Episode 14: Jaws

Sharks with human teeth (KIley insists you all see this to quell your fears of sharks)

I'd like to start this off with some facts we should all know from oceanconservancy.com:

"The odds of getting attacked and killed by a shark are 1 in 3,748,067. To put that in perspective, here are a few things that are more likely to happen to you than getting attacked and killed by a shark:

· Being hit by lightning (1 in 700,000)

· Being killed by fireworks (1 in 340,733)

· Becoming a millionaire (1 in 55 for millennials)

· Being dealt a royal flush in poker (1 in 649,740)

· Winning an Olympic Gold medal (1 in 662,000)

With humans killing 100 million sharks every year, sharks have the right to be much more afraid of us than we are of them. It’s up to us to protect sharks."



Jaws was released June 20th, 1975 and was directed by Steven Spielberg. It was based on Peter Benchley's novel of the same name. It was the highest grossing film at its time, produced on a budget of $9 million and grossed over $470 million. Originally the budget of the film was $3.5 million and obbviously they went over budget and also over schedule (from a 55 day schedule to a 159 day schedule) but the gross profit was worth it. The film is regarded as one of the most recognizable and greatest movies ever made. Similar to Halloween as we discussed in that episode, this film was chosen by the Library of Congress in 2001 to be preserved in the U.S. National Film Registry for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."



Producers Richard Zanuck and David Brown heard about the novel through a literature section of Cosmopolitan which was edited by Brown's wife at the time. The two men read the book overnight and decided the next morning it was "the most exciting thing that they had ever read." They purchased the movie rights in 1973 before the book was even published for $175,000 which would be equivalent to about $1 million now. Brown stated that had they read the book twice, they never would have made the film after thinking about how difficult certain scenes would be.




The making of the film was difficult. Spielberg felt the originally write had unlikeable characters and often the script for each scene was finished the night before filming. The actors and crew would have dinner with Spielberd and Gottlieb, the primary screenwriter, and often much of the film's dialogue came directly from these meals including Roy Scheider's ad-lib "You're gonna need a bigger boat." Often the mechanical sharks would fail, and Spielberg cleverly filmed most of the scenes with the suggestion of a shark without actually having to show off the shark. I believe this has kept the film alive over generations as a huge overshadowing and outdated mechanical shark would easily have seemed ridiculous to the generations who are used to the graphics we have today.


Another reason the film has had such an impact is the score of the film. John Williams' famous shark theme is known around the world today and was eerily suggestive and suspenseful. It helped Spielberg achieve that suggestion of a shark as opposed to the visual presence for the audience. In fact, the music for Jaws (1975), composed by John Williams, was ranked at #6 by the American Film Institute for their list of the 25 Greatest Film Scores.


The result of the direction, production and score was the greatest shark film of all time. And in case you've been under a rock for 45 or so years, here's a plot overview:

A giant man-eating sharks torments beachgoers of a New England resort town prompting police chief Martin Brody to recruit a marine biologist and professional shark hunter to take the beast down and prevent anymore killings.



Some fun facts:


Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss could not stand each other and the two argued all the time, which resulted in some good tension between Hooper and Quint.





According to director Steven Spielberg, the prop arm looked too fake in the scene where Chrissie's remains are discovered, so instead, they buried a female crew member in the sand with only her arm exposed.


Composer John Williams conducted the orchestra during the 1976 Academy Awards, so when it was announced that he won the Oscar for Best Score, he had to run up to the podium to accept his Oscar and then run back to continue conducting the orchestra.


Director Steven Spielberg named the shark "Bruce" after his lawyer.


Originally, Steven Spielberg was not the director of Jaws (1975). The first director, Dick Richards, was fired after a meeting with producers and studio executives. In the meeting, he said that his opening shot would have the camera come out of the water to show the town, then the whale (instead of the shark) would come out of the water. The producers said that they were not making Moby Dick (1956) and they would not work with someone who did not know the difference between a whale and a shark.



Three mechanical "Bruces" were made, each with specialized functions. One shark was open on the right side, one was open on the left side, and the third was fully skinned. Each shark cost approximately $250,000.


When the shark was built, it was never tested in the water. When it was put in the water at Martha's Vineyard, it sank straight to the ocean floor; it took a team of divers to retrieve it.


Roy Scheider stated in an interview that in the scene where Lee Fierro (Mrs. Kintner) smacks him in the face, she was actually hitting him. Apparently, the actress could not fake a slap and so the seventeen takes were some of the "most painful" of his (Scheider's) acting career. Also, Lee Fierro stated in several interviews that in one of the takes when she slapped Roy Scheider, his glasses fell off.


Brody's dog in the movie was actually Steven Spielberg's real dog, Elmer.


The average summer tourist population of Martha's Vineyard before the film was released was approximately 5,000 people. After it came out, the population skyrocketed to 15,000.


Jaws (1975) was voted the sixth scariest film of all time by Entertainment Weekly.




The Inspiration:


One article says that the movie Jaws is based on Peter Benchley's novel Jaws and the inspiration came from a famous fisherman named Frank Mundus who became well known in 1964 when he caught a 4,500 lb great white which was the largest catch ever recorded. Peter used to go out to sea with him and they even filmed a 1974 episode of American Sportsman on the Cricket (which is the name of franks boat). Frank told The New York Times that Peter was impressed with the way he harpooned enormous sharks with lines attached to barrels so that he could track them and wait until they were exhausted from swimming. Frank explained every detail to Peter which in turn inspired both the movie and the main character Quint.


