Tag Archives: Roy Scheider

Jaws 2 (1978)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Another shark terrorizes Amity.

Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) fears that another shark is stalking the beaches of Amity when two divers disappear and then later a water skier and her speedboat driver are also killed. When Body goes to Mayor Larry Vaughn (Murray Hamilton) with his concerns the mayor and the rest of the council dismiss it and eventually fire Brody from his position when he continues to argue. His concerns are worsened when he finds that his two sons (Mark Gruner, Marc Gilpin) and their teen friends have snuck off onto a sailboat right were the shark attacks have been occurring.

Only four cast members return from the first one which includes the aforementioned Scheider and Hamilton as well as Lorraine Gary as Brody’s wife and Fritzi Jane Courtney as one of the council members. For me the biggest surprise was the return of Hamilton’s character as most likely he would’ve been voted out after making such egregious error in the first film and leaving the beaches open to further shark attacks after being told not to. I was also surprised that anyone would still want to come to the beach to swim anyways as the stigma of the area would most likely be quite strong.

Director John D. Hancock and his wife Dorothy Tristan who were first hired to direct the sequel had a much better, more believable plot idea. In their script Amity had become a ghost town and the economy in ruins. Mayor Vaughn and developer Len Peterson (Joseph Mascolo) build a resort on the island hoping to boost the tourism, but they use mob money to do it, which is why they end up resisting Brody’s dire warnings. Unfortunately the studio felt this concept was ‘too dark’ so Hancock and his wife were fired and replaced with a script by Howard Sackler and Carl Gottlieb that is basically just a bland rehashing of the storyline from the first one.

The first film was beautifully paced with each scene adding to the tension, but here there are a lot of lulls and the shark, which wasn’t seen much in the first one, doesn’t get shown enough here. The majority of time I kept feeling frustrated waiting for another shark attack to occur as any time the story is on land the film dies.

A good sequel should also always up-the-ante and having the plot built around just one shark doing all of the attacking just like in the first film doesn’t help to take the tension to the next level. Having a group of sharks attack at the same time would’ve helped add more shock appeal as people would now be battling sharks from multiple fronts and making the chances for survival all that more precarious.

Although it’s great seeing Keith Gordon and Donna Wilkes in their film debuts the rest of the teen cast is unlikable and the type of smart ass kids you wouldn’t mind seeing get eaten. There are also too damn many of them and the film would’ve been better served had it stuck to just Brody’s two sons on the boat and none of the others.

The way the shark ultimately dies is cool, but everything else falls flat. If you’ve seen the first one then there’s no reason to watch the sequel as it adds nothing to the theme and if you haven’t seen the first one then please skip this installment altogether and grab that one as it is far superior.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: June 16, 1978

Runtime: 1Hour 57Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Jeannot Szwarc

Studio: Universal

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Video, YouTube

Jaws (1975)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 10 out of 10

4-Word Review: Shark in the water.

A young woman (Susan Backlinie) goes out for a swim late one night only to have her severed hand wash up on shore the next day, which causes the Amity Police chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) to fear that her death may have been caused by a shark. Amity mayor Larry Vaughan (Murray Hamilton) doesn’t want his town to risk losing business, so he has his coroner deny that a shark was responsible and hence the beach remains open, but then more attacks occur. Eventually an eccentric shark hunter named Quint (Robert Shaw), Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) from the Oceanographic Institute and Brody head out on a small fishing vessel called Orca to locate the shark and then kill it, but they find the underwater beast to be far bigger and more cunning than they had ever imagined.

With its exceptional ability to slowly build tension and keep the viewer riveted from the first frame to the last easily makes this the quintessential thriller. John Williams’s legendary score adds to the murky ambience and in many ways is more memorable than the shark itself. Director Steven Spielberg wisely adds a secondary layer to the narrative by creating colorful and distinctive characters, most notably Quint, who gives the proceedings a flavorful nuance and makes the conversations and interactions that occur between the three inside the boat more interesting than what happens in the water.

The most amazing thing though is how little the shark is actually seen and in fact you don’t even get a glimpse of him until about an hour in. Part of this was due to the difficulty of getting the mechanical creation to perform properly in salt water, but in the end this became a blessing in disguise as it’s the mystery and allusion to its large size that makes it so riveting. The viewer feels as helpless and confused as the men on the boat, which makes the climactic sequence when the shark suddenly does jump onto the boat all that more impactful.

Spoiler Alert!

The film though does deviate heavily from the Peter Benchley source novel and a legitimate argument can be made as to which one presents the story better. In the book the tone is darker and the characters less likable. For me this makes it more intriguing from a psychological bent as it conveys the idea that humans are like the shark that they hunt as they both selfishly devour everything around them. Spielberg though didn’t care for this interpretation so the novel’s darker subtext gets erased, but it still made me intrigued, as much of a classic as this movie is, to see a reboot where the narrative stayed more faithful.

