The moment will be familiar to a generation of Jaws fanatics. Early in the movie, after the first mangled victim is discovered, the highly strung police chief Martin Brody is certain a great white shark is lurking in the waters surrounding Amity island – but it’s the Fourth of July and the mayor insists that the beach has to stay open. With the expectation of more carnage in every viewers’ mind, the camera cuts to a beachside arcade, and one machine in particular. On the cabinet screen we see the visually arresting depiction of a shark thrashing about in its bloody death throes, before the camera draws back to the player operating a harpoon-gun shaped controller. It’s effectively Brody’s nightmare, and his objective, rolled into one flickering image on an ancient coin-op display for a few redolent seconds.
In a movie filled with legendary cinematic moments, this brief sequence is a minor one, but as with many other elements of Steven Spielberg’s 1975 picture, it was also prescient. The director, a keen games player and watcher of pop culture trends, foresaw an era in which Hollywood would be seduced by the popularity and the visual spectacle of the emerging video game arcade scene. He got the appeal of these new entertainment machines, but he also understood how computer graphics represented a new way to present narrative to audiences – even if, in Jaws, it was a few seconds of footage. Read more