shore, unharmed but in shock. Michael is taken to the hospital for treatment after his narrow escape. [The fate of the victim in the rowboat is left dangling.]

This incident leads to a confrontation in the hospital corridor between Brody and Mayor Vaughn. Brody demands that he sign a voucher to hire a contractor, seaman Quint, to kill the shark: "...sign this and we're gonna pay that guy what he wants." The mayor is shaken by the latest shark incident, and quickly scribbles his signature on the piece of paper to authorize the hunt. Quint's dialogue from the next scene - in Quint's shack the next day, overlaps: "$10,000. $200 a day, whether I catch him or not."

The salty seaman accepts the offer from Brody and Hooper: "Get the men off my back, so I don't have any more of this zoning crap." The walls of Quint's shack are lined with an exhibit of the jaws of sharks (boiled white) that he has killed. Known for his "colorful" foul language and loner attitude, crusty Quint offers a toast with his own homemade whiskey: "Here's to swimmin' with bow-legged women." Hooper offers to accompany him for the gargantuan task, but Quint declines:

Quint: I'm not talkin' about pleasure boatin' or day sailin'. I'm talkin' about workin' for a livin'. I'm talkin' about sharkin'.
Hooper: Well I'm not talkin' about hookin' some poor dog fish or sand shark. I'm talkin' about findin' a Great White.

Quint further tests Hooper's knowledge of knot-tying (a sheepshank), and insults his soft and tender "city hands" that have been counting money all his life. Hooper lashes back, fed-up with Quint's attitude and values: "I don't need this working-class hero crap." Quint suggests: "Maybe I should go alone." Because the job is Brody's charter and uses Quint's vessel the Orca, Quint reluctantly agrees to let the two men accompany him, but under his terms. Quint assigns duties - Brody will be a "mate," and Hooper will be "master pilot." Quint will be the "captain," of course.

Tensions are high as preparations are made to leave. Quint makes fun of Hooper's inexperience and his underwater, portable shark cage:

Quint: What do ya got here? A portable shower or a monkey cage?
Hooper: Anti-shark cage.
Quint: Anti-shark cage. You go inside the cage? Cage goes in the water? You go in the water? Shark's in the water? Our shark? (singing) 'Farewell and adieu to you fair Spanish ladies...'

The real hero of the film, Brody goes to sea in an effort to regain his self-esteem and overcome his fear of the water, even though he fears it and hates boating. While saying goodbye to her husband, Ellen pampers him at dockside with "Did you take your Dramamine?"- she has also packed an extra pair of glasses, black socks, zinc oxide, and Blistex. She detests the macho Quint and is repulsed by his salty, foul-mouthed posturing ("He scares me"). Brody tells her that his kids should be told that he's going fishing. Ellen hugs Brody at the dock, and then runs away from Quint's boat as Quint hurries him along and directs his obscene, insulting lyrics toward her:

Break it up, will ya, Chief. Daylight's wasted...Come on, Chief. This isn't no Boy Scout picnic. See you got your rubbers! Ha, ha, ha. (reciting) 'Here lies the body of Mary Lee. Died at the age of one hundred and three. For fifteen years, she kept her virginity.' Not a bad record for this vicinity.

As they push out to sea from the harbor, their boat is framed by the toothy jawbones of a shark hanging in Quint's window.

Out on the open ocean, Brody is given the distasteful tasks, such as "chumming" (throwing spoiled, bloody meat - shark bait - over the side of the boat) to attract the shark. Brody covers his mouth with his handkerchief sprinkled with Old Spice to counteract the smell. Seated into a fishing chair on the deck with a large-reeled fishing rod in his hands, Quint criticizes modern, scientific methods to fish (and presumably to kill sharks) - taking a jab at all the expensive gear that Hooper has brought out: "Nowadays, these kids, they take out everything, radar, sonar, electric toothbrushes, ha, ha." To match Quint's macho crushing of his beer can, Hooper singlehandedly crushes his own white plastic coffee cup. Foreshadowing future action, Quint mentions that the shark might even eat the compressed air tanks kept on the deck: "I don't know what that blasted shark is gonna do with it - might eat it, I suppose. Seen one eat a rockin' chair one time."

