By Tim Hayes
The motion picture, it has been said, represents the pinnacle of mankind’s ability to tell a story.
Not all movies live up to that noble description, naturally. The entire unfortunate “Porky’s” series races to mind, for example. But when a strong story meets a gifted director, supported by talented actors, musicians, and technicians, the results can indeed take your breath away.
I’ve never much cared for the “scare” genre of films, with one exception. It was the first movie where I truly got frightened right out of my wits. You probably had the same reaction the first time you saw it on the big screen.
For those old enough to recall, “Jaws” came out during the middle of 1975 and became the first true summer blockbuster movie. Lines snaked around the block to see this picture. It burgeoned into a phenomenon. The mechanical shark and the John Williams music have since become a bit cliché, but when “Jaws” first emerged, you couldn’t avoid it. No one had ever seen anything like it.
I can recall going into Downtown Pittsburgh with a couple of high school buddies to see “Jaws” at the great old Warner Theater, a huge auditorium with a super-wide screen. When you wanted to really experience a movie in a big way, you bought your ticket at the Warner. And did I ever experience this movie in a big way.
Plus, I had a little help that I hadn’t anticipated. More on that in a moment.
My friends and I finally made it to the box office, bought our tickets, walked up the ornate, red-carpeted lobby, made a quick stop at the refreshment counter for some Snow-Caps candy, and entered the theater. Despite the size of the Warner, our showing had nearly sold out. We were lucky enough to find three seats together, but unlucky enough that they were about four rows from the monstrous curved screen. Imax before there was Imax!
I walked into the row first and took my seat beside a woman who was perhaps a little on the heavy side, and who shall be known here as “Movie Lady.”
The feature started, and every eyeball in that darkened auditorium instantly became riveted on the images up on the screen. In the opening of the film, a young female swimmer goes out for nighttime skinny-dip in the ocean, unaware of the ferocity soon to befall her.
Of course, no one in the audience knew what was coming either. When the shark attack began, I got startled plenty by what I saw – but even more by what I felt.
Movie Lady, next to me, screamed her head off, lifting me about a foot out of my seat, then she waved a big scarf around at the same time, which was scraping all over my face! 3-D before there was 3-D!
This happened every single time that damn shark turned up. You’d hear that cello music start building – dum-DUM-dum-DUM-dum-DUM-dum-DUM – and knew something bad was about to happen, but I had to keep track of TWO scary sources – the shark and Movie Lady!
“AAAAAAA!!!!” she’d shriek, and here’d come the scarf again! I missed half the movie, thrashing my way out from under that stupid thing. By the moment near the end of the film, where the shark crashes onto the boat and starts chomping on the captain, my nerves were beyond shot.
As the movie ended and the lights came up, the audience applauded like mad. I turned to my buddies and we started to talk about how much we liked it. Just then, I felt a forceful tap on my shoulder from behind and jumped out of my seat. Again. The shark had snuck up behind me! But no, it was only my overly expressive theater neighbor.
“Young man!” Movie Lady shouted. “I just love these types of movies, don’t you?”
Copyright 2014 Tim Hayes Consulting