The novel came from a simple newspaper story seen by Benchley in 1964.
"I saw a small item in the New York Daily News about a fisherman who caught a 4,550lb Great White off the beaches
of Long Island, And I thought right then 'What if one of these things came round and wouldn't go away?"
In 1971 Peter Benchley discussed some ideas for books with Thomas Congdon, an editor at publishers Doubleday.
Congdon was not impressed by Benchley's proposals for non-fiction, but his novel idea of a Great White
shark terrorising the beaches of a resort town provoking a moral crisis got Congdon very interested. Interested
enough that he gave Benchley a cheque for $1000 on the basis that he writes 100 pages.
"The first five pages were just wonderful." Said Mr Congdon. "They just went in to the eventual book without any changes.
The other 95 pages though were on the wrong track. They were humorous. And humour isn't the proper vehicle for a great
thriller. One suggestion for the book's title was The Stillness in the Water, not a name that rolled off the tongue."
JAWS was published in 1974 by Doubleday, with 311 pages at the price of $6.95. By the time summer arrived, Jaws had
become a genuine phenomenon. Sunbathers leafed through the book lying yards away from the sea - the very environment that
hid Benchley's finned killer.
Within eight weeks, it had leaped to No.2 position on the New York Times' bestseller list. Before the novel was even off
the presses, it had already earned over $1 million, including $575,000 for U.S. paperback rights alone, and from sales to
book clubs, foreign publishers and the film's producers.
The novel has a darker underlying theme. Matt Hooper, the marine biologist brought in to fight the shark, has an affair
with Brody's wife Ellen.
Mayor Vaughan's insistence on keeping the beaches open, meanwhile, may have something to do with the fact he owes money
to the mafia.
Hooper gets eaten from the attack in the shark cage and Quint drowns from getting caught up
in the barrel ropes attached to the shark.
As for Brody and the shark...
The final page from the novel:
For a moment there was silence, except for the sucking sound of the boat slipping gradually down. The water
was up to Brody's shoulders, and he clung desperately to the gin pole. A seat cushion popped to the surface next to him,
and Brody grabbed it. ('They'd hold you up all right,' Brody remembered Hendricks saying, 'if you were an eight-year-old
Brody saw the tail and dorsal fin break the surface twenty yards away. The tail waved once left, once right,
and the dorsal fin moved closer. 'Get away, damn you!' Brody yelled.
The fish kept coming, barely moving, closing in. The barrels and skeins of rope trailed behind.
The gin pole went under, and Brody let go of it. He tried to kick over to the bow of the boat, which was almost
vertical now. Before he could reach it, the bow raised even higher, then quickly and soundlessly slid beneath the surface.
Brody clutched the cushion, and he found that by holding it in front of him, his forearms across it, and by
kicking constantly, he could stay afloat without exhausting himself.
The fish came closer. It was only a few feet away, and Brody could see the conical snout. He screamed, an
ejaculation of hopelessness, and closed his eyes, waiting for an agony he could not imagine.
Nothing happened. He opened his eyes. The fish was nearly touching him, only a foot or two away, but it had
stopped. And then, as Brody watched, the steel-grey body began to recede downward into the gloom. It seemed to fall away,
an apparition evanescing into darkness.
Brody put his face into the water and opened his eyes. Through the stinging saltwater mist he saw the fish
sink in a slow graceful spiral, trailing behind it the body of Quint - arms out to the sides, head thrown back, mouth open
in a mute protest.
The fish faded from view. But, kept from sinking into the deep by the bobbing barrels, it stopped somewhere
beyond the reach of light, and Quint's body hung suspended, a shadow twirling slowly in the twilight.
Brody watched until his lungs ached for air. He raised his head, cleared his eyes, and sighted in the distance
the black point of the water tower. Then he begun to kick towards shore.
So the shark dies from Quints harpoon stab wounds. For the film, something with more visual
impact was deemed necessary. However Benchley disliked the change and argued to Speilberg that the air tank explosion was unbelievable.
Peter Benchley recounting this argument from the “Making of Jaws” documentary: I said “Steven, that is completely unbelievable. It can’t happen. A shark does not bite down on a SCUBA tank and explode like an oil refinery.” He said, “I don’t care.” He said, “If I have got them for two hours, they will believe whatever I do for the next three minutes because I’ve got them in my hands, and I want the audience on their feet screaming at the end, ‘Yes, yes! This is what should happen to this animal!’”… Reality may be great and truth may be wonderful, but none of it holds a candle to believability…. His ending brought people to their feet, screaming.
In the Mythbusters' JAWS Special, Benchley's theory was confirmed as the scene was deemed "busted", due to the fact that
in reality, the air tank would just fly around like a rocket after being punctured.
What goes wrong when a Universal Studio production tries to produce a highly complicated film starring a mechanical shark
during the heart of the heaviest tourist season on record on Martha's Vineyard...? Practically everything.
Martha's Vineyard was scouted out by Production Designer Joe Alves. The island had handsome houses and boasted a handy
harbour with the sort of 180° view of the horizon, all uninterrupted, that Spielberg was looking for.
Although parts of JAWS was filmed with special shark footage done in Australia by Ron and Valerie Taylor,
the major sequences were shot in the waters off Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, during the summer of 1974.
