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New York and Los Angeles openings: 20 Jun 1975
2 May--early Nov 1974 on Martha's Vineyard Island, MA
Duration (in mins):
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([Martin] Brody )
([Mayor Larry] Vaughn)
Jeffrey C. Kramer
Dr. Robert Nevin
Edward Chalmers Jr.
Cyprien P. R. Dube
Philip G. Murray Jr.
Big Joe LaCreta
(Out of towner)
Richard P. Hewitt
Walter Hooper Jr.
Richard S. Young
Francis A. Frank
(Boat rental man)
Eleanor L. Harvey
(Man with dynamite)
(Man with dynamite)
Joseph G. Kraetzer
(Lynwood shop keeper)
Edwin C. Carlson
(Man with gaff)
Philip J. Norton
Gregory S. Dole
(Girl in music store)
(Woman tourist #1)
Elizabeth K. Gifford
Willis B. Gifford
Paul Louis Goulart
(Boy with clarinet)
Janice T. Hull
Henry E. Scott III
(Man with rifle)
Jerome S. Tartar
Paul G. Thibodeau
(Fisherman in boat)
Paul F. Tremblay
(Man with dog)
Robert Whelden Jr.
One summer evening in late June on the New England island of Amity, teenager Chrissie Watkins invites a drunken fellow student, Cassidy, to skinny dip in the ocean. Although enthused, Cassidy passes out a few feet from the shore, while Chrissie strips and dives into the sea only to be brutally attacked from underwater. The next morning, police chief Martin Brody meets Cassidy, who has reported Chrissie missing, on the beach just as Deputy Hendricks discovers the mutilated remains of a female body. Suspecting that Chrissie was a victim of a shark attack, Brody hurries to his office to make out a report and consult with the town physician. Determined to close the beaches when the doctor confirms his fears, Brody sets off to Amity Bay, but is intercepted by Mayor Larry Vaughn, two city council members and the doctor. Vaughn reminds Brody that closing the beaches requires a signed city ordinance and that the Fourth of July weekend is about to begin. When the doctor reluctantly admits that the body may have been mutilated by a motorboat blade and Vaughn insists they do not want to start a pointless panic, Brody grudgingly agrees to keep the beaches open. The next day, an uneasy Brody oversees the crowded beach, accompanied by his wife Ellen and their two young sons, Michael and Sean. Dozens of children and young people thrash about in the surf and a dog repeatedly fetches a stick thrown in the water by his owner. Moments later, however, the dog disappears and a group of people suddenly notice a pool of bloody red foam in the sea. As the swimmers and waders run to the beach in a panic, a mangled raft washes to shore while vacationer Mrs. Kintner searches in vain for her young son, Alex. After Mrs. Kintner posts a three thousand dollar reward to kill the shark that killed Alex, Brody and the Amity city board meets with local businesses, fisherman and townspeople to quell their mounting alarm. When Brody acknowledges that he must close the beaches, Vaughn reassures the dismayed business owners that the closure will last only twenty-four hours. The meeting is interrupted by local professional fisherman and shark hunter, Quint, who vows to capture the shark single-handedly for $10,000, which Vaughn agrees to consider. The following morning, Brody is horrified to find Amity harbor teaming with boats and people from Connecticut, Rhode Island and New Jersey who have responded to Mrs. Kintner’s reward offer. Struggling to control the crowds who bear everything from dynamite to guns to small fishing reels, Brody is relieved when Matt Hooper from the Oceanographic Institute arrives. At police headquarters, Hooper examines Chrissie’s remains and declares that the wounds are from a sizeable shark. That afternoon a group of fishermen triumphantly return to Amity harbor with the carcass of a ten foot shark which they proudly display for reporters and locals. Although Vaughn is delighted by the exhibition, Hooper insists the bite radius of a Tiger shark is too small to be the same shark that killed Chrissie. As Brody remains doubtful, Mrs. Kintner arrives and demands to know why he allowed the beaches to remain open after Chrissie’s death. That evening, Hooper visits the brooding Brody at home and reaffirms that the captured shark is not the one that killed Chrissie, and presses the chief to allow him to cut open the captured dead shark to explore its digestive remains. After Hooper determines that the shark caught by the fishermen has no human remains inside it, Brody realizes that he must close the beaches, but Hooper insists they immediately go in search of the killer shark in his high-tech exploration boat, the
. Despite Brody’s frank admission that he fears the water, Hooper forces the chief to accompany him. With the aid of the
