Reviews May Contain Minor Spoilers

If you're reading a review you should expect to hear some spoilers. I try to keep them to a minimum though.

Friday, 24 May 2013


Another late review! So, I backdated it to when I should have posted it. I'll fill in a few for June later and hopefully have some for July.

Jaws (1975) is Spielberg's blockbuster film that allowed him to make whatever films he wanted.

A land-lubbing sheriff takes over the small island community of Amity just before its summer tourist season is about to begin. However, the mangled body of a young girl causes Brody some pause. The coroner rules it a shark attack and Brody begins to try and shut down the beach. The mayor and local officials quickly get the report changed and convince Brody that they need to let the beaches open.

Jaws is such a classic suspense film that I doubt I needed that little introduction. Jaws manages what few horror films can, making an ordinary situation blow up into full fledged hysteria. The pressure of money forces an upstanding lawman into ignoring the problem, until he must confront his fears to end the problem once and for all. A combination of the right script at the right time and a team with a dream.

Our Heroes
Chief Martin Brody is a family lawman who has a fear of the water. It's nothing deep, nothing psychological, just a fear. He genuinely wants to do the right thing with the shark attacks, but is clearly out of his depth. He allows himself to be dissuaded from his original conviction. After discovering the truth he's forced to cave via political pressure. All these things are understandable, but his conscience won't let him just lay down.

Matt Hooper is an oceanographer called in to deal with the shark attacks. He provides much of the comic relief especially when paired with Quint. Despite being a humorous character, he has his own dramatic arc. He longs to be taken seriously and accepted by the elder Brody and Quint.

Captain Quint is a shark hunter and all around badass. His entrance scene where he scratches his nails on a chalkboard is a bit corny nowadays, but you can't knock is overall demeanor. He is never in doubt of his abilities and is unwilling to even show off for free. If you want to write an awesome character, just look at this one.

Mysterious Foe
Jaws (aka Bruce) is a massive great white who eats people. What surprised me about seeing it again was how little our eponymous fish actually shows up in his own film. Jaws acts as an unknown terror and could represent either Brody's own fear of the ocean or humanity's general fear of the unknown. Or he could just be a big shark that likes the taste of human flesh.

Summer Atmosphere
The island itself is picturesque. You really get the feeling of a summer trip to a beach city. Mind you, I live in California, so I can do that any time. The time period is also well preserved, harking back to a simpler time when kids had nothing better to do than take a summer trip.

In the End
The ending is classic over the top adventure horror that has been copied and parodied so many times. I think the fact that it is so satisfying is the reason, it even provides a short epilogue for the surviving characters.

Jaws is one of those films that is difficult to watch objectively. I think nearly every scene in this film has been copied or parodied or homaged at least once and that's probably an understatement. This film is a prime example of suspense and terror with a few flourishes. I think the scene where the mother of a shark attack victim shows up in full mourning garb to slap Brody should have probably been cut. However, compared to the scenes on the ship, the unnerving music and the dashes of genuine humor, a few excesses are allowed. This is a must see film.

Next up: Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Something Evil

Spielberg Summer continues with Spielberg's second TV film. It is a bit debatable whether this should be included, but I watched it and I'm not letting that suffering go to waste.
Something Evil (1972) is Spielberg's second television movie...

A family moves into an old country house that's possessed by the devil.

As you may be able to tell by the lovely title card, Something Evil is something awful. The version I watched was barely at the hour and a half mark, but managed to have two sets of the same credits in. This thing is entirely low budget and incredibly boring. I'm not sure how much of this can be put on an incredibly young Spielberg,especially given the skill shown in Duel.

Our Heroine?
The wife (you won't remember her name either) is fairly bland other than getting ready for etsy 40 years early. Perhaps I'm being too harsh since she does appear to be kind of a good mother, though she seems to forget her daughter in a few scenes. After she absolutely flips out we pretty much lose our semi-protagonist.

Coincidental Observers
Her husband is distracted by his job to the point of neglect. He also doesn't seem to react to his, clearly off her hinges, wife. He seems loving at the start and has no reason to believe the devil BS, but he could at least try to treat her as an insane person.

Ralph Bellamy is the old spooky guy who knows about these sporadic country devil infestations. He is sadly wasted on a very stereotypical old guy. Also, his son is in this to make the movie longer, I guess.

Original Foe
The Devil is our villain. He works through crying babies, glowing red jars, strange microphone noise and lots and lots of wind. Truly a foe to be reckoned with...

Country Atmosphere
The setting could have been creepy, if it had been used to any effect. There is a level of creepiness to

In the End
Wind, levitating children, and praying. Spoilers, I guess.

I feel I may have left the impression that this film has redeeming qualities. There are a few good shots which give this film that one out of ten. Otherwise, I can't recommend this be included in any Spielberg marathons even for die hard fans. Even I can't wait to see if even A.I. gets this low.

Next up, we look at Spielberg's second major movie: Jaws. We're doing this thematically, so I'll get to the Sugarland Express eventually.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Duel 1971

Welcome to my latest ongoing series: Spielberg Summer. It will be occurring sporadically throughout the summer in conjunction with DC's The Good, The Bad and The Magnificent. We'll be looking at all Spielberg's films to try and examine his long term success. Be sure to check out our reviews of Spielberg's Lincoln (DC's and mine) and continue reading as we explore his whole filmography.
Duel (1971) is the first feature length film by director Steven Spielberg. It started as a TV film on ABC, but was later lengthened and re-released for theaters.

A man sets out on his long drive home. He's in high spirits and enjoying a program about tax returns on the radio. Soon he gets behind a truck as it moves slowly up a mountain. He passes it and continues. The truck soon appears behind him and tailgates him. After letting him pass, the truck slows down and blocks him. This begins a cat and mouse chase through the deserts of California.

Duel has some fantastic direction with its tense car chases and imposing truck scenes. Several of the car vs. truck scenes are quite inventive and superbly filmed. However, quite a lot of this film is just driving through the desert, which can get a bit monotonous. There is also a diner section at the middle that lasts a bit too long and has some dreadful voice-over internal monologue that would have been better off left out.

Our Hero
David Mann is a business man who's trying to get home to his family. He's far from a perfect individual and can be a bit of a hothead. His internal monologues appear out of nowhere during the aforementioned diner scene and appear for a bit afterward. It isn't actually the fault of the actor, Dennis Weaver, his paranoia would have probably worked had the scene remained silent. His final break before fully committing to the duel is definitely one of the film's highlights.
Proto Jurassic Park T-Rex Scene!

Diesel Foe
The truck and its mysterious driver are menacing in the best possible way. If you've seen Jaws then this aspect should be familiar in the mysterious nature of the shark. The fact that we never see the driver makes him all the more menacing.

Lonely Highway Atmosphere
The feel of driving  long distance through the California desert is perfect. Just the long stretches of highway and the radio. While this does get a bit lengthy at sections, it doesn't go too far.

In the End
The end is pretty much to be expected. It was satisfying and climactic.

Duel is most definitely a product of the early seventies, though not in a bad way. There are a few misfires, like the diner scene, but this a film that shows plenty of Spielberg's future greatness. I'd recommend it if you enjoy car chases or want to see the film that gave Spielberg the opportunity to make Jaws.

Next up, we look at Spielberg's second TV movie: Something Evil.