How to cope with a rogue shark, who’s choosing his meals among the summertime beachgoers on a New England vacation isle, is a possibly plausible crisis, puffed up however to the proportions of a whopping fish story. The plot appears to be fooling with some fairly advanced chemistry (the hunting party brings together a brash rationalist from the Oceanography Institute, a mystical mariner out of Melville, and a befuddled hydrophobe uprooted from the big city), but the questions sounded in this streamlined thriller are no deeper than “What’s next?” or “Who’s next?” on the agenda of the inscrutable Great White maneater. Director Steven Spielberg shapes the Peter Benchley book into a cautionary nag at human unpreparedness, and he stirs up considerable amusement around people’s inadequacy to the threat — their initial hem-haw dubiousness and ha-ha frivolity, and their eventual holy-cow awe when they come face to face with the beast (an impressive mechanical contraption usually photographed from a dentist’s point of view). Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss. (1975) — Duncan Shepherd
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