Peter has been recorded denying the correlation between the movies and Frank, but Frank told the Times that, "if he just would have thanked me, my business would have increased. Everything he wrote was true, except I didn't get eaten by the big shark. I dragged him in". When Frank was asked about whether the claim that Quint is based on him is true, he said, "yes, he was. He knew how to handle the people the same way I did. He also used similar shark fishing techniques based on my methods. The only difference was that I used handheld harpoons after field-testing harpoon guns and discovering that they didn't work: the dart would pull out after hitting the fish".


Frank started off as a shark hunter, but he later became a shark conservationist and spent the last few years of his life campaigning shark fishermen to catch and release.



It's been said that the 1916 New Jersey shark attacks were the inspiration for Jaws.

This theory started in September 2001 when the New York Times stated that the 1916 shark attacks inspired the movie. They clarified this on September 8th after Peter Benchley clarified that this statement was not true.


Although this wasn’t peter Benchley’s inspiration, there were many similarities. The jersey shore attacks resulted in four deaths and one injury. On July 1st, 25-year-old Charles Vansant was out night swimming in Beach Haven when he got attacked by a shark. A lifeguard pulled him to shore but he quickly bled to death. Five days later in Spring Lake, NJ, Charles Bruder also died from a shark attack. Six days later, 11-year-old Lester Stillwell was playing in Matawan Creek when a shark attacked him. A man named Watson Stanley Fished tried to save the boy but died as well in the process. Only a half hour later, Joseph Dunn was bitten in the same creak but survived. The movie had five deaths (and one dog :( ).



The panic was similar as well. In response to the New Jersey attacks, armed motorboats patrolled the beaches and people organized shark hunting parties to search for the sharks with rifles. They even tried to use dynamite to explode the shark but that was unsuccessful. Many communities put up fences around their beaches and some communities put up money rewards per head of shark that people could bring in. The movie showed similar panic and sparked similar shark hunting. Brody, Quint and Hooper all hunted for the shark and Brody uses a rifle to shoot a scuba tank that he shoved into the shark’s mouth.


So, despite Benchley’s denial, it seems that Frank Mundus and the 4,500 lb shark were the inspiration for Jaws.


This isn’t an inspiration for Jaws, but a very similar event that happened sort of recently. In 2010, there were a series of shark attacks on swimmers at the red sea resort of Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.



On December 1st, four people were attacked within minutes of each other. 70-year-old Lyudmila Stolyarova was swimming when a shark started to attack her. She was screaming to her husband Vladimir on shore, yelling "shark! Shark! Shark!" and was somehow able to push the shark away from her. The shark had already bitten off her arm, but she was able to swim closer to shore. Before she was able to get out of the water, the shark bit off her foot. She ended up having to amputate her right hand and left leg.


48-year-old Olga Martynenko was also swimming when the shark attacked her. She was able to swim to the pier but when people on the pier started to try to pull her out of the water, the shark bit her left butt. The people on the pier started to slap the shark with rubber fins and were able to pull her up. There were no rescuers nearby, so they used a swimsuit as a tourniquet and used a sun bed to carry her to the shore. She suffered a severe spinal injury and had to get a partial amputation.


At the same time, two other men were attacked. A barman saw 46-year-old Viktor Koliy running from the sea with blood streaming from gashes in his leg. At the same time, 54-year-old Yevgeniy Trishkin was rescued by members of a local diving center. The shark had bitten off his foot and he ended up having to get a partial amputation. Viktor suffered leg injuries, but he was able to leave the hospital the next day.


The resort responded by closing the beaches and stopping all diving and watersport activities. They called in specialists from the Egyptian environment ministry and they caught a 7.4 ft-long oceanic whitetip shark that weighed 330 pounds. It was said it was one of the sharks responsible for the attacks because a local diver recognized it from its damaged fin. They also caught a mako shark that was 8.2 ft long and weighed 550 pounds. They compared it to photographs of the area right before the attack and concluded that it was not the one responsible.


On December 4th, they reopened the beaches. On December 5th, a 71 year-old German woman who had been visiting the resort for 11 years, was killed by a shark while swimming in Naama Bay. A man a part of the Red Sea Diving College named Jochen Van Lysebettens, saw the attack. He said there was suddenly a scream of help and a lot of violence in the water. A lifeguard jumped in and was able to get her on the reef. She lost her arm in the attack and died within only a few minutes.



Oceanic Whitetip Shark

They once again suspended watersport activities and the local tourist industry paid the injured tourists $50,000 in compensation. The two species implicated in these attacks rarely attack humans. There have only been nine attacks by oceanic whitetips in the last 430 years, only once of which was fatal. The chairman of the Sharm El Sheikh Chamber of Diving and Water Sports suggest that these attacks might have been caused by overfishing. In his statement he said, "it is clear from our initial discussions with shark behavioral experts that this highly unusual spate of attacks by an oceanic whitetip shark was triggered by an activity, most probably illegal fishing or feeding in the area".


Another possible explanation for the attacks is that on November 16th, a cattle ship was transporting sheep for slaughter during the Islamic festival of Eid al-Adha and dumped the sheep carcasses into the Red Sea. This would explain why the sharks were unusually close to the shoreline.

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