The Australian Coalition sparks a constitutional crisis when they vote to defer funding for the government’s annual budget.
The film Jaws is released in the United States, becoming the highest-grossing film of that time and starting the trend of films known as “summer blockbusters”.
Theatrical release poster by Roger Kastel
|Directed by||Steven Spielberg|
by Peter Benchley
|Music by||John Williams|
|Edited by||Verna Fields|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Box office||$472 million|
Jaws is a 1975 American thriller film directed by Steven Spielberg and based on Peter Benchley's 1974 novel of the same name. In the film, a man-eating great white shark attacks beachgoers at a summer resort town, prompting police chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) to hunt it with the help of a marine biologist (Richard Dreyfuss) and a professional shark hunter (Robert Shaw). Murray Hamilton plays the mayor, and Lorraine Gary portrays Brody's wife. The screenplay is credited to Benchley, who wrote the first drafts, and actor-writer Carl Gottlieb, who rewrote the script during principal photography.
Shot mostly on location on Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts, Jaws was the first major motion picture to be shot on the ocean, and resultingly had a troubled production, going over budget and past schedule. As the art department's mechanical sharks often malfunctioned, Spielberg decided mostly to suggest the shark's presence, employing an ominous and minimalist theme created by composer John Williams to indicate its impending appearances. Spielberg and others have compared this suggestive approach to that of director Alfred Hitchcock. Universal Pictures gave the film what was then an exceptionally wide release for a major studio picture, on over 450 screens, accompanied by an extensive marketing campaign with a heavy emphasis on television spots and tie-in merchandise.
Jaws was the prototypical summer blockbuster, regarded as a watershed moment in motion picture history, and it won several awards for its music and editing. It was the highest-grossing film until the release of Star Wars in 1977. Both films were pivotal in establishing the modern Hollywood business model, which pursues high box-office returns from action and adventure films with simple high-concept premises, released during the summer in thousands of theaters and heavily advertised. Jaws was followed by three sequels, all with neither Spielberg nor Benchley, and many imitative thrillers. In 2001, it was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
During a beach party at dusk on Amity Island, a young woman, Chrissie Watkins, goes skinny dipping in the ocean. While treading water, she is violently pulled under. The next day, her partial remains are found on shore. The medical examiner's conclusion that the death was due to a shark attack leads police chief Martin Brody to close the beaches. Mayor Larry Vaughn persuades him to reverse his decision, fearing that the town's summer economy will be ruined and points out that the town has never had trouble with sharks. The coroner tentatively concurs with the mayor's theory that Chrissie was killed in a boating accident. Brody reluctantly accepts their conclusion until the shark kills a young boy, Alex Kintner, in full view of a crowded beach. A bounty is placed on the shark, prompting an amateur shark-hunting frenzy. Local professional shark fisherman Quint offers to catch and kill it for $10,000. Meanwhile, consulting oceanographer Matt Hooper examines Chrissie's remains, and confirms her death was caused by a shark—an unusually large one.
When local fishermen catch a tiger shark, the mayor proclaims that the beach is safe. Mrs. Kintner, Alex’s mother, publicly blames Brody for her son’s death. Hooper expresses doubts that the tiger shark is responsible for the attacks, and his suspicions are confirmed when no human remains are found inside it. Hooper and Brody find a half-sunken vessel while searching the night waters in Hooper's boat. Underwater, Hooper removes a sizable great white shark's tooth from the boat's hull, but drops it in fright after encountering the partial corpse of local fisherman Ben Gardner. Vaughn dismisses Brody and Hooper's assertions that a huge great white shark is responsible for the deaths, and refuses to close the beaches, allowing only increased safety precautions. On the Fourth of July weekend, tourists pack the beaches. Following a juvenile prank with a fake shark, the real shark enters a nearby lagoon, killing a boater and causing Brody's oldest son, Michael, to go into shock. Brody then convinces a guilt-ridden Vaughn to hire Quint.
Quint, Brody, and Hooper set out on Quint's boat, the Orca, to hunt the shark. While Brody lays down a chum line, Quint waits for an opportunity to hook the shark. Without warning, it appears behind the boat. Quint, estimating its length at 25 feet (7.6 m) and weight at 3 tonnes (3.0 long tons; 3.3 short tons), harpoons it with a line attached to a flotation barrel, but the shark pulls the barrel underwater and disappears.
