December 29, 2011

JAWS filming locations, part 1 - Edgartown: Amity

Knowing that we were going on holiday in the area and that a detour to Martha's Vineyard was easy enough, we absolutely had to go location-hunting for Jaws. Most of the film had been shot there, interiors and exteriors.


Martha's Vineyard is of course different from how Amity Island appears. It's quite large, with several towns. It's history is in whaling, not sharks, with the island of Nantucket just to the east - the opening location for the events of Moby Dick. Ferries, large and small, arrive from all directions from the mainland to several different docks. Amity appears to be quite isolated, but the fast ferry from Hyannis took us less than an hour.

In preparation for a home-made tour, we watched the film and read the paperbacks (see this previous article about the making of Jaws). We were only there two full days - Day 1 was spent in Edgartown, where we stayed. I picked up a copy of Memories of Martha's Vineyard - a map inside confirmed additional locations that we could visit next day. We hired a car for Day 2 and visited all compass points of the island. For those with more time on their hands, there are bus routes over most of the island, as well as coach tours.

Edgartown was used as the hub of the fictional Amity Island. This is where most of the buildings and street scenes were shot. The dock area has been heavily remodelled since the movie, but the tiny car ferry where Police Chief Brody locks horns with the mayor is still operational. This is also where Jaws had a production office. All these locations are only a few minutes away from each other, on foot.


AMITY TOWN HALL

Edgartown Town Hall stood in for Amity Town Hall. 

In the meeting room farthest from the street, the big clock and the curved desk were in the film
Just inside the Town Hall main entrance - note the corridor and floor tiles

The delicatessen is between the Town Hall and the crossroads
An original prop from the movie inside the delicatessen


AMITY MAIN STREET

Amity 'Main Street' - the crossroads where Chief Brody gets caught up with the marching band - turn left here to get to the Town Hall 

This bank at the crossroads is good for getting your bearings

Turn around and go uphill from the crossroads
- this road leads to the 'Amity Police House'
The gatepost (bottom left) was in the shot where Brody leaves the police house from this side entrance and walks (left to right) on a mission to get sign-making supplies
Street view of the Amity Police House (now a private residence)
Across the road from the Amity Police House
is this impressive tree, there at the time of filming
The bike shop in between the Police House and the crossroads

Also on this street - this house stood in for the Amity newspaper office

Back at the crossroads, turn right to go to the docks, or straight ahead to see the 'office'.
The shop you see on the left is where they run the Jaws Walking Tours
The trees behind the crossroads (seen behind the marching band) - leads towards the Jaws Production Office
Jaws production office - front door
Production office - front door
Production office - side entrance


DOCKSIDE
Sheriff, you're going to need a much bigger boat...
Edgartown harbour as it is now
The Edgartown Gallery building influenced the design of Quint's fishing shack (built on the other side of the island)
The gallery is just behind the car ferry
- they avoid showing it clearly in the film
Side view of gallery - as seen from the ferry


CAR FERRY

Pricey for such a short ride, but the road's washed out
You can just see the Edgartown lighthouse in the background
Getting on the ferry - gallery building in the background
Perhaps Spielberg sat here...

On the Chappaquiddick side - Edgartown docks and ferry in the background




Edgartown lighthouse on Chappaquiddick 
- one of five lighthouses on the island

These photos probably appear meaningless to anyone who hasn't seen the movie, and also fairly meaningless even if you have. The memorable action in the film takes place on beaches, no longer recognisable, and at sea, with only the horizon visible in the background. But the visit gave me a great appreciation of how much was done with so little. Of course it means a lot personally to visit the location of a movie that made such a lasting impression 35 years earlier. But really, for anyone to connect with the story, all you have to do is find a beach and be brave enough to enter the water.

On the next part of this tour of Amity Island we'll head south, to the beach, and west to where Quint lived...


JAWS filming locations, part 2 - South and West: bonfire beach and Quint's dock


JAWS filming locations, part 3 - North and East: Brody's house, State Beach




A Jaws-themed Walking Tour is run from Edgartown, click here for details.


This website has a simple hitlist of the best locations - on Movie-Locations.com


This site on IGN was invaluable for before and after pictures.



( All photographs in this post are copyright of Mark Hodgson and David Tarrington © 2011 )

December 24, 2011

A Merry Christmas to mall!

