“You yell barracuda, and everyone says “Huh? What?” You yell shark we’ve got a panic on our hands on the fourth of July.”
The Fourth of July has always been the ideal day for me to watch my favourite film: Jaws. Although this time around I may have to do a little bit of juggling. It is World Cup quarter-final day after all.
I first saw the film when I was a child-I can’t remember just how young I was. The certificate was only a PG (on original release it was an A), which is surprising what with Quint being munched upon in glorious technicolour and all. Thirty seven years after its originaI release it was upgraded to a 12A. I went to see it at the cinema-or the pictures, as we called it, this being long before the days of the multi-screen complexes. I went with my mum and my brother, he being eighteen months younger than me.
I think that age gap counted.
During the film, whenever he heard the music, you know the dum-dum, dum-dum, he would put his coat over his head. Writing dum-dum just doesn’t do John William’s score justice. Try watching it without the music. It is totally different. Totally tamer.
So, whenever he heard the music, which signified the shark’s approach and thus impending danger, he would hide beneath the safety of his coat. He would put it over his head until the sound of the screaming and threshing subsided, then he would emerge again much to my cruel amusement. This method served him well, until the scene where the head of Ben Gardner emerges from the hull of his battered boat without any dum-dum warning. From that point on he remained separated from the screen for the remainder of the movie. It was almost a comfort blanket.
Half-way through the film, the lady appeared down at the front, framed against the screen, her small bulb above her tray signifying that she was selling drinks and ice-cream. Asked if he wanted an ice cream, his hand came up in a slow re-enactment of the buried Carrie, grasping the money. Next what followed was the comical sight of him walking down to the front of the cinema, head tilted at an angle so that he would not have to look at the screen. Then, clutching his cone, his careful manouvering of the steps in the dark gave way to a frantic run as that music suddenly started up again. Once more he slipped beneath the surface, eating his ice-cream in his shark-resistant parka.
It’s funny how Jaws has remained my favourite film. Perhaps there is something about us being impressionable at a young age. Some of my favourite things have come with me over the decades:
Favourite films: Jaws, Star Wars
Favourite actor: Richard Dreyfuss
Favourite group: The Beatles
Favourite book: To Kill A Mockingbird
No doubt there are others too-I will have to give it some thought. I fear I am starting to get a little self-indulgent again.
When talking of favourite films, I have often had the surprised reaction : “Jaws?!” But its not just the rubber fish eating people-its the study of the relationship between the three men who go out to catch it. The humour and the friction, the drunken scar one-upmanship, and who can forget that chilling USS Indianapolis scene?
I stayed once at a hotel in the Orkney town of Stromness, where I was thrilled to discover that Robert Shaw had once stayed there. Also, George Mackey Brown used to drink in the bar. I could imagine the hard-drinking actor sharing a whisky or three in there with the writer, holed up from the Scottish storms.
Quint and the poet, both shaped by the sea.
So, today is the perfect summer day (in theory, if not weather) to watch Jaws.
To my friends over the pond, I hope you all have a great Fourth of July.
But remember-stay out of the water.