At nightfall, Quint and Hooper drunkenly exchange stories about their assorted scars, and Quint reveals that he survived the USS Indianapolis. The shark returns unexpectedly, ramming the boat's hull, and disabling the power. The men work through the night, repairing the engine. In the morning, Brody attempts to call the Coast Guard, but Quint, who has become obsessed with killing the shark without outside assistance, smashes the radio. After a long chase, Quint harpoons the shark with another barrel. The line is tied to the stern cleats, but the shark drags the boat backward, swamping the deck and flooding the engine compartment. Quint prepares to sever the line to prevent the transom from being pulled out but the cleats break off, keeping the barrels attached to the shark. Quint heads toward shore to draw the shark into shallower waters, but he overtaxes the damaged engine and it fails.
With the Orca slowly sinking, the trio attempt a riskier approach. Hooper puts on scuba gear and enters the water in a shark-proof cage, intending to lethally inject the shark with strychnine, using a hypodermic spear. The shark attacks the cage, causing Hooper to drop the spear, which sinks and is lost. While the shark thrashes in the tangled remains of the cage, Hooper manages to escape to the seabed. The shark escapes and leaps onto the deck of the sinking boat. Quint then slips down the deck and is devoured by the shark. Trapped on the sinking vessel, Brody jams a pressurized scuba tank into the shark's mouth, and, climbing the crow's nest, shoots the tank with Quint's rifle. The resulting explosion obliterates the shark. Hooper surfaces, and he and Brody paddle back to Amity Island clinging to the remaining barrels.
Richard D. Zanuck and David Brown, producers at Universal Pictures, independently heard about Peter Benchley's novel Jaws. Brown came across it in the literature section of lifestyle magazine Cosmopolitan, then edited by his wife, Helen Gurley Brown. A small card written by the magazine's book editor gave a detailed description of the plot, concluding with the comment "might make a good movie". The producers each read the book over the course of a single night and agreed the next morning that it was "the most exciting thing that they had ever read" and that they wanted to produce a film version, although they were unsure how it would be accomplished. They purchased the film rights in 1973, before the book's publication, for approximately $175,000 (equivalent to $990,000 in 2018). Brown claimed that had they read the book twice, they would never have made the film because they would have realized how difficult it would be to execute certain sequences.
To direct, Zanuck and Brown first considered veteran filmmaker John Sturges—whose résumé included another maritime adventure, The Old Man and the Sea—before offering the job to Dick Richards, whose directorial debut, The Culpepper Cattle Co. had come out the previous year. They soon grew irritated by Richards's habit of describing the shark as a whale and dropped him from the project. Meanwhile, Steven Spielberg very much wanted the job. The 26-year-old had just directed his first theatrical film, The Sugarland Express, for Zanuck and Brown. At the end of a meeting in their office, Spielberg noticed their copy of the still-unpublished Benchley novel, and after reading it was immediately captivated. He later observed that it was similar to his 1971 television film Duel in that both deal with "these leviathans targeting everymen". He also revealed in "The Making of Jaws" documentary on the 2012 DVD release that he directly referenced Duel by repurposing the sound of the truck being destroyed as the death roar of the shark. After Richards's departure, the producers signed Spielberg to direct in June 1973, before the release of The Sugarland Express.
Before production began, Spielberg grew reluctant to continue with Jaws, in fear of becoming typecast as the "truck and shark director". He wanted to move over to 20th Century Fox's Lucky Lady instead, but Universal exercised its right under its contract with the director to veto his departure. Brown helped convince Spielberg to stick with the project, saying that "after [Jaws], you can make all the films you want". The film was given an estimated budget of $3.5 million and a shooting schedule of 55 days. Principal photography was set to begin in May 1974. Universal wanted the shoot to finish by the end of June, when the major studios' contract with the Screen Actors Guild was due to expire, to avoid any disruptions due to a potential strike.
For the screen adaptation, Spielberg wanted to stay with the novel's basic plot, but discarded many of Benchley's subplots. He declared that his favorite part of the book was the shark hunt on the last 120 pages, and told Zanuck when he accepted the job, "I'd like to do the picture if I could change the first two acts and base the first two acts on original screenplay material, and then be very true to the book for the last third." When the producers purchased the rights to his novel, they promised Benchley that he could write the first draft of the screenplay. The intent was to make sure a script could be done despite an impending threat of a Writer's Guild strike, given Benchley was not unionized. Overall, he wrote three drafts before the script was turned over to other writers; delivering his final version to Spielberg, he declared, "I'm written out on this, and that's the best I can do." Benchley later described his contribution to the finished film as "the storyline and the ocean stuff – basically, the mechanics", given he "didn't know how to put the character texture into a screenplay." One of his changes was to remove the novel's adulterous affair between Ellen Brody and Matt Hooper, at the suggestion of Spielberg, who feared it would compromise the camaraderie between the men on the Orca. During the film's production, Benchley agreed to return and play a small onscreen role as a reporter.
