The Jaws Log is a fascinating account chronicling the making of the 1975 classic Jaws, one of my all time favourite movies. Written by Carl Gottlieb, co-writer of the Jaws adaptation, hired by Spielberg to work on the script as well as an actor in the movie. A role that eventually conflicted with his own script revisions that subsequently reduced his character considerably. The book explores the conception and process of getting the original Jaws novel published, commissioned for a movie adaptation and predominantly detailing the infamous filming issues that plagued the production. From malfunctioning Sharks, adverse weather conditions, angry Australians, Martha’s Vineyard and a 4ft 9inch former jockey coming dangerously close to imitating Quint’s final moments! The obstacles faced during the making of this picture would cripple most productions, and it’s clear from “The Jaws Log” that it almost did!
The book is prefaced by an admission by Carl Gottlieb that alludes to the singular perspective scribed in his book, that is likely contradictory to others perceived experience. Though a foreward by Peter Benchly indicates that as far as he is concerned, Carl’s truth, is the truth. And there’s not a single sentance, or anecdote that isn’t used to enhance the almost mythologised notoriety assotiated with this sordid production struggles.
This is a manuscript that amiably conveys the perils and futility of a movie so reliant on the capricious support of nature. With Gottlieb describing the movie’s production as the equivalent of N.A.S.A getting man to the moon and back again! It wasn’t just the dangerously swelling seas or “Bruce’s” fabled reticence to perform when required, but other human interferences. Budgetary constraints, the isolation from family while shooting on Martha’s Vineyard, the ever looming potential of an actor’s union strike. Dreyfuss reluctance to play the part of Hooper, bemoaning the superficiality of the character. Even distancing himself from movie after its completion.
There was the increasingly inflated budget, exacerbated by local saboteurs that would regularly delay the production and crew by pouring liquid into gas tanks, stealing equipment and local businesses overcharging for accommodation and basic amenities. There was even a verbal sparring between Spielberg and Benchly. One grossly embellished by the media and subsequently resolved amicably between the two parties. This, as well as many other contributing factors had a profound psychological affect on everyone involved, including Spielberg, who suffered with nightmares for months after production had wrapped. The cruelest irony of all being that, at the time, he slept on a water bed.
The only notable omission in the “Jaws Log” for me was the renowned animosity between Shaw and Dreyfuss. An abrasive relationship that is largely ignored here, or simply not an incident personally observed by Gottlieb to even anecdotally record accurately. More than likely this is done out of respect for the two actors, both of whom Gottlieb affectionately jibes and equally remarks upon favourably.
The “Jaws Log” is an insightful, witty recant of one of cinemas most culturally significant films, narrated with personable warmth and care. While remaining impartial, succinct, but overall comprehensive. An exceptional dissertation for anyone that loves Jaws, movie making or movies in general.