I Hate the Sea and Everything In It: JAWS

constructed using repurposed screen caps and poster art.

It’s TS for Ralph!

When recasting JAWS there were some really obvious choices we didn’t take. JAWS is an iconic movie and its characters have gone on to become action film stock types. You’ve got a cop, a fisherman, and a scientist, battling against an inhumane killing machine. The natural Simpsons lineup you’re probably thinking of includes Chief Wiggum, The Sea Captain, and Professor Frink vs Homer (… or maybe Santa’s Little Helper).

At Flim Springfield though, our choices only match half those roles. Once you add adjectives to JAWS’ lead roles the obvious choices just don’t hold up. Brody isn’t just a cop, he’s a quiet dad, with a real streak of fear in him. Quint isn’t just a skipper’s hat and a squint, but a haunted man invoking his death wish. Frink and Homer are probably as close to a bullseye for their roles as we’re likely to find in Springfield, but we need to put on some jug-band hoedown music and really think those other two out…

by all means vote for this sleazy lunatic

Ray Patterson as Chief Brody
(Roy Scheider)

Ray doesn’t like having his cage rattled, but he goes where he’s needed–even the ocean.

Yah! Save me from the great sharks! They were too quick for me! Aaagh!

Groundskeeper Willie as Quint
(Robert Shaw)

He ‘ates sharks, and hunts them where he cannot be protected … in the sea!

my wife will be happy, she's hated this whole shark cage thing from day one.

Prof. Frink as Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss)
Elementary chaos theory tells us that all Great White Sharks will eventually turn against humans
and run amok in an orgy of blood!

Really, she's could probably scold a shark to death with her nagging.

Agnes Skinner as Ma Kintner (Lee Fierro)
Using the tools motherhood provides: nagging, guilt, and scolding. “My son is dead, now he’ll never be Principal of the Beach!”

out of the mist came a beast more stomach than man.

The Sea Captain as Ben Gardner
(Craig Kingsbury)

Slack jawed rubbernecker from the pier would describe either of these two. Admittedly, Sea Captain has shown more daring in dealing with giant water creatures.

The, uh, shark that plagued our town have now just left corpses rotting on our shore.

Mayor Quimby as Mayor Vaughn
(Murray Hamilton)

Amity’s sleazy Mayor at least has more concern for the economy of his town than Quimby does.
The citizens remain a necessary nuisance for both…Do sharks vote?

I want some taquitos!

Old Jewish Man as Harry
(Wally Hooper Jr.)

Sarcasm: this guy’s giving it away for free!

Brown, the least sensual bikini color.

Maude Flanders as Ellen Brody
(Lorraine Gary)

Like Maude, Ellen is a woman of simple charms who loves her man, and protects her children. Unlike Ellen, Maude will never be given the chance to shine in a sequel and meet Michael Caine.

When there's blood in the water, Brockman strikes!

Scott Christian as Beach newscaster
(Peter Benchley)

A new fad that’s sweeping the nation, feeding yourselves to sharks!

Each swim takes us closer to God!

Rod & Todd Flanders as
Mike & Sean Brody
(Chris Rebello & Jay Mello)

Judging by their moth handling skills, we think the Flanders boys would be shark bait, plain and simple.

Baywatch, cool. David Hasselhoff man.

Erin as Chrissie Watkins (Susan Backlinie)
We’re not saying Erin deserves the same fate as Chrissie, but the joys of Summer demand sacrifice.

Give it your best shot! I'm wearing 17 layers! Do your worst!

Martin Prince as Alex Kintner
(Jeffrey Voorhees)

The Queen of Summer will never catch a fish now…

I'll save your baby!

Jose Canseco as Estuary Victim
(Ted Grossman)

Sticking your nose in, even to save kids didn’t work out well for either of these guys. It doesn’t pay to be helpful, Jose.

I can't help notice we're leaving the beach without my dog

Santa’s Little Helpers as Pippin
Bla bla bla, SHARK! bla bla bla-bla-bla AAAHHH!

But the sign said

Homer Simpson as Carcharodon carcharias (Bruce)
Nature’s cruelest mistake.

Bart did it! That Bart right there!

Bart & Milhouse as the Shark Boys
Bart comes up with the perfect prank, enlists Milhouse, who of course cowardly turns on him the second things get rough. Don’t trust him with your soul either kid.

Your signs floatin' away Chief

Lou as Amity Traffic Cop
It’s a busy day in Amity, thankfully there’s no ocean patrol.

Breathers. Got it.

Eddie as Deputy Hendricks
(Jeffrey Kramer)

Lou is made of steadier stuff than Hendricks, we think, but it’s a fair bet he’d rather be busting kids for karate chopping picket fences.

WELL THAT'S JUST GREAT!

