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The Castle of Dr. FettersteinJust When You Thought It Was Safe
POSTED BY JASON FETTERS, August 10, 2013    Share

I vividly recall the summer of ’75 when my life changed forever and I knew I would never again be the same. It was a typical summer in Tampa with people going to the beach, outside picnics, and going to the movies, back in a time when movies were an event and you didn’t download it, you went outside inside a real theater.

One Saturday morning, I was a bored kid, too young for kindergarten, looking through the local Tampa Tribune and then my eyes spotted a big poster with a huge great white shark getting ready to take a bite out of an unsuspecting blonde female swimmer. I was hooked. I ran to show my mother and asked if I could go see Jaws and she said, “no.” I was devastated. I went into my room and sulked.

Jaws was everywhere, with TV commercials, movie posters, newspaper ads, and it was the movie that got people talking. It probably kept folks away from nice Florida beaches for a time after. However, my mom took my two older sisters to see it and they brought their friends. Two of those friends ran to the bathroom for most of the movie. I was stuck at home mad at the world. When my family returned home and they raved about seeing Jaws that added salt to my wounds.

Just a few short years later, Jaws debuted on TV and my family gathered around the television to watch it. I was sent to bed early, conveniently before the start time. Denied again. Fearing being yelled at and a possible spanking, I slowly crept along the wall ever so quiet, and peered into the doorway and positioned myself to be able to see the TV and finally I was watching Jaws. I remember the credits rolling against an underwater scene and then teenagers partying, drinking, and playing guitar around a bon fire, (very 70’s,) and then the first attack. I ran from my spot back to my room. Using the mental image I had of the poster combined with that first kill haunted my dreams. I had a terrible nightmare involving being in the water with large dark shapes. I couldn’t make out those shapes and that really bothered me. I woke up crying.

The whole family rushed into my room and I said it was just a dream. Or was it? Since that day, (much like Chief Brody studying shark books,) I became obsessed with everything related to sharks, thanks to Jaws. I had Jacques Cousteau’s The Shark: Splendid Savage of the Sea in a beautiful hardcover edition. I would spend hours looking at it with grandmother. The pictures of sharks with razor sharp teeth tearing chunks of fish as blood spilled out were ghastly. My family bought me more shark books. I was drawing pictures of sharks and watching every shark documentary that came on TV.

Around that time I also had the Jaws game that featured a plastic shark, various items that were places in his mouth, and a tiny hook. The idea was to get as many things out of the shark’s mouth as you could before the jaws shut on you. I was always scared of the jaws taking off my fingers and ruining my ability to play guitar so I talked my older sisters into playing it and watched. It was a slow agonizing horror waiting for the jaws to shut and I jumped every time.

I also had the Peter Benchley novel. I was walking around the mall one day and stopped in at the bookstore and there was a big display for Jaws. I found my mom and took her by the hand and she bought it for me. If I wasn’t brave enough to watch it, at least I could read it and find out what happened. In the 4th grade I used Jaws for a book report much to my teacher’s ire. He yelled that young boys shouldn’t be reading Jaws because it is meant to be read for adults. I didn’t care I read it anyway.

I remember 1978 when Jaws 2 came out. I again asked my mother to take me to see it and was given a no response again. That’s was ok, I picked up the Jaws 2 trading cards and would lay those cards on my bed and make up my own story.

It was at that time that I was in the hospital for surgery. My mom made a deal with me, if I submitted to painful injections and blood work, I would be given a treat. I still screamed out anytime a needle punctured through my skin like the teeth of a shark sinking down into flesh but I did alright. My rewards were Jaws coloring books, crayons, and a series of books for children called Jaws 2: Tales of Sharks by Margery Altman and Jaws 2 Sharks: All That’s Good and Bad About Them also by Altman. Those books were a goldmine with facts and interesting tidbits about all kinds of sharks with cool pictures.

