Tales of Rock: ‘Yesterday’ and ‘Rocketman’ are pop-music fantasias that never touch the greatness of their subjects

Lily James and Himesh Patel in a scene from “Yesterday.” (Jonathan Prime/Universal Pictures via AP)

Of all the here’s-a-cool-way-to-make-a-pop-biopic! ideas floating around in “Rocketman” that work better in theory than they do onscreen, one of the most pivotal was the decision to have Taron Egerton do his own singing. That almost never happens in music biopics (Rami Malek lip-synched in “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Jamie Foxx lip-synched in “Ray,” Marion Cotillard lip-synched in “La Vie en Rose”). Media voices have cooed over Egerton’s vocalizing as if they were the proud parents of a kid vying for championship of a karaoke competition. “Look, he’s really doing it! And he sounds just like Elton John!”

Except that he doesn’t. In the ’70s, the fluky flavor (and power) of Elton John’s voice was connected to the contrast between the way he spoke — incredibly posh and rounded English tones — and the bluesy down-home American idiom that he infused into nearly every sung syllable. (Even in a song as mellow as “Your Song,” he would sing, “And you can tell everybod-eh.”) What you hear, in almost every line of his phrasing, is the ebullient theatrical muscle it took to make that reach. Taron Egerton can sing, but it’s exactly that aspect that his voice doesn’t have. The songs in “Rocketman” sound “good” as far as it goes, but they’re stripped of Elton’s distinct vocal personality. According to the film’s topsy-turvy logic, though, this somehow renders them old but new again. To put it bluntly: They can now be resold.

Everybody knows, because it’s a cornerstone of modern movie mythology, that two fabled films of the 1970s created the blockbuster mentality: “Jaws” (1975) and “Star Wars” (1977). Actually, I’ve always thought that two additional movies were part of that story: “The Exorcist” (1973), which tapped and shaped the up-and-coming appetite for overexplicit sensationalism, and “Rocky” (1976), which brought back the feel-good ideology of happy endings and, in doing so, helped to usher in the age of Reagan.

Yet even if you include those two, what isn’t nearly as remembered now — thought it marked a fundamental change in the aesthetics, and business, of movies — was the revolution wrought by “Saturday Night Fever” (1977). The movie’s soundtrack, one of the greatest ever, was beyond huge — it was a disco volcano that kept erupting. “American Graffiti,” or the films of Elvis Presley, might have paved the way, but what kicked off with “Saturday Night Fever,” in the corporate Hollywood that was coming into being, was the perception that the movie and music industries could effectively merge. Movies could be vehicles for creating and marketing pop soundtracks, and pop soundtracks could be vehicles for creating and marketing movies. This led directly to the age of “Flashdance,” “Footloose,” “Top Gun,” and a thousand lesser titles, from “Thank God It’s Friday” to “D.C. Cab,” that were conceived and packaged to piggyback on their MTV-and-radio-friendly soundtracks. Films and music would now be tails wagging each other, which created a new form: the movie as synergistic tie-in musical.

The Beatles and Elton John are hardly typical subjects for a pop-music film. They are gods among giants. As such, they deserve — I would say demand — a kind of big-screen treatment that exudes transcendence. Yet “Yesterday” and “Rocketman” aren’t jukebox musicals that send you out on a cloud of rapture. They’re synergistic tie-in musicals that are out to rebrand the Beatles and Elton John for a new generation. Maybe that’s why neither movie comes close to touching the greatness of its subject.

In recent weeks, I’ve had more than a few conversations about “Rocketman,” the biography-in-a-blender Elton John musical that, I confess, absolutely drove me up a wall. On the surface, at least, the film couldn’t be more different from “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which was a conventionally middlebrow push-your-buttons biopic. That one really was a Bryan Singer film, though it was finished by Dexter Fletcher, who directs “Rocketman” as if it were a Baz Luhrmann movie staged as a badly lit, thinly scripted Netflix throwaway. Yet when people talk about “Rocketman,” they sound a lot like they do when they talk about “Bohemian Rhapsody.” There’s a fan-service reductionism to the whole megillah, and to the way that the chief sentiment you hear always comes down to the same thing: “I loved hearing those songs!” Well, yes. Who doesn’t?

