Jaws 2 Good ?

I was surfing around the TV channels, the other night, and ITV 4 was halfway through Jaws 2. I was virtually asleep, but I saw the scene when the water skier is killed, and it immediately had me hooked.  On Sunday, I dug the DVD out of my DVD Collection, and watched it in its entirety.

As I’ve said in previous post, Jaws is still my favorite  film of all time, but the sequel would certainly make my top 50 of all-time greats. Fuck The Godfather Pt II, I’m going for Jaws 2.

jaws-2-poster

Just When You Thought It Was safe…You Get the Gist

I’m just surprised that it isn’t more celebrated, it deserves to be mentioned in great sequel lists. What is most surprising is that it’s not Spielberg directed, because it really feels like it is. It was actually directed by Jeannot Szwarc, who is far from celebrated. Szwarc’s other films include Supergirl (which I have a guilty fondness for, with Helen Slater being an early boyhood crush) and the cult sci-fi romance Somewhere In Time. So why is Jaws 2 so good?

I think the main reason is that it really captures the mood of the first film, its set in Amity again, and features Roy Scheider, once more as chief Brody, and Lorraine Gary returns as his wife. It also features Murray Hamilton as The Mayor, who seems to have had a memory bypass, or a lobotomy, and is just as obstinate as he was in the original. A lot of the original islanders cast also return, apart from the evil face-slap woman, who were non actors, and obviously enjoyed having a second bite of the cherry.

Obviously Robert Shaw could not appear as his character Quint was dead, (and sadly died in real life, in August 1978, a month after Jaws 2 opened) and Richard Dreyfuss, declined to appear as he was filming a little movie (hee hee) Close Encounters, with Spielberg. I think Jaws 2 could have been even more perfect if Dreyfuss character Hooper had been seen, when he is on the phone talking to Ellen Brody, or had a conversation with Martin. “What!..another shark..You have got to be kidding Martin…wish I could be there” said in Dreyfuss excited tone of voice would have been great.

The Island settings are instantly recognizable, and you get a palpable chill, as another shark decides to treat Amity Island as a floating restaurant. There’s a great scene when you just saw the fin going through the Amity boatyards at night/or dawn.. A shot Spielberg would have been proud of. Szwarc’s direction throughout is top notch.

In the film’s opening, diver photographers are exploring the wreck of the Orca boat, from the first film, and are attacked by an unseen monster. Of course, it’s another shark….

There’s a great scene later on in the film when Brody raises his fear that the shark is a vengeful family member, and he is told by a marine expert, that sharks don’t take things personally!

Later, sent up in the ludicrous Jaws IV: The Revenge’s advertising campaign, and lampooned brilliantly in Back To The Future II

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This Time Its Really Really Personal! And Directed By Max Spielberg.

This new menace has soon killed a water-skiing girl and the boat’s driver in a spectacular explosion when the woman driver fights the shark with a petrol can. Sheriff Brody is then convinced that his worst nightmare as come true, he has another shark to face down.

Due to a property tycoon’s interest in Amity, Chief Brody is not believed again by the Mayor, Larry Vaughan, and the odious tycoon who controls the council (In a subplot, Ellen Brody is his PA).

The late and much missed Roy Scheider is really great in this film, Brody has unsurprisingly developed an Ahab complex and is determined it won’t happen again…. He patrols the beach himself, and causes a panic when he opens fire at the sea during a false alarm. The council then has it’s excuse and fires the Chief from his job. Are they stark staring mad?

Murray Hamilton excellent again, with the same- look on his face that he knows he is in the wrong. What a complete B**tard!

The film’s main focus is the sailing mad teenagers of Amity (including the Brody’s son Mike), who will obviously become the Shark’s meal ticket. Friday The 13th and Halloween had been big horror hits, so it is not surprising that the film decides to target this demographic again with an increased focus on “Teens In Peril”. Although there are the usual stereotypes such as the bonking mad couple, they are a surprisingly likeable bunch.

Interested in having fun, and not just hedonism. There is a scene when they all have a water fight on their boats which has a nice realism to it. There’s crude language, and some angst but they are more likeable victims than those in most Slasher films.

