Quint gets an early look at the JAWS documentary, THE SHARK IS STILL WORKING!!
Published at: April 9, 2007, 2:49 a.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with a look at the long-in-the-works in-depth documentary on JAWS called THE SHARK IS STILL WORKING.
I’ve been quite clear about my love of JAWS in all my time here on the site, even picking my handle from it. It’s my favorite film and has been since childhood. When people say they’ve seen a movie 100 times, that’s usually a figure of speech meaning they've seen something a lot. When you really think about it, that’s an incredible amount of time to dedicate to a single movie.
If you have a two hour movie and you watch it 24 hours on repeat, you’d have to have it spinning for over 8 days to watch it that many times.
I’m not exaggerating when I say I’ve seen JAWS upwards of 200 times.
I know that sounds ridiculous, but I went through a phase when I was a kid where I’d watch JAWS every single day. I had a tape that my mom made for me off of HBO that had JAWS and something else on it… Might have been SUPERMAN. I’m pretty sure it was. Sometimes I’d watch SUPERMAN after JAWS ended, sometimes not, but I went through a summer where I watched JAWS every day without fail for 3 months.
It was a favorite in my household, my step-dad quoted it all the time, usually slurring one of the mayor’s lines after a few cocktails. “My kids… were-on-that-beach-too!”
It’s a film that doesn’t get old for me. It’s a masterpiece born out of hardship. Every frame of that film tells the story, every line of dialog is perfect, every movement of the camera or angle chosen is furthering the story, every cut that Verna Fields (editor) made was timed masterfully.
As entertaining and fantastic as the movie is, the story behind the movie is equally enthralling. That’s where this documentary comes in.
It was put together by a bunch of fans, some of them even bigger JAWS nuts than I am. You have Erik Hollander, J. Michael Roddy (or “The King” as he likes to call himself), James Gelet and Jake Gove.
They contacted me when they first started making the doc, having gotten Roy Scheider and many of the supporting cast and crew. I posted some stories about the documentary and behind the scenes I hooked them up with some of the guest interviews.
I met them all face to face when I went to Jawsfest in Martha’s Vineyard in 2005. They were shooting like crazy there, but I somehow missed my chance to plant myself in front of the camera and waste precious tape with my boring fanboy drooling. I honestly think I was too distracted actually being in Amity… it still looked the fucking same!
I was able to get a rough cut of the documentary and here are my thoughts.
Of course, I’m totally 100% the target audience for this documentary, but that also makes me a tougher critic than you might expect. I’ve seen so much of the behind the scenes, read Carl Gottlieb’s JAWS LOG and Edith Blake’s Making Of book… I’ve sought out so much, seen every documentary, read all the interviews I could. Would there be anything new for me?
These guys made a film any JAWS fan will be fascinated with.
For one thing, they have interviews with everybody. Steven Spielberg, John Williams, Roy Scheider (who also narrates the documentary), Richard Dreyfuss, Lorraine Gary, Jeffrey Kramer (Deputy Hendricks), Carl Gottlieb, Bill Butler (cinematographer), David Brown and Richard Zanuck (producers) and just about every living face you see in the film.
The real kicker is the producers of this documentary got a huge amount of never before seen behind the scenes stills and footage. Stuff I’ve never seen, stuff that hardly anybody has ever seen… these are home movies shot by locals on the island, stills from the crew, stills from god knows who…
That’s the biggest draw for JAWS nerds like me.
But the interviews are great, too. None of them feel like “Oh, God… I guess I’ll talk about JAWS one more time…” Richard Dreyfuss in particular is hilarious, but Spielberg is energetic, his eyes dancing as he tells his horror stories.
Also interviewed are well known movie makers influenced by the movie, including Kevin Smith, Robert Rodriguez, Bryan Singer, Patrick Read Johnson, Eduardo Sanchez, Eli Roth and Greg Nicotero.
It’s great watching these guys geek out on JAWS.
My personal favorite interviews are rather small. It’s not Spielberg, it’s not Dreyfuss… I’ve seen them talk about JAWS and in Spielberg’s case, I’ve heard him talk JAWS with my own ears. My two favorite aspects of the documentary focused on two guys: Percy Rodrigues and Roger Kastel.
Percy Rodrigues was the voice of the trailer, also a character actor… but just seeing him talk about how the trailer campaign was thought up, hearing that voice, now shaking a little with age, but as strong as ever, tell a JAWS story made me smile. “It’s as if God created the devil… and gave him… jaws…” So good!
Roger Kastel was the artist who painted the poster (which originated as the paperback cover art), that iconic image that was surely a huge part of the success of the film. I think he also created that beautiful EMPIRE STRIKES BACK one-sheet, the GONE WITH THE WIND style.
Just hearing his account on how the poster was created, seeing his reference photographs flipping past the screen until you see the exact one that was used for the art… it stopped my heart, actually. Seeing the original photo, which he recreated in the painting so accurately that the photo reference was instantly recognizable.
Those are the kinds of people you never hear about and they’re great in this.
THE SHARK IS STILL WORKING doesn’t just follow the making of JAWS, but also the release, the impact it had, the wake following, we see the Oscars when JAWS was nominated (but Spielberg wasn’t), we follow the merchandising and iteven spends a little time going into the sequels, spending the most time on JAWS 2, but even that doesn't take up much screen time.
Right now, the documentary is not perfect. It’s 3 hours long. Needlessly 3 hours long. The filmmakers take a giant detour around halfway through and make an hour of the film a documentary on Jawsfest. This section is out of place and significantly less interesting. It’s like watching the best, in-depth documentary on the original STAR TREK series and then have it halt to a stop so TREKKIES can play, then for the last 30 minutes goes back to talking about the show again.
In and of itself, the Jawsfest stuff isn't bad, but my strong advice is that this should be chopped out and made a special feature on the inevitable DVD. Right now, it’s acting as a stone around the documentary’s neck. No one will release a 3 hour documentary, especially when there’s such an easy, out of place chunk that can be removed.
The beginning and the end of the documentary are incredibly strong and if they pull 95% of the Jawsfest stuff, then they’ll have without a doubt the hands down definitive documentary on JAWS.
Every aspect is covered, anything you could possibly want to know about this movie, including some great Robert Shaw discussion by all the main cast members.
I’m sure this will be released, hopefully significantly shorter, on DVD at some point. It’s too good to stay out of JAWS geeks hands.
In the meantime, you can see tons of clips from the interviews on the official site of the documentary.
CLICK HERE TO VISIT THE SITE AND GIVE THOSE CLIPS A WATCH!!!.
If they make the cuts I mentioned, this will be the template for anyone wanting to make an in-depth documentary on a classic film. I know there’s one in the works for AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON called BEWARE THE MOON. I can see this becoming a fad, these fan-made documentaries and that only means good news for us movie geeks.
So, go visit that site, take a look around and hopefully we’ll be hearing news of this documentary being picked up. I’ll keep you folks updated as I hear the news.