Early on in “Rocketman,” when Egerton’s Elton, having stalked offstage in his outsize orange devil costume, is sitting there in a support group, looking back on the life that brought him to this moment, the line “I was justified when I was five” is used to spin the action back to his childhood and the film’s first musical number, “The Bitch Is Back.” I watched the sequence that follows never having the faintest idea of why this song would apply to thissituation. Like everyone else, though, I enjoyed hearing the killer hooks of “The Bitch Is Back.”

Yet if hearing those songs were all it took to make a good musical, then the legendary 1978 Robert Stigwood debacle “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” starring (yes, starring!) the Bee Gees in their post-“Fever” prime, might be a spectacle of high-kitsch joy, instead of one of the most atrocious movie musicals ever created. “Rocketman,” with its slipshod staging and “stylized” chronology (i.e., the events of Elton John’s life seem not just out of sequence but seriously out of whack), is a bubbleheaded travesty of the musical biopic that Elton John should have had. (And had that movie been made, it would have been twice the hit.)

That said, I’m seriously shocked that more people aren’t more disappointed by what a botched opportunity “Rocketman” represents. The movie has been hyped in such a way to make it sound stodgy if you complain about its iPod-random chronology. But when Elton shows up for his fabled American debut at the Troubadour in L.A. in 1970 and plays “Crocodile Rock,” I’m sorry, that’s the equivalent of making a biopic about the Beatles in which they launch their Shea Stadium concert in 1965 with a cut off the White Album.

Elton John’s music and image developed radically over the first half of the ’70s, but the way “Rocketman” tells it, he simply touched down in the world as this nerd glam prince with a hundred pairs of glasses churning out sublime synthesizer earworms. In the movie, we almost never see Elton discovering who he is — as a musician, or as an image of pansexual flamboyance. Maybe that’s why the movie, in its greatest-hits-ripped-out-of-context way, wobbles around the kicky splendor of the songs. It uses them as musical bullet points, but there’s scarcely a moment when it figures out how to sit back and catch the lightning majesty of what Elton John created.

If “Rocketman” is at least guilty of a certain operatic overreach, “Yesterday” revives the Fab Four by reducing them. The movie, which opened Friday, is a what-if? trifle, an attempt to turn a world without the Beatles into a happy-face “Twilight Zone” episode that becomes a fantasy of rebooting the Beatles. As I said in my review, the most telling aspect of “Yesterday” is that it presents the Kate McKinnon character as a music-business manager of snarky corruption, yet her master plan to market the Beatles is treated less as satire than as the film’s own fantasy of selling the “ultimate” supergroup. You could say, “No, the movie isn’t really on the side of that.” But I would suggest that the pop commodity fetishism of “Yesterday” is wound right into the movie’s blandly iconic, number-one-with-a-bullet song choices (“Hey Jude,” “Let It Be,” “Here Comes the Sun,” “Help!,” “All You Need Is Love”). It’s as if the PR department had nixed the notion of doing anything more adventurous or offbeat.

One could argue that we live in the real world, and that it’s impossible to make an expensive movie about the Beatles or Elton John without treating those songs as marketing hooks. Fair enough. Yet the problem with “Yesterday” and “Rocketman” isn’t that they sell the Beatles or Elton John out. It’s that, in devoting so much of themselves to imagining how these incandescent artists might appeal to audiences today, the movies never fully remember — or capture — how they appealed to audiences back then, when all that selling seemed so far away.

 

 

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Tales of Rock – Kris Kristofferson

This is one of my all time favorite Tales of Rock posts. It’s just such a great story! I love it!

 

Among all of the thousands of rock artists who have recorded a song, talented Kris Kristofferson probably has the most impressive background.