Despite, his Father unfairly (or obviously wisely) forbidding him from anymore sailing with his mates, due to his shark fears, Michael Brody (an excellent Mark Gruner) sneaks out and is blackmailed by his younger brother Sean (An excellent Marc Gilpin) into taking him with him for a day sail- “I’ll tell Dad unless you take me”. Wonderfully acted. Remember, that Sean is his father’s pride and joy, as explored in the original film’s poignant dinner table scene.

The teenagers set sail for the ocean, in their colourful but flimsy boats, with the shark following them, and both Brody sons in extreme jeopardy. Who can save them? Surely not ex police chief Brody again!!

All of this is terrifically exciting, with The shark laying siege to the boats and getting a fair few victims. I actually think the second half of Jaws 2, is nearly as good as the original Jaws. There is palpable tension as the teenagers end up lashing all of their boats together as the shark circles, having already picked off several. When news of another shark attack reaches Brody, he learns that his son has set sail, and follows in an Orca-esque  i.e crap Amity Police boat. The Look on Scheider’s face, a mixture of unease, anger and true grit. What an actor he was.

Jaws 2 is just terrific, it has the brilliant John Williams score again, set pieces galore, A shark taking down a  coast  guard helicopter!! explosions, boat crashes. Great FX, with the shark as good (or as bad as some morons say) as it was in Jaws. Gruesome dead bodies, and a beached killer whale with shark bite. Top make up FX with a real yuk factor.

It is also as well acted, Roy Scheider truly impressive as discussed, but all the teens put in good performances – Witness the scene when the teens try to get Sean Brody to safety when he becomes stranded during the attack. Memorable acting from all concerned.

There are also plenty of bikini clad girls to look at, and Donna Wilkes is memorable as the main screaming girl victim, who Mike Brody has his eye on.  She doesn’t half shriek!

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Keep The Noise Down!

The other Jaws sequels are B Movies, not in the same league,nowhere near, but Jaws 2 is a rare beast, a sequel nearly as good as its masterpiece predecessor.

Jaws legacy maybe to have created lots of baby sharks, but this one was welcome – A suspense classic in its own right.

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One, Two, Freddy’s coming for you. Again!

It’s a weird thing about film fans,and Horror fans in particular, that when anybody mentions the dreaded word “remake”,they start quaking in their boots, mouthing obscenities and generally throwing up green bile.

Horror has always been a genre that self riffs on itself, and borrows, and remakes have always been a part of the genre. Bela Lugosi was seen as the definitive Dracula, in the 1930’s, but the wonderful Christopher Lee made the part his own in the more gruesome Hammer films of the sixties and seventies.  Gary Oldman then did a great job with a more cerebral, romantic take on the character in Francis Ford Coppola’s sumptuous version of  Bram Stoker’s Dracula in the early nineties.

I love all things Horror, and I don’t mind remakes providing they add something new.  Some are truly appalling, the Nicholas  Cage bastardisation of The Wicker Man, was an atrocity against cinema, and the remake of John Carpenter’s  The Fog was an act of celluloid vandalism which I still haven’t forgiven.  The Director Rupert Wainwright should have been imprisoned, community service at the very least.  Yes, you see I’m also capable of  throwing my toys out of the pram on this subject as well.

However some remakes are very good, and many have entered the sacred tomb of film, otherwise known as my DVD collection.  One film that a lot of horror fans hate, is the 2010 remake of A Nightmare On Elm Street, directed by Samuel Bayer.  They  mainly hate it because it’s not Robert Englund under the prosthetics.

Afficiendos are very  territorial over their cine-maniacs.  I love the 1984 original and would have that particular classic in my top ten horror films of all time.  However,  this  clever reboot surprised  me, because its much darker, and  Jackie Earle Haley is a terrific Freddy Krueger, albeit a different one to Englund’s  campier incarnation.

Jackie Earle Haley as Fred!

Jackie Earle Haley as Fred!

Krueger  still has the burnt face (grotesquely realistic in this version)  the red and green striped jumper, the crumpled fedora and most importantly, the ghastly homemade glove of razor blades. Yes he has all his trademarks intact,  but he is far nastier, the scene where he has just killed a dog, and comes up with the line “But i was only giving him a stroke” – Nasty! .  The killings of the teens are also much more gruesome, and Haley really sticks the blades in with menace.