Spielberg, who felt that the characters in Benchley's script were still unlikable, invited the young screenwriter John Byrum to do a rewrite, but he declined the offer. Columbo creators William Link and Richard Levinson also declined Spielberg's invitation. Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Howard Sackler was in Los Angeles when the filmmakers began looking for another writer and offered to do an uncredited rewrite; since the producers and Spielberg were unhappy with Benchley's drafts, they quickly agreed. At the suggestion of Spielberg, Brody's characterization made him afraid of water, "coming from an urban jungle to find something more terrifying off this placid island near Massachusetts."
Spielberg wanted "some levity" in Jaws, humor that would avoid making it "a dark sea hunt", so he turned to his friend Carl Gottlieb, a comedy writer-actor then working on the sitcom The Odd Couple. Spielberg sent Gottlieb a script, asking what the writer would change and if there was a role he would be interested in performing. Gottlieb sent Spielberg three pages of notes, and picked the part of Meadows, the politically connected editor of the local paper. He passed the audition one week before Spielberg took him to meet the producers regarding a writing job.
While the deal was initially for a "one-week dialogue polish", Gottlieb eventually became the primary screenwriter, rewriting the entire script during a nine-week period of principal photography. The script for each scene was typically finished the night before it was shot, after Gottlieb had dinner with Spielberg and members of the cast and crew to decide what would go into the film. Many pieces of dialogue originated from the actors' improvisations during these meals; a few were created on set. John Milius contributed dialogue polishes, and Sugarland Express writers Matthew Robbins and Hal Barwood also made uncredited contributions. Spielberg has claimed that he prepared his own draft, although it is unclear to what degree the other screenwriters drew on his material. One specific alteration he called for in the story was to change the cause of the shark's death from extensive wounds to a scuba tank explosion, as he felt audiences would respond better to a "big rousing ending". The director estimated the final script had a total of 27 scenes that were not in the book.
Benchley had written Jaws after reading about sport fisherman Frank Mundus's capture of an enormous shark in 1964. According to Gottlieb, Quint was loosely based on Mundus, whose book Sportfishing for Sharks he read for research. Sackler came up with the backstory of Quint as a survivor of the World War II USS Indianapolis disaster. The question of who deserves the most credit for writing Quint's monologue about the Indianapolis has caused substantial controversy. Spielberg described it as a collaboration between Sackler, Milius, and actor Robert Shaw, who was also a playwright. According to the director, Milius turned Sackler's "three-quarters of a page" speech into a monologue, and that was then rewritten by Shaw. Gottlieb gives primary credit to Shaw, downplaying Milius's contribution.
|Roy Scheider||Chief Martin Brody|
|Richard Dreyfuss||Matt Hooper|
|Lorraine Gary||Ellen Brody|
|Murray Hamilton||Mayor Larry Vaughn|
|Jeffrey Kramer||Deputy Hendricks|
|Susan Backlinie||Chrissie Watkins|
|Lee Fierro||Mrs. Kintner|
Though Spielberg complied with a request from Zanuck and Brown to cast known actors, he wanted to avoid hiring any big stars. He felt that "somewhat anonymous" performers would help the audience "believe this was happening to people like you and me", whereas "stars bring a lot of memories along with them, and those memories can sometimes ... corrupt the story." The director added that in his plans "the superstar was gonna be the shark". The first actors cast were Lorraine Gary, the wife of then-president of Universal Sidney Sheinberg, as Ellen Brody, and Murray Hamilton as the mayor of Amity Island. Stuntwoman-turned-actress Susan Backlinie was cast as Chrissie (the first victim) as she knew how to swim and was willing to perform nude. Most minor roles were played by residents of Martha's Vineyard, where the film was shot. One example was Deputy Hendricks, played by future television producer Jeffrey Kramer. Lee Fierro plays Mrs. Kintner, the mother of the shark's second victim Alex Kintner (played by Jeffrey Voorhees).
The role of Brody was offered to Robert Duvall, but the actor was interested only in portraying Quint. Charlton Heston expressed a desire for the role, but Spielberg felt that Heston would bring a screen persona too grand for the part of a police chief of a modest community. Roy Scheider became interested in the project after overhearing Spielberg at a party talk with a screenwriter about having the shark jump up onto a boat. Spielberg was initially apprehensive about hiring Scheider, fearing he would portray a "tough guy", similar to his role in The French Connection.