The master fisherman cautiously straps himself into his fishing chair when something bites his fishing line, and he hoists the gigantic reel/pole between his legs - an obvious reference to his maleness. Practicing knot-tying, Brody yells: "Hey I got it" - just as the line is taken out. Quint barks orders at Hooper on the bridge as they maneuver the boat around. The monster shark displays uncanny intelligence after being hooked: "He's very smart or very dumb...He's a smart, big fish. He's down under the boat. Keep it steady now. I got something very big." When they lose the fish that Hooper thought was only a game fish ("It's a tuna or swordfish...maybe a marlin or a sting ray"), Quint argues that only a shark could bite through piano wire. He insults Hooper's intelligence with a superior attitude: "Don't you tell me my business again. You get back on the proves that you wealthy college boys don't have the education enough to admit when you're wrong." Hooper slyly puts him down in less obvious ways - he makes a funny face behind Quint's back as the captain walks away, and comically speaks in a W. C. Fields accent from the bridge: "I don't have to take this abuse much longer."

Later, while Hooper plays solitaire with himself on the deck, Quint (from the top mast) orders the lowly Brody to put out more chum. As the chief scoops out bucketfuls of bloody slop, humorously griping to his mates: "Come down and chum some of this s---," a monstrous shark rises out of the water and nearly takes his hand off. This is the film's first full glimpse of the shark, an hour and twenty minutes into the film - a truly spine-tingling moment. Brody cannot believe the size of the creature, and with a classic, practical understatement tells Quint his assessment inside the cabin:

You're gonna need a bigger boat.

Awestruck, they all view the full-sized, massive shark circling the boat. Quint estimates it is 25 feet long: "Three tons of him." He prepares his harpoon-gun, as the radio receives a call from Ellen. Without summoning Brody, Quint rapidly tells her that her husband is too busy to talk: "He's fishin'. He just caught a couple of stripers. We'll bring him in for dinner. We won't be long. We haven't seen anything yet. Over and out." Just in time, Hooper attaches a line to the first of a series of heavy yellow barrels, as Quint fires a shiny, silver harpoon from his gun into the side of the beast. The first barrel is pulled through the water - the intention is to tire the shark out and to keep track of its location. Although the sun is setting, Quint - on the boat's pulpit - insists that they stay on the hunt, but Brody wants to make contact with land: "Yeah, but we could radio in and get a bigger boat out here."

When dusk comes, the men wait and sit in the boat's dark, cramped and swaying interior cabin. While Brody listens (and is seen in cut-away shots), Quint and Hooper improvisationally share tales and mementos of their physical battle scars - Quint's permanent bumb on the head (during St. Patty's day in Boston), Hooper's moray eel scar on his arm, Quint's permanently unextended arm due to an arm-wrestling match, Hooper's bull shark scrape on his leg, Quint's thresher shark scar, etc. Brody takes a peek at his own appendix scar - without sharing the gory details.

Then they turn to their emotional scars, revealing their personalities. Hooper speaks about his "broken heart" from a failed romance with Mary Ellen Moffett. Quint's tale of injury is the most terrifying, because he was scarred for life and turned his existence into a personal vendetta against sharks. A tattoo on his arm was removed - "U.S.S. Indianapolis" - but the internal scars remained.

In a long, memorable monologue, Quint tells how he was a sailor in World War II, and his carrier was the one that delivered the A-bomb to Japan and then was en route home. It was sunk in twelve minutes by torpedoes from a Japanese submarine and about 1,100 men went into the shark-infested water for about 4 days. As he remembers the grisly, hideous story of the ill-fated USS Indianapolis' crew during the World War II-era, he recalls the attack of swarming sharks that began a half hour later - 800 sailors perished (and only 316 men survived):

Didn't see the first shark for about half an hour - a tiger - thirteen footer. You know how you know that when you're in the water, Chief? You tell by lookin' from the dorsal to the tail. What we didn't know was our bomb mission had been so secret, no distress signal had been sent. They didn't even list us overdue for a week. Very first light, Chief, sharks come cruisin'. So we formed ourselves into tight groups. You know, it was kinda like old squares in the battle like that you see in the calendar named 'The Battle of Waterloo.' And the idea was, the shark comes to the nearest man and he starts poundin' and hollerin' and screamin'. Sometimes the shark go away. Sometimes he wouldn't go away. Sometimes that shark, he looks right into ya, right into your eyes. Y'know, the thing about a shark, he's got lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll's eyes. When he comes after ya, he doesn't seem to be livin' until he bites ya, and those black eyes roll over white, and then - aww, then you hear that terrible high-pitch screamin', the ocean turns red, and in spite of all the poundin' and the hollerin', they all come in and rip ya to pieces. You know, by the end of that first dawn, we lost a hundred men. I don't know how many sharks, maybe a thousand. I don't know how many men. They averaged six an hour. On Thursday morning, Chief, I bumped into a friend of mine, Herbie Robinson from Cleveland. Baseball player. Boatswain's mate. I thought he was asleep. I reached over to wake him up. Bobbed up, down in the water just like a kinda top. Upended. Well, he'd been bitten in half below the waist. Noon the fifth day, Mr. Hooper, a Lockheed Ventura saw us. He swung in low and he saw us. He was a young pilot, a lot younger than Mr. Hooper. Anyway, he saw us and he come in low and three hours later, a big fat PBY [seaplane] comes down and start to pick us up. You know, that was the time I was most frightened - waitin' for my turn. I'll never put on a life jacket again. So, eleven hundred men went in the water, three hundred and sixteen men come out, and the sharks took the rest, June the 29th, 1945. Anyway, we delivered the bomb.

