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Justin Murphy

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By Justin Murphy   
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Last edited: Saturday, January 30, 2010
Posted: Saturday, January 30, 2010

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An article about the landmark that started the summer blockbuster genre.

    From the moment the girl’s foot is pulled and devoured by an unknown fear while skinny dipping on the beach, the moviegoers were entranced by this phenomenon when they first saw it in Summer 1975. No one ever expected such a blockbuster at the box office. Much less did Steven Spielberg ever expect this film to launch his career beyond a mere television director who took a shot at features with The Sugarland Express. Based on the novel by Peter Benchley, it became the first ever summer blockbuster. It is also the first film to have movie trailers on television and the first to have a premiere in Los Angeles and New York before going nationwide in what is now called 'wide release'.

    Spielberg dealt with problems early on the filming stage when the mechanical shark would not work. After a few days, he realized the film would be much better off with a Hitchcock style approach that involved keeping the audience in suspense by never letting them see the shark during most of the movie. Many of the film’s most crucial moments involved having the scenes take place in the shark’s point of view.

    In fact, the shark was not even seen until the last thirty minutes of the film. This is what made the film so great. It was not some overblown horror movie or disaster movie focusing on the shark attacking people. JAWS was about how people reacted to the unknown evil swimming around in those waters. This was what made climax leading t the end all the more exciting. We had not seen any glimpse of the shark beforehand, just the destruction it caused. If the shark had been present from the opening scene, it would have been like every other run of the mill disaster flick during the 1970's.

    This was the approach that made this such a groundbreaking film. A feat imitated by numerous film makers. Yet none of them ever came close, including the sequels. The summer blockbusters of the last three and a half decades owe everything to JAWS and Steven Spielberg. Including his old friend George Lucas and his ever fabled film saga Star Wars. Without it, most studios would have been stuck in endless transition, trying to recover from the fallen studio system by making smaller budget films and Hollywood would been a distant memory by now. 

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