“This post is part of the SPIELBERG BLOGATHON hosted by Outspoken & Freckled, It Rains… You Get Wet, and Citizen Screenings taking place August 23-24. Please visit these host blogs for a full list of participating blogs.”
I’ve always had vivid memories of my early years. The first time I saw Jaws was at a drive in in the back seat of my parents’ station wagon. I know… back then my parents took me to every movie, regardless of its inappropriateness (by today’s standards). There was Valley of the Dolls at the drive in (when I was 3), which made me fear bathtubs and haunting music. It’s the very first movie I remember seeing. Then there was The Godfather (when I was 7). It made me fear tollbooths… and I’d laydown near the floorboards of our station wagon whenever we passed one for months afterwards. And Jaws (I was 9) made me fear swimming, or dangling my feet off the dock in murky lake water.
All I can say is, thank you mom and dad, and thank you Spielberg, because you scared the crap out of me in the way that I still treasure to this day.
As a movie, Jaws has it all. It’s the perfect blend of adventure, pacing, terror, and heroics. Its main cast is a set of character archetypes I’ve yet to see matched, with Chief Brody as the “everyman hero”, Hooper as the “sage/explorer”, and Quint as the salty, seafaring “outlaw.”
You want strong writing, you got it. Editing, it’s there. Emotional moments that hit you in the stomach, yup. Btw, I still cringe every time Mrs. Kintner asks Chief Brody if he knew there was a shark out there, have an “aww moment” when the Chief’s boy mimics his dad’s body language as he mulls over the situation he’s facing, and feel despair when Quint meets his toothy end.
There is really so much I love about this movie, but wanted to call out a few things stand out to me that ingrained the movie in my mind from an early age, and have continued to give me so much pleasure over the years. I’ll sum it up as the smell, the speech, and inference.
Few movies have more to work with than sight and sound, but I’d swear Spielberg has a knack for activating the sense of smell through the big screen. You can practically smell the milky, acidic stomach fluid that seeps from the shark that Hooper cuts open to check for remains, or the steam cloud coming off the shark jaws Quint boiling clean in his shop, or the sun-ripened chum Chief Brody throws off the stern, or the black oily smoke belching from the engine. I swear, of any director, Spielberg came the closest to inventing Smell-o-vision of any director.
Much as been said over the years of the scene where Quint and Hooper go head to head in a “scar off” in the galley of the Orca…each trying to outdo each other with tales of their brushes with danger. So I won’t go into that. I just want call out the Quint’s Indianapolis speech in particular. Born of the work of screenwriter Howard Sackler, elaborated on by John Milius, and edited down and finessed by Robert Shaw, the Indianapolis speech grabs you by the throat with an amazingly emotional, toothy bite.
“Japanese submarine slammed two torpedoes into our side, chief. It was comin’ back, from the island of Tinian to Leyte, just delivered the bomb. The Hiroshima bomb. Eleven hundred men went into the water. Vessel went down in twelve minutes. Didn’t see the first shark for about a half an hour. Tiger. Thirteen footer. You know, you know that when you’re in the water, chief? You tell by lookin’ from the dorsal to the tail. Well, we didn’t know. `Cause our bomb mission had been so secret, no distress signal had been sent. They didn’t even list us overdue for a week. Very first light, chief. The sharks come cruisin’. So we formed ourselves into tight groups. You know it’s kinda like `ol squares in battle like a, you see on a calendar, like the battle of Waterloo. And the idea was, the shark nearest man and then he’d start poundin’ and hollerin’ and screamin’ and sometimes the shark would go away. Sometimes he wouldn’t go away. Sometimes that shark, he looks right into you. Right into your eyes. You know the thing about a shark, he’s got lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll’s eye. When he comes at ya, doesn’t seem to be livin’. Until he bites ya and those black eyes roll over white. And then, ah then you hear that terrible high pitch screamin’ and the ocean turns red and spite of all the poundin’ and the hollerin’ they all come in and rip you to pieces. Y’know by the end of that first dawn, lost a hundred men. I don’t know how many sharks, maybe a thousand. I don’t know how many men, they averaged six an hour. On Thursday mornin’ chief, I bumped into a friend of mine, Herbie Robinson from Cleveland. Baseball player, bosom’s mate. I thought he was asleep, reached over to wake him up. Bobbed up and down in the water, just like a kinda top. Up ended. Well, he’d been bitten in half below the waist. Noon the fifth day, Mr. Hooper, a Lockheed Ventura saw us, he swung in low and he saw us. He’d a young pilot, a lot younger than Mr. Hooper, anyway he saw us and come in low. And three hours later a big fat PBY comes down and start to pick us up. You know that was the time I was most frightened? Waitin’ for my turn. I’ll never put on a lifejacket again. So, eleven hundred men went in the water, three hundred and sixteen men come out, the sharks took the rest, June the 29, 1945. Anyway, we delivered the bomb.”