I've heard of shopping malls with zombies,
but this is ridiculous.
How did I not know about this? A giant Godzilla Christmas tree set up in the Aqua City Mall in Odaiba, Tokyo Bay, back in 2006. Click here for more seasonal Japanese kaiju decorations. 

Is that snow? No wait! Aaaaaah!

Wishing you all a Happy Christmas, and a Happier New Year in 2012...

December 18, 2011

The making of JAWS (1975) - books and documentaries


Jaws is a movie that just keeps on giving. A huge new book and yet another documentary are still unravelling its mysteries. There's a fascination about almost every aspect of the film's production - the script, the acting, the music, the special effects, the cinematography, the logistics...

In September of this year we went on holiday to Massachusetts, staying in Boston and Provincetown, with a deliberate detour to Martha's Vineyard. The latter is the island that stood in for Amity, the fictional location of the community with a shark problem. In 1974, the island had the very real problem of a huge Hollywood film crew that invaded for five months to shoot Jaws.

To try and get the most of this out-of-the-way destination, I went through everything I had on the making of Jaws to pinpoint the main filming locations. What's left to see? Someone must have done an exhaustive location tour of the island by now, but darned if I could find a complete guide online. I will of course share our  photos of what we found with you, but first, here's what's out there about behind-the-scenes of Jaws.



BOOKS

I went back to the two books originally published in 1975 about the making of the film. These helped form a rough guide to where everything was shot.

At the time of release, photographs of the making of the film were very restricted - you'd more likely see photos of a real shark than the mechanical ones. 'The Making Of The Movie Jaws - On Location On Martha's Vineyard' was written by islander Edith Blake, who took publicity photographs and followed the crew around. This is all from the islanders' perspective and particularly good at naming when and where locations were used.


Scriptwriter Carl Gottlieb wrote the view from inside the production team - 'The Jaws Log'. He candidly talks about how the production scraped through by the skin of its pointy teeth. Starting shooting without a complete script, with unproven special effects, on a project that hadn't been attempted before - a story of the sea that was going to be shot at sea, instead of in a studio tank. Over schedule, over budget, with many physical special effects proving so impossible that they had to be 'shot around' and 'written around' until they simply had to work or there wouldn't have been a movie!

Shooting downwards, the camera angle didn't give away that they're in a lagoon
The bays around the island are shallow enough to enable the crew to set up the underwater tracks level for the shark to run on. They could also rig lights, sink boats in the relative safety of shallow water while appearing to be far out to sea. The bays were also wide enough to offer a clear horizon. Shot from the right angle, there would be no coastline visible. It was like the largest studio tank ever. The shape and depth of the bays was the crucial reason why the island was initially chosen.

Having chosen this as a key location, the production then looked over the island for every other building and beach needed for the story, for interiors and exteriors. The town hall, police house, Brody's house, docks, ferries, beaches were all on the island.


Both those books have since been revised and republished in slightly larger paperbacks. But now the best ever book on Jaws is 'Memories From Martha's Vineyard' which has exhaustively checked around for all the photos taken at the time by the islanders. A hefty coffee table book awash with behind-the-scenes photos.

The islanders who found themselves cast in the movie are also all tracked down, interviewed and presented as they are now! Even if they just had one line in the movie... "Pippit! Pippit!"

A large map helped pinpoint some more locations, but it also reveals some scenes that weren't shot at Martha's Vineyard at all. I've been duped again! Turns out that the Jaws ride at Universal Studio in Hollywood was actually a location - for instance, the reshoot of the discovery of Ben Gardner's boat (a scene originally shot at sea, far less effectively in broad daylight) as well as a lot of underwater footage, like the prop shark attacking the cage, and the upwards shots of kicking legs.


But the book is mainly about the epic island shoot, sifted from hundreds of photos taken by islanders who found that there was little preventing them from getting close up to the action, even unwittingly photographing scenes that never made the final cut, or were reshot later. If you got the deluxe version of the book, there's also a DVD of 8mm footage, like the 'Teddy attack' that was rejected by Spielberg as too much...

But the multitude of rare photographs are more revealing than the documentaries, especially about the technical trickery used for many classic sequences. Like revealed is the rig used for the 'shark entering the pond', the elementary woodwork used to support the camera for so many recognisable scenes.

An astonishing book, from fans who didn't even get to see it in the cinema first time round.
Interview with the author of Memories From Martha's Vineyard here

I bought this on the island but didn't have time to read it there. There's a very useful map in it though.