Nine days before the start of production, neither Quint nor Hooper had been cast. The role of Quint was originally offered to actors Lee Marvin and Sterling Hayden, both of whom passed. Zanuck and Brown had just finished working with Robert Shaw on The Sting, and suggested him to Spielberg. Shaw was reluctant to take the role since he did not like the book, but decided to accept at the urging of both his wife, actress Mary Ure, and his secretary—"The last time they were that enthusiastic was From Russia with Love. And they were right." Shaw based his performance on fellow cast member Craig Kingsbury, a local fisherman, farmer, and legendary eccentric, who was playing fisherman Ben Gardner. Spielberg described Kingsbury as "the purest version of who, in my mind, Quint was", and some of his offscreen utterances were incorporated into the script as lines of Gardner and Quint. Another source for some of Quint's dialogue and mannerisms, especially in the third act at sea, was Vineyard mechanic and boat-owner Lynn Murphy.
For the role of Hooper, Spielberg initially wanted Jon Voight. Timothy Bottoms, Joel Grey, and Jeff Bridges were also considered for the part. Spielberg's friend George Lucas suggested Richard Dreyfuss, whom he had directed in American Graffiti. The actor initially passed, but changed his decision after he attended a pre-release screening of The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, which he had just completed. Disappointed in his performance and fearing that no one would want to hire him once Kravitz was released, he immediately called Spielberg and accepted the role in Jaws. Because the film the director envisioned was so dissimilar to Benchley's novel, Spielberg asked Dreyfuss not to read it. As a result of the casting, Hooper was rewritten to better suit the actor, as well as to be more representative of Spielberg, who came to view Dreyfuss as his "alter ego".
Principal photography began May 2, 1974, on the island of Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, selected after consideration was given to eastern Long Island. Brown explained later that the production "needed a vacation area that was lower middle class enough so that an appearance of a shark would destroy the tourist business." Martha's Vineyard was also chosen because the surrounding ocean had a sandy bottom that never dropped below 35 feet (11 m) for 12 miles (19 km) out from shore, which allowed the mechanical sharks to operate while also beyond sight of land. As Spielberg wanted to film the aquatic sequences relatively close-up to resemble what people see while swimming, cinematographer Bill Butler devised new equipment to facilitate marine and underwater shooting, including a rig to keep the camera stable regardless of tide and a sealed submersible camera box. Spielberg asked the art department to avoid red in both scenery and wardrobe, so that the blood from the attacks would be the only red element and cause a bigger shock.
Initially the film's producers wanted to train a great white shark but quickly realized this wasn't possible so three full-size pneumatically powered prop sharks—which the film crew nicknamed "Bruce" after Spielberg's lawyer, Bruce Ramer—were made for the production: a "sea-sled shark", a full-body prop with its belly missing that was towed with a 300-foot (91 m) line, and two "platform sharks", one that moved from camera-left to -right (with its hidden left side exposing an array of pneumatic hoses), and an opposite model with its right flank uncovered. The sharks were designed by art director Joe Alves during the third quarter of 1973. Between November 1973 and April 1974, the sharks were fabricated at Rolly Harper's Motion Picture & Equipment Rental in Sun Valley, California. Their construction involved a team of as many as 40 effects technicians, supervised by mechanical effects supervisor Bob Mattey, best known for creating the giant squid in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. After the sharks were completed, they were trucked to the shooting location. In early July, the platform used to tow the two side-view sharks capsized as it was being lowered to the ocean floor, forcing a team of divers to retrieve it. The model required 14 operators to control all of the moving parts.
Jaws was the first major motion picture to be shot on the ocean, resulting in a troubled shoot, and went far over budget. David Brown said that the budget "was $4 million and the picture wound up costing $9 million"; the effects outlays alone grew to $3 million due to the problems with the mechanical sharks. Disgruntled crew members gave the film the nickname "Flaws". Spielberg attributed many problems to his perfectionism and his inexperience. The former was epitomized by his insistence on shooting at sea with a life-sized shark; "I could have shot the movie in the tank or even in a protected lake somewhere, but it would not have looked the same," he said. As for his lack of experience: "I was naive about the ocean, basically. I was pretty naive about mother nature and the hubris of a filmmaker who thinks he can conquer the elements was foolhardy, but I was too young to know I was being foolhardy when I demanded that we shoot the film in the Atlantic Ocean and not in a North Hollywood tank." Gottlieb said that "there was nothing to do except make the movie", so everyone kept overworking, and while as a writer he did not have to attend the ocean set every day, once the crewmen returned they arrived "ravaged and sunburnt, windblown and covered with salt water".