The powerful, yet understated, manner in which Robert Shaw delivered those words is my favorite delivery of all time, in any movie.
The Fair Spanish Ladies
I leave you with my favorite part of the movie…one that occurs at the start of the third act, when Hooper and Quint are talking about the shark cage that he’s bringing aboard. Something about the way Quint queries Hooper on what he’s intending, on what he’s going to do with the cage, reminds me of my dad. As a teenager, whenever I was about to embark on some adventure where I’d not fully planned out my actions (which was about everyday) my dad would ask me a series of questions that, more often than not, would cause me to think about what I was planning…without blatantly calling me an idiot.
Quint: [seeing Hooper’s equipment] What are you? Some kind of half-assed astronaut?
[examining the shark cage]
Quint: Jesus H Christ, when I was a boy, every little squirt wanted to be a harpooner or a sword fisherman. What d’ya have there – a portable shower or a monkey cage?
Hooper: Anti-Shark cage.
Quint: Anti-shark cage. You go inside the cage?
Quint: Cage goes in the water, you go in the water. Shark’s in the water. Our shark.
Quint: Farewell and adieu to you, fair Spanish ladies. Farewell and adieu, you ladies of Spain. For we’ve received orders for to sail back to Boston. And so nevermore shall we see you again.
To this day I respect anyone who can call me an idiot to my face in such a clever fashion. It’s how we learn, and keep from being eaten by a great white.
Farewell and adieu to you, classic movie fans. Thanks for letting me participate in the Spielberg Blogathon, even though I don’t have a site of my own.
*Kris Kringle is a guest blogger who is known for his clever tweets (aka @santaisthinking ), describing daily life while encouraging elves to make toys, otherwise he’s better known as the husband to this site’s host.
11 thoughts on “Jaws- The Smell, The Speech, and the Fair Spanish Ladies”
Wonderful! So many marvelous moments in Jaws, and you’re highlighted some of my favorites, Kris. 😀
Thanks, Michael! There’s so much to like about this movie- especially if you saw it at the Drive-In in pajamas with the audio coming over scratchy speakers… Santa
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Quite a testament to a film that you can watch it from the back of a station wagon and still be scared out of your wits! Great write-up of a great movie!
Monkey Mom, it was a real nail-biter, foot-biter, torso-biter….
I watched this again earlier this summer for the umpteenth time and still love it. It’s one of those films that are always fresh to watch and never get old. A wonderful look .
Great post! I saw Jaws pretty young as well. Well, only half the movie. I bottled it when the head popped up in the boat. I don’t think I watched all the film for another ten years after that. 🙂
I saw it five times in ’75, and now I watch it every 4th of July without fail…my favorite movie ever, and I still get a kick out of watching it after all these years, and all these viewings. A fun review with nice memories, Person-Who-At-First-I-Thought-Was-Kellee-Writing-It!
One of my favourite movies. That Quint USS Indianapolis speech always floors me. What’s surprising is your choice of favourite scene – I’ve never come across anyone who loved that scene as much as you (nice to see it reminds you of your dad!) but I’m glad you highlighted it because it shows just how good Jaws is away from those obvious moments like the opening sequence, the head in the boat’s hole, Quint’s shark speech and the “smile you son of b****” ending!
Thanks, Dan. I actually used a clip of that scene at my dad’s funeral a few years ago. It was my send off to him. Farewell and adieu!
I first saw Jaws a couple of months after it was released, at a theater in Lawrence, Kansas. The theater was packed and it scared the heck out of me. The next spring I go swimming for the first time since seeing Jaws. In a swimming pool. In Kansas. And I’m thinking about that damn shark biting me in half. In a swimming pool. In Kansas. And I know it’s the most irrational thought I’ve ever had, but it didn’t matter.