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Overall Rating
4.28

Awesome: 28%
Worth A Look72%
Just Average: 0%
Pretty Crappy: 0%
Sucks: 0%

4 reviews, 1 rating


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Shark Is Still Working, The
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by Marc Kandel

"Plenty of juice left in the Bruce."
4 stars

After “The Shark is Still Working” revealing the existence of a subset of hardcore “Jaws” acolytes who seek out actress Lee Fierro for the honor and singular experience of being smacked across the face by THE Mrs. Kintner, I state with confidence that be it 50, 100 or 500 years, “Jaws” will endure amongst mankind.

I'm impressed. Fans lining up to take a hard slap outdo even the most ardent and alarming Dirty Harry followers that still stop Andrew Robinson on the street and quote his Zodiac speech word for word in perfect bug eyed imitation and shivery reverence inches from his face, to the actor’s blended amusement and understandable discomfort. Sadly, Mrs. Fierro no longer fulfills requests of this nature, finding the act somewhat disturbing and perhaps potentially litigious (or simply exhausting) but the fact that the event ever occurred at all is a testament to the staying power of Jaws.

Though most folks can warble a “farewell and adieu” with the best of them and yellow body rafts continue selling poorly in the pool equipment aisle, The Shark is Still Working dares to dive yet deeper into the enthralling mythos and history of Jaws excavating a wealth of heretofore unseen and unknown information, trivia, humor and lessons to be learned, be it from a fly-on-the-wall view of the annual “Jawsfest” at Martha’s Vineyard, unseen footage, newly revealed details about the infamous blood, sweat and tears shed in its creation by director Steven Spielberg, producers Richard Zanuck and David Brown, or the footprints the film has left amongst fans, filmmakers, writers, scientists, and the cast and crew that refuse to wash away 32 years later.

In the age of Bravo’s top 100 most memorable/scariest/funniest/morbidly obese/etc. movies, VH-1 continuing to revisit Every. Last. Scrap. of pop culture over three decades and other A&E/History Channel specials on the similar effect of Star Wars and Star Trek on culture and history, people are hungry for nostalgic glances back and new insights into beloved classics. I can whittle away a good percentage of my morning following the top 100 Metal Bands countdown for just a glimpse of Iron Maiden- it stands to reason that enough fans exist that can’t get enough of Jaws, a perfect storm of a movie if there ever was one. I should know. I’m one of ‘em- have been ever since I was a kid and caught two seconds of a glimpse as my parents pushed me out of the room just as a screaming man slid down a slippery deck into the maw of a blood covered thing steeped in black water as his friend watched helplessly- I was hooked for life.

The Shark is Still Working caters to this need, going further than its behind the scenes predecessors to provide every conceivable person of note that merits commentary about the film from Peter Benchley to Steven Spielberg to Percy Rodrigues (the deep, ominous voice behind the greatest trailer ever), to Roger Kastel (the artist behind the greatest movie poster image ever), to some guy who owns all of Quint’s barrels.

We are taken through the history of Jaws and its effect on the moviegoers of the age which ripples into the second half as we see the fruits of yesteryear ripened not only in devoted fans, but filmmakers such as Robert Rodriguez, Kevin Smith, and Eli Roth, who surprisingly provides the most telling analysis of how the horror genre is viewed today versus the 1970’s when horror was taken very seriously as a genre and put into the hands of masters like Friedkin, Kubrick, and of course the as yet untested but capable Spielberg- food for thought.

Intermixed with these perspectives are examinations of why the film transfixes those who view it, why the Great White Shark holds such fascination for humanity, and retrospectives from cast and crew, most notably Spielberg himself, whose colorful recollections are love and hate entwined: Love of a phenomenon he created, a work that turned into something far greater than he could have imagined, the gateway film to a brilliant career, Hate for a time of his life fraught with frustration, tension, stupidity, panic, so much that he still has nightmares about the production. Listen to him when he recalls the final fate of the Orca after it is brought to the Universal Studio lot. The relationship he reveals between himself and a piece of his past is a highlight of this picture; it’s his first love, both painful and warming.

The documentary is a long ride, testing bladderial fortitude for three hours and fourteen minutes, and as with all documentaries tastes may vary. If comparing a hobbyist’s miniature recreation of Quint’s boat to the real deal is your thing, get ready to be happy (for the record, it's a remarkable recreation). If you harbor a great love of sharks but really don’t see the point of intricately pouring over of a crusty, dilapidated editing machine in deceased film editor Verna Fields’ old basement for the sole reason that at one point in history, the entire film ran through this machine, then perhaps you should visit the aquarium. But the documentary offers so much, to describe it simply through scenes of this nature is to criminally sell it short. There’s something for all viewers be they casual fans of TBS afternoon showings or marine biologists that caught the shark bug courtesy of a childhood viewing from behind the fingers covering their eyes. With all I’ve written here, would you believe I’ve barely scratched the surface?

The editors do carefully balance the lengthy footage as best they can. When I found myself shifting in my seat during an overlong showcase of collectibles or lingering on one moment of “Jawsfest” too many, the focus shifts to a more emotionally resonant piece such as a remembrance of Robert Shaw or Roy Scheider explaining the genesis of Brody’s scene with his little boy Sean as they mimic each other over the dinner table. Such moments are interwoven amid the lighter segments, keeping the documentary steaming ahead, though the ending could be tightened up a trifle (false endings reminiscent of Return of the King abound), allowing Spielberg to have his final say on the matter much sooner rather than after a lengthy montage of fan commentary that borders on blather.

For Jaws fans great and small, it's a must- see the sights, hear the people that made this film the exceptional masterwork that it is, discover new things to love about the film through the eyes of other fans and receive some fine tales on what went on from the cast and crew. For film lovers and makers alike, it’s an important benchmark to take note of as it invented the “Summer Movie” concept and changed the face of cinema marketing and expectations forevermore- perhaps not for the better. It's a keen lesson about how movies used to be made, the importance of content and substance over effects and hype, the obstacles facing even the most talented of filmmakers and the respect a good story could garner despite simple genre labels.

We can’t get enough of “Jaws”- there’s something about that shadow under the blue that makes us crave more. “The Shark is Still Working” is a meticulous, celebratory examination of a masterpiece and well worth the time.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=16160&reviewer=358
originally posted: 04/24/07 14:54:04
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User Comments

5/24/07 Rhia " great film ,funny inparts 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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