Written by: Matt Molgaard
I was born a few years after the release of Steven Spielberg’s Jaws. Needless to say, I didn’t have the opportunity to see it on the big screen. I own the film, and in all honesty I’ve probably watched it somewhere near 30 times. It’s an amazing film that – for years – instilled a genuine fear of the water in me. But it always bummed me out that I’d missed my opportunity to see it as it should be seen, on the big screen, surrounded by other likeminded individuals.
And then that all changed last month when the flick was re-released theatrically to celebrate the 40th anniversary.
My wife surprised me with a fine Father’s Day gift. “We’re going to the movies,” she said. “I’m going to take you to see something that I think you’re going to find special.”
I had no idea that our local Cinemark had opted to run Jaws in celebration of its anniversary, as we never, ever get these rare re-releases (I live in a city that consists of roughly 70k people, and apparently we’re not a big enough location to warrant bringing back the classics). But when we arrived at the theater, headed for the ticket booth and my wife uttered the words “two for Jaws” I became instantly giddy.
I adore this film. I grew up on this film. I have fond memories of watching it as a child with my father, who never seemed to feel the need to apply any filter when it came to my viewing requests and selections. It holds a very special place in my heart. And on Father’s Day weekend I received a gift I hadn’t seen coming. But I cherished that gift. More so than the staggering horror t-shirt collection I received for Christmas in 2009. More so than the do-it-yourself brew kit I received in 2013. More so than the complete Universal Monster Blu-ray collection I recieved last year, or the complete Halloween boxed set that accompanied the Universal treasure. More so than just about any gift I’ve ever received, to be completely honest.
We waited through an intimidating line (there to take in Jurassic World, no doubt) before splurging at the snack bar, ordering a large popcorn, a hot dog, an order of nachos, a large cherry Coke and an assortment of boxed candies. We ordered like kids, spent like adults and felt entirely liberated, every second.
Entering the screening room I was curious to see just how many fanatics would clamor at the chance to see Jaws the way it was always supposed to be seen. I was surprised to find less than 20 individuals occupying the room, but that was just fine for me. In fact, the small crowd lent a sense of intimacy to the whole experience. Those who showed up for Spielberg’s career launching feature were of a special breed… the kind of breed I can respect. The kind of breed I relate to.
My wife leaned over, lips close to my ear and confessed to me, moments before the film rolled, that of all the times we’d watched the movie together, and of all the times she’d seen it prior to our unity (we’ve been married for nearly 15 years), that she’d never actually watched the picture in its entirety. She also confessed that after working 10 hours that day, she had no chance of remaining conscious through the film’s full 124 minute runtime.
She made it, without issue.
And I found myself surprised in ways that I couldn’t imagine.
Despite having watched the film enough to have the vast majority of the dialogue memorized, the picture felt fresh and new. It was almost as though I’d never seen Jaws before. The first two acts offered comedic sequences I’d somehow missed all these years. When Hooper discovers Ben Gardner’s severed head in his abandoned vessel, I nearly jumped out of my skin, and when he later finds himself in the steel shark cage being attacked by the monster, I was on the edge of my seat. When the colorful Quint becomes a full-size meal for the killer they’d been hunting on the open water, my heart sank. And when Sheriff Brody, the nervous wreck of a police chief, blows that man-eating bastard to bits to emerge the hero we knew he was destined to be from moment one, I damn near cheered.
And I looked at my wife, and her eyes were alive with excitement. I doubt they were as alive as mine, however. I’d been given something very, very special. And while the adventure in its entirety only cost us (roughly) $50, the experience felt worth far more. In fact, it felt priceless, if I’m being honest.
2015 offered an amazing Father’s Day for me. I had the chance to connect with my wife on a level I’ve never experienced, and I got the chance to witness one of history’s greatest motion pictures in a format that I’d long been deprived of simply due to my age. Jaws was mesmerizing on the big screen, and seeing my wife’s response to the film and knowing that she could see the joy that wriggled through my body like a million worms breaking the morning soil’s surface made for one of the more memorable days I’ve ever experienced.
Thanks, Griz. Between your wisdom, Steven Spielberg’s genius and a 25-foot flesh devouring Great White, I had the time of my life. And I’ll never forget it.