This website was the best guide to how the locations had changed in 35 years, and got us to the best sights. The guide, in two parts, is unfortunately incomplete, only covering the East side of the island.



DOCUMENTARIES

They've little information on locations, but while I'm on the subject, here's a starter guide to the best Jaws documentaries.

The very best ever is the jawesome two-and-a-half hour documentary spread over three sides of the 1995 Signature Collection laserdisc box set. This was subsequently shortened for the 30th Anniversary DVD release. Laurent Bouzereau's epic programme included a few tantalising clips of deleted FX scenes - including a glimpse of that Teddy scene (the guy in the rowing boat - "You guys all right?"). I guess that the relatively small amount of behind-the-scenes footage indicates that Spielberg is still reluctant to demystify the movie too much.


The interviews, including plenty of Spielberg, are the main meat and extremely entertaining, mainly because Richard Dreyfuss is so much fun in it.

In The Teeth Of Jaws (1997) was made for a Jaws evening on the BBC. An hour long, it featured new interviews with Edith Blake, Peter Benchley, Richard Dreyfuss, Zanuck and Brown, though the Spielberg footage is taken from the laserdisc documentary. It offers contemporary footage of the surviving Orca and the film barge at rest in Menemsha (both have since been moved to a less public location). Plus there's a great account of all the writers who tackled the pivotal USS Indianapolis monologue, leaving Robert Shaw, himself a writer, to take all the versions of the scene and nail the final version the night before it was filmed.


The Shark Is Still Working (2009) is an independent production which includes a raft of new interviews designed to supplement what was covered in the 1995 laserdisc documentary. It includes newer interviews with many involved in the production who are sadly no longer with us. The above artwork is how it's planned DVD release would originally have appeared. (The Shark Is Still Working will now be included with the September 2012 Blu-ray release of the new Jaws restoration). Even after everything I've seen on the film, I'm still hungry for more and can't wait to see what they've done. The documentary has a page on Facebook.

Check out this interview with the producers of The Shark Is Still Working here on Cinema Retro...



MAGAZINES

I didn't see many serious articles about the making of Jaws in the UK. The usual sources that I'd normally rely on failed to reveal very much. The only detailed coverage I'd expect were Cinefantastique (which reviewed it) and American Cinematographer which did a small piece on it. Hard information about the special effects had to wait for the much later documentaries.


Here's one article that I have from 1976, for the UK release. They actually went and interviewed Spielberg! Because Jaws stayed in UK cinemas for months longer than expected, Film Review presumably ran out of 'puff piece' press releases and had to come up with new material!

It also talks at length about how the film avoided a more restrictive rating. In the UK, Jaws had an 'A' certificate. Anything harsher would have barred anyone under the age of 14 - if it had an 'AA' certificate. James Ferman, then head of the BBFC, is said to have considered the decision carefully, but thought that the second half of the film was an epic adventure film that 10 and 11 year-old boys would enjoy. Worried that younger viewers would get nightmares, Ferman arranged a special screening for children and consulted child psychiatrists. In the end the 'A' certificate was "reinforced" with an extra warning - on the poster is (a fairly small) tagline "May be particularly disturbing to younger unaccompanied children." Strange that the censors will bend over backwards for a blockbuster...

The same article mentions that Spielberg got three percent of the profits! Ker-ching!

A ton of US magazine coverage can be found here at JawsCollector.com.

My review of Jaws is here - having seen it on its first run in the cinema and on every format since.

The first part of my photo-guide to Amity Island will surface shortly...



December 10, 2011

THE TRACK (1975) and more from Mimsy Farmer




My Mimsy mini-marathon

Perhaps I'm too used to variable acting in horror films, because once in a while a presence or performance leaps out and reminds me what quality looks like.

Seeing Mimsy Farmer in Dario Argento's Four Flies On Grey Velvet, I think it was at a screening in the Scala, King's Cross, that she first really impressed me. While a serious and versatile actress, she was stuck in a Euro-horror rut in the 1970s, with the emphasis on rut. Her characters were repeatedly ravaged, brutally or otherwise, and she also became known as an actress who was 'okay' with nude scenes. This was a consequence of some 'hippy chick' roles she'd done where she was genuinely comfortable being nude in front of the camera.



