Videos

We visit Jaws’ “Shark Attack Island”

The A.V. Club
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September 12, 2013 AT 1:00 AM
On the wall in a hallway between terminal B and C at Boston’s Logan Airport is a wall of fame for films shot in the Boston area. It goes in chronological order beginning with 1968’s The Thomas Crown Affair and concludes with, uh, Here Comes The Boom. (What, too good for That’s My Boy?) It may also be the repository for the only surviving poster for Ghosts Of Girlfriends Past. Next to The Thomas Crown Affair, and casting a long shadow over everything that follows, is the poster for Jaws, a famously troubled production that shot on Martha’s Vineyard during the summer of 1974. The problems faced by a young Steven Spielberg while making the film—a mechanical shark that didn’t work, inclement weather, script problems, tension among the cast and crew—are Hollywood legend at this point, but making more than $100 million at the box office, as Jaws was the first film to do, has a way of making those trials seem worth it. As our guest for this episode, Mike Currid of the Edgartown Tour Company, likes to say, Martha’s Vineyard is the size of Manhattan, and it’s home to several towns. Much of Jaws was shot in Edgartown, which hasn’t changed much in the nearly 40 years since Spielberg shot there. The downtown more or less looks the same, as do the docks where the fishermen rig up the shark they caught, the hillside where Brody (Roy Scheider) and Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) confront Mayor Vaughn (Murray Hamilton). In the Edgartown Deli downtown hangs a wooden sign for the Amity Delicatessen, which was created for a scene that didn’t end up getting shot. Chief Brody’s house looks completely different, the bridge has been rebuilt, and Quint’s shack was a set that had to be torn down after filming. But much of what was there in 1974 remains today. (A few of the locations appeared in the Larry David HBO movie Clear History.)  Although it may seem like a bad idea for a beach community that depends on tourists to host a film about shark attacks, at the time, Edgartown really needed the money from the production. As Currid told us, tourism was down and businesses were suffering. The Jaws production looked like a perfect savior: It’d book all the hotels and pump a ton of money into the local economy, and production would wrap up before tourist season really kicked in after Independence Day. The reality wasn’t quite the same—turns out the production would stick around until September, when Jaws finally wrapped, overtime and over budget.  Jaws ended up bringing people to Martha’s Vineyard instead of repelling them, and it still does: Currid’s tours of Jaws locations are the most popular ones the Edgartown Tour Company offers. No one will be looking for locations from Here Comes The Boom in 40 years.