[Historical Notes: The historical sinking that occurred in the early morning (pre-dawn) of a different date - July 30th, 1945 - not June 29th, 1945, varies from Quint's exaggerated account about shark attacks. After delivering the makings for atomic bomb "Little Boy" in a crate (with its nuclear ingredients in a canister) to the Pacific atoll of Tinian in the Philippine Sea for eventual use against Japan at Hiroshima, the cruiser (on its return) had left Guam two days earlier and was enroute to Leyte (in the Philippines) when it was successfully torpedoed by Japanese submarine I-58. The ship capsized and sank in about twelve minutes. Estimates by Capt. Charles McVay put the number that "got off the ship" at between five and six hundred. The senior medical officer Capt. Lewis Haynes estimated that seven or eight hundred men may have made it out of the ship. The Indianapolis was due to reach Leyte on July 31, 1945 but no report was ever made when the ship didn't arrive on schedule. In fact, on August 2, 1945 when a plane on routine patrol accidentally came across the survivors, a report still had not been filed. All air and surface units capable of rescue operations were dispatched to the scene at once, and the surrounding waters were thoroughly searched for survivors. Upon completion of the day and night search days later, 316 men were rescued by the Cecil J Doyle out of the crew of 1,199. According to McVay, "All the people who did survive were apparently in quite good physical condition. They had some people with fractured arms or fractured ankles, but on the whole those who survived the four days in the water were in very good shape." Most of those who had died perished from sunstroke (exposure and exhaustion and other malicious elements), salt poisoning by drinking salt water, a deadly oil slick, salt water ulcers, and drowning (for lack of life vests). Some experienced fever and delirium from being submerged in the water for a long period of time, and others just went crazy from drinking the salt water and suffering from diarrhea and dehydration. Reports of the majority dying from shark attacks aren't warranted. According to Capt. Haynes, "in the entire 110 hours I was in the water I did not see a man attacked by a shark. However, the destroyers that picked up the bodies afterwards found a large number of those bodies. In the report I read 56 bodies were mutilated, Maybe the sharks were satisfied with the dead; they didn't have to bite the living."]

At the end of Quin's tale, Quint had survived five days later, but few others had escaped the mouths of the ravenous sharks. [Note: His story foreshadows his own demise, for the shark has returned to finish the job and consume another sea 'monster'.]

Just after Quint finishes his sobering story - the reason for his personal, maniacal search for the monster - and they loudly sing drunken choruses together, the boat rests quietly on the moonlit surface of the sea. The calm is interrupted by a long shot that shows the yellow barrel ominously approaching from a distance. Targeting the boat, the shark rams into it with all its weight, pounding the wooden hull, flooding the cabin and the engine, starting a minor fire, and extinguishing the lights. Brody and Hooper mutually realize that their mission is more dangerous than they ever imagined. Quint fires his rifle into the murky water, and Hooper questions his sanity: "What are you doing? Don't waste your time, Quint. Come on." Brody grabs his handgun - as a brilliant shooting star streaks behind him (from right to left) in the twilight sky. Another faint shooting star appears (from left to right) in the upper left portion of the sky during the very next shot - a long-view of their boat floating on the moon-lit water.

But then, everything is quiet again until morning, when repairs are made on the engine. The yellow barrel suddenly appears on the stern. Hooper suggests a strategy to Quint as they both haul in the rope: "If we can get close enough, I've got things on board that'll kill it." Suddenly, the giant shark surfaces right in front of them, just when they thought the rope was slack.

Brody has seen enough and tries to summon aid from the Coast Guard by using the radio to make an urgent distress phone call. [Note: The voice of the coast guard is director Steven Spielberg.] But Quint wrecks the boat's radio by smashing it with a baseball bat. Brody thinks Quint is crazy: "That's great! That's just great! Now where the hell are we, huh? You're certifiable, Quint, do you know that?!" But they don't have time to finish the argument. Hooper alerts them: "Boys! Oh boys. I think he's come back for his noon feeding!"

