JAWS, quite rightly has a place in movie history. It's become a fan favourite, it’s one of Steven Spielberg's finest and is one of those rare examples of a movie being better than the book. When Jaws came out in 1975 it caused a huge buzz. If there was such thing as a movie going viral back then, then this movie definitely did that. You can always sense when a movie is something special when it starts to get referenced in other movies and TV shows. Here are ten of the earliest examples of Jaws being seen, heard or referenced in a movie or TV show from the 1970s.
1 - Fawlty Towers: The Wedding Party
In this Fawlty Towers season one episode called ‘The Wedding Party’ we can see Basil trying (in vain) to read Peter Benchley's Jaws. Now some may say this is a reference to the book but by this time the hype of the movie was in full flow in the United States having already been released. When this episode was shown on 3rd October, 1975 it was only just over two months away from hitting the British shores.
2 - Open All Hours: Full of Mysterious Promise
Sticking with British sitcom classics, we get a Jaws reference in the very first episode of Open All Hours starring David Jason and the late Ronnie Barker. This episode, called ‘Full of Mysterious Promise’ was first aired on 20th February, 1976. A running joke throughout the series was the viciously loaded till register that would try to catch your fingers when you closed the drawer. Indeed in this scene we see Ronnie Barker's character, Arkwright trying to put a pound note in the drawer and of course the till violently closes prompting a response from his assistant. Granville played by David Jason says "Hey that reminds me, Jaws is on this week at the Odeon."
3 - The Bionic Woman: Claws
Moving across the pond to the United States for our next reference and this one comes from the cult classic, The Bionic Woman starring Lindsay Wagner. In this first season episode which aired in 1976, we see our hero trying to get to the bottom of various animal attacks. Could it be a lion? Or a Cougar? Anyway, there are a few Jaws references here. First is the title, ‘Claws’ which is very similar to the movie. Second we get the famous John Williams cue playing in a classroom scene and in that same scene we also hear the movie being referenced. In fact the music from the movie is heard a number of times during this episode.
4 - The Gumball Rally
In this 1976 movie about an illegal cross country race we see Jaws being advertised on billboards outside a movie theatre in Time Square, New York.
5 - Marathon Man
Sticking with movies from 1976 and again Jaws being advertised, we have Marathon Man which of course starred a certain Roy Scheider so this connection makes it extra special. In a scene set in New York City you can plainly see Jaws being advertised at a cinema.
6 - Six Million Dollar Man: The Bionic Boy
Returning to the world of TV and this special two-hour show called ‘The Bionic Boy’ from season four originally aired on 7th November, 1976. We also get yet another theatre marquee advertising the Spielberg classic.
7 - The New Avengers: Gnaws
The title is a spin on the movie classic and at one point during the episode, Steed and Gambit discuss facing a killer shark. The whole episode centres on a radioactive isotope that makes animals and vegetables bigger. Predictably we get just that and with the isotope finding its way into the sewers you can kind of guess what happens next.
8 - The Hills Have Eyes
In 1977 a horror movie was released by director, Wes Craven that has also become a cult classic during its time. In one scene Brenda (Suze Lanier-Bramlett) is in bed after having been attacked by Pluto and Mars, a ripped poster of Jaws is visible above her head.
9 - Legs and Co from Top of the Pops
This one is a little odd. It's from a 1976 episode of Top of the Pops where we see a group of dancers dancing to the "theme" of Jaws or what the presenter called "fins ain't what it used to be." Be warned before clicking on the video, it is shockingly bad.
10 - Columbo: Fade in to Murder
I've left the best until last. I am a huge fan of Columbo and this wonderful episode featuring William Shatner sees our raincoat wearing detective visiting Universal Studios. At one point he walks around the mock up set of Amity and witnesses the shark appearing from the water. He asks "Is that the shark from Jaws? Looks different to me. Could they have two? Because in the picture at the end it got all mangled." You can see the Amity sign and the Orca boat in the background during the scene.
Since the 1970's we have seen countless Jaws references in popular culture, especially the 80's which of course saw some famous references in movies and TV such as Back to the Future II, Police Academy 5 and yet another Columbo episode, Murder, Smoke and Shadows. It just shows how important Steven Spielberg's 1975 classic has become in movie history and I have no doubt we will still be seeing references in film and TV shows for another 40 years.
Are you aware of a reference to Jaws that may not be that well known? Please let us know in the comments below.
By Rob Wainfur
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