Review Index


By RAY LOYND (Dell; 1978)

JAWS 2 is a movie that remains more famous for its tagline--“Just When You Thought it was Safe to Go Back into the Water”--than its content (and also for inspiring the oft-quoted put-down “I rooted for the shark!”). Personally, the best thing I can say for JAWS 2 is that it’s better than JAWS 3-D and JAWS: THE REVENGE…although that’s certainly not saying much!

     This lively report about the making of JAWS 2 is far from the best book of its type, but it is a fascinating and instructive read that stands alongside THE MAKING OF THE EXORCIST II and THE MAKING OF DUNE as a pertinent dissection of Hollywood calamity. Author Ray Loynd provides a reader-friendly accounting of how JAWS 2 went so wrong, starting with the firing of its original director John Hancock.

     The helmer of LET’S SCARE JESSICA TO DEATH, one of the most thoughtful and nuanced horror films of the 1970s, Hancock was clearly unsuited for the empty-headed JAWS 2. It’s never explained precisely why Hancock was let go after 18 days, but the reasoning is very clearly implied in complaints about his footage being “too lyrical” (that’s a bad thing?), and the fact that his replacement was the TV hack Jeannot Szwarc.

     Szwarc’s resolutely non-artistic approach (well represented in his subsequent opuses SUPERGIRL and SANTA CLAUS: THE MOVIE) turned out to be ideally suited to the preferences of JAWS 2’s producers Richard F. Zanuck and David Brown. Under Szwarc’s tutelage the script was dumbed down severely, with the gory content scaled back to almost nil and the rough edges blunted. Such things, after all, were present in the first JAWS, which is slagged off continuously by Schwartz and his collaborators, who chide its graphic gore and crude special effects. Regarding that last point, the irony is that the “advanced” shark effects of JAWS 2 actually look more primitive than those of its predecessor; obviously Szwarc’s promise to this book’s author that “In terms of the shark and pure action, it will be better (than the first JAWS)” wasn’t born out.

     Other things we learn in these pages include the fact that Roy Scheider and Lorraine Gary, both returnees from the previous film, weren’t enthusiastic about the project (as reported here, Scheider is frequently getting into heated confrontations with Szwarc, while Gary is always complaining about her character’s lack of depth); that the largely teenage supporting cast weren’t very good actors (note that in the years since only one of them, the debuting Keith Gordon, has gone onto any significant film work); that the “continual restlessness” of the ocean was a constant strain on the cast and crew, resulting in what was apparently “the most difficult film in the history of Universal Studios”; and that the MPAA’s decisions had an unconscionable influence on the finished film. Truly, some things never change!