Monday, 28 July 2014

Spin Off - Quint (Jaws)

“Jaws” it’s safe to say is a franchise truly run into the ground by a combination of increasingly outlandish plots and the general opinion that all was required to make the giant rubber shark scary was to recycle the now legendry theme music and find ever unique ways for the human cast to become shark chow.

So with “Jaws: The Revenge” having driven a stake through the series could there be any life left in the franchise? After all once you have your shark seemingly capable of wanting to claim revenge on the Brody’s let alone suddenly gaining the ability to roar your kind of already clutching at straws even if these ideas half as strange as some of the ideas being thrown around in the current development hell with currently surrounds the attempts to adapt Steve Alten’s prehistoric shark on the rampage series “MEG”. Where could a possible spin off go? The answer it would seem is with the character of Quint.
Memorably played by Robert Shaw, who interestingly wasn’t Spielberg’s choice having originally wanted to cast either Lee Marvin (who preferred to fish for real) or Sterling Hayden for the role before he cast Shaw who as we all know now would go on to be one of the most memorable characters in the film let alone steal every scene which he was featured in. Ironically Spielberg would later go on record to state that he would have cast local Craig Kingsbury in the role had he met him sooner and ultimately would cast him to play Ben Gardner and who would also be highly memorable in the film as one of the best scares when his decapitated head plays peek-a-boo.
When we meet Quint in the original film he is a grizzled shark hunter and captain of the “Orca” who is the first to step up to killer the monster shark, only to get shot down by the town authorities who baulk at his demands for $10,000 rather than the $3000 bounty originally on offer. Right from the start he is established as being a man who only cares about himself with a heightened dislike for men in positions of power and authority, with a unique sense of humour as he frequent makes wisecracks and limericks for seemingly his sole amusement.
As we get to know more about Quint during the climatic shark hunt we also learned that he is a survivor of the sinking of the USS Indianapolis in one of the most memorable scenes of the film and one which was used as the basis for the rumoured “Jaws: Dark Waters” which would focus on the story Quint tells about how the survivors of the ships were forced to fight off a pack of sharks with the film being based around this story leading to the crews eventual rescue.

Unquestionably from this simple moment which Shaw made unquestionably so gripping (Richard Dreyfuss admitted that he didn't fake his gripped expression) , we learn so much about his motivation and general demeanour as it was the officer top brass who made the mission of delivering the Hiroshima bomb so secret that no one knew the location of the ship and in turn further delaying their rescue and perhaps goes a way to explaining why he is so driven on hunt as many sharks as he can.
It is of course this period from Quint leaving the navy and coming to the town of Amity that my proposed spin-off would start from as Quint arrives in the sea side town and constructing his shack and starting up his shark fishing business.  Over the course of the film we would see him also putting in place the other sidelines the source novel mentions such as his moonshine and whale oil business he uses during the off season, aswell as his frequent battles with both the mayor and other fisherman which he fought using layman’s legal knowledge gained from legal books in the Amity library.
The book also makes mention of another epic shark hunt which Quint undertook prior to the events of the film, in which he battled another large shark (if not quite the size of the film’s shark) while on one of his charter fishing trips, with the shark equally requiring three barrels to capture it. The hunt ultimately ending in one of Quints trademark blowouts when the tourist wanted to claim that he caught the shark on line and reel rather than with the use of barrels. Despite Quint in a surprising moment actually tries to reason with the tourist who is adamant over which story they wish to use and ultimately ends with Quint dumping the carcass overboard in a scene which would make for the perfect ending and ultimately a lead into the original film.

The perfect opening though for the film can also be found in a scene removed from the original script were Quint is introduced watching “Moby Dick” at the cinema, the scenes of Gregory Peck battling the mechanical whale causing him to laugh so hard that other people in the cinema walk out as his laughter can be heard echoing into the street. Sadly it was a scene cut which Spielberg explained
“Gregory Peck felt it wasn’t his proudest work; he didn’t want it to be made fun of or even be in the film at all”
True this would be an issue which would still stand even now, but with so many giant sea creature movies it wouldn’t be such an issue to find one whose actors aren’t perhaps so sensitive about the footage being used
While the background of Quint is patchy outside of what we are given by both the film and the book, further inspiration could also be taken from the life of sport fisherman Frank Mundus who was a key inspiration for author Peter Benchley when writing the book aswell as while working on the screen play, having first heard of Mundus when his publisher told him about how Mundas caught a 4550 pound great white shark off the shores of Long Island which he caught via harpoon. Mundus also holds the record for the largest fish caught via rod and reel when he caught a 3,427 pound great white, a fibreglass copy of which still hangs on the Lake Montauk waterfront. Unlike Quint though Mundas would towards the end of his career go from shark hunter to conservationist (much like Benchley) through to his death from a heart attack in 2008.

The main issue with Quint being the focus though is his general demeanour which means that he only cares about himself and generally comes off pretty unlikeable until he warms up to people as we saw in “Jaws”, so it may require an additional crew mate to be written in, just to keep things light or perhaps the film could show Quint perhaps not as bitter with life as when we meet him in “Jaws” either way another shark hunt with Quint is one of the few prospects for the series I would still like to see, even if it isn’t the same monster size as the ones the series has become renown for.

For more Spielberg related fun makes sure you check out French Toast Sunday's "Spielberg In July" for which this article was compiled for.

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