Quick! Name mankind’s greatest achievement.
New York City? I guess. The iPhone? Why not! Stuffed crust pizza? Hell yes. Yet I’m willing to bet that at least one of you out there said Jaws as well. That is also a correct answer. Perhaps even more than all the others.
You see, Steven Spielberg’s nearly 40-year-old masterpiece still plays as terrifically today as it did when it helped usher in the age of the blockbuster back in 1975. Packed with thrills, excitement and even some laughs (“a wha?”), the flick continues to find new fans.
While books like screenwriter Carl Gottleib’s indispensable The Jaws Log and the documentary The Shark Is Still Working from the recent Jaws Blu-ray have detailed the making of the film in-depth, Matt Taylor’s Jaws: Memories from Martha’s Vineyard arguably offers up the greatest look behind the scenes yet.
By presenting the POV of islanders whose town was turned upside down by the production, Taylor introduces readers to real-life characters every bit as interesting as Hooper, Brody and Quint while also providing tons of new anecdotes about Jaws’ notoriously troubled production and insights from key members of the crew and bit players like Jeffery Voorhees (who played doomed shark victim Alex Kinter).
Originally released last year, this expanded version of the book comes complete with all of the production sketches, storyboards and stills you’d expect from this type of publication. However, what separates this offering from the standard “making of” tomes is the fact that the majority of this material has never been seen before — including pictures from the islanders’ personal archives and vintage news clippings. (Highlights include a newspaper ad recruiting extras and endless photos of a disheveled Bruce the Shark). This makes it a must-read for anyone who has ever loved their time spent on Amity Island.
Whether you consider yourself a Jaws expert or are merely a passing fan of the movie, it’s difficult to not appreciate the care and research that Taylor has poured into every page of this book. With the help of Jaws fanatic Jim Beller (who was largely responsible for compiling the book’s, um, jaw-dropping imagery), Taylor has presented the definitive guide to the flick from the people who were there when it all began.
They could have never guessed what Jaws has become, and what they have to say about their experiences proves that it had just as profound an effect on their lives as the movie did upon audiences. And still does.
The best part? It completely makes you forget that Jaws: The Revenge was ever made. Now that’s truly miraculous.
Jaws: Memories from Martha’s Vineyard (Expanded 2nd Edition)
By Matt Taylor
$49.99. Titan Books in association with Moonrise Media.