As summer draws to an end, let us revisit the greatest summer movie ever made: Jaws, which became the top-grossing film of all time (not allowing for inflation) after its June 1975 release. When pitched Peter Benchley's novel, the 28-year-old director Steven Spielberg realized, "This is kind of a sequel to Duel!" In place of the marauding big rig, a marauding shark. In place of the small car piloted by Dennis Weaver, we have the famously too-small boat containing Robert Shaw, Roy Scheider, and Richard Dreyfuss. The constant, of course, is the fear of a larger, more powerful adversary whose elusive presence is more felt—thanks to John Williams' rumbling ostinato—than seen. Filming off Martha's Vineyard was protracted and delayed by the malfunctioning mechanical sharks, but this ultimately worked in Spielberg's favor. He shot around the missing fish, concentrating on scenes where his three heroes are frantically searching for it. Everyone's vainly scanning the horizon in Jaws, staring into the water and looking through binoculars. Spielberg may be a master of spectacle, but its opposite is the terrifying lack of visual information, the malevolent unseen. As for the plot, which we all know, Captain Quint takes his crew on a boat trip they'll never forget. Buy yourself a ticket for the ride. Like Shaw says, "For that you get the head, the tail, the whole damn thing." (Jaws begins a Thursday-night repertory series, through Sept. 27, also including High Noon, Chinatown, and The African Queen.) Call for showtimes. (PG-13) BRIAN MILLER

Thu., Aug. 23, 2012

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