I only know this because Video
 Watchdog magazine did what they do best and tracked her down for a recent interview (cover art at top). It was fantastic to see her again (see the last photo below) and willing to talk about her movie work - good and bad. The lengthy career interview also pointed out several films that I hadn't tried, one in particular that she thought was her best. She's absolutely right. It's very good indeed...

To me Mimsy's characters are at their most interesting in a fix, cornered. The fragile wispy blonde then gains a steely quality. When stressed, she doesn't panic, and the tension in her face, and her anger, is all very real. It's not the same quality as Meiko Kaji burning with revenge, but someone psyching themselves up for danger and refusing to crumble. Her fair hair would normally mark her as the first victim in a horror film. But her trademark short hairstyle suggests that she's not like those other women. She's the least 'blonde' blonde in horror. That's why I like her.

So, after a trawl through my archives, I had a bigger pile of Mimsy than I thought. I watched everything of hers that I had...



FOUR FLIES ON GREY VELVET
(1971, Italy / France, 4 mosche di velluto grigio)

Luckily. this was how 
I first saw Mimsy, playing the victimised hero's girlfriend. She gets caught up in the chaos as he's blackmailed for murder then cruelly victimised while trying to unveil his tormentor. 

This isn't as tightly plotted as Dario Argento's first two thrillers - it looks like he was more interested in the intricate camerawork of the stalking scenes than the complexity of the story. Like Cat O' Nine Tails, it's a whodunit with a bucket of red herrings and too few clues. But for fans of early Argento, this is a must-see, despite spending an age as the most unavailable of his thrillers. 


Unusually for Argento, the killer isn't unseen but wears an extremely creepy rubber mask. There's still plenty of hypnotic, bravura camerawork from the point-of-view of the murderer. As in the rest of the 'animal trilogy', the murders have an intricate build-up, but not as vicious as his horror films that followed. Despite the serial killings, there's also too much comedy relief, with eccentric characters and even a shitty little car before the one in Deep Red


Besides Mimsy, it stars Michael Brandon (Dempsey and Makepeace) and Bud Spencer (star of many spaghetti westerns and Terence Hill buddy movies).


This Argento film only officially appeared on DVD in the US in 2009, and not in the greatest of condition (from a scratched, splicey print). I'm hoping for a much better presentation on Blu-ray, due out in the UK in January 2012 from Shameless Screen Entertainment.




THE TRACK
(1975, France / Italy, La Traque)

Mimsy reckons this is the best film she's been in, though it's not a big showcase role for her. She's excellent in it, central to it, but not the star. It's an ensemble piece with a uniformly good cast. Although 1970s French films aren't my specialty, I still recognised Michael Lonsdale (before he was the Bond-baddie in Moonraker) and Jean-Pierre Marielle who coincidentally played the gay detective in Four Flies On Grey Velvet. Here, Mimsy speaks French fluently, though her character is English.
 

She's a teacher getting away from it all in a French country cottage, who attracts the unwanted attentions of a group of amateur boar hunters. While this is tough to watch, it's not exploitative like some of her earlier 'victim' roles. This might be a derivation of Straw Dogs, but not so much about the victim or her revenge. However it starts off with the familiar 'duel of the cars' that greets her arrival in the country, just like in Death Weekend and The Shuttered Room. It's also a little like The Most Dangerous Game, but set in a very recognisable world. 


The all-male hunting party is made up of every strata of society. Each of them is faced with the decision, should they go to the police...


This is made even more real by the wilderness location and the absence of background music. The cinematography from Claude Renoir (French Connection II, Barbarella) is beautifully judged, in fact, the whole production is. I've not seen such a well-made, slow-burning thriller in a long time. Made in 1975, it still feels quite modern.


I'd never heard of The Track before the Video Watchdog interview. It's not even on DVD in France. While not the same brand of survival horror that we get now, for anyone wanting something intelligent along the lines of Deliverance, this should really be more available.





MORE
(1969, West Germany / France / Luxembourg)

I'll add this as an example of Mimsy's interesting non-horror work, though this is certainly in cult territory. After her initial time in mainstream movies, she was in a string of biker-rebel flicks before this acid-influenced arthouse drama. What begins as a trendy freewheeling romantic drama slowly and subtly moves into darker territory, constantly distracted by many trippy interludes.

Again Mimsy is perfect as the object of affection for an offbeat hipster, with more to her than meets the eye. She seems completely unfazed by her nude scenes, as befits her character. But I'm guessing this role set a precedent for some less scrupulous directors of her subsequent horror films.