Shooting at sea led to many delays: unwanted sailboats drifted into frame, cameras got soaked, and the Orca once began to sink with the actors on board. The prop sharks frequently malfunctioned owing to a series of problems including bad weather, pneumatic hoses taking on salt water, frames fracturing due to water resistance, corroding skin, and electrolysis. From the first water test onward, the "non-absorbent" neoprene foam that made up the sharks' skin soaked up liquid, causing the sharks to balloon, and the sea-sled model frequently got entangled among forests of seaweed. Spielberg later calculated that during the 12-hour daily work schedule, on average only four hours were actually spent filming. Gottlieb was nearly decapitated by the boat's propellers, and Dreyfuss was almost imprisoned in the steel cage. The actors were frequently seasick. Shaw also fled to Canada whenever he could due to tax problems, engaged in binge drinking, and developed a grudge against Dreyfuss, who was getting rave reviews for his performance in Duddy Kravitz. Editor Verna Fields rarely had material to work with during principal photography, as according to Spielberg "we would shoot five scenes in a good day, three in an average day, and none in a bad day."
The delays proved beneficial in some regards. The script was refined during production, and the unreliable mechanical sharks forced Spielberg to shoot many scenes so that the shark was only hinted at. For example, for much of the shark hunt, its location is indicated by the floating yellow barrels. The opening had the shark devouring Chrissie, but it was rewritten so that it would be shot with Backlinie being dragged and yanked by cables to simulate an attack. Spielberg also included multiple shots of just the dorsal fin. This forced restraint is widely thought to have added to the film's suspense. As Spielberg put it years later, "The film went from a Japanese Saturday matinee horror flick to more of a Hitchcock, the less-you-see-the-more-you-get thriller." In another interview, he similarly declared, "The shark not working was a godsend. It made me become more like Alfred Hitchcock than like Ray Harryhausen." The acting became crucial for making audiences believe in such a big shark: "The more fake the shark looked in the water, the more my anxiety told me to heighten the naturalism of the performances."
Footage of real sharks was shot by Ron and Valerie Taylor in the waters off Dangerous Reef in South Australia, with a short actor in a miniature shark cage to create the illusion that the sharks were enormous. During the Taylors' shoot, a great white attacked the boat and cage. The footage of the cage attack was so stunning that Spielberg was eager to incorporate it in the film. No one had been in the cage at the time and the script, following the novel, originally had the shark killing Hooper in it. The storyline was consequently altered to have Hooper escape from the cage, which allowed the footage to be used. As production executive Bill Gilmore put it, "The shark down in Australia rewrote the script and saved Dreyfuss's character."
Although principal photography was scheduled to take 55 days, it did not wrap until October 6, 1974, after 159 days. Spielberg, reflecting on the protracted shoot, stated, "I thought my career as a filmmaker was over. I heard rumors ... that I would never work again because no one had ever taken a film 100 days over schedule." Spielberg himself was not present for the shooting of the final scene in which the shark explodes, as he believed that the crew were planning to throw him in the water when the scene was done. It has since become a tradition for Spielberg to be absent when the final scene of one of his films is being shot. Afterward, underwater scenes were shot at the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer water tank in Culver City, with stuntmen Dick Warlock and Frank James Sparks as stand-ins for Dreyfuss in the scene where the shark attacks the cage, as well as near Santa Catalina Island, California. Fields, who had completed a rough cut of the first two-thirds of the film, up until the shark hunt, finished the editing and reworked some of the material. According to Zanuck, "She actually came in and reconstructed some scenes that Steven had constructed for comedy and made them terrifying, and some scenes he shot to be terrifying and made them comedy scenes." The boat used for the Orca was brought to Los Angeles so the sound effects team could record sounds for both the ship and the underwater scenes.
Two scenes were altered following test screenings. As the audience's screams had covered up Scheider's "bigger boat" one-liner, Brody's reaction after the shark jumps behind him was extended, and the volume of the line was raised. Spielberg also decided that he was greedy for "one more scream", and reshot the scene in which Hooper discovers Ben Gardner's body, using $3,000 of his own money after Universal refused to pay for the reshoot. The underwater scene was shot in Fields's swimming pool in Encino, California, using a lifecast latex model of Craig Kingsbury's head attached to a fake body, which was placed in the wrecked boat's hull. To simulate the murky waters of Martha's Vineyard, powdered milk was poured into the pool, which was then covered with a tarpaulin.