’s powerful spotlights, Brody and Hooper soon come upon a half-sunken dinghy showing unusual signs of damage and Brody recognizes the boat as belonging to an islander. Donning scuba gear, Hooper goes underwater to inspect the little boat’s hull and pulls an enormous shark tooth embedded in the planking. When the mangled remains of a torso abruptly float by a gapping hole in the boat, the startled Hooper drops the tooth. The next morning, Brody and Hooper met Vaughn on the beach to excitedly report that the shark attacks were made by a Great White. Without the tooth as evidence, however, the mayor remains skeptical and insists the beaches remain open the next day, which is the Fourth of July. The holiday dawns to hordes of vacationers packing the beaches. Hooper abandons a commitment to an eighteen-month research project in order to search for Amity’s Great White shark, while Brody, Hendricks and backup deputies with helicopter support observe the waters. Distressed that no one has actually gotten into the water, Vaughn appeals with a family to do so and soon the surf is teaming with people. When Brody’s son Michael asks permission to take his new sailboat out to sea, Brody pleads with him to go into the nearby estuary. While Vaughn cheerfully gives an interview to a television reporter, swimmers are suddenly terrified to see a large fin cutting across the water. As the panicked crowd returns en masse to the beach, Brody’s assistants reveal the fin to be a hoax perpetrated by two local teenage boys. Meanwhile, a young woman standing between the sea and the pond sees a massive underwater form head into the relatively shallow estuary where Michael and his friends are struggling to raise their sail. Nearby, a man in a dinghy calls advice to the boys just as the underwater creature smashes into his boat. The subsequent swell overturns Michael’s small sailboat and, as the boys thrash about, Michael witnesses the man being bitten in half by the enormous shark and faints. Meanwhile, the young woman’s continued cries alert Brody who races toward the pond as Michael’s friends pull him safely to shore. Later, at the hospital, where Michael is declared fine, a stunned Vaughn wonders if he can be held accountable for keeping the beaches open, but an angry Brody forces him to sign a contract hiring Quint. The next day, Brody and Hooper meet Quint at his pier-side office where Brody officially charters the fisherman’s boat, the
. Although Quint chafes about the college educated Hooper joining them, Brody insists that the oceanographer and much of his technical equipment be taken on board. Over the next couple of days, the
roams far out to sea in search of the shark. One afternoon Quint’s thick cable fishing line is bitten in two, but otherwise their quarry remains elusive. Soon after, as a grumpy Brody resumes shoveling bloody crum out to sea to lure the shark, the creature breaks the surface of the water, its massive mouth gapping. Stunned by the enormity of the shark, Brody staggers into the cabin and tells Quint that he will need a bigger boat. As Quint and Hooper excitedly watch the shark circle the
, the older man declares the creature is at least twenty-five feet long and three tons. While Quint prepares to shoot a cable line attached to a flotation barrel into the shark, Hooper attaches a radio tracking device to the barrel. After striking the shark with the harpoon and cable, the
follows the racing barrel, but Quint is taken aback when the shark easily pulls the air-filled keg underwater and disappears. Night falls with no further sign of the shark and the men sit in the tiny cabin drinking and talking. Quint reveals that in World War II, he served on board the
which was sunk by a Japanese submarine and nearly eight hundred of its surviving crew was lost to shark attacks while waiting for rescue in the open sea. The men fill the subsequent tense silence with songs, when the shark surfaces in the dark and rams into the hull, damaging the boat’s shaft. Despite Quint firing several rounds at the shark, it remains unaffected, but disappears for the remainder of the night. The next morning, Quint and Hooper struggle to repair the battered rudder and engine housing, when the shark surfaces and Quint shoots another cable and barrel into it, then ties the cables lines to the transom cleats. As the shark, now hooked to two floatation barrels, races further out to sea, Quint pushes the rough running engine of the
in pursuit, ignoring Brody’s argument to turn back toward land. Later the shark appears to have vanished, only to surface suddenly and attack the cable lines. Panicked, Brody attempts to radio the Coast Guard, but Quint smashes the radio with a bat. Quint then calmly shoots another line and a third barrel into the shark, but when the shark heads to sea again towing the
, Quint is forced to cut the taunt cable lines, fearing that the transom will be pulled off. As the battered and listing
begins taking on water, the men watch incredulously as the barrels turn toward them, then submerge and go beneath the boat. Moments later, the shark rams the keel. The ship’s stressed engine bearings begin to smoke, and Quint, masking his concern, pushes the engine as the shark begins pursuing them. Upon reaching the boat, the great shark rises up, biting into the transom. The violence of the creature’s attack finishes the
’s weakened engine. The shark disappears as Brody and Hooper realize that the