 

Kris is the son of a retired U.S. Air Force Major General. In high school Kris was Class President, honor student, and football star. He was a Rhodes Scholar and attended Oxford University. He has authored several books and won first prize in a collegiate short-story contest sponsored by the Atlantic Monthly. In school he played football and was a Golden Gloves boxer.

In Vietnam he was a helicopter pilot. He was an Army Captain and attended flight school. As a civilian, he flew helicopters and served as a janitor at the Nashville Recording Studio. He is a Grammy winner and has appeared in numerous movies, including A Star is Born, playing opposite Barbara Streisand.

He has also composed such hit songs as Me and Bobby McGee and Help Me Make It Through The Night.

Now that, is an impressive resume and a fantastic life!

 

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Ambria – Chapter 11 – Movie Rendezvous

It was Monday, which is Ambria’s Saturday, because she works at the hospital Wednesday to Sunday. Make sense? So on Mondays I can shift a few things around and spend the afternoon with her. I have tickets for the Big Red Bus. It’s a bus that tours around the city and you can get on and off as much as you want for 12 hours. It sounds pretty cool, and I already have the tickets, but we’ve decided to go to the cinema again. I love film as you know, and so does she. We also both love a quiet matinee on a hot summer afternoon.

I send her some titles I like, and she decides on “Abacus: Small Enough to Jail.” It’s an excellent and heartfelt documentary. It tells the incredible saga of the Chinese immigrant Sung family, owners of Abacus Federal Savings of Chinatown, New York. Accused of mortgage fraud by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., Abacus becomes the only U.S. bank to face criminal charges in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. The indictment and subsequent trial forces the Sung family to defend themselves – and their bank’s legacy in the Chinatown community – over the course of a five-year legal battle.

Last week we saw “My Cousin Rachel,” and now this week we’re seeing another terrific film! Two in a row. We’re on a roll. I get there first and buy the tickets and take the escalator downstairs next to the Bourse Building to the actual theater. I like this cinema. That cool underground theater tucked away from street level in the heart of the historic district at 4th and Market.

I text her that I have arrived and she’s on point. She tells me she’s also arrived. I tell her to come downstairs and that the tickets have been acquired.

Within a minute she appears and we lean in for a smooch. She orders me a small popcorn with butter and a medium diet coke. That’s my go to movie food. She pays $11 for the treats (Movie prices!) and I ask her if she wants anything. She said she fine. We head into the theater and sit in the back. There are only 3 other people in the place. I love when a matinée is empty! We sit all the way in the back in the very center.

We watch what seems like 15 minutes of coming attractions. I like trailers though. It’s fun to get the first glimpse of the new exciting picture that’s coming soon!

Ambria snuck her own snacks into the movie. That’s her movie food. Then she pulls out a box of M&M’s Peanuts and hands it to me. Last week I mentioned that was my favorite movie candy. She remembered and bought me a box and brought it with her today.

Good memory. Listens to me. Love is in the air!

Another great thing that happened, was she let me own the armrest. Right guys? I had the one on my left and she let me have the one on the right. I’m like a king on a throne and I own this experience. Sure there was some hand holding and touching but these armrests are mine! You gotta love that in a girl at the movies. I’m just sayin’.

The film was great and heartwarming. I loved the Sung family by the end of this film. I recommend you go see it. Phicklephilly gives it two thumbs up!

When the film was over we headed west on Walnut street. I like Walnut. It’s just a little nicer than Chestnut and Market streets. I probably should have stayed in the theater for a little bit so I could make out with hot Ambria but I didn’t think of it. I regret that now.

It’s a beautiful day, so we walk all the way back to center city. We settle on Locust Rendezvous which I love. She tells me she loves bars like that and that makes me happy. “The ‘Vous” as some people call it, is a small bar down around 15th and Locust.

Locust Rendezvous was established in September of 1989. Surviving in an ever-changing neighborhood, they have withstood the test of time. Many establishments have come and gone, not sure what they wanted to be when they grew up. Fortunately, they learned early on that they were just a great bar with good food — nothing more, nothing less.

