Okay, “Jaws 3-D” is not a great movie (and that’s being generous), but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see it on the big screen where I would finally get to see it in 3D. I had seen it on television so many times and kept wondering if the experience of watching it with the extra dimension would make it just a little bit more exciting. Mad Monster put together the 30th anniversary screening for this much maligned sequel together at TCL Chinese Theatres in Hollywood, and they presented movie fans with a beautiful DCP 3D print to watch. I have a hard time believing that the 3D effects looked as good in 1983 as they did that evening.
In addition, Mad Monster also brought along a few guests that were involved in the making of “Jaws 3-D:” director Joe Alves, screenwriter Carl Gottlieb and producer Rupert Hitzig. All three were eager to talk about the making of this sequel, but they never did discuss how it was received when it came out 30 years ago.
It turns out that the original plan for the third “Jaws” movie was to make it into a spoof which was to be called “Jaws 3, People 0.” Plans for that, however, fell through due to conflicts with Universal Studios, and this led to David Brown and Richard Zanuck resigning from the studio. Alves remarked that the pre-production on “Jaws 3-D” showed how smart Hollywood executives are. Of course, he said that with a bit of sarcasm…
“They really didn’t want to make ‘Jaws,’ and we fought to get that made. They tried to stop it four times,” Alves said of the executives. “’Jaws 2,’ after they fired the first director, they closed it down and Verna Fields (who won the Best Editing Oscar for “Jaws”) and I had to convince Ned Tanen (then President of Universal Studios) that we should go ahead and make it. And then here comes the third one, and they think so much of their biggest movie that they title it ‘Jaws 3, People 0’ which means they are making fun of their most successful film.”
Fields, who later became Vice President of Universal Studios, contacted Alves and told him that, since Brown and Zanuck left, the rights to “Jaws” were sold to Alan Landsburg, a television producer best known for the show “That’s Incredible,” and that he was making a mess of everything. Fields asked Alves to talk with Landsburg which he did, and Landsburg offered him the chance to produce the sequel. But having worked 100 days as a Second Unit Director on “Jaws 2,” Alves was far more interested in directing it. But the conversation became very interesting when Landsburg told Alves of what his plans were for this sequel.
“I said you have to think about making a big shark,” Alves told Landsburg. “And he said, ‘oh no, no, no, no, no. I just want to use real sharks from what I have from ‘That’s Incredible’ and mechanical people.’ So that’s how great the thinking was when this production started.”
Alves then went to visit various aquatic parks for research and he came across an underwater exhibit that was in 3D. He thought it was great and loved the depth of the technology that was being used. After exiting the exhibit, he started to think about the possibilities of filming “Jaws 3” in 3D.
“With ‘Jaws 3-D,’ you accomplish two things,” Alves said. “You take the onus off the third because there were very few thirds back then; I think ‘Rocky III’ was the only one at the time. And then you introduce a fresh look at it (the franchise). I went home and did a shark drawing in 3D and I took it to Landsburg and to Sid Sheinberg, and he looked at it and said, ‘can I have this?’ I said ‘Sid, you’re President. You can have whatever you want! I just got to show it to Lew Wasserman first.’ I got the directing job and that’s how it started.”
Gottlieb had written the screenplays for the previous two “Jaws” movies, but he originally was not brought on board to write the third. The original script was credited to the late, great Richard Matheson whom Gottlieb said he great respect for, but at the same time he found his script to be “problematic” at best. As a result, the studio called him to see if he could help them out once again.
“When Joe (Alves) and Rupert came on, they all agreed on me,” Gottlieb said. “I had done the other two under difficult circumstances, and they said ‘can you do it again?’ So off I went to Florida and looked at Sea world, surveyed the situation and thought ‘yes I can do the script.’”
Once everything was ready to go, the cast and crew proceeded to Orlando, Florida to film “Jaws 3-D,” and Gottlieb said that the only food down there was “deep fried, refried or just fried.” Making the movie proved to be challenging not only because they were filming in 3D, but also due to the fact that the filmmakers were dealing with water and a big shark. Alves described the process of working with 3D to the audience.
“We worked with one film and not two cameras,” Alves said. “You take and split 35 mm film one way that you have a proportion that is really difficult to compose. A shark is very difficult to get out into the audience because it has a dorsal fin. If you cut the dorsal fin off, you could float it right into the audience. You could take a snake through it, but as soon as something hits that frame it jumps back. So the shark could come out as far as the dorsal fin and that was it.”
Hitzig went into further detail about the complexities of working with 3D back in 1983.
“This film was so different because we were so awed by the concept of 3D, but you only see in 3D those frames that work; you don’t see the ones that don’t work,” Hitzig said. “Now there is a point of convergence, and the two lenses of the camera have to be put into convergence. So if I’m focusing on you and you’re in vertical in the back, then I’m focused on you but you’re gonna be two images in the back. Joe had to watch out that there were no verticals in the back because they were going to be too strong. So we go to the motel room in Orlando and we would be watching the movie and going ‘that shot is beautiful’ and ‘oh no!’ Our eyes would go cross eyed or walleyed and we ducked to the floor. Nobody was looking at the performances. So after the third week, I put a sign in the motel room that said ‘just when you thought it was safe to open your eyes – Jaws 3-D!’”
Now its 30 years later, and 3D has come back to life thanks to new technologies which have made it far more effective than ever before. Then again, not everyone is a big fan of 3D and many are tiring of seeing every other movie with that extra dimension. Gottlieb shared with us his thoughts on 3D.
“I haven’t seen it (‘Jaws 3-D’) in 30 years and I’m looking forward to it,” Gottlieb said. “Every 3D movie is an experience, and sometimes I like to see them twice; once in 3D to have the stuff whizzing by, and a second time flat so that I can enjoy the story and the performances and everything else without the distractions of shooting for effects.”
Before the screening of “Jaws 3-D” began, Hitzig wanted to remind the audience of something.
“Remember that its 30 years ago,” Hitzig said. “We didn’t have CGI, we didn’t have video editing and everything was cut on film which was a problem with 3D. I remember in the very beginning, Sid Sheinberg said ‘if you can get the shark to come through the screen and land in the audience’s lap, we’ll all be rich. So try and get that shark (which was so huge) through that little screen.’ Instead of CGI, we had to composite on videotape and then go back to 3D which was almost an impossible technical stunt. It’s not an apology, it’s just a realization of what you’re going to see.”
Alves also remarked on a conversation he once had with film critic Gene Shalit.
“I had talked to him on ‘Jaws 2,’ and he wanted to know what we were doing on the third one,” Alves said of Shalit. “I was showing him the 3D stuff and was saying ‘if it was a snake I could get it into the audience.’ A couple of years later I happened to be working on another movie and I saw Gene and he yelled over ‘it should of been a snake!’”
Gottlieb left us with one last technology note.
“This script was typed on a typewriter. Fingers on keys, an IBM electric, clickety-clack, clickety-clack.”
Well, “Jaws 3-D” will never go down as one of the finest motion pictures ever made, but watching it reminded us of how much better it is than “Jaws: The Revenge.” Plus, seeing it in actual 3D made the experience more fun than without it, and that’s saying a lot because these days 3D isn’t worth the extra money. The film may not have been a critical success, but it still did turn a profit at the box office and people have not forgotten about it. Big thanks to Joe Alves, Carl Gottlieb and Rupert Hitzig for taking the time to talk about their experience making “Jaws 3-D.”