is sinking by the stern. Handing Brody a lifejacket, Quint asks Hooper about the shark cage and other equipment he has brought on board. When Hooper reveals that he has a large syringe full of strychnine nitrate, Quint declares the syringe will never penetrate the shark’s tough skin. Hooper nevertheless volunteers to go underwater in the cage and attempt to shoot the syringe into the shark’s mouth with the harpoon gun. Despite Brody’s protests, Hooper dons scuba gear and oxygen, and is lowered in the cage into the water. Within moments the shark appears and rams the cage from behind Hooper, then grabs the bars and shakes the cage, causing the terrified Hooper to drop the harpoon gun, unfired. Fleeing the shark’s crazed attack through the mangled cage bars, Hooper swims to the sea bottom. Meanwhile the shark, momentarily trapped between the cage and the side of the
, thrashes violently as Quint struggles to crank the winch. The bent ginpole gives way as the shark extricates itself and Quint and Brody are horrified when the battered, empty cage surfaces. The shark reappears at the stern and again lunges at the
’s deck, tilting the boat sharply, causing Quint and Brody to tumble and slide toward the maddened creature. Brody hangs on to the cabin door frame, but Quint, unable to maintain his grip on Brody’s legs, slides directly into the shark’s jaws. When the shark submerges with Quint’s bloodied corpse, Brody casts about for a weapon and spots Hooper’s remaining oxygen tank. When the shark attacks again, Brody manages to wedge the tank into its mouth. Taking Quint’s rifle, Brody climbs out onto the bridge mast, which is now almost parallel with the water, and as the shark comes at him, fires repeatedly until a bullet strikes the oxygen tank, causing it to explode and blow off the creature’s head. As blood and flesh rain down on Brody and the nearly submerged
, the shark’s other half falls slowly through the water. Moments late, Brody is amazed when Hooper surfaces. The men laugh weakly in relief and, after Hooper learns of Quint’s demise, the men use the remaining floatation barrels as support and paddle their way toward land.
(1st asst dir)
(2d asst dir)
(2d asst dir)
Richard D. Zanuck
William S. Gilmore Jr.
(Dir of photog)
(Live shark footage filmed by)
(Live shark footage filmed by)
Joseph Alves Jr.
(Asst film ed)
(Apprentice film ed)
John M. Dwyer
(Asst prop master)
John R. Carter
Robert A. Mattey
(Titles and optical eff)
(Unit prod mgr)
Based on the novel
by Peter Benchley (Garden City, NY, 1974).
Universal City Studios
Westrex Recording System
Death and dying
Fourth of July
Mothers and sons
A 4 May 1973
news item announced that producers Richard D. Zanuck and David Brown and Universal Studios had acquired Peter Benchley’s first novel,
for $250,000 and 10 per cent of the profits. A 21 Jun 1973
item revealed that Zanuck and Brown had signed Steven Spielberg, who had directed an earlier film for the producers, the 1974 Universal release,
(see entry). According to a modern biography on Spielberg, the director, who had worked several years in Universal’s television division and made only one previous feature film, was not the first choice for directing
. John Sturges and Dick Richards were initially considered. The Spielberg biography states that a bidding war for the novel transpired between Universal and Columbia, then Universal and Warner Bros. The novel by Benchly, who makes a cameo appearance in the film as a reporter, was loosely based on a 1964
New York Daily
article about Long Island fisherman Frank Mundus, who had harpooned a shark weighing 4,500 pounds. Mundus is mentioned by the biography and elsewhere as the prototype for “Quint.” A 14 Sep 2008 obituary for Mundus, noted that Benchley, who admitted to having spent several weeks fishing with Mundus, nevertheless denied that Mundus was Quint’s role model. Mundus spent years using methods to kill whales and sharks that were later outlawed, but later became a shark conservation activist, lobbying for “catch and release.” The Great White shark that had established Mundus’s career was eventually declared an endangered species. In addition to Mundus, Benchley was also influenced by the 1971 documentary,
Blue Water, White Death
, a National General release, photographed by Ron Tyler.
The Spielberg biography states that when Richard Dreyfus originally turned down the role of “Hooper,” Jon Voight, Timothy Bottoms, Jeff Bridges and Joel Grey were all considered. Charlton Heston expressed interest in playing “Brody,” but actors Joe Bologna and Robert Duvall were approached. Duval, reportedly, preferred the role of Quint. The film’s producers initially expressed concern at casting Roy Scheider as the hesitant and anxious Brody, as the actor was typically cast in “tough guy” roles. Lee Marvin turned down the role of Quint and Sterling Hayden was prevented from accepting the role due to income tax difficulties. Benchley made a cameo appearance in the film as the reporter interviewing “Mayor Vaughn.”
