MARTHA'S VINEYARD Reviewed
The making of Steven Spielberg’s “Jaws” has been chronicled in numerous
places: in no less than at least two terrific books (Carl Gottlieb’s
“The Jaws Log” and Edith Blake’s “On Location...On Martha’s Vineyard:
The Making of the Movie ‘Jaws,’” both of which are still in print) and
numerous documentaries (from the laserdisc/DVD documentary to specials
that have aired on E!, Bravo and most recently the Bio channel). The
original “summer blockbuster” has now been given a gorgeous, colorful
treatment in Matt Taylor’s tome JAWS: MEMORIES FROM
MARTHA’S VINEYARD, and in some ways this may be the finest
chronicle yet of a turbulent production that gave birth to an all-time
Instead of taking the point of view of the filmmakers themselves (which
has already been done in Gottlieb’s definitive study), Moonrise Media’s
coffee-table paperback chronicles “Jaws” from the perspective of
Martha’s Vineyard itself – from its locations to its residents,
business owners, politicians and everyone else in between. Starting
with the arrival of production designer Joe Alves while location
scouting in December of 1973, “Jaws” is portrayed almost like a
Nor’easter that descended upon MV, impacting the town economically,
socially and practically just in terms of simple day-to-day living.
Neighbors, friends and colleagues all found themselves a part of the
filmmaking process, and their memories add a fresh new perspective to
the oft-told telling of the movie’s production.
The book accomplishes this by including hundreds of photographs, most
never-before-seen by the public, and many from islanders like Edith
Blake who had the good sense to document the shooting with their own
cameras, at a time very different than today when cell phones are so
readily available. Candid shots of the crew, of the shark, of the sets,
cast members and locals dominate each and every page, accentuated by
text culled from interviews with a few crew members (Alves and Carl
Gottlieb in particular) but mostly Vineyard locals who found themselves
being employed far beyond their initial tasks. In particular, Lynn and
Susan Murphy found themselves not just driving boat launches but also
working with Alves and effects-master Bob Mattey in making Bruce the
mechanical shark function as the long summer of ‘74 dragged on – their
recollections are fascinating and humorous as they portray just how
much “Jaws” was shot flying by the seat of the filmmakers’ pants.
In fact, it’s the one aspect that Taylor’s beautifully designed book
most reinforces: that “Jaws” itself was a collaborative success, one
that saw actors from Roy Scheider down to even extras improvising their
lines, giving the film a real, human center that we seldom see these
days at the movies. The daily schedule couldn’t be mapped out all that
far in advance since Gottlieb spent most nights rewriting the script
with Spielberg – combined with our unpredictable and ever-changing
weather here in southern New England, “Jaws” relied on the people
making it so much that it’s because of their efforts (as well as
Spielberg who marshaled them all together) that the movie overcame its
physical production struggles.
Many of the stories are priceless – Lee Fierro’s casting of Mrs.
Kintner and her objection to some profanity Gottlieb and Spielberg
ultimately excised; the attempts by journalists to break into “Shark
City” to photograph Bruce; constant pressure from local politicians and
a studio that didn’t think shooting on the Vineyard would be as
difficult as it turned out to be; and dozens of local newspaper
articles, most reprinted in their entirety here, all of which transport
the reader back to when filmmaking, and life itself for that matter,
were far different than they are today.
What adds to the book’s brilliance is its lay-out and design. This
isn’t just a collection of glossy photographs and random recollections
– Taylor went to great lengths in laying it all out in chronological
order, making this a must for any “Jaws” fan (and not just Vineyard
locals). The book documents, painstakingly, where “Jaws” was at during
the spring and summer of 1974 – divulging what scenes where shot when,
where, and how. You’ll find out about sequences that had been shot and
never discussed since (including the kids who “karate the picket
fences” of an Amity bike shop owner), as well as those planned but
abandoned for one reason or another (Alves went to great lengths to
construct Quint’s boating wharf, even though it’s hardly seen in the
finished film at all).
It’s a treasure trove of riches for those of us who love the movie
“Jaws,” and the many stories told by the people who were there make for
a brilliant package – gorgeous to look at, informative and enlightening
to read, and surely a pleasure to revisit in the years to come.
Moonrise Media is selling the book now through their website: the $59
paperback is sturdily bound, while a deluxe limited hardcover set
($250) includes an eight-minute DVD assembly of film shot by Vineyard
resident Carol Fligor (with footage of those darned kids “karating the
picket fences!”) plus a small piece of the “Orca II”’s fiberglass hull.
Unbelievably recommended – for information on ordering, head to the official site.
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