What more can be said about this, the granddaddy of all monster and nature-run-amok movies? One part horror film, one part seafaring adventure, 100% sheer, knuckle-biting suspense. Much like its title menace, Jaws is a straight-up thrill machine. To paraphrase Richard Dreyfuss (as Hooper), all it does is swim, eat, and make baby sharks: in this case, the infinite number of Jaws knock-offs, imitators and wannabes, some of them decent in their own right (Alligator, Piranha), some mediocre (Grizzly) and all too many, awful (insert random Scy Fy channel schlock here).
Here we see director Steven Spielberg at the absolute peak of his powers. While Raiders of the Lost Ark is probably my favorite Spielberg film, there's no doubt that, when it comes to cinematic technique, Jaws is his masterpiece. It's just a superbly crafted film.
A lot of blame has been laid on Jaws as the film that ruined Hollywood moviemaking for adult audiences by ushering in the era of the blockbuster. That may be so, but there's nothing empty, juvenile or crass about Jaws itself. It's full of excitement and entertainment value, for sure, but its got plenty of meat to chew on, and artistry to admire, as well. From its wonderfully-drawn three lead characters (Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw and Dreyfuss each arguably giving the performance of their respective careers), to its characteristic 70s era naturalistic, overlapping dialogue, to its sharp observations on tourist town politics, to its canny understanding and manipulation of human nature and our atavistic fears of the sea and what dangers may lurk beneath – this is a masterclass of top-drawer filmmaking.
I think most moviegoers will agree that a movie is only as good as its villain. If you go to a lot of trouble to craft a film with a terrific central hero, or group of heroes, but pit them against a weak, ineffectual, or even just plain anonymous villain, then the movie itself weakens as a result.
But if the bad guy is one for the books, a real larger-than-life, powerfully evil, hissable monster... chances are it'll be a film you’ll never forget.
In the real world, bad guys often go unpunished…in fact, as history has sadly proven time and again, they often prosper. Is it any wonder then that when it comes to the fantasy land of moviemaking, we love to see the bad guys get theirs.
Hans Gruber says sayonara at the end of Die Hard.
Of course, even in movies, the villains sometimes go unpunished. Certainly, many of the “villains” in dramas and comedies don’t die, they merely get humiliated, thwarted, lose the girl and/or the game, get shown up as the creep they are, etc. -- which is justice enough.
But in the arena of genre films, where a movie often triumphs or fails on the strength of its bad guy(s), a good villain deserves, and usually gets, a good, violent – and if possible, poetic and grandiose -- death.
I’ve seen more than my share of these kinds of films. Here are some of the more memorable examples of demonic demises which come to mind.
Beware! SPOILERS (and some violent images) ahoy!!!
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