Last Saturday, I did something I have never been able to do before, since I was scarcely alive last time around (and my parents misprioritised, big time): I went to see Jaws at the cinema. In honour of its 37th birthday, a lovely, cleaned-up print of Jaws is showing on the big screen, and it reminded me that there was once a time when a big summer blockbuster didn't need to feature either spaceships, superheroes or magic, fond as I am of all of the above.
Jaws is a blockbuster movie with an art-house sensibility. It has big action sequences, but Carl Gottlieb, its screenwriter, once remarked that he and Spielberg used to refer to it as "Moby Dick meets Enemy of the People". I can't imagine Melville or Ibsen are high in Michael Bay's mind when he churns out another Transformers movie.
The shark in Jaws is the perfect monster: it's clever and ruthless, and because we can't see it, it acquires an air of omnipresence. We know it isn't everywhere, but the trouble is, it could be anywhere. No one is safe. Every one of our instinctive fears is jangling like our nerves, and that's before John Williams's score frays those away, too.
Seeing it on the big screen is a completely different experience from watching it on DVD. For a start, the audience was mainly families with kids, whose parents obviously believed them to be made of stern stuff. But the moment when Richard Dreyfuss is suddenly faced with a disembodied head made them scream like it was a rollercoaster ride. Me, too, obviously, since seeing a film 10 times is no bar to jumping out of my seat on the 11th viewing at the thing I know perfectly well is coming.
But the real high water mark comes from Quint's Captain Ahab-style monologue, as the men compare scars. He tells the tale of his first encounter with sharks, when the USS Indianapolis sank, and her crew was left in the drink for a week. He watched his fellow sailors get picked off, and swore never to wear a lifejacket again. We know his battle against the shark is to the death.
I hope the re-release of Jaws heralds a new wave of old films returning to the big screen: what better way to combat piracy than by letting us watch these movies in their native habitat? It's usually left to art-house cinemas to re-show the great films of bygone days, but sometimes, I want popcorn and drink-holders, not wine and sofas.
When only stern Sue will suffice
The tennis world suffered a terrible shock on Sunday when David Nalbandian crashed out of the final at Queens Club after aiming an ill-tempered kick at an advertising board, which smashed into the official sitting right behind it, cutting his leg open. The crowd understandably booed as Nalbandian was defaulted and the match ended early, but you can't go round making line judges bleed. Even John McEnroe never went so far.
As the drama played out, the whole thing was oddly reassuring. Even though it was a rotten end to the match, the rules are respected, however awkward it makes things for the tournament and the BBC. And when the furious crowd wouldn't stop booing for the players to speak, Sue Barker silenced them with a single, magisterial "Shush!" Come on, Sue.