An episode that’s been a year in the making, Sean and Cody are joined by self-professed shark addict Alex Arreola for this bloody good analysis of Jaws, the 1975 blockbuster that’s now recognized as one of the greatest—and most popular—motion pictures of all time. On the ambiguously located Amity Island, transplanted New York cop Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) loses his lunch, and his cachet with the elders of the town, when a woman is killed by a shark and he decides quite rationally to close the public beaches. But the shark’s appetite has barely been whetted before the tantalizing main course of an island full of Fourth of July revelers. Environmental issues discussed include the horrific and bizarre Jersey Shore shark bite incidents of July 1916, the historical basis of the film; sharks’ feeding habits and their relationship to humans; marine species’ vulnerability to climate change; and the true story behind a real-life incident said to have been a mass shark feeding frenzy, the infamous Indianapolis disaster referenced in the film.
How dangerous are sharks to humans, and what factors bring the two species into conflict with one another? Why is “shark bite” a better term to use than “shark attack?” What happened in Matawan, New Jersey in July 1916 and how faithfully did that true story translate to book and eventually to screen? Why did the author of the book this film was based on, Peter Benchley, eventually regret writing it? Which U.S. President held an emergency cabinet meeting to talk about sharks? Can German U-boats cause shark bite incidents? How accurate is Quint’s famous speech in Jaws describing the USS Indianapolis disaster of 1945? How are sharks threatened by climate change? Is Steven Spielberg really the genius at figuring out crowd psychology, and if you think he is, how do you explain his dreadful film Always? There’s so many questions like this in the episode that we’re going to need a bigger boat for this episode of Green Screen.
Original 1975 trailer for Jaws.
The graphic opening of Jaws, featuring the first shark bite incident in the film, is one of the most shocking horror scenes in the history of cinema. Keep in mind the film was rated PG at the time of its release!
Grizzled fisherman Quint (Robert Shaw) makes the Amity town council what he thinks is an offer they can’t refuse. Shaw’s performance in Jaws earned him a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, but he lost to George Burns.
This classic scene from Jaws, featuring the film’s most memorable line, comes at about the point where the film transitions between its two halves which are remarkably different in tone and even genre. The seamless transition is one of the brilliant things about the film; the book could not pull it off.
The famous monologue by Robert Shaw describing the fate of the USS Indianapolis in 1945. This was the second take done of the scene; the first was ruined because Shaw was drunk at the time.
The “Jaws Sea Shanty” by Pop Up Puppet Cinema, who gave us permission to incorporate it into our episode.
Additional Materials About This Episode:
An excellent reference on the Jersey Shore shark incidents of 1916, 12 Days of Terror by Robert Fernicola, 2001 (Archive.org link):
Brian Handwerk, “Great Whites May Be Taking the Rap for Bull Shark Attacks,” National Geographic News, August 2, 2002:
Robin Wood, “Peter Benchley’s ‘Shark Trouble,'” CBS News, June 28, 2002:
Amusing interview with Chris Pepin-Neff, whose work on shark-human relations is discussed at length in this episode.
The USS Indianapolis Incident
Steven Martinovich, Review of In Harm’s Way: The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors by Doug Stanton (Henry Holt & Co.), April 16, 2001:
Michael Catarevas, “Connecticut’s Heroes Aboard the Doomed USS Indianapolis,” The Connecticut Story, November 4, 2016:
Bethanne Kelly Patrick, “Navy Lt. Adrian Marks,” Military.com, date unknown:
The real story of Pipit the dog, courtesy of The Daily Jaws.
“Sega’s Killer Shark Cameo in Jaws,” 2 Warps to Neptune (Blog), June 25, 2015:
Another video from Pop Up Puppet Cinema about Jaws.
Monument at the site of Robert Shaw’s 1978 collapse, Tourmackeady, Ireland. Photo by Clint Malpaso, Creative Commons 3.0 license.
Next Movie Up: Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)