Bruce the mechanical Shark
According to screenwriter Carl Gottlieb, the producers David Brown and Richard Zanuck "had innocently assumed that they could get
a shark trainer somewhere, who, with enough money, could get a great white shark to perform a few simple stunts on cue in long
shots with a dummy in the water, after which they would cut miniatures or something for the closeup stuff."
Three mechanical sharks were made for the production: a full model for underwater shots, one that turned from left to right,
with the left side completely exposed to the internal machinery, and a similar right to left model, with the right side
exposed. Their construction was supervised by production designer Joe Alves and special effects artist Bob Mattey (creator of
the 20,000 leagues under the sea Giant Squid).
Director, Steven Spielberg, worked out what he wanted the shark to be seen doing in the film, based partly on the stage directions in the
screenplay by Benchley and Gottlieb, and partly on his own imagination. These shark actions were then drawn up into a storyboard by Joe Alves.
Basically what Mattey was supposed to come up with was a one-ton, twenty-five-foot "eating machine." Before the film was over, it would be
eating not only men, women and children, but dogs, rubber mattresses, chains, and tanks of oxygen. It would also have to break into a shark
cage, tow a dock, and sink a boat.
After the sharks were completed, from California they trucked across the country kept under wraps until arriving at Martha's Vineyard.
When it was time for the sharks to be used they frequently malfunctioned, due to the hydraulic innards being corroded by the salt water.
What happened to the original Bruce sharks? Production designer Joe Alves says that by the time they finally finished shooting Jaws, saving Bruce simply wasn't a priority.
"We were in deep trouble," he says. "The studio was reluctant to make the movie; they had no confidence in it. When we came back, they just dumped the sharks in the back lot, and they just rotted away."
In 1975 a huge amount of licensed JAWS toys were up for sale mostly only in American stores.
Hobby Kit company Addar created two unassembled JAWS kits, the 'Super Scenes' scene in a bottle and the Brody/Shark
final battle model. Both kits are pictured on the right.
Ideal came up with JAWS the game, a great reversed Buck-a-roo type game. You had to hook out as much junk out of Jaws' mouth
without it snapping shut on you. The game was remade by Just Toys in 1989 with the same name and more recently by Tyco.
JAWS the game is pictured on the right.
JAWS toys are still being created many years after the films release. In 2001 Mcfarlane Toys created a very popular deluxe boxed set
of Quints death scene. Another Mcfarlane creation was the 3D movie poster in 2005. Both pictured right.
2015, in time for the film's 40th Anniversary Funko released figures of the Shark, Brody, Quint and Hooper in the style of retro Kenner action figures. All pictured below.
JAWS Video Games
In 1975 Atari made the arcade game 'Shark JAWS'. The first game to feature animated characters.
The manufacturer is Horror Games, created by Atari to avoid any possible legal hassles from the producers of the obvious
inspiration for the game: JAWS. Even flyers sent out to prospective buyers prod them to "cash in on the popularity, interest
and profits associated with sharks".
The ability to eliminate any affiliation between the two isn't helped by the fact that the cabinet artwork features the word
shark in tiny letters with JAWS looming large next to it.
'Killer Shark', another arcade game but with more relation to JAWS this time. Killer Shark is a 1972 Sega release which
was actually shown in the movie during the beach montage scene.
It was one of those rare fully analogue games. The player aims the gun at a moving shark to kill it. When the player shoots the
shark, it flails around as if electrocuted (with appropriate sound effects) for a few seconds, before the next shark appears.
The game is timed.
The first real JAWS game came out in 1987 for the Nintendo Entertainment System. It's more of a JAWS: The Revenge game,
makes sense though, the film had just been released and so the story was fresh in gamer's minds. You pilot a boat
across the sea, randomly encountering groups of hostile sea creatures. The shark is named 'JAWS' and
to defeat him at the end of the game you must drive the front mast into the lunging shark.
If you happen to own the game visit the
JAWS NES Shrine for a cool walkthrough.
Two years later in 1989 we finally had a game based on the film's plot. You're Brody aboard the Orca with Quint and Hooper,
status panels above and below the Orca graphic control much of the game's action. Though the main objective is to kill Jaws,
Brody has to keep his job by keeping the death toll down and as many beaches open as possible.
The game was available on the Spectrum, Atari ST, C64, Amiga and Amstrad. The Atari ST and Amiga versions both had some cool
(for the time) intro sequences with the poorly sounding JAWS theme blurring away. Screenshots below.
JAWS hit our mobile phones in 2005. With cool 3D graphics (before smartphones) you play as a budding adventurer in one of three difficulty levels, guppy, barracuda, and great
white. Following the events indicated in the daily Amity Gazette, you must go out and hunt sharks in a cage, until levelling yourself up enough to take on Jaws himself.
In the game, you deal with characters from the film, and at the beginning you're immediately sent to go talk to Quint to get an idea of where to go shark-hunting. With
the use of fairly accurate character portraits you get a real feel of the movie. Screenshots below.
In 2006 came 'JAWS Unleashed' developed by Appaloosa Interactive. You play as the shark (yeap you guessed it, he's named JAWS) terrorising
Amity Island 30 years after the original film. The game also features references to plot elements from the other three films.
Released on three platforms: Playstation 2, Xbox and PC. The game received poor reviews
however became a commercial success, selling over 250,000 copies, therefore earning it Gamespot's "Worst Game Everyone
Played of 2006" award. Screenshots below.