Quintessential

Quint (Robert Shaw)

Quint (Robert Shaw)

Anyone who knows me knows my favourite film. I’m a huge Spielberg fan but in my opinion he has never bested That Film With The Fake Shark In It.
Jaws is a brilliant movie and though it is almost 40 years old its impact is still being felt. How many millions of people have a moment of doubt while swimming in the sea these days? Once it’s deeper than their chests alarm bells start ringing.
Jaws is also partly responsible for summer blockbusters. Audiences wanted bigger movies and studios scrambled to give them what they wanted. Unfortunately, instead of innovation filmmakers used the Jaws/Star Wars templates to fashion mediocre derivatives. Some work, most don’t.
Anyhoo, almost every blockbusting summer epic featuring aliens/robots/orcs trying to wipe out Earth/MiddleEarth/New York will have what I call the Quintessential Speech. Frodo has made one. Samuel L Jackson usually delivers one. Whoever is playing the US President must rally the remaining troops with one. It’s a stop and stare speech given just before the big finale in a film. And it all started with Jaws.
Robert Shaw had a part to play in writing it but his delivery made it 100% his own. He chews up the screen more than the wonky fish does!

One of these days I’m gonna learn this off. Maybe I need a bigger… brain!

Japanese submarine slammed two torpedoes into our side, chief. It was comin’ back, from the island of Tinian to Laytee, just delivered the bomb. The Hiroshima bomb. Eleven hundred men went into the water. Vessel went down in twelve minutes. Didn’t see the first shark for about a half an hour. Tiger. Thirteen footer. You know how you know that when you’re in the water, chief? You tell by lookin’ from the dorsal to the tail. What we didn’t know… was our bomb mission had been so secret, no distress signal had been sent. Huh huh. They didn’t even list us overdue for a week. Very first light, chief. The sharks come cruisin’. So we formed ourselves into tight groups. You know it’s… kinda like ol’ squares in battle like a, you see on a calendar, like the battle of Waterloo. And the idea was, the shark comes to the nearest man and that man, he’d start poundin’ and hollerin’ and screamin’ and sometimes the shark would go away. Sometimes he wouldn’t go away. Sometimes that shark, he looks right into you. Right into your eyes. You know the thing about a shark, he’s got…lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll’s eye. When he comes at ya, doesn’t seem to be livin’. Until he bites ya and those black eyes roll over white. And then, ah then you hear that terrible high pitch screamin’ and the ocean turns red and spite of all the poundin’ and the hollerin’ they all come in and rip you to pieces.
Y’know by the end of that first dawn, lost a hundred men! I don’t know how many sharks, maybe a thousand! I don’t know how many men, they averaged six an hour. On Thursday mornin’ chief, I bumped into a friend of mine, Herbie Robinson from Cleveland. Baseball player, boson’s mate. I thought he was asleep, reached over to wake him up. Bobbed up and down in the water, just like a kinda top. Up ended. Well… he’d been bitten in half below the waist. Noon the fifth day, Mr. Hooper, a Lockheed Ventura saw us, he swung in low and he saw us. He’s a young pilot, a lot younger than Mr. Hooper, anyway he saw us and come in low. And three hours later a big fat PBY comes down and start to pick us up. You know that was the time I was most frightened? Waitin’ for my turn. I’ll never put on a lifejacket again. So, eleven hundred men went in the water, three hundred and sixteen men come out, the sharks took the rest, June the 29, 1945. Anyway, we delivered the bomb.

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6 comments

  1. If “That Film With The Fake Shark In It” is on people will always stop and listen to that speech. It could be the greatest ever monologue ever filmed!

    1. Hi Dean,
      No arguments with you here! Of course, everything has to be seen in context. By the time the speech comes in the film audiences have already been through the wringer and are utterly terrified. Quint’s 4 minutes or so offers an island of quiet in a sea of screaming and blood and such and such!

  2. And his freaky-looking eyes don’t hurt either…

    1. … like a doll’s eyes! He’s scarier than Bruce the Shark!!

  3. […] it here. Plus it forms a nice counterpoint to the testosterone-soaked screenplays of yore mentioned elsewhere in this […]

  4. […] that in mind, here’s a subbing masterclass of a well-known monologue. I’ve discussed Quint’s speech from Jaws elsewhere, so I’ve gone with another great piece of writing. John Logan and Oliver […]

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