John Williams composed the film's score, which earned him an Academy Award and was later ranked the sixth-greatest score by the American Film Institute. The main "shark" theme, a simple alternating pattern of two notes—variously identified as "E and F" or "F and F sharp"—became a classic piece of suspense music, synonymous with approaching danger (see leading-tone). Williams described the theme as "grinding away at you, just as a shark would do, instinctual, relentless, unstoppable." The piece was performed by tuba player Tommy Johnson. When asked by Johnson why the melody was written in such a high register and not played by the more appropriate French horn, Williams responded that he wanted it to sound "a little more threatening". When Williams first demonstrated his idea to Spielberg, playing just the two notes on a piano, Spielberg was said to have laughed, thinking that it was a joke. As Williams saw similarities between Jaws and pirate movies, at other points in the score he evoked "pirate music", which he called "primal, but fun and entertaining". Calling for rapid, percussive string playing, the score contains echoes of La mer by Claude Debussy as well of Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring.
There are various interpretations of the meaning and effectiveness of the primary music theme, which is widely described as one of the most recognizable cinematic themes of all time. Music scholar Joseph Cancellaro proposes that the two-note expression mimics the shark's heartbeat. According to Alexandre Tylski, like themes Bernard Herrmann wrote for Taxi Driver, North by Northwest, and particularly Mysterious Island, it suggests human respiration. He further argues that the score's strongest motif is actually "the split, the rupture"—when it dramatically cuts off, as after Chrissie's death. The relationship between sound and silence is also taken advantage of in the way the audience is conditioned to associate the shark with its theme, which is exploited toward the film's climax when the shark suddenly appears with no musical introduction.
Spielberg later said that without Williams's score the film would have been only half as successful, and according to Williams it jumpstarted his career. He had previously scored Spielberg's debut feature, The Sugarland Express, and went on to collaborate with the director on almost all of his films. The original soundtrack for Jaws was released by MCA Records on LP in 1975, and as a CD in 1992, including roughly a half hour of music that Williams redid for the album. In 2000, two versions of the score were released: Decca/Universal reissued the soundtrack album to coincide with the release of the 25th-anniversary DVD, featuring the entire 51 minutes of the original score, and Varèse Sarabande put out a rerecording of the score performed by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, conducted by Joel McNeely.
Herman Melville's Moby-Dick is the most notable artistic antecedent to Jaws. The character of Quint strongly resembles Captain Ahab, the obsessed captain of the Pequod who devotes his life to hunting a sperm whale. Quint's monologue reveals a similar obsession with sharks; even his boat, the Orca, is named after the only natural enemy of the white shark. In the novel and original screenplay, Quint dies after being dragged under the ocean by a harpoon tied to his leg, similar to the death of Ahab in Melville's novel. A direct reference to these similarities may be found in Spielberg's draft of the screenplay, which introduces Quint watching the film version of Moby-Dick; his continuous laughter prompts other audience members to get up and leave the theater. However, the scene from Moby-Dick could not be licensed from the film's star, Gregory Peck, its copyright holder. Screenwriter Carl Gottlieb also drew comparisons to Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea: "Jaws is ... a titanic struggle, like Melville or Hemingway."
The underwater scenes shot from the shark's point of view have been compared with passages in two 1950s horror films, Creature from the Black Lagoon and The Monster That Challenged the World. Gottlieb named two science fiction productions from the same era as influences on how the shark was depicted, or not: The Thing from Another World, which Gottlieb described as "a great horror film where you only see the monster in the last reel"; and It Came From Outer Space, where "the suspense was built up because the creature was always off-camera". Those precedents helped Spielberg and Gottlieb to "concentrate on showing the 'effects' of the shark rather than the shark itself". Scholars such as Thomas Schatz have described how Jaws melds various genres while essentially being an action film and a thriller. Most is taken from horror, with the core of a nature-based monster movie while adding elements of a slasher film. The second half is both a buddy film in the interaction between the crew of the Orca, and a supernatural horror based on the shark's depiction of a nearly Satanic menace. Ian Freer describes Jaws as an aquatic monster movie, citing the influence of earlier monster films such as King Kong and Godzilla. Charles Derry, in 1977, also compared Jaws to Godzilla; and Spielberg cited Godzilla, King of the Monsters! (1956) as a formative influence growing up, due to the "masterful" way in which "it made you believe it was really happening."
Critics such as Neil Sinyard have described similarities to Henrik Ibsen's play An Enemy of the People. Gottlieb himself said he and Spielberg referred to Jaws as "Moby-Dick meets Enemy of the People". The Ibsen work features a doctor who discovers that a seaside town's medicinal hot springs, a major tourist attraction and revenue source, are contaminated. When the doctor attempts to convince the townspeople of the danger, he loses his job and is shunned. This plotline is paralleled in Jaws by Brody's conflict with Mayor Vaughn, who refuses to acknowledge the presence of a shark that may dissuade summer beachgoers from coming to Amity. Brody is vindicated when more shark attacks occur at the crowded beach in broad daylight. Sinyard calls the film a "deft combination of Watergate and Ibsen's play".