[Note: Quint acts like a modern-day, vengeful Ahab, from Melville's novel Moby Dick, who is in single-minded, obsessive pursuit of the species that killed his shipmates. A parallel can easily be drawn between Ahab's great white whale and Quint's great white shark.]

The shark is harpooned with another barrel, and the shark takes the boat for a second run. Brody watches from behind the cabin's window - the image of the barrel hurtling along in the water is reflected on the glass and sweeps water over his face. With a damaged engine, the Orca cannot be run at full throttle and strains to keep up with the "fast fish." In the battle with the shark, it is harpooned again, and Brody empties his handgun full of ineffectual bullets into the shark's side. Quint gloats prematurely about his expected catch:

Back home we got a taxidermy man. He's gonna have a heart attack when he sees what I brung him!

But the shark battles back, eats the line, pulls the ship around, and tows the Orca backwards, filling the stern of the ship (and the engine compartments) with water. The boat begins to break up and sink. Amazingly, the shark dives with three barrels, and then chases the sinking boat as it races toward shallower water. When Quint accelerates the Orca as he heads to land, its engine's bearings burn up. The engine quits in a cloud of black smoke - and then the boat slowly takes on water and lists precariously. Quint passes out life preservers to his glum companions.

At the end of their rope, Hooper proposes a last ditch effort - diving overboard with his scuba gear in his protective shark cage and attempting to spear the monstrous shark in the mouth with a poisonous syringe (filled with strychnine nitrate). Quint's disbelief is followed by Hooper's yelled question: "You got any better suggestions?" and their assembly of the four sides of the cage's frame (all of them are visualized behind the cage - imprisoned or fenced in by the shark!). As he is about to be lowered under the water in the shark cage, he fearfully cannot muster enough saliva to de-fog the inside of his mask: "I got no spit." Hooper fails to see the shark coming up from behind - the beast knocks the poisonous spear out of his hands to the ocean bottom, and rips open the bars of the cage. The gigantic shark rams the cage again and again, until it has a gaping hole. Miraculously, Hopper swims out of the twisted bars of the cage and hides behind an underwater rock when the shark retreats momentarily.

Desperately trying to retrieve the cage, Brody and Quint finally bring it to the surface - the battered cage is empty and they fear that Hooper is dead. The shark then turns its attention toward the boat, rising-breaking out of the water, smashing down on the stern's transom, and capsizing the boat on its side. Both Brody and Quint struggle to stay on their feet, as objects from the boat fly toward the shark. Screaming, Quint slides down the slippery deck into the open jaws of the monster Giant Great White - kicking his feet to prevent the inevitable. He is bitten in half - and blood spurts from his mouth. Quint stabs at its eyes with a machete as he is swallowed whole and devoured by the killer shark in a horrifying scene. [In Peter Benchley's original novel, Quint's body was tangled in the harpoon line attached to the great white shark and he was dragged down to drown - very similar to the demise of Captain Ahab in Melville's Moby Dick].

Brody is left to do battle with the monster. The menacing shark's man-eating jaws smash through the cabin's port windows several times. With a last-gasp courageous offensive, Chief Brody heaves one of Hooper's compressed air tank cylinders into the monster's mouth. He eyes the shark from the top mast of the sinking boat (the only part of the boat not completely underwater) as it swims away and then circles around for the final kill. Brody grabs a rifle and then climbs up as high as possible on the boat's sagging mast as he prepares to shoot the explosive oxygen canister lodged in its teeth. He does little damage trying to spear the shark's head. Clinging for life, with the remnants of the boat only a few feet above the water, Brody prays that the shark will show him the tank in its mouth in its final attack: "Show me the tank." He takes aim and fires shot after shot at the oncoming shark:

Smile, you son of a bitch.

One of his last shots hits the target, violently exploding the target. Part of the bloody shark's carcass is blown to bits all over the water surface. The rest sinks in a blur of red blood and body parts to the bottom - with an accompanying deathcry. Squawking seagulls feast on the remains.

[Note: Spielberg recycled the killer truck's death cry from Duel (1971) - Jaws' "companion film" about another relentless creature. The prehistoric roar was also sampled from The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954).]

Brody breathes a sigh of relief, and then can't believe his eyes when he sees a miraculously-unharmed Hooper swim to the surface after the explosion. Assuming Hooper was dead, Brody shakes his head and laughs. Hooper asks about Quint's fate and learns from Brody that Quint didn't make it with a simple "No" and a head shake.

They kick toward shore on floating yellow barrels (a makeshift raft) following the successful slaughter of the seemingly un-killable shark. They exchange the last lines of the film - Brody has conquered his irrational, aqua-phobic fear:

Brody: I used to hate the water.
Hooper (laughing): I can't imagine why.

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