Also in ’78 my best friend in elementary school told me about the Jaws comic. I had to have it. I pestered my mother until it was time to go grocery shopping. My friend told me he saw copies at the Kash ‘N Karry on Gandy and Manhattan. I ran into the store, rushed over to the magazines, and scanned for comics. I couldn’t find it and all hope vanished. Don’t worry, years later I was at Tampa Bay Comic Con and found my lost treasure in a large nice magazine format put out by Marvel called Jaws 2 with a girl snorkeling with a huge great white shark behind her on the cover. If you are a Jaws fan I highly recommended picking up a copy and it isn’t that expensive.

Jumping ahead a few years later, I finally worked through my fears of being eaten alive by a savage fish and saw Jaws on TV when I was much older. Then I bought Jaws on video. Next came the DVD. Finally I picked up Jaws on Blu-ray and it looks gorgeous and the audio is amazing when played through a good home theater sound system.

One more book I need to mention is the Jaws Log by Carl Gottlieb. Gottlieb wrote the screenplay based on Benchley’s novel and played Meadows the reporter. The Jaws Log is a movie lover’s dream; it contains lots of interesting anecdotes and what life was like on the Jaws set for cast and crew. Jaws is a fun movie to watch but it had so many problems from a production standpoint and those stories need to be read. I have my old and worn out copy that I found on one of my used book store shopping sprees. There is currently a 30th Anniversary Edition but I prefer having my paperback from the time that Jaws came out.

There is also a Jaws Two Log but I haven’t picked it up yet. Jaws 2 wasn’t much of a sequel. In fact, none of the Jaws sequels work for me. I was at Sea World with one of my sisters when Jaws 3-D was being filmed. I did see Jaws 3-D at Twin Bays and left disappointed. Jaws: The Revenge is something no one should have to suffer through even once.

Now 38-years later, while surfing the net, I saw that Jaws would be returning to the big screen thanks to the Tampa Theatre and the Summer Classics series. I asked my mom again if she wanted to see Jaws and I finally got a yes.

We had lunch at The Colonade and I had a Floridian favorite, Shrimp with grits. The grits had cheese and bacon and lime slices with chopped green onions. So good. I wore my Jaws shirt that I got at Universal Studios in Orlando before the Jaws ride closed. Then we drove to the Tampa Theatre. We got to our seats and the theater was packed. We enjoyed hearing the organist, who drove 2-hours just to play and I was transformed. No longer was I a boring middle aged adult stuck in a bad dead end job worry about paying bills on time and wondering how far the US economy will tank, once again I was that little boy who once had a bright future looming over the horizon. The Tampa Theatre has been remodeled with digital equipment. The sound was incredible. The main theme song that everyone knows by heart today was a loud bassy Dum Dum Dum Dum. Seeing Jaws on your TV at home does not do the movie justice even with top of the line HD TVs and expensive sound systems, you need an audience. There is something about watching Jaws on the big screen that despite seeing in many times throughout the years, nothing prepares you for how wrapped up you get when the audience screams and jumps in their seats, you feel something in the theater. Fear and comedy just spreads from person to person and you all laugh at the lines, the audience roared with applause when Chief Brody says “We’re gonna need a bigger boat.” Everyone jumped together as one giant collective when Hooper is pulling the shark tooth from the boat you see a hole and suddenly a face comes popping out at you. My mother jumped out of her chair. Afterwards, the people sitting behind us told my mom how high she jumped. My favorite part is that all this energy is directed at what is going on in Jaws that you feel compelled to join in. When Hooper, Quint, and Brody start singing Show Me the Way to Go Home, everyone was singing along. By the end of Jaws, I felt like I had come full circle.

Jaws still has a magic to it that cannot be denied. It is still a funny, dramatic movie with the power to scare, all these crazy years later.

"The Castle of Dr. Fetterstein" is ©2013 by Jason Fetters. All contents of Crazed Fanboy are ©2013 by Nolan B. Canova and Terence Nuzum.

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