Musings About Music In Film

Jaws The Revenge

By Charlie Brigden jawstherevenge

When it comes to the fourth film in a franchise that essentially only has one real plot, you can expect diminishing returns. But nothing can prepare you for the sight that is Jaws The Revenge. Infamously terrible, the picture makes Battlefield Earth look like Star Trek V but like the latter it has a fine score that not only enhances the film but also is a wonderful listen on its own, something you can now do as the complete score has been released by Intrada Records.

Composed and conducted by Michael Small, Jaws The Revenge has the final surviving members of the Brody family travel to the Bahamas to meet up with Michael Caine and Mario Van Peebles. Amazingly - or to be more accurate ludicrously - a great white shark follows them, hellbent on destroying the Brody legacy permanently. What follows is the most incredible feat of moviemaking in the history of ever.

The movie tries pretty hard to make connections with the original Jaws, but Small is the only one who really does that successfully, mainly through John Williams’ unbeatable shark theme. Small’s orchestration adds more of an aggressive bent to the theme, giving it a little extra bite (sorry) and making it sound like it has a real purpose. Revenge, if you will. The main titles - ‘Jaws The Revenge Opening Titles’ - open the score brilliantly with a straight play of the titles based on the arrangement from the original Jaws LP, using the section of score when the shark first passes the Orca in the first movie as a bridge. It’s a great way to kick things off and gives you an idea about how the theme is treated in the score.

The shark also gets a secondary “ghost” motif, which is a simple but eerie melody played on glockenspiel that crops up when people think or talk about the shark. But Jaws isn’t the only one with musical attachment, as there’s also an emotional theme for Ellen Brody, which is appropriate considering she spends the whole film either crying or shouting. But it’s nicely developed and matures into something bigger when she decides to go on her own revenge cruise against the shark. There’s also a strange roar effect (different to the one in the actual film - yes, this shark has vocal chords) and a repeating motif based on the title sequence, which is a great little piece.

Universal head Sid Sheinberg wanted Jaws The Revenge to be a people picture, so the score has some interesting phrases with an emotional edge, such as those in ‘Ellen Warns’ and ‘Identification’. Surprisingly for a film that's about as scary as Button Moon, Small actually comes up with some pretty scary moments and they’re balanced well with cues containing more ominous material, where Small uses both the shark theme - with its notes spaced out - and the ghost motif. The setpieces are great, with ‘Sean Attacked’ being a particularly great example where the shark theme combines with Small’s desolate brass. There is also some considerable action material, mostly towards the climax of the score, with the bellicose ‘Michael Attacked By Shark’ and the fantastic ‘Shark Shocked - The Finished’.

There are also occasional bouts of bright music to accompany Michael Caine’s piloting skills, and the soaring material is very enjoyable and sprightly while still fitting the narrative of the score. The material shows up again at the end, before Small launches back into a more traditional rendition of the shark theme for the end titles, where he briefly interpolates it with the Orca theme from the first two films. It’s an interesting choice, and clearly meant to bring the scores full circle, but I’m not a hundred percent sure it works. Nevertheless, it closes what is an excellent score worthy of the musical legacy of the series.

Intrada have used the master tapes from Universal’s vault for this release and it shows - the sound quality is very good, both digitally through headphones and on an external CD player and hifi system. Clarity is excellent and it’s a worthy presentation of the complete score, a much longer release than the old composer promo. Liner notes by Scott Bettencourt and Doug Fake run through the history of the film and score well, although I would have liked more information on the score itself, for example a track by track analysis.

I’ve wanted Jaws The Revenge for many years, and it’s great to see the call finally answered by Intrada. The whole round package is excellent - great artwork, lovely sound quality, and a great presentation. To be honest, it’s probably the best Jaws-related soundtrack on the market. At least until someone finally does something with the others…

Jaws The Revenge is out now from Intrada Records