Their goal, as always, has been to make all of their customers feel welcome. You’ll find when you come in regularly that there are many familiar faces. Their customers come from far and wide, remembering the great service, comfortable atmosphere and reasonable prices from their first venture through our front door. Repeat business is their mainstay, and all new are welcome.

I love a good tavern. The food is cheap, it’s tasty, and the beer is cold. I order a Yards Pale Ale, and Ambria gets a cocktail. We order a pair of tacos and Ambria asks for a basket of fries. Perfect.

We’re sitting at a table away from the bar and the moment belongs to us.

I love being with Ambria. She’s beautiful, fun and easy. Not easy sexually. I know that’s coming. I’m trying to stave that off. I know romance is paramount in any relationship. We could have jumped into bed after our second date. But I know better. Get to know her. Be sure. Grow together. Feel the force. Build the desire for the celebration. It’ll be so much better. Too many people just leap out of desire. I’ve seen this a hundred times. It’s a slippery slope that can easily end in disaster.

My experience guides me. If she’s the one, I’ll be present, myself and careful. Not so much for me, I’ll be fine, but for her heart. I need the glue to stick, the cohesion to happen and then when we finally come together it’ll be magic.

Most men rush in for the hasty close. I’ve been in sales all of my life. I love and know women. It simply doesn’t work that way. Set the trap. Go slow. Build the myth. Create the romance. Take it to a level that is so high there is nowhere else to go once you reach the top. There’s so much joy between the two of you, there is nothing left to do but make love.

She wants that. You want that. It should have happened eight chapters ago, but give it value. Make your memories now. Make them valuable. Make them truly memorable so when you get down to the ‘you and me’ it’s amazing.

Anybody can do the old “In and out” like John Lennon used to call it, but build something elegant and celebrate together with the only possession you came into the world with.

Share. Celebrate. Together.

The food comes, and it’s magic. We’re happy. Ambria says she loves this place again. We’re going to get along just fine. It’s obvious at this point. Her hand moves the basket and comes across the table top like a soft welcomed spider. She takes my hand and we entwine like old lovers.

The staff is great, and we learn our server is the GM and we dig that she’s on point.

After the little meal we decide to hit the next place. It’ 5pm and I remind her that Dan Dan’s happy hour starts at 4:30pm. She’s ready to roll too. We’ve done this place and it’s time to go. I think the real reason we go is, that we’re both thinking about the film we saw today.

She pays the bill, (Hooray!) and we head out with many thanks for the sweet repose. This has been the perfect stop and I’m glad I chose it.

 

 

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Ambria – Chapter 10 – Matinee Day – Part Two

I have the tickets. I’m ready to roll. I don’t want to see this film at 4pm. Uber, be earnest in your trek.

I go outside and smoke a cigarette because I’m stressed. I can’t be late for anything, especially not a film.

I’m out there standing in the courtyard looking out on 2nd street. There is a tap on my shoulder, and it’s Ambria. She’s here!

I grab her and usher into the theater. The girl tells us the movie is just beginning but we can go in now. We scramble town the dark hallway and into the theater.

“Tonight on Dealbreakers”  I say.

Ambria gets a fit of laughing because she gets the joke. The bit I just said is my father talking. It means, if you are late for a film I may dump you and date someone else. But I’ve done it in an ironic sarcastic way, and baby loves it. This way Ambria is such a good match for me. I can rip and she is tantalized by my jokes. She gets it and giggles for 10 minutes straight.

I climb into the darkness to find some seats in the back. There’s 5 people in the theater and I love it so much. I love film and cinema so mush when I am in a theater and It’s empty I am so turned on.

It’s quiet. You can sit wherever you want. No children. Empty. Just that beautiful presence in the dark that unfolds before you and who you’re with.

A handful of film lovers or old people who will remain quieter during the film. No cell phones. No texting. Just watch a big beautiful movie in a theater and feel the power of the art in the darkness. It’s glorious. I wanted this with Ambria.

She loves it. She’s ready. We’re up in the back. I don’t know what this film is about bit I don’t care. It’s Monday. Everybody is at work hating their lives and we are about to watch a great film together and we’re off.

