Monday 2 August 2010

"JURASSIC PARK" and "JAWS" on the big screen

Last night, at the Prince Charles Cinema in Leicester Square, London, I watched JURASSIC PARK and JAWS back-to-back at a sellout screening. This is thirty five years after the release of 'Jaws,' and seventeen years after we first saw 'Jurassic Park' - and it left everyone in no doubt about the genius of Steven Spielberg. Not that there ever was any doubt.

For Jurassic Park, I was sitting in the front row, center. I was every bit of the 'Kid In The Front Row' I claim to be. It's funny because most of the time I claim my favourite films to be titles like 'Jerry Maguire' and 'The Apartment' -- but I think, when you come down to the essence of what it is to be a Kid In The Front Row, what you really mean is - someone who is down front and center during a Spielberg film, feeling every dull BOOM as the T-Rex gets nearer and nearer.

I have a theory; that films are always changing. I tried to explain this once before, and didn't really succeed. The thing that is amazing to me is how a film will never play the same way twice. 'Jaws' was different in '75 to how it is now. When we watch it today, we're aware that it is not modern day, and we're aware that the shark had problems during production, and we have 35 years more collective and individual life experience. What does this mean? I don't know. It just means-- the experience is different.

It's the same for every movie. Even when you watch them at home. 'Jurassic Park' will be different today to what it was two months ago. For one, you'll have the experience and knowledge that came from your last viewing. Also, the world will have changed a little. Maybe your cousin had a baby, and suddenly now, you find it a little more scary when the dinosaurs turn the kids upside down in the jeep, maybe two weeks ago you read an article in the New York Times about cloning animals, or about nearly extinct animals, and it changed your perspective slightly. Maybe you watched 'War Of The Worlds' and was disappointed, and that made you look closer at Spielberg's direction this time around. Maybe when you watched it two months ago you had a headache, and this time, instead, you have an annoying pain in your foot. The obvious thing to say is that we change. But also, the movies change. They grow older.

'Jaws' was always a funny film. But as it ages, it gets funnier. There are things that Quint says and does that wouldn't have raised laughs 35 years ago, but now his actions border on the hysterical for audiences. Scenes that were tense and dramatic when it originally screened still are, but in different ways. If you are in any doubt about the magic of Steven Spielberg - seeing these films in a packed out cinema with hundreds of adoring fans will soon put that to rest. The crowning moment, for me, was when a shocked Chief Brody delivered the immortal line "you're gonna need a bigger boat." The entire audience spontaneously cheered and applauded, and laughed. It was a wonderful, communal moment between strangers that, for those very few seconds, brought us much closer together. It was a moment of joy, a moment of magic and a moment that acknowledges the importance of what Spielberg, Schneider and co achieved with this film.

There is no guarantee that an audience will react in that way every time 'Jaws' is screened. It's the un-plannable magic of having the right people, in the right place, at the right time. Plus, you can't help but feel, 'Jaws' was having a good night, it was ready to perform. But then, 'Jaws' is always like that. Some films have good days and bad days, but not 'Jaws.'

All I'm really saying is: It was great to see these old friends again on the big screen. They really reminded me of what it is to be a true Kid In The Front Row.

Care to share?


  1. Hi Greg here, Big Boss at The Prince Charles Cinema.
    It was a great night and this morning I had seventeen messages on my answer phone asking for it to be repeated. Who am I to say no. The same double will run again in Three weeks time on Tuesday the 24th August, tickets on sale via our website as of tomorrow. www,

  2. I was there for the Jaws half of it... and, although it was amazing to see it on the screen for the first time... the real buzz for me was hearing the sound - Epic stuff!

  3. I do know what you mean about the experience of watching a particular film changing with the passage of time. I watched PSYCHO in the wee hours of this morning on TV, for the umpteenth time; and I found myself viewing it in an historical context.

    I believe it was Hitchcock's last black and white movie- censors wouldn't allow all of that blood in color back in the day. And I kept thinking about what an audience would have been thinking after the shower scene.....Janet Leigh was a major star at the time, and she was killed off in the middle of the film; that was unheard of. The film zigged when the audience expected it to zag- it began as the story of a woman stealing $40,000, and the audience expected that to be the central plot....and it became a horror movie, the unofficial first slasher movie halfway through.

    Like JAWS and JURASSIC PARK, PSYCHO was one of those films that changed the game and became a standard by which similar films can be judged. Also, in any Hitchcock film there are nuances that you may not pick up on viewing the first time around; the forbidding black smoke billowing from the train in SHADOW OF A DOUBT, the tranquil lovebirds in THE BIRDS, or the sly smile Janet Leigh has after switching cars in PSYCHO, like she thinks she can get away with it.

    Jaws and Jurassic Park- an old fashioned double feature....those were the days.

  4. Jaws is one of my favouritest films of all. Would love to see it at the pictures, but London is a long way from me! Guess I'll just have to watch "The A-Team" or summat instead.

  5. Greg, that's fantastic news!

    Hugh Jee - I always love it when you post here, I just wish it was more often-- I find everything you say fascinating. You make me want to hide away in my room all night with my Hitchcock boxsets!

    Unwashed, c'mon man, head down to London, Greg is screening the movie's again just for you!

  6. I wonder what it is about me that keeps changing such that I like Jurassic Park more and more every time, even though I'm pretty sure I can recite almost the entire movie word for word?

    Thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving that beautiful comment! Glad to know I'm not the only one that appreciates these kinds of films :)