A look at the making of JAWS through the eyes of unsuspecting locals: JAWS; Memories from Martha’s Vineyard

Recently released to movie buffs and horror film fans everywhere is a new photo-book documentary chronicling the making of arguably one of the greatest monster movies to ever grace the screen: Jaws: Memories from Martha’s Vineyard. This 300+ page behemoth of a coffee table center piece is masterfully laid out with photos and memoirs collected by Matt Taylor and Jim Beller, all painstakingly told from the perspective of the Martha’s Vineyard community and a select group of the film production staff.

The sheer volume of content is staggering, perfect for both a casual browse or a deep dive into production anecdotes, but before we delve into the content allow me to spin you a quick yarn…

How many little kids do you know who are obsessed with dinosaurs? All of them. Right? Every damn one. Think back to when you could name the genus-species of any number of hundreds of prehistoric monsters, off the cuff, without batting an eye, as if it was your own middle name. Some of these kids never lose this obsession, and as they grow up it re-focuses and re-absorbs content. It was as one of these junior-nerds that I was trolling through my dinosaur books and stumbled across sharks. Holy crap. Sharks were real. And not just like hyenas or bears, these things were from a different age. You see a lion take down a zebra, and yeah that is brutal and shocking, but then you see them napping in the sun and you kind of retract and go “awww, it’s just like kitty!” This does not happen with sharks. They are not cute. They are terrifying. Giant tubes of muscle propelling an emotionless maw, built only for consumption. Very real and very captivating.

As a kid obsessed with sharks, monsters, dragons, etc, I clawed onto any monster movie my hippy parents would allow. Imagine the kick to the teeth when I finally saw JAWS for the first time. To this day I still hold a rabid fascination with, obsession for, and bone chilling fear of sharks, and consider Spielberg’s film in my top 5 all time favorites. The terror, suspense, action, drama, quiet moments, loud moments, comic relief… It is a perfect film.

Black and white still of the blood spray effects for the Alex Kintner attack that spins up a frenzied shark hunt for Amity locals, and ultimately gives Chief Brody a personal stake in making the beaches safe.

Memories from Martha’s Vineyard tells the same story from an all new angle: from the perspective of the locals living in and around the film production. It is full of anecdotes from small town folk who went from working in diners, offices, and fish-trade to all of a sudden finding themselves working as consultants, extras, production crew, and in some cases having speaking roles in what would eventually become one of the most notorious films in American history.

 

Story board concepts and the dummy head for poor Ben Gardner, an early victim in the film.

As one already having seen all the making-of specials there was relatively little that was surprising in this book. Most of the stories revolve around relatively well known factoids and production anecdotes: the shark never worked, Spielberg insisting on as much local “flavor” as possible, Robert Shaw being a huge jerk (or… “in character”, depending on who’s memoir you’re reading). Nevertheless, for a dedicated fan of the movie there is no fatigue in reading a re-telling with some fresh garnish.

Most of the crew’s time was spent repairing or fussing over the mechanical shark(s). Just another day in the life on set, but can you imagine seeing this thing parked at your wharf?

Where Memories… really shines is in the photographs. Every page is crammed with fantastic imagery. There’s a true feeling of candid voyeurism that allows pure indulgence for JAWS buffs. You’ll go back again and again for a fresh look.

Set hand Andy Caulfield was known to ham it up after hours with his camera.

All said and done this is a fantastic book for the JAWS freak. If you already know everything about the movie, now you have something new to digest. If you love the movie but never dug into the production tales, this is a perfect first stop.

Pick it up here for yourself or a gift!

Concept art for the Ben Gardner attack that never went in the film.

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About Jon

Videogames / D&D / horror movies / metal / marine biology / sci-fi novels and film / comics. My sin of choice is sloth.