The 2010 Freddy  is also quite clearly, a dead paedophile, something the original skirts around. This is central to the film with Krueger’s present day victims mistakingly, believing the ghoul is haunting and killing them in their dreams because their parents wrongly killed him.   How wrong they are !  leading to an intense finale in the lair, Freddy made under the children’s playground.

I love the way Earle Haley makes Krueger really evil again, and I strongly recommend it to any fans of the genre who have not seen it yet.  You also get to see Krueger before he was dead, in some queasy Jimmy Saville style flashback nursery scenes, and in a powerful horror scene when the parents burn him alive. The original may be the better film, but the 2010 version is nearly as good in its own way, with the beautiful, excellent actress Rooney Mara, an interesting and different Nancy as well.  Catch her in Steven Soderburgh’s latest thriller Side Effects (2013) where she is even better!

The much maligned A Nightmare On Elm Street (2010)

The much maligned A Nightmare On Elm Street (2010)

Elm Street 2010  will be remembered for Earle Haley’s unique creepy take on a cultural legend.  This year sees the remake debate raging again, with a remake of another fan-boy favourite The Evil Dead  (cannot bloody wait!) opening next month,  and the hormonally charged “Carrie” makes a return  later in the year.

For the Love Of Geoff

It’s a funny thing, the mind, and in particular memory.  Whilst reading the Radio Times of a couple of weeks back (8-14 September), I had a wonderful stroll down memory lane, getting some childhood members back from the dark recess.

There was an article about the James Bond films, in which Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo were discussing Bond themes, and how as children,their love of Bond had been greatly enhanced, via a Geoff Love movies album. I hadn’t thought about those albums for several decades, but they were an important part of childhood and early teens too.

I adored these albums, Geoff Love was a band leader/composer whose forte was making albums of movie tunes with his big band, cover versions of soundtracks. With actual soundtracks being expensive then, and  home video still in it’s infancy, several years off from being accessible to the masses, these albums were very precious to infant movie aficionados such as myself everywhere. The versions of the themes were not bad, (well… they were not pan pipe offensive), I expect if I heard them today, I would cringe with embarrassment, but they were great to listen to then, and tape from vinyl to audio tape numerous times.

A much-loved gift in 1979

One of my very earliest childhood memories is of my Mother giving me one of my first albums, Geoff Love’s Themes for Super Heroes as a surprise present.  Back then, I was a huge fan of  Tom Baker in Doctor Who (still am today)  and the American tv series of The Incredible Hulk (still am today as well).  I remember that the album had both these themes, albeit Geoff Love cover versions, but I was just so so  pleased with it.  By the end of its life, it was scratched to pieces from over-use, but it was the first gift that I really remember loving.

The seminal artwork for Geoff Love’s Big Bond Movie Themes

Kermode and Mayo in their article, draw attention to the artwork on the Big Bond  Themes album (see above)  which was bloody fantastic,  I remember using tracing paper and copying it.  It was so good, The Bond album cover looks like a greatest hits of Bond poster ,  I remember looking at it for hours and I am sure this LP played a big part in my addiction to the Bond films which I love as much as the horror genre.

The Absolute  favourite of all of these LP’s was Geoff Love’s Big Terror themes album, which was my pride and joy. Once again, because of its artwork and the fact that it had the main theme from Jaws (see my blog entry Der Dum for more JAWS) on it. The album basically contained all the disaster themes from the 70’s, with Rollerball, The Exorcist (Tubular Bells) and Psycho to beef up the terror boast.  I first become aware of The Exorcist from this album, and I remember my cousins telling me that it was one of the scariest films ever made as I played them Geoff Love’s version of the Mike Oldfield classic.

