Martha’s Vineyard remembers ‘Jaws’

I was only four years old when Jaws was originally released, so needless to day I didn’t catch it in theaters. (Sadly, I still haven’t seen it on the big screen.) I don’t remember when I first watched the movie, although I’d bet the first viewing came courtesy of HBO, as that seems to be the venue in which I caught a lot of my early favorites. It just seems like Jaws has always been there.

It’s been a fixture in my list of favorite movies for as long as I’ve kept up with such things, right up there with Halloween and Pulp Fiction and Raiders of the Lost Ark. It’s a movie that I can watch anytime, from any point. Let me find it on a random cable channel, and I don’t care if it’s at the point where a young woman is taking an ill-fated midnight dip in the ocean or all the way to Brody desperately firing a rifle as the Orca sinks beneath him, I’m in for the remainder. I can’t pin the appeal down to any one thing; it’s a combination of setting and characters and great lines and suspense and a shark that, as unsophisticated as it may appear today, still provides more terror than any shark put on screen in its wake.

So, with all that being said, the news that there’s a new book (a giant, lushly-illustrated coffee table book, no less) on the way about the making of this landmark adventure movie is fantastic news to these ears. Jaws: Memories of Martha’s Vineyard is a labor of love from Matt Taylor and Jim Beller, a couple of guys with long-standing ties to the movie. Taylor is a Martha’s Vineyard resident; Beller began collecting Jaws memorabilia after his mother took him to see it during its original release. The two have combined their talents, sources, and love for the movie to create a uniquely “inside” look at the making of the movie.

I haven’t gotten my hands on a copy yet (its official release isn’t until June 20), but from what I gather from the book’s website, the intent is to show the making of the film more from the perspective of Martha’s Vineyard residents living there at the time. The production famously hired hundreds of locals to work on the film, giving the town more of an investment in the movie than probably any other location in Hollywood history. That kind of access meant lots of “everyday people” were privvy to the shooting, and apparently a lot of them brought their own cameras along. It’s something that absolutely would not happen today, and I love that the guys behind this book took that unique angle on putting this project together.

That’s not to say that the filmmakers aren’t involved. Steven Spielberg provides a foreward, and there are contributions from production designer Joe Alves, screenwriter Carl Gottlieb, and many others.

This book looks to be stuffed with never-before-seen photos, stories and anecdotes. If you’re a fan of the big behind-the-scenes books that have come out recently about the Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies, this seems like something right up your alley. Seriously – is there a better beach read coming out this summer?

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