The Spielberg biography states that Howard Sackler refused screen credit for working on the script and contributing a scene, not found in the novel, in which where Quint relates the story of the sinking of the
. The biography adds that World War II history buff John Milius and Robert Shaw improvised on Sackler’s scene. Carl Gottlieb, an acquaintance of Spielberg’s, was brought in to polish Benchley’s script and utilized cast input on their characters. Modern sources state that Scheider improvised the film’s most memorable line: “You’re going to need a bigger boat.” Side plots from the novel that were cut from the script were the romance between “Ellen Brody” and Hooper, the dynamics between the island natives and summer tourists and the mayor’s shady political connections.
took place off of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts and was the first feature film set at sea that did not use process photography or film in a tank. The Spielberg biography notes that initially live sharks were to be used. Ron Tyler and his wife Valerie agreed to shoot live shark footage off the coast of Australia, but when a double for Richard Dreyfuss’s character, “Hooper” was nearly killed filming the cage sequence, the use of sharks was halted. A brief amount of the Tylers’ footage made it to the released film in the cage sequence without the double. An unidentified 11 Aug 1974 article on the film’s production, describes three polyurethane mechanized shark models designed for the film. An article in the 2 Sep 1974 issue of
states that the three twenty-five foot long models, all nicknamed “Bruce,” were created by former Walt Disney special effects chief, Robert Mattey and
art director, Joe Alves. One of the models was to be filmed from the right side, the other from the left and the third for angled shots. The models were operated from an underwater platform powered and manipulated by a hydraulic crane “arm.” The article and the Spielberg biography note that the sharks malfunctioned on several occasions and that the models corroded easily and had to have fresh skin applied weekly due to sun bleaching. The mechanized shark breakdowns and bad weather heavily affected the film’s shooting schedule and ultimate cost, and prompted Spielberg to consider withdrawing in mid-production. According to a 2 Jun 1975
, initially slated for a three to four million dollar budget, ended up costing eight million. Modern sources extend the cost to ten million.
The Spielberg biography notes that many associated with the production of
agree that the completed film was greatly enhanced by Verna Fields’ editing and the ominous score by John Williams. The musical riff that played whenever the shark was present, even if not visible, has since become one of the most iconic pieces of music in cinema history.
Reviews following the film’s opening in May 1975 were mostly positive, with
calling it “an artistic and commercial smash… a film of consummate suspense, tension and terror.”
“as gripping and terrifying an adventure story as has ever been put on the screen,” while the
labeled it “foolishly entertaining.” A 7 Jul 1975
article noted the dissatisfaction of several viewers that
had been awarded a PG rating, rather than R for excessive violence. In the article, then MPAA president Jack Valenti explained the decision was due to the violence being done by nature rather than by man. Producer David Brown is quoted in the article as denying that any pressure was put on the MPA board from Universal officials to ensure
was rated PG. According to a 8 Jul 1975
had receipts of $25.7 million in its first thirteen days of release nationwide. In the article, Universal stated that the revenue was the highest for a movie in so short a time and broke the previous box-office record set by the 1972 Paramount release,
(see above). The article compared the commercial success of
with that of the 1973 releases
(see above and below), both films which were released in late Dec 1973, the traditional release period for films with high boxoffice expectations.
’s success was, according to the article, based on being “pre-sold through the popularity of the novel,” and the combination of suspense and disaster-film qualities that appealed to audiences early in the decade. Articles in both
on 10 Sep 1975 announced that
had become the most successful motion picture in the U. S. and Canada in the history of the industry, taking over from
. By May 1977,
hit the $200,000,000 mark based on worldwide receipts. Many film historians consider that
, in addition to the Twentieth Century-Fox May, 1977 release,
, contributed to an industry precedent for releasing action-adventure films with high box-office potential, at the start of summer holidays.
Scheider, Lorraine Gary, (“Ellen Brody”), Murray Hamilton (“Mayor Vaughn”), and Jeffery Kramer (“Deputy Hendricks”), reprised their roles in the 1978 Universal release,
directed by Jeannot Szwarc. In 1983, Universal released
starring Dennis Quaid and Bess Armstrong, directed by Joe Aves. And in 1987, Gary reprised her role as Ellen for the Universal release,
, which was directed by Joseph Sargent.
Both Verna Fields and John Williams received Academy Awards for editing and musical score, respectively.
also won an Academy Award for Sound and received a nomination for Best Picture.
was ranked 56th on AFI's 2007 100 Years…100 Movies--10th Anniversary Edition list of the greatest American films, moving down from the 48th position it held on AFI's 1997 list.
9 Jun 1975
4 May 1973
21 Jun 1973
2 Jun 1975
12 Jun 1975
10 May 1974
1 Nov 1974
12 Jun 1975
2 Jul 1975
7 Jul 1975
Los Angeles Herald Express
3 Jun 1975
Los Angeles Herald Express
7 Jul 1975.
Los Angeles Times
20 Jun 1975
Section IV, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
24 Jul 1975
Section IV, p, 1, 11.
26 Jul 1975
New York Times
21 Jun 1975
New York Times Magaine
23 Jun, 1975
New York Times
29 Jun 1975
Section II, p. 15.
New York Times
24 Aug 1975
Section II, p. 1.
7 Jul 1975
2 Sep 1974
23 Jun 1975
28 Jul 1975
18 Jun 1975
Display Movie Summary
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AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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