Review: 'Jaws 2: The Making of the Hollywood Sequel' by Louis R. Pisano and Michael A. Smith

Jaws 2: The Making of the Hollywood Sequel by Louis R. Pisano and Michael A. Smith
BearManor Media (September 2015)
362 pages; $34.95 hardcover/$23.02 paperback/$9.95 e-book
Reviewed by Blu Gilliand

Jaws2As sequels go, Jaws 2 had one of the hardest acts to follow in cinema history: Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, which stands today as one of the most revered movies of all time, a near-perfect blend of casting, acting and visual storytelling that wears its 40-years-and-counting quite well.

Likewise, Louis A. Pisano and Michael A. Smith’s book, Jaws 2: The Making of the Hollywood Sequel, has a big mountain to climb. Spielberg’s classic has spawned a couple of excellent making-of books: The Jaws Log, a bird’s-eye-view recounting of the film’s production from Jaws screenwriter Carl Gottlieb; and Jaws: Memories from Martha’s Vineyard, Jim Beller and Matt Taylor’s lushly illustrated, exhaustively researched account of the filming as told by the residents of the small New England island Spielberg and company took over.

Like its cinematic counterpart, Jaws 2: The Making of the Hollywood Sequel is never going to eclipse what came before it, but it is a scrappy overachiever that is miles better than anybody probably thought it could be.

Jaws had plenty of behind-the-scenes drama, focusing on a young director dealing with a difficult shoot in which neither the weather nor the film’s mechanical “star” seemed at all interested in cooperating. Jaws 2 followed suit with its own, similar obstacles: the outright firing of one director (John D. Hancock) and the presence of a human star (Roy Scheider) who was only participating because he was contractually obligated to. Pisano and Smith cover this ground extensively, and you’ll emerge from those early chapters amazed that the movie got made at all.

Credit is due to the authors for the sheer amount of information they include, and for the wide range of actors, production staff, crew members and bystanders that they grilled for that information. If anything, they might have done well to prune back some of the minor anecdotes in order to tighten the book up a bit, but the core audience for a book like this probably will not mind the excess.

The only real drawback for this book is that the production values are not on par with something like Memories from Martha’s Vineyard. It’s the standard trade paperback size, and as a result the photos (of which there are many) are reproduced at a smaller size (think wallet size). They are also all in black-and-white, which may well be how they were originally shot. At any rate, some of the photos do suffer because of the reproduction. On the other hand, it does add to the fly-on-the-wall atmosphere that carries through the whole book, so it may not be an issue for all readers.

There’s a definitive audience that will be attracted to an exhaustive making-of book for a minor action/horror movie sequel, and I think those readers will find plenty to treasure in Jaws 2: The Making of the Hollywood Sequel. I know I’ve had a blast poring over its pages, and I look forward to watching the movie again with some of the tidbits and information I picked up.

 

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