JAWS — Taking a Bite Out of History

Hard to believe that we’ve just celebrated the 35th anniversary of “Jaws”, one of my all-time favorite horror movies.  Yes, horror movie.  I don’t want to enter into the debate that “Jaws” was more of a suspense/adventure picture but, to me, it was full of classic horror ingredients:  spooky atmosphere, engaging characters and a villain who was dark and extraordinarily dangerous.

Robert Shaw becomes fish food -- painfully, no doubt

I can only compare it to my favorite horror film of all time “Psycho”.  So my question is why did both films succeed so well in scaring the bleeping pants off us?

Easy answer.  Both films deal with primal fear; In “Psycho”, the fear of a deranged killer arbitrarily knifing an unsuspecting victim.  In “Jaws”, the fear of being ripped to shreds and eaten alive by an undersea monster.  Moreover, both films share the element of water – an unconscious source of pleasure and comfort.  In “Psycho” we have the infamous shower scene and the horrific swamp behind the Bates Motel.  In “Jaws”, the vast ocean.

Both films created instant hysteria witnessed by long lines and the uttering of loud gasps from thousands of young audience members.  And both films brought in huge box office earnings.

 Looking back, I would suggest that “Jaws” worked because it was “Psycho” for the next generation.  In both pictures it wasn’t a matter of evil characters getting what they deserved – it was more being in the proverbial wrong place at the wrong time.

Even the music represents kindred spirits – all strings – alerting the audience that something truly awful was about to happen.

I’ll leave the comparison between Hitchcock and Spielberg to film historians.  Though their styles were distinctively different, both are equally effective in delivering true chills.  In “Psycho” the horror (by design) is mostly filled in by our imagination.  In “Jaws” we can credit faulty mechanics that results in Spielberg giving us only fleeting glimpses of the menacing shark.

So which picture has the most terrifying monster?  I’ll stick with Norman Bates.  Why?  It wasn’t his fault; his mother made him do it.

Both “Jaws” and “Psycho” deserve a well-earned place in the horror film hall of fame and we salute them both for their accomplishment in movie history.    Simply put, I love them both.

 

We read the news today, oh boy…

Ray Bradbury is dead.  We, like millions of other horror and science fiction fans around the world, knew the day was coming but dreaded it all the same.  One of the great voices, the true masters, is gone.

But, thank heavens, his wonderful words remain. From Dark Carnival to The Martian Chronicles to Something Wicked This Way Comes, and all of the works in between, Bradbury will no doubt live on in the hearts and minds of readers everywhere. His works, like the memorized classics in Fahrenheit 451 will long continue to charm, amaze and cast chills.

Bradbury was much more than a magician with words and one of the world’s greatest daydreamers: He was a truly nice person. Mani and I met him at an art gallery when he came to Denver a few years back. He had the manners of a gentleman, the wit of a genius and the sparkle of a wonder-stricken boy in his eyes.

When our own novel, Abattoir, was approaching publication, we asked him if he would consider writing a blurb for the back cover.  A week or two later, we received a reply, dated March 12, 2012, which made our day. His own words illustrate his personality better than we ever could:

A note from Ray Bradbury

 Dear Christopher Leppek,

Thanks so much for your good letter and for thinking of me for a jacket blurb.  If it were 10 or more years ago I would have been more than happy to read your manuscript but I’m now an old Martian with horrible eyesight and I’m sorry to say it just cannot be done.

I wish you all the best in the coming months and years,

Ray Bradbury

Goodbye, Mr. Bradbury.  And thank you.

 

Milt Prigee's touching take on Mr. Bradbury