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My Personal History Of Horror: How I Became A Horror Fan

I’ve been writing this blog for a while now and I always enjoy doing my Halloween specials every year. I really do love horror films and the horror genre as a whole, yet I’ve never really put much thought into how I became a fan of horror films… until recently. I’ve been reminiscing the last week or so on the movies I grew up watching and the flicks that scared me when I was younger. Right here, I’m going to try to create a history in words and pictures form, looking back at just how I became a horror fan. A little journey through my own personal history of watching horror films.

WATCHIG HORROR FILMS

Now, I can’t be 100% sure of the first horror film I ever saw, but I do have vivid memories of moments of my life that are related to horror films and TV. Growing up, we didn’t get a VHS player until the late eighties. So if I did see any horror films before then, it would’ve been on a TV broadcast or at someone else’s house. One memory that instantly comes to mind as I write this, is staying with my grandparents at their house, I was maybe about five or six years-old. Nan would often let me stay up late-ish and watch some TV before bed (don’t tell Mom). I remember one Saturday night when the Spielberg classic, Jaws was on TV. Nan and Granddad must’ve let me stay up late to watch the whole film and I remember Nan going into the kitchen to make a bit of supper, she came back with strawberry jam sandwiches. It was the finale of the film when the shark was attacking the boat, and Robert Shaw’s Quint slid down the deck of the Orca into the shark’s mouth. The great white slammed shut it’s jaws, chomping down on Quint, a small geyser of blood spurts from his mouth as he gets eaten alive. It terrified me… until I looked away from the TV and over to Nan, with strawberry jam purposely dripping from her mouth, making me laugh to help take my mind of the horror I just saw.

I was around the same age when I first saw a scene in a film that both scared and mesmerised me. It was a sleep over at my Aunt and Uncle’s house, me, my two brothers and our two cousins. My Aunt and Uncle had a VHS player and would often rent out tapes from a local shop down the road, that’s how I first saw Raiders of the Lost Ark. As terrifying as the Nazi face-melting finale is in that film, it’s not the one that I’m talking about now. I’m talking about a dog’s head being split open.

THE THING POSTER

John Carpenter’s The Thing is one of my all time favourite horror films. There’s this one particular scene from that film is one that is burnt into my memory forever. That cute Vancouver Island wolf-Alaskan Malamute cross breed, played by Jed (he even has his own Wikipedia page) was adorable. Unbeknown to us viewers and the characters in the film at the time, that cute dog had been assimilated by an alien. Soon after finding refuge with the humans, that little doggie turns inside out. It’s an amazing piece of special effects work that I feel still holds up today. Yeah, it scared me as a kid, but I also found it strangely beautiful to watch too. It’s that moment before the dog becomes the full on The Thing, as it is transforming and the head splits open like a peeled banana that has really stuck with me all these years. That one specific shot only takes up a few seconds of a much bigger scene, but those few seconds are firmly ingrained into my mind. I have been fascinated with practical effects work in horror films ever since. That one scene and only few seconds of that one scene are the reason I’m so in awe of artists like Tom Savini, Rick Baker and Stan Winston. With Winston being the man created the dog scene in The Thing. Now, before horror fans start screaming at the screen that it was Rob Bottin who did the effects work on The Thing (he did), Bottin became overwhelmed with all the work and ended up in hospital with exhaustion, so help was brought in. That help was Stan Winston, who brought in his team to do the whole dog scene.

THE THING DOG

Poltergeist, that was another film I saw for the first time at my Aunt’s house on VHS. Aside from remembering my cousin, Sam, hiding behind a cushion for pretty much the entire film, there’s the face peeling scene which definitely had an impact on me. Still, as gruesome as that scene is, it’s nothing compared to that fucking clown doll. I was a kid when I saw this, the fact it happens in a kid’s (Robbie) room full of toys (some I had), helped put me in the shoes of Robbie. For weeks after, whenever I went to bed back then, I would check underneath just in case there were any killer clown dolls were lurking. Still, I blame the parents, why kind of mother and father buys something that looks that terrifying as a gift for their son?

POLTERGIEST CLOWN

I was still a young kid when I first saw one of the most iconic scenes in horror film history, from the man who directed a bread commercial in 1973. Just a few years after that simple ad, Ridley Scott would go on to direct one of the most seminal and ground-breaking horror films ever, Alien. I remember the first time I ever saw the infamous chest-buster scene in Alien. It was very late at night, probably early hours of the morning when I think about it. Everyone in our house was asleep… everyone except me. I had noted that Alien was being sown on TV and set the alarm on my wrist-watch to wake me up, I snuck downstairs, doing my best to avoid the creaky step, not wanting to wake Mom up. I slowly opened the living room door and flicked the TV on. The film had already started, I missed the first ten minutes or so. I needed a little company… just in case I got too scared, so I carefully tiptoed to the kitchen and opened the door so our dog, Ben could join me on the sofa. Me and Ben sat there watching Alien. I had manged to watch the face-hugger jump scare as it latched onto John Hurt’s face, that didn’t scare me… much. So I was pretty sure I could take anything this film threw at me. Then the dinner scene happened. 

ALIEN CHESTBURSTER

It’s the family atmosphere thing that really sells this particular scene. Everyone sitting around and enjoying a meal. They’re laughing and joking, John Hurt starts chowing down on some (I think) noodles. He coughs, splutters and starts to choke, Yaphet Kotto makes that quip about the food not being that bad, still maintaining a sense of humour. Then, it just all flips on its head. That jovial atmosphere suddenly ends as John Hurt lies on the table, there’s that first burst of blood followed by silence… just for a few moments. Then utter chaos, the blood sprays everywhere as the alien is ‘birthed’. To be honest, I didn’t even make it to the end of the scene. It was the early hours of the morning, pitch black dark and I was eight, maybe nine years-old with only the family dog to keep me company. I turned the TV off before the alien fully emerged, put the dog back in the kitchen and went back to bed, too scared to sleep. So anyway, Mom when you read this. I snuck downstairs to watch Alien on TV about 1984-85-ish.

As I said before, I can’t actually remember the first horror film I ever saw, or at least I can’t be 100% sure of what it was. I do have two very clear memories that I think could’ve been the first though. I don’t have many memories of my dad, long story short, he walked out when I was very young. But I do remember he used to have one of the old reel-to-reel projector things, before VHS became popular. I remember dad coming home one day with some film reels to watch, he said he had a film with Sylvester Stallone in it, my child brain then just heard the word Sylvester and I instantly thought of this guy…

SYLVESTER CAT

The Sylvester film wasn’t a cartoon with a cat though, it was First Blood. Yes I know that First Blood isn’t a horror film. Still, I do remember dad setting up the projector, getting a white bedsheet and hanging it up on the wall as a makeshift screen and we watched First Blood. As I said, he had other films too and after First Blood, we watched another film, Carrie (at least I’ve managed to make my articles link this year!). I don’t actually remember watching the film if I’m honest, but I know I was definitely there while it was on. There’s this one moment that is practically fresh in my mind, it’s after the whole school prom and pigs blood thing. Carrie is already in the midst of her revenge as the school burns, she in on the street walking home when the school bullies Billy and Chris try to run her down in the car. Carrie does some of her telekinesis stuff and causes the car to crash. It was that moment when I remember my dad exclaiming: “Go on Carrie!”, cheering her along. That one line from my dad is one of the very few memories of him that I have, and it’s connected to a horror film.

