Friday, April 13, 2012

Book Review: THE JAWS LOG: 30th Anniversary Edition by Carl Gottlieb

In the wake (hah, self-congratulatory nautical humour there) of JAWS being re-re-released on Blu Ray this summer, I thought I’d mosey on over to my bookshelf and finally get around to reading THE JAWS LOG by Carl Gottlieb.

In many ways JAWS is responsible for a lot of the shape and form of modern movie making. Before JAWS there were no such things as Summer Blockbusters or Tentpole Franchises, at least not as we understand them today.

So with a hefty pedigree like that one weighing on its fishy shoulders its quite natural that in the nearly 40 years since it first hit the theatres fans and film historians alike should paw through its leavings in the hopes of better understanding what the fuss was all about.

Only Carl Gottlieb did it all first.

Gottlieb was co-screenwriter and a bit player on the film and the LOG was written in the direct aftermath of JAWS unprecedented success.

The LOG covers the production history of the film from novelist Peter Benchley’s original idea, to the early pre-production struggles of the filmmakers, right up to the grueling and unpredictable experience of shooting the movie itself.

It’s written in a laid back almost informal diary style. If it happened on the set of JAWS Gottlieb saw it with his own two eyes, or at the very least was able to speak directly to someone else who had. If this book was written today and not in 1975 chances are the material in it would be freely available to everyone as an ongoing production blog or a ‘making of’ featurette on your DVD.

I think the majority of interesting JAWS trivia I’ve heard over the years probably comes from this book. Including…

  • How the shark got its name. (Psst, it’s Bruce)

  • What a pain it was to deal with the mechanical shark, and how initially they thought of training a live version.

  • How one of the biggest shocks in the movie was shot after the fact in the swimming pool of the film’s editor.

    There isn’t a lot of effort made to examine the deeper impact of JAWS on the world of modern filmmaking and that’s OK. Back when the LOG was written there was no way to tell if JAWS was a gamechanger or a fantastically amazing one-off. I ended up reading the 30th Anniversary edition of the book and to his credit, in this version, Gottlieb does try to place JAWS in a historical framework and do a little analysis on the film’s impact on modern day film making*

    But the book was written on the fly one presumes, as it has the rushed ‘bang it out quick and cash in on the furor’ feeling that savy fans recognize from a studio unaware of just how big something would blow up.

    (Quick in this case shouldn’t be confused with poor quality, BTW. The LOG is well written for what it is, but what it is is a companion piece to a popular intellectual property with iconography from said property stamped all over its cover. )

    If you’re a budding filmmaker, you’ll find something in this book to interest you.

    If you’re a film buff, ditto.

    But if you’re at all acquainted with JAWS in even a passing fashion this book will seem overly familiar to you. And I think that’s because it’s the primary source material for a lot of the analysis that’s come out of the film in the last 30-something years. A light, breezy read, but hardly a necessary one.

    *Unfortunately Gottlieb included all his updates in the back of the LOG as footnotes, forcing the reader to endlessly flip back and forth throughout the entirety of the book in order to keep on top of things.
  • 1 comment:

    1. Imma gonna have to get a blu-ray player. or at least finally buy Jaws on DVD. SUCH A GOOD MOVIE! and I can't believe my parents let me watch it when I was a little kid! something must have worked out Ok, because i'm not afraid of sharks.

      and i just love saying "we're gonna need a bigger boat". Roy Scheider FTW!



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