The Throwback: Jaws The Quintessential Summer Blockbuster

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(CNN) — Memorial Day weekend signals the unofficial start of summer, and one tradition that’s up there with barbecues, beaches and camping trips is the summer blockbuster And while “The Avengers,” “The Dark Knight Rises” and “Men in Black 3” may spring to mind when you hear that phrase, we’re thinking of the ultimate summer movie: “Jaws.”

Based on Peter Benchley’s novel of the same name, “Jaws” opened on June 20, 1975 and quickly chomped through box office records. On opening weekend alone, it netted over $7 million in tickets sales. Incidentally, the film’s entire budget was $7 million. It remained No. 1 at the box office for a staggering 14 weeks in a row and became the first-ever film to make over $100 million.

The opening scene is set a few days shy of the 4th of July on the fictional Amity Island (filming took place on Martha’s Vineyard). When a local young woman is killed via shark attack, the new police chief, Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) wants to shut down the beach in the interest of safety, but Mayor Larry Vaughan (Murray Hamilton) wants to keep them open because the resort town’s livelihood depends on summer tourism dollars.

(As an aside, let the record state that Mayor Vaughan’s anchor-patterned jacket is actually stylish now – and yes, the jacket has its own Facebook page.)

But back to the movie: Following more fatal attacks, Brody enlists the expertise of oceanographer Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) who reluctantly agrees to enlist the help of Quint (Robert Shaw), a local shark hunter and a bit of a psychopath loose cannon who seriously loves to kill sharks.

His walls are adorned with full sets of shark teeth the way others might decorate with stencils and tapestries. We get it: Dude hates sharks. (Spoiler alert: Karma literally bites him in the you-know-what.)

The trio sets off on a high-seas adventure – except, they actually don’t go that far out. The point was that the shark was keeping close to shore, but director Steven Spielberg purposely made sure no land appeared onscreen during the shark hunt portion of the film to signify that the men were officially on the shark’s “turf,” so to speak.

The result is a movie that has held up through the decades, and although some in today’s generation may scoff at the mechanical sharks in Spielberg’s classic, audiences are still returning to the quintessential summer hit.

Case in point: On Wednesday, the Cannes Film Festival featured a “Jaws” screening – on the beach, no less. Last month, New York City’s TriBeCa Film Festival featured “Jaws” in its Drive-In series.

The beachside thriller is also one of movie fans’ most-requested Blu-ray discs, and their wish will come true this summer.

Universal Pictures realized they were “gonna need a bigger boat,” and they put together a digitally-remastered “Jaws” whose full restoration was personally supervised by Spielberg.

The restoration process involved – among other preservation elements – retrieving the film’s original negatives and 35mm print from “the vault”; eliminating dirt and scratches; and careful color-balancing. Spielberg approved final picture and sound and ensured that the integrity of the original film remained intact. The Blu-ray, out August 14, will also contain two feature-length “Jaws” documentaries, among other features.

My favorite “Jaws” scene is, without a doubt, Quint’s U.S.S. Indianapolis speech. Not because it’s also Spielberg’s favorite scene, but because my husband’s friend forewent the wedding factory speech/roasting route and got up, gave the “Jaws” speech word for word, and sat down. No lead-in, no explanation. I think he may have even dropped the mic afterward.

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