Off.

Off is so good. She’s so sorry she was late and I’m a very forgiving because I like her and it’s not her fault and she killed herself getting down here. I ask her if she wants anything. she says she has some sort of spicy crunchy snacks which is awesome if you’ve snuck chow in. she asks me I’d want anything and I tell her I would love a small popcorn with extra butter and a medium diet coke. I’m checking and wondering and she says she’s going to get it.

I tell her it’s ok but she insists because she says she was late and I paid for the tickets. Ambria is so hot I don’t give a shit about any of that. But… greasy buttery popcorn and soda would be pretty awesome right now.

she insists and goes to the snack bar. I sit back and try to absorb ‘ My Cousin Rachel” (Great movie by the way)

Baby returns with a small buttery bag of popcorn, a medium dite Coke which is so huge I can’t lift it and a straw and napkins. I’m going to go ahead and say good girlfriend at this junction.

If you’re having any doubts about Me Cousin Rachel, let me tell you the film is amazing. Great story that will leave you guessing. So good you’ll watch it and not molest your date during it.

After the film we walked up to Market street and I showed her the Independence Beer Garden. Best beer garden in the city.

Check it out: http://www.phlbeergarden.com/

Yea… it’s God.

I showed it to her but didn’t want to hang.

Don’t worry, I’ll meet up with her there in the next episode.

The weather wasn’t murder so we walked back to center city to find a cool spot to stop.

Of course we stop at Square 1682 on a Monday, because my boy Roman is there and I know we’ll be secured. I of course go with chardonnay with a side of ice and Ambria goes with something from the cocktail list that is light.

We’re tight at the bar, chatting, laughing and talking to Roman. But when she had to go to the Ladies room, I had the opportunity to show her where is was. We went up the back stairs that brought us two the second floor. I took her into the front banquet room which is empty and dark. This is was just an opportunity to make out with her like a teenager.

I knew it would it would be empty and quiet an I knew I could rip into my love.

Her lips are that of a girlfriend. Her tongue of a lover. Yt’s like our mouths were made to kiss each other.

I can’t get enough of her. Ambria is hungry and ready, I know I have to wait. But the kettle is about to explode.

 

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My Young Life: Star Wars – 1977

I remember seeing the trailer for it on TV and my friends and I getting really excited about how cool it looked. I was 14 years old and my dad said he would take me to see it. He was working at a bank down the shore back then and my sisters and I lived in Philly with Mom.

When I look back on it now it’s like they got separated but wouldn’t get divorced. According to my mother she didn’t want her kids ending up a statistic. Mom could chill in Philly and dad would live at the shore house in North Wildwood, NJ. Then he could carry on his affairs and go fishing with his buddies.

The good thing about that arrangement was life was more peaceful at home. I didn’t have to deal with the tension of having dad around all the time and it was greatest hits on the weekends.

Ninth grade in middle school was up to that point, the worst year of my life. I’ve faced far worse years in my adult life but up to that year 1976 – 1977 was by far the worst. I’ll just give you the quick and dirty:

Puberty, Glasses, pimples all over my face, chest and back, terrible student, picked on by kids at school in school, on the way home from school, and after school. It was like I was walking around wearing a target. I loved girls but they all hated me, but when you think of all the shit that happened and was done to me, it’s wrong, but I brought nothing to the table. All I had was a few friends, my music, my art and my comic books. Life sucked.

I remember seeing the previews for the a new movie coming out called Star Wars one day on TV and went buck wild. I had to see that movie. All of the boys in the neighborhood were talking about it. It looked super cool.

I talked to my dad about it and he said he would take me. A little father and son time. Even though I was afraid of him back then I probably still loved him.  I believe it was opening weekend for the film.

We got on the train and went downtown. There was a line waiting out front to get in! He bought us hot dogs and cans of soda from a street cart and we ate them while waiting in line. This was a brilliant move, because then we wouldn’t get hung up in a concession line inside waiting for overpriced popcorn and drinks. We’d get right in and find a pair of seats. Could have been good planning on the part of my pop. He was always a great planner. That’s the good side of having high anxiety and OCD.