I did say that I have two horror film memories connected to my dad, Carrie was one, the other? Some low budget horror flick called The Evil Dead. Now, being from England, The Evil Dead was a bit of a hot topic in the early eighties. I mean, it was part of the whole video nasties thing. Basically, there were a load of old geezers in charge of the ratings at the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) who brought in a law (Video Recordings Act 1984) which saw a lot of films either heavily censored or just outright banned. Mostly, the films caught up in this new law were horror films and one of those flicks was The Evil Dead. While never outright banned (it was censored), The Evil Dead was put under section 2 by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). This meant that while the film was not banned, anyone selling or distributing it could be liable to prosecution. Look, there a fantastic article that goes into great detail over the whole The Evil Dead video nasty thing right here. Point is that the film was incredibly hard to come by in the UK… but my dad got a copy, I don’t know how he got it or where from, but he did. I clearly remember the card guessing scene, “queen of spades, two spades, jack of diamonds, jack of clubs…” then possessed Cheryl turns around… scared the crap out of me to the point where no matter how long it’s been, if The Evil Dead is ever mentioned by anyone, then that is the one scene that instantly springs to mind.

Looking back on my childhood, and I used to watch some pretty messed up stuff. I mean, I’m still only around six or eight years-old when I would’ve seen these films, even younger in some instances. I’m not even in double digits yet and I’ve already seen some of the most famous and infamous horror films made. Hammer Horror films were another mainstay of my growing up. I used to love being terrified by the Frankenstein and Dracula movies. Hammer produced some of the finest horror films of fifties, sixties and seventies. They really treated the classic monsters with respect (mostly), and gave new life to a dying genre. Plus, they gave the world the most terrifying version of Dracula ever.

CHRISTOHPER LEE DRACULA

Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee were like family friends to me… really scary family friends. But it wasn’t just movies, Hammer House of Horror was an anthology horror TV show (obviously) from Hammer. Thirteen hour long episodes were made and all of them are worth watching, very dated and a little cheesy now yes, but still worth a view. But there is one episode that is lodged in my mind, The House that Bled to Death. A tale about a young family who move into a house where a murder took place some time before. It’s all a bit The Amityville Horror (another flick I saw as a kid) but with that very distinct British, Hammer Horror style. The house does its best to scare its new owners, which all leads to a child’s birthday party and one of the bloodiest scenes over on TV. Oh, and an ending that satirises the whole The Amityville Horror thing too. All you have to do is say Hammer House of Horror to British people of a certain age and they’ll know…

HAMMER HOUSE BLED TO DEATH

Amicus were another British production studio famed for their horror flicks. They were ever rivals to Hammer Horror for a while. They had a similar style, used a lot of the same actors and so on. But it was their portmanteau horror films where they really excelled. In fact, I did an article a few years back about those very films, looking at every story of every Amicus anthology film. Please excuse the poor formatting and overall presentation in that one, I was still finding my feet as a writer and all that back then. Anyway, those Amicus films were amazing. Particularly the original Tales from the Crypt, before it became a TV show, but after the EC Comics. This was a film I remember watching more than a few times as a kid. All of the stories are great, Poetic Justice being my favourite with the brilliant Peter Cushing in one of his finest roles.

POETIC JUSTICE

When we did finally get our own VHS player, late eighties-ish, that was when a whole new world of horror opened up for me. My older brother would often rent out tapes and they’d always be a horror film or two in them. Plus, I didn’t have to stay up late or sneak down to watch horror films on TV anymore, cos we could just record them off the TV instead. I heard about Freddy Krueger long before I ever saw him, kids at school would talk about this guy who came after you in your dreams. It was the late eighties, the fourth film had already been released and Freddy had already become a pop culture icon by then. I wanted to know who this Freddy guy was that kids at school were talking about, so I asked my older bother to get a ‘Freddy film’ next time he went to the video rental store. He came back with A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, the scariest Freddy has ever been. I didn’t see the original film for a few years later, but that is what got me into slasher films. Shockingly enough, I hadn’t seen Halloween, Friday the 13th, etc up to that point, but now we had our own VHS player, I could and I did. Whether they were recorded (and heavily censored) from the TV or my brother rented them out, I got to catch up all those horror film I had previously missed. The late eighties and early nineties were when I went on a horror film marathon. Hellraiser, The Shinning, Return of the Living Dead, Phantasm, The Fly and so many more. I was soaking horror of films up like a sponge through the nineties.

THE FLY

Unfortunately for us here in Blighty, we still had old stick-in-the-muds running the BBFC and the whole video nasty thing was still very much going on. The shocking and brutal murder of James Bulger didn’t help either. Horror films were used as the scapegoat, particularly Child’s Play 3 and horror films were still being banned and censored all over. Then in 1998, James Ferman the director of the BBFC retired and so did his archaic rules. By 1999, many previously banned and censored films were being released fully uncut. It was twenty-four years since it was first released, but I finally got to see The Exorcist, fully uncut for the first time ever. I knew of the film’s infamy, I had seen images and a few small clips from the flick too, but I never actually got to see the film until 1999. I loved it and still think it’s the greatest horror film ever made. All the hype, all the stories surrounding The Exorcist helped build my anticipation for it and I was not disappointed one bit. Plus, I was twenty-three in 1999, which meant I could watch anything I liked without restrictions and I was old enough to go buy my own films too…and I bought a lot of horror films.

THE EXORCIST

The new rules at the BBFC blew open the doors for so much more horror for me. Films I had previously seen that were heavily edited were now being released uncut. Infamous films like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Cannibal Holocaust, The Driller Killer, The Last House on the Left and so many more began to fill my VHS collection. The first time I saw The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, I remember being a bit bored. I knew of the film, I knew of its infamy and reputation… yet I thought it was crap as I say there staring at the TV, it was more annoying than scary, especially with that Franklin character. Then it got to the dinner scene and fuck me. One of the most unsettling and disturbing scenes in a horror film ever.

TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE

I would sit there, night after night, just watching all these horror flicks that I had not been able to watch before. That era of the late nineties and early two-thousands was a horror haven for me. When I got my first DVD player, the first DVD I ever bought was The Evil Dead Trilogy, all films fully uncut for the first time.

But strangely enough, as much as I loved that period of discovering all these classic horror flicks, it was also when I began to fall out of love with the horror genre. Well, to be more specific, I fell out of love with modern horror. I remember watching Scream in 1997 and loving the whole meta-storytelling thing. Very clever and it did something pretty unique. Final Destination was another one that brought some new ideas to the genre… but then it all got a bit ‘meh’. I’m not saying there haven’t been any good horror films since, the first Saw was brilliant. But soon, everything was turned into a franchise and just became tired, the horror genre was dying. There was no originality in horror anymore, it got to a point where even if a film was new, I had already seen it before watching a single frame of film. I still loved the classics, I got more and more into sixties, seventies and eighties horror flicks, my collection grew and grew as I sought out more previously banned or unseen films. I got to re-watch those films that scared me as a kid and found a new appreciation for them, Jaws, Alien, The Thing and more. Watching them as an adult over a kid made me want to look into how the films were made. I grew a deep interest in all the behind the scenes stuff and that is when I really became a horror fan.

I recall staying up late one night and watching a horror film festival on Channel 4 here in the UK. The festival had been running for a week and they were showing classics and foreign horror flicks. Ringu came on, my introduction to Japanese horror. A much slower and tense style of storytelling and a sub-genre which had past me by. The slower pace of Ringu enthralled me and it was doing things in the horror genre I thought were unique. The ending with Sadako coming out if the TV genuinely scared me when I first saw it, the first time I’d been scared by a horror film since I was a kid. Even The Exorcist (as much as I loved it) didn’t scare me.

RINGU

From then, I went on a bit of a Japanese horror crusade. I discovered Ju-On: The Grudge, Dark Water, Audition and Battle Royale. Yeah I know, that last one isn’t really considered a horror film, but for me it is. That whole set up of school kids being forced to kill each other to survive is pretty horrific.

Generally though, the modern horror films bored me, but those classics? I couldn’t get enough of them, the advent of DVDs and the extras, makings of, DVD commentary, behind the scenes documentaries and so on, really hooked me. I’d watch a classic like The Thing, then instantly re-watch it with the commentary on to hear the behind the scenes stories. I’d watch every single extra on the disc over and over. I grew this passion for how/why the films were made and that interested me more than the actual films themselves… and I adored the films.

Even now, my main attraction is horror films from sixties though to the eighties. There’s just something about that era that has never been bettered. Those three decades are where horror film was at its finest. If I ever fancy watching a horror film now, rarely will it be anything from  the last two decades as they just don’t hold my interest. But I never tire of the classics, those flicks from my childhood that shaped me to be the horror fan I am now. I just watch, reminisce and smile.

NORMAN BATES

No Time To Release: Bond Delayed… Again

Ahhhhhh, Mr. Delay, I’ve been expecting you.

Perhaps the most obvious and unexpected news about the new James Bond flick, No Time To Die, has been announced. It has been delayed… again. Originally set to have been released in November of 2019, but it was pushed back to February 2020, before being delayed once more until April 2020. Then, well… the world went a little crazy as the whole coronavirus pandemic took over.

So, No Time To Die was delayed again for the third time to November 2020. Then more recently, it has been delayed… again, again until April 2021.  For those counting, that’s over a whole year of delays from its initial November 2019 release until its (supposed) April 2021 date. Now, it was originally said that the first round of delays from 2019 to 2020 were due to original director, Danny Boyle leaving the project. Then producers claimed the delay from April 2020 to November of the same year wasn’t due to the whole covid-19 thing, but because traditionally, Bond films had been released in November since GoldenEye in 1995. I checked, it’s kind of true as the films have been released October – December time. But that reason can’t wash now with a delay from November 2020 to April 2021 can it? No, I think it’s pretty clear the delay now is more certainly due to this pandemic and it’s effects on the economy.

NO TIME TO DIE CAR

Anyway, the point I want to make is… the film is done, its ready to be released and has been for months now. Delaying again is pointless because the virus isn’t going anywhere and will most definitely still be around come April 2021. Studios can’t keep delaying films and the cinema, as a business, just had to crack on with it. No Time To Die is just one of many that have been delayed. We were supposed to have gotten the new Ghostbusters Afterlife film this summer too, but that has been delayed until 2021 now. Wonder Woman 1984, Black Widow and many more have been delayed. And the thing is that new films are being made as we speak… so where will they fit into the release schedule if all these other films are being delayed and taking up screen time? There will be a major problem with future release dates.

Releasing a film digitally on streaming services has got to be a better option than just delaying indefinitely. Or even better, release both in the cinema and digitally, then let the audience decide which they would prefer. Disney released their Mulan remake digitally and their streaming service instead of delaying and Disney had a 68% increase in Disney+ downloads. It’s not know exactly how much Mulan has made, but it made a lot more then the nothing if it hadn’t been released on Disney+. The new Bill & Ted flick, Bill & Ted Face the Music did both a cinema release and a digital rental service, and it became the top rented film on demand where made $32 million (and still counting) just from the U.S. alone via a digital release in two weeks. Currently, No Time To Die is making a grand profit of nothing, where as it could be making some money from both a cinematic and digital release. Either that or they just wait it out until April 2021 and when coronavirus proves to still be very much with us and people are still weary about going to the cinema, delay yet it again?

Delaying all these films will have a serious knock on effect with cinemas in the long run. One of the UK’s biggest cinema chains is already close to closing due to having no films to show. Having some money coming in has got to be better than no money at all, right? If studios keep delaying films like this, there won’t be any cinemas to show them in the very near future. Then what? The only outlet film stuidos will have is digital, which is exactly what they’re trying to avoid, the irony…

Honestly, by the time No Time to Die is released, they would’ve already cast Idris Elba as the next 007, no one will remember who Billie Eilish was or her song, the excitement over the film would’ve died down and there won’t be any cinemas to show it. Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, just release the damn film already. Making some money from partial cinema sales and a digital release has got to be better than nothing. Let fans see Daniel Craig’s final outing as James Bond before we all get bored of waiting and before the cinema industry is destroyed. As I wrote on Twitter back in September when the delay to November was first announced…

TWEET

Cinema’s biggest hero, James Bond, is going to kill off cinemas.

Fresh Prince: Thirty Years Of TV Family Bliss?

So there’s going to be a 30th anniversary reunion of The Fresh Prince of Bell Air.  DJ ‘Jazzy’ Jeff Townes announced that the reunion has been recorded and will air on HBO Max in the near future.

ANNOUNCMENT

What with the recently announced Fresh Prince reboot, which will be a gritty drama instead of a lighthearted comedy like the original, there’s a resurgence of interest in this classic sit-com. In a world where pretty much every time your read/hear the news, it’s something shitty, this Fresh Prince reunion is a much needed ray of sunshine. Check out the pics below and try to work out why nobody has hardly aged over the last three decades…

FAMILYASHLEY AND JAZZCALRTON AND JAZZHILLARY AND JAZZJEFFY AND JAZZJAZZY JEFF AND FRESH PRINCEWILL AND JANET

And yes, that’s the original Aunt Viv, Janet Hubert with Will Smith. I’m not going to go into details here, if you know your Fresh Prince history, then you know just how monumental that image really is. Sadly, one of the biggest and most important cast members will be missing as Uncle Phil, played by the amazing James Avery died back in 2013. Best TV father ever! But I’m sure that while he can’t be there physically, he’ll be there in spirit and will be fondly remembered by the rest of the family.

Anyway, I love The Fresh Prince of Bell Air, it’s genuinely one of my all time favourite TV shows. I’m so excited for this reunion, so I thought I’d take a look at some of my favourite moments from this amazing sit-com with the greatest ever theme tune.

Originally airing in 1990 and running for six seasons, Fresh Prince was The Cosby Show for cool people… only with far less rape (is it still topical to do a Bill Cosby joke?). The Fresh Prince of Bell Air told the story of a fictionalised version of Will Smith moving from West Philadelphia (born and raised) to live with his Aunt and Uncle in the more affluent Bel-Air, after getting himself into some trouble. The series often contrasted Will’s street-wise lifestyle with that of his more upper-class relatives. While a comedy at heart, Fresh Prince also dealt with more serious issues and topics. With over one hundred and forty episodes, there’s a lot of great moments to chose from, whether they be funny or more emotional and heart-breaking… and I’m going to take a look at just a handful of my favourite bits right now.

The Theme Tune

I guess I really need to start with the first ever episode. My favourite part though is not anything from the episode itself, but the intro. The first ever episode was one of the very rare times when the theme tune was played in full.

Usually the second verse it cut from the opening as we often got the truncated version of the theme tune, but here with the first episode, we got the whole thing and it is glorious.

That Dance

Aunt Viv’s (Janet Hubert) dance. This is perhaps one of the most iconic moments of the whole show. The episode (The Big Four-Oh) revolved around Aunt Viv turning forty. While going trough a bit of a mid-life crisis, Viv decides she wants to be a dancer. At a dance class, she is ridiculed by some of the regulars and made to feel more than a little uncomfortable. The dance teacher goes over the complex move-set and plays some C+C Music Factory (Everybody Dance Now), then Viv steps forward. What follows is about forty seconds of pure bliss as Viv blows everyone away with her dance moves. The fact that Janet was actually trained in dance at Juilliard kind of helps, but even so, this was one of the best ever moments.

What Wall?

Wherever Will, or others, would break the forth wall. Too many individual moments to chose from and aside from the many times Will looked directly at the camera to the audience, but here are some that come to mind.

  • When Will is in court (Will Goes a Courtin’) and his opening statement recites the lyrics from the show’s theme song.
  • The Banks family disusing how rich they are (Same Game, Next Season), for Will to ask if they are so rich, why don’t they have a ceiling, as the camera pans upwards to reveal the TV set with the lights and rigging overhead.
  • Will pranks Carlton into believing he killed someone (Will’s Misery). Carlton then begins to scream in terror and runs around, moving between different several sets and even into the audience.
  • Will says he want’s to stay in Philadelphia (What’s Will Got to Do with It?  -Part 1), but NBC executives throw him in the back of a van and take him back to Bel-Air saying the show is called The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and not The Fresh Prince of Philadelphia.
  • While back in Philadelphia (The Philadelphia Story), one of Will’s friends talks about someone called Omar Boware. Carlton asks who that is and Will says: “The dude that be spinning me over his head in the opening credits”.
  • Perhaps the most famous and best forth wall break was when Janet Hubert was replaced as Aunt Viv by Daphne Maxwell (Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way – Part 1). I’ll let the scene speak for itself…

Arrrhhhhhhh!

Whenever Jazz got thrown out of the house (or similar). It was a long running gag where Jazz would usually upset Uncle Phil, to then be thrown out of the house. Jeff Townes playing Jazz had to wear the same shirt so the continuity matched as they reused the same clip of Jazz’s flying exit multiple times.

JAZZ THROW

While it was mostly the same gag reusing the same clip and Jeff having to wear that same shirt, there were a few variations. Uncle Phil has actually been thrown out once, though it was via a nightmare. Will has also been thrown out in the same way as the Jazz gag. Jazz has even thrown himself out to save Uncle Phil from doing it. Plus there are other versions, like the one at the end of the forth wall break clip above.

Tom Jones

Carlton’s obsessive fandom of Tom Jones was always good for a laugh. From sly jokes made at Carlton’s expense to that dance. The song, It’s Not Unusual had a bit of a resurgence thanks to Fresh Prince, Carlton played it a lot and would always break out his best dance moves. Alfonso Ribeiro as Carlton always threw everything he had at the dance too no matter how many times he had to do it, and every time, it was TV gold. But it got even better.

TOM JONES

The man himself, Tom Jones even appeared on the show as Carlton’s guardian angel. In the episode, The Alma Matter, a bit of a It’s a Wonderful Life parody where Carlton is feeling a bit depressed, he wonders what it would be like if he never existed. Enter Tom Jones to put Carlton right and show him how much he matters to the family.

Big Issues

Despite being a family friendly sit-com, Fresh Prince still got a little heavy now and then. The hi-jinks would take a back seat to deliver a more sober and often poignant point. Racism, alcohol abuse, sexism, mortality and other important subjects have been covered… and covered really well too.

  • Will and Carlton are asked to deliver a luxury car to one of Uncle Phil’s business associates. In the episode (Mistaken Identity), Will and Carlton are pulled over and arrested, with the white cop believing the two young black youths must’ve stolen the car based on nothing but the fact they are black. There’s an amazing moment when Uncle Phil turns up at the police station and berates the police officers, threatening them with legal action, well he was a high-class lawyer. But even as great as that moment is, it’s the finale where Carlton tries to rationalise and justify the police officer’s actions, he just didn’t see the racism. That’s when Will has his say and puts Carlton right.
  • More racism here (Guess Who’s Coming to Marry?), but with a bit of a twist.  Will’s mother’s sister… or Will’s other Aunt, Janice brings her new fiancée to the Banks’ house for the first time. His name is Frank..and he’s white. The family are surprised, but don’t make too much of a big deal about it… except for Will’s mother, Viola. She really gets upset over the black Janice wanting to marry the white Frank. There are arguments and disagreements as Viola’s bigotry is revealed. Of course, this being a family sit-com means that everything works out fine in the end. But it was really interesting to see the racism thing handled from a very different angle.

FRESH PRINCE SCENE

  • Uncle Phil’s cholesterol level rises (Home is Where the Heart Attack Is) and he is put on a diet… a diet he chooses to ignore. While enjoying a cheeseburger, Uncle Phil has a heart attack and is rushed into hospital. The family head to hospital to be by his bedside and offer their support, everyone goes except for Carlton who refuses to go, scared that his father could die. Will eventually talks to Carlton and tells him about his own dead-beat father and gives Carlton some home truths, like the fact he has an amazing father, something Will never had. Carlton does eventually go to the hospital, but reveals how he just could’t face seeing his father suffer. Its a great little tale about fears and mortality.
  • Will is challenged to a drinking contest (You’ve Got to Be a Football Hero). Carlton steps in and tries to stop him, but he’s too focused on bettering his peers, wanting to prove a point. Will drinks way too much and passes out. Left in a graveyard and while unconscious and drunk, Will meets several ghosts, one a child killed by a drunk driver. The dead child really hits a nerve with what he has to say and convinces Will to never drink again… and he never did. This one has a great message, if a little ham-fisted and preachy at times.
  • Will and Carlton are mugged at gunpoint while taking out some money from an ATM (Bullets over Bel-Air), Will gets shot. Taken into hospital, Will pulls though but Carlton has a rather extreme reaction to the mugging, he goes out an buys a gun. It’s when Will learns about the gun and really lays into Carlton for him to give it up where this one stands out. An interesting look at gun crime and its effects.

There are many more deeper and sombre topics handled in Fresh Prince, but this article is getting a bit to long now and I need to bring it to an end. But before I do, I have to cover perhaps the greatest moment in the entire show. Another hard-hitting moment that involved Will’s estranged father.

Papa’s Got a Brand New Excuse

This really is the great episode. Will’s father, Lou turns up after being absent for the last fourteen years. Lou walked out on Will and his mother and never looked back. Still feeling a little bitter about the whole thing, Will eventually forgives Lou and agrees to give him another chance at being a dad. There’s some bad blood between Uncle Phil and Lou as Phil sees through his lies, even if Will doesn’t see it himself. Long story short, and Lou eventually walks out on his son once more and Will finds solace in Uncle Phil’s arms. Look, my description just won’t cut it, you need to experience the scene for yourself…

“No, you know what, Uncle Phil? I’ma get through college without him, I’ma get a great job without him, I’ma marry me a beautiful honey, and I’ma have me a whole bunch of kids. I’ma be a better father than he ever was, and I sure as hell don’t need him for that, ’cause there ain’t a damn thing he could ever teach me about how to love my kids!…

…How come he don’t want me, man?!”

– Will Smith

Will has gone on record as saying that one scene was the most important of his young acting career. There are many behind the scenes stories surrounding it too, from cast members crying (if you listen just before the credits roll, you can hear Karyn Parsons (Hilary) sobbing). Will thinking he couldn’t pull it off, to be pulled aside by James Avery and given a major confidence boost. Even James himself has been reported as whispering “That’s fucking acting right there” into Will’s ear during the scene when they hugged at the end.

Oh and a quick bit of myth busting. It has been said that Will wasn’t really acting in that scene because his father abandoned him and he was just conveying all the hate he felt toward his real-life dad. Not at all true. Will’s parents did split up when he was young, but his father never abandoned him. In fact, Will and his father had a great relationship and he was a huge influence on Will’s career too. Sadly, Willard Carroll Smith, Sr passed away in 2016. Here’s a clip talking about that very scene from 2018. Well worth watching.

Of all the times Fresh Prince made me laugh over the years, it also made me cry . This episode and whole scene really hit hard with me personally as my father walked out when I was young and never looked back. I’ve always had that same “fuck him” attitude too, I’ll do and have done just fine without him, “I’ma be a better father than he ever was”, damn right. Anyway, it’s all getting a little too personal, so I think I’ll end this one here.


But yeah, I’m really looking forward to this reunion. Three decades of The Fresh Prince of Bell Air and I still think it’s as watchable now as it was then. It’s still relevant and many of the issues the show raised are (sadly) still problems now. It’s still funny and while Will Smith is as charismatic as any one person could ever be, the entire cast are mesmorising and all bring something worthy to the table. Will may have been the main star, but he was supported by a galaxy of others.

UNCLE PHIL

And as for James Avery, best TV dad ever. The big guy with the even bigger heart and smile is very sorely missed.

“Monetary success is not success. Career success is not success. Life, someone that loves you, giving to others, doing something that makes you feel complete and full. That is success. And it isn’t dependent on anyone else.”

– James Avery

Sean Connery At Ninety

Ninety years ago today on the 25th August, 1930, Thomas Sean Connery was born in Edinburgh, Scotland. The world didn’t know it then, but it had just been introduced to one of the finest actors to ever grace the screen.

Growing up in Fountainbridge, Edinburgh, Thomas (as he was known then) was the son of cleaning woman, Euphemia McBain McLean and truck driver, Joseph Connery. While named Thomas, his friends began to use his middle name of Sean and it just stuck from that point on. At the age of sixteen, Sean signed up to join the Royal Navy in 1946. He trained at the naval gunnery school in Portsmouth in the anti-aircraft crew. He was discharged from service aged nineteen due to a duodenal ulcer condition that affected most of the males in his family at that point. After which, Sean held down several jobs including being a milkman, lorry driver, lifeguard at a swimming baths, a coffin polisher he even did a bit of modelling. He turned to bodybuilding and entered the Mr. Universe contest (some sources say 1950, others say 1954) where he placed third.

SEAN CONNERY BODY BUILDING

A keen football fan and player, Sean Connery was offered a chance to play for Manchester United by then manager, Matt Busby. He turned the offer down realising that he was, perhaps, a bit to old to become a professional footballer. So as Sean didn’t see it as a sensible long term career move. Instead, he thought about becoming an actor.

“I realised that a top-class footballer could be over the hill by the age of thirty, and I was already twenty-three. I decided to become an actor and it turned out to be one of my more intelligent moves.”

– Sean Connery

Sean found himself a job working behind the scenes at the King’s Theatre in Edinburgh around 1951 and he landed his first acting roll in a production of the musical South Pacific. It was a very minor role, but as the production continued, Sean got promoted through various rolls to become one of the leads. In 1954, Sean met and became close friends with Michael Caine at a party for the South Pacific production. From then on, he began to rub shoulders with the likes of Hollywood actress Shelley Winters and also landed a few minor roles in films. 1957’s No Road Back is the first major film Sean Connery had a role in, it was a small part playing a gangster with a speech impediment, but it was enough to get him noticed. By the late fifties, he started to appear in TV and films more and more, including a lead role in the Disney film Darby O’Gill and the Little People from 1959.

SEAN CONNERY DR NO

Of course, the sixties were where Sean Connery would really get noticed as in 1962, he became James Bond in Dr. No and would go on to become the often most voted favourite James Bond actor. His casting as James Bond catapulted Sean into Hollywood stardom. Originally though, James Bond creator, Ian Fleming really didn’t like Sean Connery for the role.

“He’s not what I envisioned of James Bond looks. I’m looking for Commander Bond and not an overgrown stunt-man.”

– Ian Fleming

Yet, after Dr. No became such a big hit and after seeing Sean Connery’s performance,  Ian Fleming was so impressed that he even included some of Sean’s heritage into the James Bond character. In his 1964 novel You Only Live Twice, Ian decided to make James Bond’s father Scottish so the character fit more into Sean’s obvious Scottish roots. Despite the character making him so famous and starring in the first five James Bond films from 1962 – 1971, Sean began to tire of the character and worried he would become typecast.

“If you were his friend in these early days you didn’t raise the subject of Bond. He was, and is, a much better actor than just playing James Bond, but he became synonymous with Bond. He’d be walking down the street and people would say, “Look, there’s James Bond.” That was particularly upsetting to him.”

– Michael Caine

While still playing James Bond, Sean landed several other big movie rolls, including working with the master of suspense himself, Alfred Hitchcock in 1964’s Marnie. In 1975, he starred alongside his longtime friend, Michael Caine in The Man Who Would Be King. A film both actors say was the most fun and one of the best film-making experiences that they ever had. After James Bond and through the seventies, Sean’s career grew and grew, landing rolls in Robin and Marian, Murder on the Orient Express and A Bridge Too Far to name a few. By the eighties, he career showed no signs of slowing down either.

SEAN CONNERY TIME BANDITS

The Terry Gilliam classic, Time Bandits saw Sean Connery play Agamemnon, in what was essentially a joke role, but one that stands out in an already brilliant film. Then in 1983, Sean did something he swore he would never do… he returned as James Bond, the role he grew tired with. Playing James Bond in the not actually official Never Say Never Again, which is really a remake of the previous James Bond film, Thunderball (it’s a slightly confusing story). The title of the film is actually a reference to Sean saying that he would never play the James Bond character again. Also, people incorrectly state that Never Say Never Again was the last time he played the famous character. It was the last time he played him on screen yes, but in 2005, a video game version of From Russia with Love was made by Electronic Arts called, Bond 007: From Russia with Love and Sean Connery recorded all new dialogue as James Bond and allowed the use of his likeness too. So if the trivia question ever comes up asking when the last time Sean Connery played James Bond, the answer isn’t Never Say Never Again as most people think.

The eighties also saw Sean Connery star in two of my favourite films. First up, there is the head chopping, awesome Queen sountracked, time jumping masterpiece that is Highlander. Here, Sean played Juan Sánchez-Villalobos Ramírez, a Spanish (he’s not Spanish, he’s Egyptian) immortal, sword wielding mentor and friend to Christopher Lambert’s, Connor MacLeod, a French man (born in America) playing someone form Scotland. Yeah, the casting of this flick really does make the head hurt. Anyway, I love Highlander, so much so that I did a retrospective of the movie franchise a while back.

SEAN CONNERY UNTOUCHABLES

That other film I love so much was Brian De Palma’s brilliant take on the famed The Untouchables. Telling the story of Eliot Ness and his team of ‘untouchable’ police officers trying to bring Al Capone to justice during the prohibition era of America. Here, Sean Connery played straight talking, no nonsense beat cop,  Jimmy Malone, the Irish cop with a thick Scottish accent. Oh how I love this film and Sean Connery in it, a role he won an Oscar for, very much deserved too. This could be my all time favourite Sean Connery performance. He was pushing fifty-seven years-old too, an age where most Hollywood actors were taking it easy and winding down. But not for Sean, he was playing hard edged rolls and even got involved in the action. Well, he was an incredibly fit and active man, even in his twilight years. The Untouchables is a great mobster flick  told from the perspective of those trying to keep the mobsters under control. A movie full of great, memorable scenes and dialogue.

“You wanna know how to get Capone? They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That’s the Chicago way! And that’s how you get Capone.”

– Jimmy Malone

After his Oscar win for The Untouchables, Sean found himself very much in demand and he ended the eighties with easily one of the greatest pairings of action heroes ever.

SEAN CONNERY INDY

George Lucas has gone on record as saying that the Indiana Jones character was very much inspired by James Bond. He and Steven Spielberg wanted Indy to be the James Bond of the 1930s. So who better to play the father of the man inspired by James Bond other than James Bond himself? Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, released in 1989 teamed up Harrison Ford and Sean Connery for, what was then, the final in the Indiana Jones trilogy. The camaraderie between the two actors is amazing and Sean, despite being just shy of sixty, got involved with the action again.

In 1990’s The Hunt For Red October (a film Sean was quickly drafted in to do with only two weeks notice), he played a Russian submarine commander, Marko Ramius… with a Scottish accent.

Okay, so right here, I want to address the elephant in the room. Sean Connery was a fantastic actor, he could play anything. But yes, his accent let him down as no matter what role he played, he had that accent. Egyptian immortal, Scottish accent. Irish cop, Scottish accent. Russian submarine commander, Scottish accent. But you know what? I just don’t care. Sean’s voice, his accent was so iconic that it didn’t matter that it never changed. That dragging of the ‘S’ and the ‘sshhh’ sound was his trademark. That thick Scottish brogue was poetry to my ears. I really did not care that Sean’s accent hardly changed, if ever, from character to character. I didn’t care because Sean Connery was just so damn engrossing to watch. He could read the phone-book out loud and it would be entertaining.

SEAN CONNERY DRACO

You want to know how great Sean’s voice was? He could play a dragon and still be convincing, that’s how great. In 1996, Sean voiced Draco the dragon in the fantasy flick, Dragonheart. Featuring a still impressive looking CGI dragon, Sean made the character utterly charming and lovable… for a dragon. Also from 1996 was the bombastic The Rock were Sean played John Patrick Mason, ex-SAS captain and the only man to have ever escaped the famed Alcatraz island prison. Teaming up with Nicolas Cage’s FBI Special Agent Dr. Stanley Goodspeed, the two have to break into Alcatraz when it’s taken over by a group of marines turned rouge. Again, this is an action film with Sean Connery when he should’ve been taking it easy, he was sixty-five at the time. 

In the latter nineties, Sean did start to take it easier. He appeared in fewer films, despite the fact he was still massively popular. He played the main villain in the film adaption of the classic TV show, The Avengers. Bowler hat John Steed The Avengers, not Captain America The Avengers. Though I do think that having a seventy year-old Sean Connery play all-American superhero, Captain America with a Scottish accent would’ve been amazing. 

SEAN CONNERY LEAGUE GENTLEMEN

Yup, I have to mention it… The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen from 2005. A film so bad that it made Sean Connery retire from acting (true story). Apparently Sean had such a bad time on set, he and director Stephen Norrington just couldn’t get on and often argued over where the film was heading or what it was about. As he said himself…

“It was a nightmare. The experience had a great influence on me, it made me think about showbiz. I get fed up dealing with idiots.”

– Sean Connery 

And so, that was it. After a movie career that began in 1954 as an extra, Sean Connery officially announced his retirement from acting in 2007. He turned down the opportunity to return as Henry Jones in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. He turned down the chance to play Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, as well as the role as The Architect in The Matrix sequels, a part written with Sean Connery in mind. Sean was done with acting for good… kind of. His actual last film was the low budget, animated Scottish production, Sir Billi from 2013. I’ve not seen it, but it’s supposed to be pretty terrible…

Just to be clear, Sean Connery refused to come out of retirement for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, even only for a small cameo… but he came out of retirement for this?

Aside from the previously mentioned Oscar win for The Untouchables in 1998, Sean Connery has had various awards and honours bestowed on him. Three Golden Globes in 1972, 1998 and 1992. The latter being the Cecil B. DeMille Award given for outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment. Two BAFTAs in 1988, one being the BAFTA Fellowship, the highest honour given for outstanding achievement in the art forms of the moving image.

He also won the American Film Institute Life Achievement Award in 2006. as well as many other accolades over the years. Oh yeah, he was also knighted on the 5th of July, 2000, making him Sir Sean Connery.

Happy ninetieth birthday Sean. Thanks for the movies over the years… even the bad ones. 

Would you believe it, I just covered Sean Connery’s career spanning seven decades and I didn’t even mention or reference Zardoz once…

SEAN CONNERY ZARDOZ

“I like women. I don’t understand them, but I like them.”

– Sean Connery

Jaws: The Truth Behind ‘That’ Speech

Quint, the grizzled and very seasoned shark hunter, played brilliantly by Robert Shaw, is easily one of cinema’s great characters. His bravado, his charm, his personality simply make a him the best of the main three protagonists in the movie Jaws. He has some of the finest dialogue in the entire film and delivers each and every word with conviction. Right here, I’m going to explore the truth behind one of his most famous deliveries.

“Here’s to swimmin’ with bow-legged women.”

– Quint

You see, this is quite simply one of the most profound and deep-meaning lines captured on film ever. It may seem like a completely throw-away piece of dialogue at first, but it’s when we begin to peel back the layers of not just what is being said, but also how it is said, that’s when we can really begin to analyse it’s true meaning.

Nah, just joking. That’s just a funny little quip. But in all seriousness, I really do want to take a look at an absolutely wonderful piece of writing and acting from Jaws. I want to look at the real story behind a very specific speech. That being Quint’s recollection on the sinking of the USS Indianapolis.

QUINT 2

The Speech

First up, a quick reminder (as if you need one) of the speech in question.

“Japanese submarine slammed two torpedoes into our side, Chief. We was comin’ back from the island of Tinian to Leyte, just delivered the bomb. The Hiroshima bomb. Eleven hundred men went into the water. Vessel went down in twelve minutes. Didn’t see the first shark for about a half an hour. Tiger. Thirteen-footer. You know how you know that when you’re in the water, Chief? You tell by lookin’ from the dorsal to the tail. What we didn’t know… was our bomb mission had been so secret, no distress signal had been sent. Heh.

[Quint pauses and takes a drink]

They didn’t even list us overdue for a week. Very first light, Chief, sharks come cruisin’. So we formed ourselves into tight groups. Y’know, it’s… kinda like ol’ squares in a battle like, uh, you see in a calendar, like the Battle of Waterloo, and the idea was, shark comes to the nearest man and that man, he’d start poundin’ and hollerin’ and screamin’, and sometimes the shark’d go away… sometimes he wouldn’t go away. Sometimes that shark, he looks right into ya. Right into your eyes. Y’know the thing about a shark, he’s got… lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll’s eyes. When he comes at ya, doesn’t seem to be livin’… until he bites ya. And those black eyes roll over white, and then… oh, then you hear that terrible high-pitch screamin’, the ocean turns red, and spite of all the poundin’ and the hollerin’, they all come in and they… rip you to pieces.

[Quint pauses]

Y’know, by the end of that first dawn… lost a hundred men. I dunno how many sharks. Maybe a thousand. I dunno how many men, they averaged six an hour. On Thursday mornin’, Chief, I bumped into a friend of mine, Herbie Robinson from Cleveland- baseball player, boatswain’s mate. I thought he was asleep, reached over to wake him up… bobbed up and down in the water just like a kinda top. Upended. Well… he’d been bitten in half below the waist. Noon the fifth day, Mr. Hooper, a Lockheed Ventura saw us, he swung in low and he saw us. Young pilot, a lot younger than Mr. Hooper. Anyway, he saw us and come in low and three hours later, a big fat PBY comes down and start to pick us up. Y’know, that was the time I was most frightened, waitin’ for my turn. I’ll never put on a life jacket again. So, eleven hundred men went into the water, three hundred sixteen men come out, and the sharks took the rest, June the 29th, 1945.

[Quint pauses, smiles, and raises his glass]

Anyway… we delivered the bomb.”

– Quint

That’s a damn fine example of a picture being painted with words, one of the best four minutes of cinema ever. Some amazing writing and delivered perfectly by Robert Shaw’s acting. That one scene, that speech is actually Steven Spielberg’s favourite bit of his own film, and it’s easy to see why too. But the thing I want to take a look at in regards to that speech is the truth behind it. Jaws may be a fictional movie, but the USS Indianapolis, the secret mission and its sinking were all very true. Quint’s speech is not 100% factual though, there are a few embellishments to add to the drama of the scene or possibly just not fully researched to be accurate enough, but overall, it told the same story. Here is the real story of what happened to the USS Indianapolis and I’ll point out some of the changes as I go, I’ll list the differences in bold so they stand out from the rest of the text.

The Real Story Vs Quint’s Story

So yes, there was a United States Navy ship called the USS Indianapolis and yes, it did go on a secret mission related to the Hiroshima bomb and most of what Quint says is true, to a point.

USS INDIANAPOLIS

The USS Indianapolis had already been involved in several World War II campaigns before she met her fateful end. Helping out in both the New Guinea campaign and the Aleutian Islands campaign, the USS Indianapolis also took part in numerous battles including the Landing at Amchitka, Battle of Tarawa and the Battle of Saipan to name a few. After several years of service and battles, the USS Indianapolis was in need of repairs and an overhaul to get her up to standard for a top secret mission. After her work, she set out from San Francisco’s Hunters Point Naval Shipyard on the 16th of July, 1945. Her mission was to deliver a huge payload of enriched uranium and various bomb parts to Tinian Island in the Pacific Ocean. She made the journey and delivered her payload on the 26th of July, after a stop at Pearl Harbor on the 19th of July.

Already here, there is a little discrepancy between Quint’s speech and the real story. Quint says they delivered the Hiroshima bomb, which is not strictly true. The USS Indianapolis delivered several bomb components and the uranium used to build the world’s first first nuclear weapon nicknamed ‘Little Boy’, the Hiroshima bomb. But it didn’t deliver the bomb itself.

After the delivery, the USS Indianapolis went onto Guam for a change of crew. She then left Guam on the 28th of July and headed for Okinawa to join Vice Admiral Jesse B. Oldendorf to join his Task Force 95. But there was a stop over planed on Leyte Island first, a journey she never made. It was around twelve-fifteen in the morning on the 30th of July, 1945 when the USS Indianapolis was stuck by two torpedoes fired from a Japanese submarine. They struck her on her starboard side, causing massive damage. As the USS Indianapolis was kitted out for war, it was very top heavy with weaponry, cannons and the like. She began to take on water, the USS Indianapolis rolled completely over, the stern rose in the air and she quickly sank, and all within twelve minutes of impact with eleven-hundred and ninety-five crew-members on-board.

Most of what Quint says is true for this part. They delivered the bomb (parts) and set sail for Leyte Island from Tinian Island (after a stop off at Guam). It was a Japanese sub that slammed two torpedoes into her side too, and she did sink in twelve minutes. Quint also said that eleven-hundred men went into the water, it was a little more then that, but I guess he was just rounding down? However, around three hundred men actually went down with the ship and drowned. Now, Quint never says that didn’t happen, nor does his speech say that it did, but it does seem to suggest that all of the crew were adrift, which wasn’t exactly true. In reality, there were just shy of nine-hundred men in the water after three-hundred drowned as the ship sunk, not the eleven-hundred that Quint suggests.

USS INDIANAPOLIS 2

It was around ten-twenty-five in the morning on the 2nd of August, 1945 when a PV-1 Ventura patrol bomber flew over and spotted the crew of the USS Indianapolis adrift in the ocean. The pilot, Lieutenant Wilbur “Chuck” Gwinn and his co-pilot dropped a life raft and radio transmitter. The alarm was raised within seconds and all available units came to the rescue.

Quint says that the mission was so secret that the crew were not known as missing for a week. That’s definitely not true, the alarm was raised a little over three days later. Certainly not a week. But Quint is right when he said that a Lockheed Ventura saw them, it just wasn’t a week later as he claimed. But there is a discrepancy here as Quint says that the crew were not listed as overdue/missing for a week… but also says the plane spotted them after five days? Is he counting a week as five days, not including the weekend?

Many of the crew died of dehydration and hypernatremia, some suffered terrible delirium and hallucinations and killed themselves fearing they would not survive anyway. Exactly how many died from actual shark attacks is unknown. Around nine-hundred crew survived the sinking of the USS Indianapolis and were cast adrift, of those, only three-hundred and sixteen were saved.

So this is where Quint’s speech is at its horrific best. This is where he describes the tiger sharks, the high-pitch screaming of the crewmen, the ocean turning red with blood as the sharks began their attack. A thousand sharks eating a hundred men by the first dawn, averaging six men an hour according to Quint. Do the maths here, if (as Quint states) they were adrift for a week and a thousand sharks were eating a hundred men a day (average). Six (men) x twenty-four (hours) x seven (days) = one thousand and eight. Plus, going by Quint’s wording, all eleven-hundred crew were adrift (not true as some drowned or were killed by the explosions of the torpedoes). Anyway, Quint does say that eleven-hundred men went into the water and that only three-hundred and sixteen men come out. Those survival numbers are dead-on accurate to the real story… but he does say that the ‘sharks took the rest’. So Quint is claiming that of the eleven-hundred in the sea (rounding down remember), the sharks ate seven-hundred and four men minimum. As covered, it’s not known exactly how many were actually eaten by sharks, but it certainly wasn’t seven-hundred, three hundred drowned going down with the ship remember, others committed suicide, some died of dehydration and hypernatremia. So all in all, it was definitely fewer than the seven-hundred and four as Quint says.

As I have previously covered, the USS Indianapolis was hit by two torpedoes and sank within twelve minutes on the 30th of July, 1945.

But that’s not what Quint says, he ends his speech saying that she sank on the 29th of June, 1945. The date wasn’t even close, the day was twenty-four ours out yes, but it was completely the wrong month. Why the date is so wrong I have no idea, it was widely known at the time of writing when the USS Indianapolis sank. It was known as the worst sea disaster in the U.S. Navy’s history… still is. 

QUINT 3

All in all, Quint’s re-telling of the sinking of the USS Indianapolis is pretty damn close. Yes, there is some embellishment, perhaps to increase the tension and horror of the scene? A longer wait for rescue and more shark attacks than were probable, more gruesome and bloody deaths does make it sound a lot more horrific than it was… and it already was an horrific incident. But why the date of the actual sinking is so wrong I have no idea.

Anyway, even with the errors, either purposefully made or genuine lack of research, Quint’s USS Indianapolis speech is mesmerising. It’s brilliantly written, wonderfully acted by Robert Shaw and directed to perfection thanks to Steven Spielberg. But to end this article, I want to just throw in some interesting tit-bits connected to the whole scene and the Quint character himself.

Tit-Bits

The film, Jaws may have been fiction, as were the characters. But there was some grain of truth to Quint himself. Frank ‘The Monster Man’ Mundus was a keen fisherman from Montauk, New York. He had quite an eccentric personality and took great pride in displaying the many sharks he had killed over the years. The TV documentary, Shark Hunter: Chasing the Great White (narrated by Roy Scheider, who played Martin Brody in Jaws) was about Frank’s life as a shark hunter. The documentary even covers that fact that Frank Mundus was the inspiration for Quint in Jaws. Even Robert Shaw who played Quint said that he played the character as Frank Mundus, copying many of his traits and mannerisms. So Quint kind of existed in the real world. Just as a side note: Frank Mundus actually began to feel bad for all the shark killing he did and became a shark conservationist later in his life. He died in 2008 aged eighty-two.

Frank Mundus

Robert Shaw was a terrible alcoholic. The first time they sat down to shoot that scene, he was so drunk that he kept forgetting and slurring his words. The footage was useless and Robert walked away deeply embarrassed. The next day, he sat down to talk with Steven Spielberg, apologised for his behaviour and asked for another chance at the scene. So they set up again and this time, Robert was sober…

“He really wasn’t able to do it that day. The next day he came in stone sober and absolutely knocked it out of the park.”

– Steven Spielberg

What is seen in the film is an edit of both the first drunken attempt and the sober one (can you even tell which cuts are which?). But according to Steven Spielberg, Robert Shaw nailed the scene in one take when he was sober.

The original speech was written by John Milius (Dirty Harry, Apocalypse Now, Red Dawn, to name a few of his writing credits), unfortunately, it went on a bit too long… around nine or ten pages. Robert Shaw worked out that the speech would take about fifteen minutes to deliver on screen. So Robert took the epic soliloquy away and edited it down to what is spoken in the film. So not only was Robert Shaw responsible for the amazing delivery of the scene, he was also responsible for it not sending you to sleep.

The wreckage of the USS Indianapolis was believed lost, never to be found. Yet seventy-two years later, on the 19th of August, 2017, she was finally found. On the floor of the Philippine Sea, during a search led by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.

For a rather depressing end and a bit more of the true story behind the speech. The commanding officer of the USS Indianapolis was Captain Charles B. McVay III, he was wounded by the sinking, but survived. A Navy Court of Inquiry stated that Charles McVay should be court-martialed for the loss of the USS Indianapolis. He was charged and convicted with failing to zigzag to avoid the torpedoes that sank the ship. The Navy even flew in the Japanese submarine commander, Mochitsura Hashimoto, to testify against Charles.

Captain Charles B. McVay III

Crew-members felt that their Captain was being railroaded, in fact Mochitsura Hashimoto himself even said that zigzagging would’t have stopped him from sinking the USS Indianapolis. There’s actually quite a few controversies worth looking into about the whole trial. Still, Charles McVay was found guilty of hazarding his vessel and he never sailed the seas again. Instead, on the 6th of November, 1968, he killed himself with his own service pistol. Years later in 2000, Captain Charles B. McVay III was exonerated for the loss of the USS Indianapolis… all thanks to a twelve year old Floridian schoolboy.

QUINT 4

“I value my neck a lot more than three thousand bucks, chief. I’ll find him for three, but I’ll catch him, and kill him, for ten. But you’ve gotta make up your minds. If you want to stay alive, then ante up. If you want to play it cheap, be on welfare the whole winter. I don’t want no volunteers, I don’t want no mates, there’s just too many captains on this island. $10,000 for me by myself. For that you get the head, the tail, the whole damn thing.”

– Quint