AT-5000 as the Ocra’s CB Radio
One designed to alert schoolchildren about snow days. The other to call for a bigger boat.
By bat or gun, both suffer the same fate.

Looking back into the history of JAWS it is shocking to discover that the movie wasn’t really expected to amount to anything special. It was based on a pretty obscure book, the director was untested having worked mostly in television, and the cast were at best dependable also-rans or not-quite up-and-comers. The production went over time and over budget, thanks to a haphazard mechanical shark that barely held together. Nor did it have a complete script to shoot from.  JAWS could have been a big wiff, or just another seat filler for the often empty mid-70s movie houses. Instead it became the template for the Summer blockbuster phenomena!

What JAWS the motion picture had going for it was a determined director with tireless energy who needed to prove himself. That little seen robo-shark became one of the movies biggest assets, guaranteeing slasher-movie tension and screams when paired with John Williams two note E/F tuba beat and orchestra sting. What really made JAWS though, was a cast that jelled to perfection, working out their parts on the fly with the an on-set rewrite man who helped the leads ad-lib their characters to life.

We agree the Homer makes the best fit for JAWS’ unnamed killer Great White shark. One only need recall his assault on Marge’s blueberry pie in “Lisa on Ice” to see him typecast as “remorseless eating machine”.

pie hell

Richard Dryness is full of youthful energy and sass that feels effortless and just a bit too amped up compared to the rest of the cast; his Hooper is excitable, proud, smart, and too big for his britches. Professor Frink, modeled on Jerry Lewis’ mugging Nutty Professor, is the prefect mix of smarts and jittery ticks to play the role of Matt Hooper the moneyed scientist.

Roy Scheider gives a wonderful almost easy to miss performance as a tired small time civil servant. The obvious choice of Police Chief Wiggum just doesn’t measure up to even that basic level of adequacy. Wiggum is a grossly incompetent, corrupt, lazy, hack who’d have sided with Amity’s sleazy mayor and kept the beaches open, just so he wouldn’t have to paint the signs declaring them closed. Even in a normally peaceful town like Amity, Clancy wouldn’t cut the mustard. Digging deep into The Simpsons later years, its landmark 200 episode, we settled on single appearance character Ray Patterson to take Scheider’s role. Martin Brody’s defining character trait is being a competent public servant who just wants to do his job in peace. Had Homer not pushed Patterson so far, it is likely Springfield’s Sanitation Commissioner would never have relocated to Massachusetts and taken up the badge as seaside protector.

Toping every other role in the movie Robert Shaw delivered the performance of a lifetime and gave JAWS an emotional anchor. All of Quint’s scenes, even at first when he’s just in the background, are notable. Each time JAWS wants to up the ante Spielberg leaves Quint to mark the moment. When he first drags his hands down that chalkboard cutting through the chaos of idiots at the town hall meeting; the belittling sarcasm and threats as the Orca preps to leave Amity for the big hunt; his revealing story about the Indianapolis and the fate of its crew poignantly transforms a movie about a big fish into a story about people by making this crude ass ship’s captain relatable and humble. As much as JAWS is about a shark terrorizing a small town, it’s also about a man who has lived his life taking revenge on the ocean, realizing too late that this is the last battle and he won’t win.

Do you imagine The Sea Captain in that role? A man who still laments the loss of his Gameboy and can’t handle the destruction wrought by one customer at his all you can eat seafood restaurant? No, The Sea Captain isn’t up to the challenge of leading the Orca.

Sorry, not this guy either

Nope!

Groundskeeper Willie though has been wrestling wolves since childhood, and practically grew up in a soccer riot. He’s by no means a “Cheese eating surrender monkey.” Lets also not forget the steely resolve it takes to do cult deprogramming … well, maybe we should forget that, along with his inability to rescue baby turtles. Suffice to say, despite some character flaws, Willie is still Springfield’s most natural adventure hero. If you’re a fan of comic books, Quint and Willy are the equivalent of Wolverine or Snake-Eyes, the character you’re drawn to just because you just know they’re going to get sh*t done in the most awesome way possible—Importantly, JAWS even subverts that expectation.

JAWS isn’t necessarily a deep film, but it is well made. Speilberg and Benchley knew well enough when constructing their story that the characters needed have some inner life, least it just become a horror flick set in the water. Changes were made from the novel to make the characters people you’d want to spend time with and feel sympathy for. Rather than give the shark any character or an excuse to root for it, Jaws is nothing more than a force of nature—the inevitability of death. Without their attention to details like this, JAWS might still have been fun, but it wouldn’t have wound up so embedded in our consciousness.

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One Response to I Hate the Sea and Everything In It: JAWS

  1. Pingback: Reading Digest: Open Audition Edition | Dead Homer Society

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