PCR past banners
Now in our eighth calendar year!
PCR # 370  (Vol. 8, No. 17)  This edition is for the week of April 23--29, 2007.

This Week's PCR
Movie Review
"The Shark Is Still Working"

Movie review by:
Michael A. Smith
Four stars

Movies are rated 0 to 4 stars

theater seats

"The Shark Is Still Working"  by Mike Smith
"Gamebox 1.0"  by Mike Smith
Who Are Our Gracious Hosts Each Month At the Tampa Film Review?  by Paul Guzzo
Get Back to Where You Once Belonged....In The Hall (Well, Not The Hall)....Get Well Soon....Revenge of the Chicken....Passing On....Whatever Happened To...? Chapter 17: Kevin Dunny  by Mike Smith
Archives of Nolan's Pop Culture Review
Archives 2007
Archives 2006
Archives 2005
Archives 2004
Archives 2003
Archives 2002
Archives 2001
Archives 2000
Email PCR

Independent Documentary     
Narrated by: Roy Scheider
Featuring: Steven Spielberg, Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss
Directed by: Erik Hollander
Rated: G
Running Time: 3 hours 7 mins

NOTE TO THE READER: As a fan of the film, "Jaws", I was interviewed by the makers of "The Shark Is Still Working" and do appear briefly (almost too briefly, he added sadly) onscreen.

In this, the era of DVDs, it is very easy to find an in-depth look at the making of certain films. In fact, some directors shoot stuff only intended for the film's DVD in an attempt to make it special. Some classic films from the past, including "Gone With The Wind" and "The Godfather" have had documentaries done on their productions. However, they were all very similar in one thing: once they come to the part where the film is released, the story is over. Not any more. With "The Shark Is Still Working," the story is just beginning.

Even the most casual movie-goer is familiar with Steven Spielberg's 1975 film, "Jaws." The first real summer blockbuster, "Jaws" changed the way films were advertised and promoted. The first film to gross $100 million in its initial release, "Jaws" was the rare box office hit that was also a critical success. In the almost 32 years since its release, the impact of the film is still being felt in today's multiplexes. Some of today's best directors, including Steven Soderbergh ("Traffic"), Bryan Singer ("Superman Returns"), Kevin Smith ("Clerks") and Robert Rodriguez ("Sin City") cite "Jaws" as, in director Spielberg's words, "the Rosetta Stone" that led them to film making. Make-up people. Musicians. Heck, even your humble reviewer can point to "Jaws" as a major moment that influenced their lives.

The filmmakers have wisely divided their movie into two parts: THE IMPACT and THE LEGACY. In part one, we are introduced to the players. Author Peter Benchley, in his last full-length interview before his death in February 2006, and in whose memory the film is lovingly dedicated, recounts all of the reasons he was sure his first novel would fail. Much to his surprise, it didn't. When Hollywood came calling, the project was assigned to a 27-year-old kid named Spielberg who had only directed one previous feature film. And the star, a 25-foot mechanical shark, kept sinking to the bottom of the ocean. In fact, the story goes that no matter where you were on location you could hear the constant report of "the shark is not working...repeat, the shark is not working" over the production radios. However, the uncooperative shark proved to be a blessing to the project, as director Spielberg and screenwriter Carl Gottlieb had to invent ways to "show" the shark without showing the shark. In fact, even though people will swear differently, the shark doesn't make an appearance in "Jaws" until 40 minutes into the film.

There have been other documentaries on the making of "Jaws," but never one that goes beyond the standard director/actor interviews. Meet Roger Kastel, the man who created the ominous image that is forever etched in pop culture. The drawing of a huge shark hurdling upwards at an unsuspecting swimmer often found itself transformed into the latest political cartoon or commentary. The ominous voice behind the coming attractions? Say hello to Percy Rodrigues. No one who contributed to the film is too small not to be included here. While the main players (Spielberg, Scheider, Dreyfuss) have appeared in other documentaries, they are more relaxed here, telling stories never told before with a sly wink like someone finally betraying a secret. Filmed on Martha's Vineyard the film cast several locals in key roles. Interviews with them show a fondness for the film that exists still today. And the filmmakers have unearthed some incredible footage that was shot on location that will make any film geek tremble with glee.

Part two deals with the impact "Jaws" has had on its fans. And this is what makes "The Shark Is Still Working" superior to other "making of" films. Once the lights went up in the theatre the story of "Jaws" wasn't over. One long time fan, who boasts one of the largest collection of props from the film, has come full circle and is now first mate on a boat captained by Frank Mundus, who was author Benchley's inspiration for the shark hunter Quint. Some fans have devoted entire rooms in their homes to the film (guilty) while others have proclaimed their love for "Jaws" with very colorful tattoos. Did you know that in Wichita, Kansas there is a local theatre company that performs "Jaws, the Musical" to sold-out houses? Now you do! As mentioned above, I do appear in this film. Thirty-three minutes and fourteen seconds in, if you're interested. Remember the scene in "Animal House" when Flounder's picture first hits the screen and everyone recoils in horror? Well, now I know how they felt when my big head hit the screen. But don't let that discourage you.

Towards the end of the film, Spielberg, who is proud that the fans, in his words, "get it," ponders the film's legacy. "Time will tell," if the film will indeed stand the test of time. The makers of "The Shark Is Still Working" have given "Jaws" the right amount of added boost it needs to sustain the film for the next 100 years.

On a scale of zero to four stars, I give "The Shark Is Still Working"  Four stars

This week's movie review of "The Shark Is Still Working" is ©2007 by Michael A. Smith.  All graphics this page are creations of Nolan B. Canova, ©2007, all rights reserved. All contents of "Nolan's Pop Culture Review" are ©2007 by Nolan B. Canova.