Jaws has received attention from academic critics. Stephen Heath relates the film's ideological meanings to the then-recent Watergate scandal. He argues that Brody represents the "white male middle class—[there is] not a single black and, very quickly, not a single woman in the film", who restores public order "with an ordinary-guy kind of heroism born of fear-and-decency". Yet Heath moves beyond ideological content analysis to examine Jaws as a signal example of the film as "industrial product" that sells on the basis of "the pleasure of cinema, thus yielding the perpetuation of the industry (which is why part of the meaning of Jaws is to be the most profitable movie)".
Andrew Britton contrasts the film to the novel's post-Watergate cynicism, suggesting that its narrative alterations from the book (Hooper's survival, the shark's explosive death) help make it "a communal exorcism, a ceremony for the restoration of ideological confidence." He suggests that the experience of the film is "inconceivable" without the mass audience's jubilation when the shark is annihilated, signifying the obliteration of evil itself. In his view, Brody serves to demonstrate that "individual action by the one just man is still a viable source for social change". Peter Biskind argues that the film does maintain post-Watergate cynicism concerning politics and politicians insofar as the sole villain beside the shark is the town's venal mayor. Yet he observes that, far from the narrative formulas so often employed by New Hollywood filmmakers of the era—involving Us vs. Them, hip counterculture figures vs. "The Man"—the overarching conflict in Jaws does not pit the heroes against authority figures, but against a menace that targets everyone regardless of socioeconomic position.
Whereas Britton states that the film avoids the novel's theme of social class conflicts on Amity Island, Biskind detects class divisions in the screen version and argues for their significance. "Authority must be restored", he writes, "but not by Quint". The seaman's "working class toughness and bourgeois independence is alien and frightening ... irrational and out of control". Hooper, meanwhile, is "associated with technology rather than experience, inherited wealth rather than self-made sufficiency"; he is marginalized from the conclusive action, if less terminally than Quint. Britton sees the film more as concerned with the "vulnerability of children and the need to protect and guard them", which in turn helps generate a "pervasive sense of the supreme value of family life: a value clearly related to [ideological] stability and cultural continuity".
Fredric Jameson's analysis highlights the polysemy of the shark and the multiple ways in which it can be and has been read—from representing alien menaces such as communism or the Third World to more intimate dreads concerning the unreality of contemporary American life and the vain efforts to sanitize and suppress the knowledge of death. He asserts that its symbolic function is to be found in this very "polysemousness which is profoundly ideological, insofar as it allows essentially social and historical anxieties to be folded back into apparently 'natural' ones ... to be recontained in what looks like a conflict with other forms of biological existence." He views Quint's demise as the symbolic overthrow of an old, populist, New Deal America and Brody and Hooper's partnership as an "allegory of an alliance between the forces of law-and-order and the new technocracy of the multinational corporations ... in which the viewer rejoices without understanding that he or she is excluded from it."
Neal Gabler analyzed the film as showing three different approaches to solving an obstacle: science (represented by Hooper), spiritualism (represented by Quint), and the common man (represented by Brody). The last of the three is the one which succeeds and is in that way endorsed by the film.
Audience emotional response
While in theaters, the film was said to have caused a single case of cinematic neurosis in a 17-year-old, female viewer. Cinematic neurosis is a condition in which viewers exhibit mental health disturbances, or a worsening of existing mental health disturbances, after viewing a film. The symptoms first presented as sleep disturbances and anxiety, but one day later the patient was screaming "Sharks! Sharks!" and experiencing convulsions.
This case study caused the film to become notable in the medical community alongside The Exorcist for causing stress reactions in its viewers, and was later used in a study by Brian R. Johnson to test how susceptible audiences were to cinematic stress inducers. His study found that stress could be induced by cinema in segments of the general population, and Jaws specifically caused stress reactions in its viewers. While Johnson could not find an exact cause for the stress response in viewers, whether it be the suspense, the gore or the music production, a 1986 study by G. Sparks found that particularly violent films, including Jaws, tended to cause the most intense reactions in viewers.