Some of the book’s subplots got too involved particularly the one dealing with the mayor’s connections to the criminal underworld, so I’m glad that one got toned down.  However I felt the one though dealing with Hooper’s affair with Brody’s wife (Lorraine Gary) should’ve been left in as it would’ve added extra tensions between the two while on the boat while also seeing how people can learn to work together even when they hate each other.

In the book Hooper dies when the shark attacks the cage that he is in while in the movie he is able to escape and somehow hide from the shark. This though seemed unrealistic as sharks have special sensing organs known as electroreceptors that allow them to detect the electromagnetic field emitted from a moving animal or at close range even the heartbeat of an immobile one, which means the shark most likely would’ve figured out where Hooper was hiding and gotten him.

In the book the shark dies from its many wounds just as it gets a few feet from Brody while in the movie it’s killed when the scuba tank that it has in its mouth explodes when hit by a bullet, but a 2003 episode of Mythbusters proves that in reality this wouldn’t have happened. My main beef though is that by having the shark literally blow-up into little pieces it denies the viewer the chance at seeing what the beast looked like as a whole. Supposedly this was one giant of a shark, so viewing it strung up at the end would’ve been a cool thing to have seen.

End of Spoiler Alert!

Despite these many differences the film still works splendidly and I don’t mean to imply that it doesn’t, but I would still suggest reading the book afterwards as it gives the story and characters an added dimension.

My Rating: 10 out of 10

Released: June 20, 1975

Runtime: 2Hours 4Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Steven Spielberg

Studio: Universal

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Video, YouTube

Blue Thunder (1983)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: A technologically advanced helicopter.

Frank Murphy (Roy Scheider) is a LAPD officer still suffering from flashbacks from his time in Vietnam while working now as part of the air patrol division where he mans a helicopter at night and gives assistance to the cops on the ground.  Due to his expertise he is given the chance to helm the first advanced helicopter called Blue Thunder, which has abilities to fight crime like no other machine before it. As he tests out the new product with his partner Richard (Daniel Stern) he overhears a conversation, through using the machines built-in microphones that can pick up voices from inside buildings, talking about using Blue Thunder for nefarious means. Frank records the conversation and then gets hounded by the bad guys who are led by his lifelong rival from his army days F.E. Cochrane (Malcolm McDowell). To escape their clutches Frank boards the helicopter and flies all over the city of L.A. while waiting for his wife Kate (Candy Clark) to get the incriminating tape to a TV-station where it will be broadcast for the public to hear, but Cochrane, who is an expert pilot as well, gets into another helicopter and tries to shoot Blue Thunder down.

The script was written by the prolific Dan O’Bannon who also wrote the scripts for Alien and Total Recall. He got the idea for this one while living in L.A. and constantly having a police helicopters routinely fly over his neighborhood at night. The original script was darker in tone and portrayed Frank as a psychotic who steals the helicopter and terrorizes the city until he is finally shot down, but that idea got nixed and like with most big-budgeted Hollywood projects got toned down to help appeal to a wider audience.

Personally I would’ve found the original idea more interesting as it also contained political overtones that get completely washed over here. The story here is pretty generic with one-dimensional villains and situations simply thrown in to create cheap conflict and nothing more.

What impressed me though was the modern visual style and effects. It hardly seems like a mid-80s movie at all let alone one that was actually filmed in late ’79 and early ’80. The overriding sentiment has a trendy feel and the cinematography is vivid and colorful. The helicopter action is the film’s biggest selling point and no matter how dippy the story gets the exciting aerial footage more than makes up for it. I loved the way director John Badham captures all sides of Los Angeles from its glitzy skyline to its more grimy and rundown working class areas. It’s also nice to have a REAL helicopter REALLY flying in the air over the city instead of computer generated effects, which makes many of today’s movies look fake and cheapens them while still keeping many of the ‘80s action flicks superior.

Scheider has never been a leading man that I’ve found particularly impressive as his presence seems transparent. However here his laid-back demeanor nicely contrasts with McDowell’s hyper one and makes the bad guy seem even more vindictive. Stern is engaging as Scheider’s partner and it’s too bad this wasn’t made into a buddy movie with Stern’s character staying on for the whole time. Clark is also enjoyable particularly with the wild look that she elicits with her eyes and the car chase that she has with the cops in an abandoned lot of a drive-In theater.

This also sadly marks Warren Oates last project. It was filmed in 1980 and he did a few other films after this one, but this was released last. Oates is one of the most distinctive character actors to ever grace the screen and even in a bland supporting role like the one here he still finds a way to enliven it.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: May 13, 1983

Runtime: 1 Hour 49 Minutes

Rated R

Director: John Badham

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Video

The Outside Man (1973)

outside man 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Hit man is marked.