The movie starts and the rest is history. We loved it! It was probably the greatest movie I had ever seen in my life. Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey was brilliant and is to this day still my favorite movie of all time. The special effects in 2001 set the standard for how science fiction films looked forever. But Star Wars was a fun, funny, exciting fable and adventure story. It blew my young mind.

It was an unforgettable afternoon with my pop and a landmark moment in film history. I went on to see it eight more times that summer!

But that’s another story!

 

 

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Wildwood Daze – 1974 to 1975 – Jaws

I was in Fels Junior High School.  My time at Fels was the worst time of my young life. I was entering puberty. I had greasy hair, braces, zits all over my face, glasses and weird clothes. I don’t know what my mom was thinking when she bought my wardrobe back then. I wore black dress shoes that had buckles on them. Kids would make fun of me and called them Pilgrim shoes. I was a total mess. If I had been a good student or an athlete all would have been forgiven but I was just a total loser. Low self-esteem, depression and anxiety didn’t help. But I was a smart kid. But that doesn’t help when you’re a total failure. I remember my mom later saying she wished she could have just put me to sleep and woke me up when I was 18.

The school of thought back then was you didn’t have to love your kids. I remember my mother later telling me that she didn’t love me during that time. I get it. But you don’t tell your child that. You don’t ever say those words to a little kid.

I loved to read. My father taught us all how to read before we ever went to school. He would spend time with us with books on how to sound out words and vowels and consonants. I will say when it came to educating us kids my father was amazing.

He would read us The Hobbit at night before bed.

I was a deadly reader long before my peers. I have instilled the same in my daughter growing up.  I may say no to you for another toy but I’ll never say to you if you want a book. I’ve bought plenty of both for Lorelei but she has always been an avid reader like her dad. I love that about her!

 

I was sitting in the auditorium after lunch one day doing study hall or whatever and this little Jewish ginger kid named Eric Dorfman gave me a paperback he had just finished entitled Jaws.

I loved sharks, dinosaurs, barbarians, superheroes and horror movies and everything like that so I was interested.

“You should read this. You’ll like it.”

I had never read an “adult novel” until then. I had only read science books, text books for school and most of all, comic books.

The book opens with a strong hook. Just like the opening of the film that would later premiere. I remember being drawn into the story immediately. My dad told me that the author Peter Benchley was the grandson of the author Robert Benchley.

Robert Charles Benchley was an American humorist best known for his work as a newspaper columnist and film actor. From his beginnings at the Harvard Lampoon while attending Harvard University, through his many years writing essays and articles for Vanity Fair and The New Yorker and his acclaimed short films, Benchley’s style of humor brought him respect and success during his life, from New York City and his peers at the Algonquin Round Table to contemporaries in the burgeoning film industry.

His grandson Peter Bradford Benchley was an American author and screenwriter. He is known for the bestselling novel Jaws and co-wrote its subsequent film adaptation with Carl Gottlieb. Several more of his works were also adapted for cinema, including The Deep, The Island, Beast, and White Shark.

Later in life, Benchley came to regret writing such sensationalist literature about sharks, which he felt encouraged excessive fear and unnecessary culls of such an important predator in ocean ecosystems and became an outspoken advocate for marine conservation.

By 1971, Benchley was doing various freelance jobs in his struggle to support his wife and children. During this period, when Benchley would later declare he was “making one final attempt to stay alive as a writer”, his literary agent arranged meetings with publishers. Benchley would frequently pitch two ideas, a non-fiction book about pirates, and a novel depicting a man-eating shark terrorizing a community. This idea had been developed by Benchley since he had read a news report of a fisherman catching a 4,550 pounds (2,060 kg) great white shark off the coast of Long Island in 1964. The shark novel eventually attracted Doubleday editor Thomas Congdon, who offered Benchley an advance of $1,000 leading to the novelist submitting the first 100 pages. Much of the work had to be rewritten as the publisher was not happy with the initial tone. Benchley worked by winter in his Pennington office, and in the summer in a converted chicken coop in the Wessons’ farm in Stonington. The idea was inspired by the several great white sharks caught in the 1960s off Long Island and Block Island by the Montauk charter boat captain Frank Mundus.