Universal spent $1.8 million marketing Jaws, including an unprecedented $700,000 on national television spot advertising. The media blitz included about two dozen 30-second advertisements airing each night on prime-time network TV between June 18, 1975, and the film's opening two days later. Beyond that, in the description of film industry scholar Searle Kochberg, Universal "devised and co-ordinated a highly innovative plan" for the picture's marketing. As early as October 1974, Zanuck, Brown, and Benchley hit the television and radio talk show circuit to promote the paperback edition of the novel and the forthcoming film. The studio and publisher Bantam agreed on a title logo that would appear on both the paperback and in all of the advertising for the film. The centerpieces of the joint marketing strategy were John Williams's theme and the poster image featuring the shark approaching a lone female swimmer. The poster was based on the paperback's cover, and had the same artist, Bantam employee Roger Kastel. The Seiniger Advertising agency spent six months designing the poster; principal Tony Seiniger explained that "no matter what we did, it didn't look scary enough". Seiniger ultimately decided that "you had to actually go underneath the shark so you could see his teeth."
More merchandise was created to take advantage of the film's release. In 1999, Graeme Turner wrote that Jaws was accompanied by what was "probably the most elaborate array of tie-ins" including "a sound-track album, T-shirts, plastic tumblers, a book about the making of the movie, the book the movie was based on, beach towels, blankets, shark costumes, toy sharks, hobby kits, iron-transfers, games, posters, shark's tooth necklaces, sleepwear, water pistols, and more." The Ideal Toy Company, for instance, produced a game in which the player had to use a hook to fish out items from the shark's mouth before the jaws closed.
The glowing audience response to a rough cut of the film at two test screenings in Dallas on March 26, 1975, and one in Long Beach, on March 28, along with the success of Benchley's novel and the early stages of Universal's marketing campaign, generated great interest among theater owners, facilitating the studio's plan to debut Jaws at hundreds of cinemas simultaneously. A third and final preview screening, of a cut incorporating changes inspired by the previous presentations, was held in Hollywood on April 24. After Universal chairman Lew Wasserman attended one of the screenings, he ordered the film's initial release — planned for a massive total of as many as 900 theaters — to be cut down, declaring, "I want this picture to run all summer long. I don't want people in Palm Springs to see the picture in Palm Springs. I want them to have to get in their cars and drive to see it in Hollywood." Nonetheless, the several hundred theaters that were still booked for the opening represented what was then an unusually wide release. At the time, wide openings were associated with movies of doubtful quality; not uncommon on the grindhouse and exploitation side of the industry, they were customarily employed to diminish the effect of negative reviews and word of mouth. There had been some recent exceptions, including the rerelease of Billy Jack and the original release of its sequel The Trial of Billy Jack, the Dirty Harry sequel Magnum Force, and the latest installments in the James Bond series. Still, the typical major studio film release at the time involved opening at a few big-city theaters, which allowed for a series of premieres. Distributors would then slowly forward prints to additional locales across the country, capitalizing on any positive critical or audience response. The outsized success of The Godfather in 1972 had sparked a trend toward wider releases, but even that film had debuted in just five theaters, before going wide in its second weekend.
On June 20, Jaws opened across North America on 464 screens — 409 in the United States, the remainder in Canada. The coupling of this broad distribution pattern with the movie's then even rarer national television marketing campaign yielded a release method virtually unheard-of at the time. (A month earlier, Columbia Pictures had done something similar with a Charles Bronson thriller, Breakout, though that film's prospects for an extended run were much slimmer.) Universal president Sid Sheinberg reasoned that nationwide marketing costs would be amortized at a more favorable rate per print relative to a slow, scaled release. Building on the film's success, the release was subsequently expanded on July 25 to nearly 700 theaters, and on August 15 to more than 950. Overseas distribution followed the same pattern, with intensive television campaigns and wide releases — in Great Britain, for instance, Jaws opened in December at more than 100 theaters.
Jaws opened in 409 theatres with a record $7 million weekend and grossed a record $21,116,354 in its first 10 days recouping its production costs. It grossed $100 million in its first 59 days from 954 playdates. In just 78 days, it overtook The Godfather as the highest-grossing film at the North American box office, sailing past that picture's earnings of $86 million and became the first film to earn $100 million in US theatrical rentals. Its initial release ultimately brought in $123.1 million in rentals. Theatrical re-releases in 1976 and Summer 1979 brought its total rentals to $133.4 million.
The film entered overseas release in December 1975, and its international business mirrored its domestic performance. It broke records in Singapore, New Zealand, Japan, Spain, and Mexico. On January 11, 1976, Jaws became the highest-grossing film worldwide with rentals of $132 million, surpassing the $131 million earned by The Godfather. By the time of the third film in 1983, Variety reported that it had earned worldwide rentals of $270 million. