While author Patrick Jankiewicz (a longtime Starlog and Fangoria magazine contributor) openly acknowledges that the ultimate Jaws companion book has already been published (The Jaws Log, by Carl Gottlieb), he asserts that Just When You Thought It Was Safe is different, because it covers not only the seminal 1975 thriller, but each of its sequels.
Of course, Jankiewicz begins at the beginning, detailing the Peter Benchley novel, the Steven Spielberg blockbuster, and even the source of the story and what sparked everyone's imaginations to bring the shark to life (the Jersey Shore attacks of 1916). This is all very interesting (not to mention humorously written, and peppered with sidebars of "fin" facts), but when Jankiewicz starts riffing on the sequels, you'll be riveted to the page.
The book is an admirably fine balance of the scholarly (filmmakers' bios, box office numbers) and the sleazy (guess who Roy Scheider tried to strangle? Do you know who was schtuping whom during the filming of Jaws 3-D?). This is just the kind of Hollywood story I like to read. You can zip through it quick, but you'll want to keep it on hand forever for reference.
The interviews, most of them completely exclusive to this book, are remarkably candid. It's especially interesting to learn why John Hancock’s much gorier version of Jaws 2 was scrapped and how eventual Jaws 2 director Jeannot Szwarc felt like so much chum after being "thrown to the sharks" as it were. Many of the actors (especially those who are no longer acting) dish the dirt on people's predilections, casting via nepotism, their own nostalgic memories ("I just look back and think: 'I had hair, and I was so skinny!'" says one), and why and how many of the hirings and firings came about.
The author even goes so far as to get original quotes from the would-be filmmakers of Jaws movies that were not made (National Lampoon's Jaws: 3, People: 0)! There's also a whole chapter devoted to the best and worst Jaws rip-offs, including movies like Grizzly, Piranha, and Open Water.
In addition, there are dozens of black and white photos — some are of the things you would expect (rare one-sheets, behind-the-scenes candids), but there are also pics you wouldn't anticipate to see (such as Mitchell "Sean Brody" Anderson now, a menu from a Martha's Vineyard Jaws-themed restaurant).
The end of the book condenses each film with a bullet-point list of the sharks' victims, memorable death scenes, and how the shark was "killed" at the end of each film. But wait! That's not all… the very, very end of Just When You Thought It Was Safe has a fascinating "Where are they now?" section.
= = =
Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson