The Thrill of Ben Gardner’s Boat
When it comes to movie memories, I love to reminisce. When you’re a kid you see the ads on television for the new movies playing at the local theaters and just hope that someday you’ll get a chance to see them. I freely admit I am old enough to recall the days of having to wait a few years to see the network debut of these films as the VHS craze was still in the not to distant future.
Jaws was THE movie every little boy was talking of. Our imaginations were running wild about the movie with the Great White shark that was wreaking havoc on the swimmers and a little boy on a rubber raft. Scenes would filter down to us from listening in to the “older folks” that had gone to see it.
If my timeline is correct my parents had gone to see the film on it’s first run and I wasn’t allowed to tag along. Not sure but I believe my older sister had already seen it as well by the time I got my chance. As usual the older siblings always beat us little ones to the real cool looking movies we longed to see.
When my day finally came I think the film was in re-release and I might have been about 8 years old. Like many of my fondest memories of seeing a film for the first time it was with my Father. I recall seeing Frankenstein with him on a late show and watching The Dirty Dozen for the first time. The main reason I think he finally took me to see the film was probably my badgering him coupled with my older sister having some girls get together in the upstairs apartment we rented in those days.
Looking back I don’t honestly remember much about the night itself and my first viewing of a film that REALLY is in my top ten favorites if I had to narrow the field. What I recall vividly is the scene when Roy Scheider and Richard Dreyfuss come across the abandoned chewed up boat of the missing Ben Gardner. The scene is claustrophobic and Dreyfuss is going to descend to the murky depths. Scheider doesn’t want him to go and neither do I. My Father who has already seen the film knows what’s coming and while I don’t really know if it’s by design he announces to me that he’s going for a smoke. Off he goes to leave me in a wide eyed state of dread. Assuming you have seen the film you’ll know what happens when the Dreyfuss character starts examining the ships haul below. For a kid who might have been about 8 it’s a shocker!
Over my shoulder I begin to look for my Father and there he is standing at the back of the theater where one would go to take a puff in those days and let the smoke drift up so that we could all see it in the projector’s light. I am quite sure he got one heck of a kick watching my reaction from afar.
Years later I pulled the same stunt on my own son when he sat down to watch it with me on DVD. He was probably about the same age as I had been and as the scene approached I excused myself and went off to the kitchen. From there I gazed at him hidden behind a flower pot to see his reaction and sure enough he jumped just as I did years ago only he was all bundled up on the couch.
It’s these type of moments that help fuel my passion for films and sharing them with my own sons. I am sure we all have our favorite memories from childhood that stay with us. Might be a film or the story behind seeing it for the first time.
Jaws has always stayed with me and just about a year ago when it was re-released nationally for a limited run my sons and I headed right down to the local cinema to experience it like it was meant to be. On a full sized theater screen. We loved it all over again from the terror to the adventure. Robert Shaw’s Indianapolis story which to me like many others is the films highlight and the line, “That’s some bad hat, Harry” which I love to say when I see someone wearing one that seems a little “off”.
Any fond memories to share of those earliest cinema experiences or this classic itself?