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The Jaws Log Book Review

the Jaws log

The Jaws Log by Carl Gottlieb – A Book Worth Sinking Your Teeth Into?

I am a HUGE Jaws fan, it is easily one of my favourite Spielberg movie and perhaps could even be the all time favourite.  As a child in the 80s I wore out my VHS version due to excessive repeated viewings. If Jaws were a cigarette, then I would have been a seventy a day smoker at the age of eleven.  Having read Carl Gottlieb's book (screenwriter and actor in the film), I now view the movie with fresh eyes and a renewed appreciation of the great film I've enjoyed so much. 

First published in 1975 to coincide with the films release, it has since been re-released for the 25th and 30th anniversaries. The 25th anniversary edition provided the updated footnotes on the crew, cast and changes in the movie industry, along with a foreword from Peter Benchley.  This, the 30th anniversary edition, also contains a new foreword from Carl himself. The main body of the book remains unchanged from that released in 1975 and for this reason I had my doubts as to how much gritty truth would be contained so close to movie's release.   Would this read like a controlled press release, offering happy gloss PR 'facts' which we all knew anyway?  It did not!

The book is littered with interesting information, not only about the making of Jaws but the movie industry in general, however, most importantly for me, it manages to capture some of the atmosphere on set.  The sheer frustration and immense stress this film placed everyone under offers up stories of humour and surprise.  If you are a Jaws fan, some things you will already know, but this is the interpretation of a man who was actually there, so you get a real human feel.  The story within isn't just dry facts, but offers anecdotes about the cast, crew and even the residence and visitors of the shoot location, Martha's Vineyard, with their occasional light fingered, sabotaging ways!

Something that was perhaps never really clear to me is how different Jaws was from other blockbusters at that time.  They truly entered unknown waters (pun intended). To have all the actors, set and an authentic looking, in-the-sea, working and swimming shark (aka Bruce) in shot at the same time was unheard of.  It came at a price, both monetarily and emotionally.

The footnotes are contained towards the rear of the book.  At times it's tempting to overlook them, especially when you are caught up in the good read, but don't.  There is an abundance of fascinating stuff to be found, including Carl's take on who wrote the famous Indianapolis speech, what Jaws fan would want to miss that?

I've been very tempted to recount some of stories but that would be spoiling it.  Let's just say that Jaws fans, film fans or both, you will be rapt from start to finish seeing the film and movie industry in a new and better informed way.  Also, don't underestimate how funny this book is at times, there are a good few full-on belly laugh moments as you progress your way through its chapters (in particular a story involving a skunk, I shall say no more).  You will also realise what sacrifices people make for their art, no question that making Jaws gave Spielberg post traumatic stress, really it did! 

Go read it now!
Writing for The Bearded Trio

Paul Baghurst


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