With occasional backing music by none other than Pink Floyd, this is an interesting mystery tour, with much modern resonance (the island of Ibiza has since gained a much druggier reputation for huge dance parties since acid 'rave' culture). The slow, observational pace dates it, but the story could easily be happening right now. Oblique direction and sharp cinematography make it an unusual change from the sensationalism of drug-exploitation movies of the time. I also can't imagine that everything that's on show (sex, drugs, flesh) made it all into cinemas for its original release.

It's an international production, but all performed in English language. More is on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK.

Director Barbet Schroeder also directed Single White Female (1992) and an early episode of Mad MenMore about More on Barbet Schroeders' website - includes an extensive picture gallery.




THE PERFUME OF THE LADY IN BLACK
(1974, Italy, Il profumo della signora in nero)

Mimsy is again the star, as a young woman coming to terms with her past (who isn't?). It plays a double game between whether she's insane or being driven mad. The ghosts that haunt her seem awfully real. And her friends are talking of voodoo rituals. Hmm.

Really well shot, with an evocative soundtrack, the story meanders for far too long, before a completely crazy ending that I didn't fully understand. But the climax is what puts this on the map and means I'll have to watch it again. Another point of interest
 was seeing Nike Arrighi again, after her standout role as the 'sensitive' in Hammer's The Devil Rides Out (1968).
Mimsy is ideal for the story, but the pacing let's it all. This has recently been released on DVD in the US (see cover art above).





AUTOPSY 
(1974, Italy)

Autopsy pairs Mimsy up with Ray Lovelock (the star of The Living Dead At The Manchester Morgue) and once again she's used and abused. Besides being surrounded by murders and dead bodies, (she works in a pathology lab), there's yet more lingering nude scenes, stranger sex scenes than usual, hints of necrophilia, and some nasty photos of corpses that I suspect are real. All this sensationalism would normally make an Italian horror a must-see, yet it's sabotaged by the dull pace of each scene, from the director of the even duller The Dead Are Alive. While it starts off posing as an apocalypse movie, it finally falls back into a far more predictable storyline.

The boredom and the queasy mix of large-breasted corpses, disfigurement and sex are presumably aimed at the Ed Geins and Dennis Nilsons in the audience. Despite once being called The Magician, it's currently available on DVD as Autopsy.




THE BLACK CAT
(1981, Italy)

In every Lucio Fulci film there's usually one scene that spoils it. Like upright burning dummies that are supposed to be zombies, or clockwork flesh-eating spiders in the library. But The Black Cat is chock full o' silly scenes, Fulci using the frankly silly Argento subplot where a character can control the actions of an animal in order to commit murders. Here we get a killer cat. Not a lion. A small black cat. There are some increasingly far-fetched cat murders which desperately needed to be better staged, like the animal attacks in The Omen films, where you might believe a raven can kill.

Rubber bats on strings aren't scary. You should also not point cameras at them for too long. I'd not even previously registered that Mimsy was in this. Fighting off rubber bats isn't going to win her any new fans.

This is so silly, it loops it's own loopiness and becomes very watchable, helped by one of the best casts Fulci ever had, full of Euro-horror regulars. Besides Mimsy, there's Al Cliver (Zombie Flesh Eaters), Patrick Magee (Tales From The Crypt, A Clockwork Orange) taking it all very seriously, and David Warbeck (The Beyond) not taking it at all seriously - he acts and sounds like Roger Moore! But with daft dialogue and a plot like this, who could blame him? The English country locations and Pino Donaggio score also ease the pain.

Paradoxically, this one is widely available on DVD.





So. Autopsy is for gorehounds, The Perfume of the Lady In Black is arty Italian horror, The Black Cat is for Luci

o Fulci completists, Four Flies On Grey Velvet is an early classic Dario Argento, More is arthouse with a plot. But if you want to see Mimsy at her best, track down La Traque.





Her filmography is rich with relatively unknown cult flicks. I'm particularly keen to see her four late 1960s biker/teen rebel movies. What other Mimsy's do you think I shouldn't miss?



Mimsy and one of her latest creations
Mimsy Farmer has her own website devoted to her painting and sculpture (in French but easy to navigate)

Once again, Video Watchdog has pointed me to where the gold is. The Video Watchdog website is here - for subscriptions and back issues.