It Came From the Attic > JAWS: The Revenge by Hank Searls

beat-jaws-1992-1

Despite being old enough to own my own house, I still have a ton of junk in my parents’ attic. I’m slowly moving all of that stuff to my own home. Occasionally I come across something fun, weird or amusing from my past. “It Came From the Attic” is a series of posts about these odds and ends.

I am a huge JAWS fan. Once, I was a superfan of all things JAWS, including the original novel, all the movies and even the novelizations of the movies, all of which I read. Nowadays I’m mostly just a fan of the first movie, but JAWS: The Revenge holds a special place in my heart, for a few reasons:

  • It was the first and only JAWS film I saw in a theater;
  • I saw it with my dad;
  • I saw it during a big family reunion in Florida;
  • and the only JAWS Nintendo game was based on this movie.

The JAWS videogame wasn’t the most difficult NES game, but it’s important to remember that most NES games were more difficult, on average, than most games today. NES games often (not always, but often) grew out of the same game design thinking that developed arcade games, where the idea was to keep people pumping in quarters as long as possible. (Ever since seeing the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode Devil Fish, I’ve wondered if the JAWS game was ripped off some earlier game involving a submarine). Anyway, I rarely beat NES games as a kid, but I do remember that at some point, I beat JAWS.*

The game consisted primarily of your little diver swimming around with a +1 Speargun of Unlimited Ammo, doing your best to singlehandedly consign every species in the sea to the endangered list until JAWS shows up and tries to eat you. There was a major flaw in the programming such that, if your little diver was at the very top of the water, JAWS swam right past you. So all you had to do was use your speargun to pelt JAWS endlessly in the schnozzle as he came at you, go up as he went past, then dive down again and fire spears up his sharky anus until you reduced his power bar to zero.

At that point, you are ushered into a ludicrous sequence where you repeatedly try to jab the broken bowsprit of your ship into JAWS’s gills. This is directly inspired by the equally ludicrous climax of JAWS: The Revenge, but it was also pretty damned hard. If you failed, you had to go back and start pelting JAWS with spears again (and half the time, JAWS wasn’t even around).

Where am I going with this, you ask? Well, last week I was digging around in my parents’ attic and came across my old paperback novelization of JAWS: The Revenge. For some reason I decided to take it home with me. I don’t know if I was actually planning to read it again – I mean, I already spent who knows how many precious hours reading this thing as a kid – but when I opened the inside cover I found a nice surprise.

The top says “Cassani Reunion 1987.” That’s the reunion where I saw the movie. I doubt I wrote this when I actually was at the reunion, as I would have been a bit young for this book I think. My hunch is I wrote it later, possibly just to commemorate when I went to see the movie.

beat-jaws-1992

The bottom part is much more interesting. It reads:

8:26 pm May 11, 1992

BEAT JAWS (Nintendo)

I love that I evidently found this event important enough to document for posterity. The time is so specific, I obviously wrote it down just after I beat the game. As my memories of my youth get increasingly foggy, it’s pretty cool to know exactly what I was doing twenty years ago.

By the way, the little JAWS souvenir there is from the gift shop of the Universal Studios Florida JAWS ride, which is now gone. It was the only toy-like thing in the place. Here’s a fun – wait, not fun, random and useless – fact: during high school, whenever I needed to remember something for the following day (like I had a homework assignment to finish in the morning, or had to remember to bring in a school project or something), I would place that JAWS trinket on my bed table.

Oh, and as for my opinion of the movie JAWS: The Revenge? It’s deserving of its bad reputation, of course. And there’s something mean-spirited about the way Sean Brody – the cute kid who sang “Do you know the muffin man?” on the beach in the first movie – is savagely killed by the shark at the beginning of the film (while Christmas carolers sing in the background, in a pathetic attempt at irony).

That said, the film does one thing right: realizing there’s no point in hiding the shark anymore, the film gives us tons of shark mayhem. Oh, and Michael Caine’s pretty fun, even when slumming it.

*The only other NES games I remember beating were Contra (using the Konami Code, of course), Super Mario Bros. 2 and Super Mario Bros. 3. I didn’t beat the original Super Mario Bros. until 2006.

Comments now closed (14)

  • My theory is that the Kinami Code makes Contra harder for a lot of people, because they start relying on their thirty (ninety with continues) lives rather than learning to dodge enemy bullets. Super C was so much tougher…

    But awesome, awesome story!

    • You might be right about that, but I think it's the difference between screaming in frustration and having a good time with your childhood pal until all hours of the night, laughing about how you could actually fall on a slow-moving bullet and die, and arguing over the relative merits of spread-fire versus the laser.

      • Bahahahahaha… nice one :-)

        Though Contra 3 for the SNES gave you a max of seven lives from the start, and it was way tougher than the others… and honestly a lot of fun, even when playing with other people. You just sort of knew what you were getting into, though.

  • That was absolutely amazing that you recorded this event for future generations! I remember playing the Jaws game as a kid and not quite getting the point of it. Wasn't there a new Jaws game made somewhat recently?

    • Just wanted to add to the epicness of the moment:

      May 11th, 912- Alexander becomes Emperor of the Byzantine Empire
      May 11th, 1502 – Columbus leaves on his final voyage to the West Indies
      May 11th, 1846- The beginning of the Mexican-American War
      May 11th, 1987- The first Heart-lung transplant takes place
      May 11th, 1992- Poe Ghostal beats Jaws on the NES

    • There was a game called JAWS Unleashed a few years back, which was terrible. Truly terrible.

      There was also an Iphone game called JAWS Revenge that's actually pretty entertaining for an hour or so – then it gets really repetitive.

  • I love this.
    I could quite happily read more posts like this Poe, if you were so inclined to write them.
    I'm a big fan of Jaws too, our house has one solid, fast, tried and true rule; when you're channel surfing and you find Jaws, you watch Jaws.
    Back in the late 80's/early 90's you couldn't move for copies of the original novel in charity shops (thrift stores?) in the UK, so a buddy and I decided we would set about collecting them.
    I ended up like Mel Gibson's character in Conspiracy Theory. While he had a compulsion to collect copies of Catcher in the Rye, I had to check any charity shop I went past for the book. I ended up with something like 12 copies, including a pre-movie hardback with dust jacket.
    My buddy aced me with a making of the movie and a Jaws 2 novelisation.
    Bastard.

    • I read that JAWS 2 novelization!

      I find JAWS to be the rare exception where the movie is better than the book. The book's soapy subplots about upper class life in Amity are boring and, in the case of the affair between Ellen Brody and Hooper, just plain icky. Benchley wrote some truly terrible prose around those scenes, particularly the bit where Ellen is imagining herself dead in a car accident after Hooper drives off the road while pleasuring her. Yeah.

      I've been thinking of writing more posts like this, actually…

      • Wait, posts like your memories of Jaws or posts like Ellen imagining herself dead in a car accident after Hooper drives off the road while pleasuring her?

      • It's insanely better than the book. It's a rare phenomenon, but it happens (see also: Stardust, most versions of Moby Dick, Jurrassic Park, Blade Runner…)

        • Whoa whoa whoa, Jurassic Park the book is fantastic.

          Also, I really wanted to like Jaws: Unleashed. In theory it (playing as the shark) sounds like a blast. In PRACTICE not so much.