Lucien (Jean-Louise Trintignant) is a French hit man hired by an American family to assassinate a mob boss (Ted de Corsia) who’s living in Los Angeles. He’s able to pull off the job relatively easily, but then after it’s over he finds that he’s been targeted by another hit man (Roy Scheider) who is relentless and chases Lucien all over the city. Nancy (Ann-Margret) is the stripper who comes to Lucien’s aid by getting her boyfriend to create a passport for him so he can return to France, but just as he is about to board the plane he decides instead to stay in the states and turn-the-tables on the man who’s chasing him while finding who is behind the double-cross.

The film, which was done by a French production company, but filmed on-location in the states, is a lot of fun. The many offbeat touches and various stabs at dry humor keep it interesting and original while still remaining suspenseful and exciting. Some of the best moments include a hitchhiker (Edward Greenberg) who tries to convert Lucien to ‘Jesus’ as well the funeral, which eventually turns into a wild shootout amongst the various mob factions and has a corpse embalmed in a sitting position with a cigar in hand.

I also liked the way director Jacques Deray captures Los Angeles. Usually when a film is done in the City of Angels we always get shown shots of the Hollywood Walk of Fame, movie star homes, the beachfront and of course the great Hollywood sign, but here we see none of that. Instead the film captures the city’s less glamorous side including the rundown neighborhoods and even a shootout that takes place in abandoned buildings from an amusement park, which all helps to give the movie a unique vision as well as allowing the viewer to appreciate a side to the city that they may have not known even existed.

Trintignant is terrific and his perpetual look of confusion as he gets faced with one unexpected surprise after another is memorable and helps carry the film. Ann-Margret is solid as the streetwise, but kindly stripper and Scheider is quite good as the steely killer. Georgia Engel, who later became famous for playing Georgette on the ‘Mary Tyler Moore Show’ is funny as a spacy housewife who comes into contact with Lucien as he is trying to run from his killer. I especially liked the way that when a gun is pointed in her face she doesn’t scream or panic, but instead responds with silence and a deer-in-headlights look. This is also a great chance to see a young Jackie Earle Haley in his film debut as her precocious 10-year-old son.

The film’s only real downfall is its ending, which is too downbeat and ambiguous. It’s almost like they spent so much time coming up with creative concepts for the rest of it that by the time they came to the end they just plain rang out of ideas, which is a disappointment, but as a whole it’s still a gem.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: January 18, 1973

Runtime: 1Hour 44Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Jacques Deray

Studio: United Artists

Available: DVD (MGM Limited Edition Collection), Amazon Instant Video

Sheila Levine is Dead and Living in New York (1975)

sheila levine is dead and living in new york city

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Heartbreak in the city.

Sheila Levine (Jeannie Berlin) is a recent college grad who moves to New York City in search of a more exciting and glamorous lifestyle, but finds a long line of heartbreak and empty opportunities instead. When her younger sister gets married before she does she becomes jealous, but refuses to give up and continues to strive to make her mark no matter how small it might be.

Based on the Gail Parent novel the film manages to hit a few marks. Her nagging mother and the exchange that she has with a job placement coordinator at an employment agency is good. However, the idea that a woman’s sole purpose in life is to get married and then not have to work afterwards is seriously dated and will not connect with today’s viewers.

The main character isn’t exactly likable either. She is bossy and intrusive with her roommate and seems to think that because she is a college grad that should entitle her to only ‘creative’ and interesting jobs that doesn’t involve typing. She is also strangely naïve as she gets picked up by a middle-aged man (Roy Scheider) at a bar, goes back to his place for sex and then somehow thinks that means he is in love with her and is genuinely shocked when he bluntly tells her that he was simply appeasing his ‘animalistic instincts’. We are supposed to feel sorry for her, but instead it’s more fun seeing her get slapped down.

Berlin is the daughter of Elaine May who was the queen of sardonic humor and I came into this thing with high hopes, but her performance is only so-so. She does indeed look very Jewish and the perfect composite of the Rhoda Morgenstern TV character and a young Joan Rivers. However, her incessant whiny and nasally voice may be too much for some.

Scheider manages to be pretty solid. I was never impressed with his acting range, but here he gives quite possibly his best performance in what is most likely his least known role.Sidney J. Furie’s lifeless direction though makes the production come off like a filmed stage play with scenes that seem to go on forever.

Michel Legrand’s melodic orchestral score is out-of-place and better suited for a romance. There is also a song with a funky 70’s sound that gets played at regular intervals and becomes increasingly annoying.

I was expecting this to be a quirky, dry humored comedy, but found it to be more of a stilted drama that relied too much on the obvious and at times became almost painful to watch. The romantic angle between Scheider and Berlin is unbelievable and ultimately quite corny, which impedes the film from achieving any type of true potential.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: May 16, 1975

Runtime: 1Hour 52Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Sidney J. Furie

Studio: Paramount

Available: YouTube