I first saw The Exorcist when I was 13 when it was very much banned, on a pirate video from a school chum.  I told my parents, it was an old black and white horror, as they would not have sanctioned me watching anything scarier than Hammer or Universal films, the kind of monster mash served up on BBC 2 on saturday nights then as late night horror double bills.  Due to my love of all things, ghoulish, they let me watch these double-bills, but  contraband Linda Blair and her green pea spewing/swearing antics would not have been condoned.  I remember watching it alone, on a late night when they were asleep.  It genuinely scared the hell out of me, but I loved it at the same time. I felt like a real rebel. To think, it is now shown regularly on terrestrial tv with no fuss at all.  How times change !

Another film that I couldn’t wait to see was Hitchcock’s Psycho, the green tinged image of Norman Bates on the terror artwork, had wetted the appetite. It gained legendary status when my Mother told me, it was so nasty and scary that she had wanted to leave the cinema when she saw it in the sixties. Although she liked Hitchcock films, she always refused to re watch Psycho, so that too was a big film to be crossed off the Geoff Love Big  Terror list, and be terrified by.

A musical landmark of my childhood

With the internet, today’s kids probably don’t have to wait for anything, I expect they are watching Serbian films, Human Centipedes, and all of today’s controversies and horrors online without any fuss at all. One thing they will not experience though, is the joy such albums as Geoff Love’s movie albums brought, It was kind of like owning the movie, way before this was possible in the late eighties when sell-thru video retail bloomed.

Of course,  I ended up giving these albums away to the jumble sale, Geoff Love’s Bond Themes replaced by The Best Of James Bond, where you could hear the proper versions, Shirley Bassey,Tom Jones,  Paul McCartney and Wings etc etc.  Sadly, I had outgrown Geoff, and wanted the real thing.  However,  without these wonderful seventies compilations, I do not think my current appreciation of  the power of film music would be as strong.

Der Dum…Der Dum…Der Dum

This summer has seen the usual array of Hollywood blockbusters.  Also released in June was the unexpected re-release of the original film to be termed ‘Blockbuster’, Steven Spielberg’s classic chiller/adventure of 1975, JAWS.

Spielberg wisely has not added any gimmicky new scenes into the film, (or even worse, made the shark CGI) as he did with the re-release of ET, but has instead digitally restored it to its original glory. 37 years after its original release, The film also happens to be my favourite film of all time, bar none.

Although I have it on DVD, and have seen it at least twenty times, I went to the cinema to see it again of course. I am usually sceptical about films being digitally messed with, but wow, what a restoration, it is immaculate, not a single scratch or line, and I fell in love with it all over again.

The sound is wonderful, particularly John Williams fabulous score… der dum der dum der dum. The head in the boat still makes you jump out of your skin, and the killing of the young boy on the beach is still horrific. The restoration making that blood seem even redder.

What really amazes though, is the acting, the three leads, are superb, Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, and Robert Shaw as the three men out to kill the shark, are such strong characterisations, wonderfully performed. Murray Hamilton and Lorraine Gary are just as good in support.  Although the mechanical shark gets plenty of criticism in some quarters, I think its bloody marvellous, and is seamlessly mixed with the footage of real sharks.

I first saw JAWS at the tender age of seven, on its second time around British cinemas in 1979. These were the days when films went around a couple of times, because video recorders were not yet widely owned by the public. I remember the occasion vividly, my lovely Mother had taken my older cousins and myself to Cheltenham ABC (Sadly long since demolished in 1981) and I believe this was where my love of cinema, and horror cinema in particular really began. Some years later, when the film was first shown on British television, none of my school friends believed I had already seen it, and this really wound me up at the time. Sheer frustration.

The still chilling story of a shark eating the swimmers of a beach resort, terrified and excited me. I remember Mum, covering my eyes when the shark was eating Robert Shaw’s Quint, but she need not have worried, for I loved it, especially the blood coming out of Quint’s mouth, as the shark devour’s him. The birth of a cinematic gorehound, then in 1979.

Where my love for Cinema began.

Welcome……

The Soberius Tavern has long closed for business, but underneath in the crypt, below the beer celler, of the abandoned pub, something stirs.  Soberius rises from the grave, and welcomes you back, Dear Readers…

Yes, expect a new collection of reviews, rants, debate, and even a first look at some of my fiction. The usual eclectic mix, but with more of an emphasis on the horror genre.

  Vlad to be back !