12 August 2022

JAWS (1975)
Contributed by Wesley Eure

Wesley Eure is a film and stage actor who appeared in the horror movies The Toolbox Murders (1978) and Jennifer (1978). He also has a long history of television work, starring in the hit Saturday morning show Land of the Lost, appearing regularly on the popular daytime soap opera Days of Our Lives for eight years, and as host of the game show Finders Keepers. In addition to acting, Eure is an accomplished author with five books under his belt including The Red Wings of Christmas. He is currently co-producing the new musical Snapshots by Broadway legend Stephen Schwartz (Wicked, Pippin, Godspell). His official website is wesleyeure.info.

I am terrified of horror films.

I know that sounds silly since I have written and acted in a few, like the original The Toolbox Murders (1978) and Jennifer (1978). But as much as I remind myself it's only red syrup and latex, I still get caught up in the moment.

As a kid, my favorite film was Swiss Family Robinson (1960). I loved going to the single screen movie house on Main Street in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

The late 50's and early 60's were an amazing time for horror movie theater environmental experiences. I remember smelling the strange scent of the "Aroma-Rama" and watching people jump out of their seats when they felt an electric shock under their seat. (Fortunately, I never sat in one that was wired). I was truly terrified watching William Castle's 13 Ghosts (1960) and seeing the ghost with special glasses called "Illusion-O."

And there was one movie where the audience was given a small round plastic token. You were told to scream if it glowed. Of course it glowed!!! Days later, I was at a gas station sitting with my cousin, Al, in the back seat and I showed him the token. Well, you guessed it, it glowed and I screamed!

My uncle came running over and snatched that token out of my hand, spanked my butt and yelled at me. Huh? I wonder if that real world traumatic event was the turning point in my prior love affair with horror films?!  

But the movie that changed my world was Jaws.

I made the horrible mistake of taking a date to the drive-in on opening night to see it. I had not heard anything about the film but I thought it might make for a fun date.  

Well, the drive-in was packed and the only spot for my 1951 Riley was the front center parking spot. There were no vehicles in front of my car so the giant outdoor screen felt overwhelming. We put the speaker box on the window and I was ready to get a bit frisky.

Suddenly that unforgettable music started to play, and the girl swimming by the buoy was pulled under the water. I let go of my date’s hand and for the next 120 minutes, I clutched the seat in terror. I swore I would never go near an ocean again!  

To make matters worse, the drive-in was packed, and since we were situated in the front row, we couldn’t get out of our parking space. Hundreds of cars were leaving and hundreds arriving for the next showing!

So we were stuck there and had to sit and rewatch the first 30 minutes of Jaws. I was petrified. Again. My date and I barely spoke on the ride home and the evening ended without even a peck on the cheek.  

I went to my house, had a few drinks and jumped in the swimming pool. It was a moonless night and I did not turn on the pool light. The frightening Jaws theme blared in my head and I was immediately convinced a shark was in the pool. I leapt from the water to the deck.  

The moral of this story is: if you want a bit of nooky, take your date to a Julia Roberts film...

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