Jaws was published in 1974 and became a great success, staying on the bestseller list for 44 weeks. Steven Spielberg, (He was only 26 years old when he directed Jaws!) who would direct the film version of Jaws, has said that he initially found many of the characters unsympathetic and wanted the shark to win.  Book critics such as Michael A. Rogers of Rolling Stone shared the sentiment but the book struck a chord with readers.

Benchley co-wrote the screenplay with Carl Gottlieb (along with the uncredited Howard Sackler and John Milius, who provided the first draft of a monologue about the USS Indianapolis) for the Spielberg film released in 1975. Benchley made a cameo appearance as a news reporter on the beach. The film, starring Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, and Richard Dreyfuss, was released in the summer season, traditionally considered to be the graveyard season for films. However, Universal Studios decided to break tradition by releasing the film with extensive television advertising. It eventually grossed over $470 million worldwide. George Lucas used a similar strategy in 1977 for Star Wars which broke the box office records set by Jaws, and hence the summer blockbuster was born.

Benchley estimated that he earned enough from book sales, film rights and magazine/book club syndication to be able to work independently as a film writer for ten years.

I remember being terrified reading the book in my bed. I think about that now, and it seems silly. How could a monster who couldn’t leave the ocean even get me in my bed. But I was young and this was a grown up scary story. One of the things that I noticed about the book that was different from the movie was this: In the book Hooper is having an affair with Brody’s wife, and in the end he dies. In the book he’s in the shark cage and the shark smashes through it and eats him.

There was so much hype about this film when it came out. It was the summer of ’75 and we were down the shore in Wildwood. (Which is a resort/retirement community somewhat like Amity in Jaws) There were five movie theaters around the island and they all had the posters for the movie up. But another brilliant piece of marketing they had going were these other posters called “Shark Facts.” They had the Jaws logo at the bottom, and then a list of facts about sharks. My favorite one was “Most shark attacks occur in 3 feet of water.” I knew this scared the hell out of everyone.

After seeing Jaws you really never saw people just running down to the ocean and jumping in. It was more like, walk to the water’s edge, stop, peer out into the ocean and then step into the water.

One of our neighbors took his daughter Stacy to see it. (Which I thought was inappropriate, because she was too young to see a film that violent and gory. But that was just my opinion) Of course her dad Steve always did stupid stuff. The scene at night when they’re underwater investigating the wreck of a boat. Hooper sees a hole in the hull and pulls out what appears to be a Dorito chip sized shark tooth from the wood. As he does this a dead person’s head pops out. It is one of the most startling moments in the entire film. Well, Stacy jumped, the popcorn went flying and was stuck in her hair as well as her father’s hair! (They both had dark curly hair)

I remember a group of us went to see it. I’m pretty sure my sister Janice was in that group. I remember during the opening credits, which is a camera cruising underwater through the seaweed, I started having anxiety. I knew we were in for some real thrills and chills. The film is so well done. Even though the shark by today’s special effects standards looks so fake, it’s still hold up as a great movie.

While filming Jaws they had so many problems with “Bruce” the mechanical shark, that they couldn’t show him as much as they wanted to. But this worked out really well. You’re always more afraid of what you can’t see than what you can see. And that music! Brilliant score by John Williams. Probably the most iconic two notes in history.

It’s just a great story about three very different men, thrown together in a small space in a very dangerous place, up against a massive marine predator.

I’ve watched the film again recently. I watch it every summer. Last year it came on TV at my favorite bar, Square 1682, and the bartender passed out bowls of their delicious and savory truffle popcorn. It really made the moment and brought everyone together at the bar as we watched this landmark classic film.

Jaws invented the Summer Blockbuster!

 

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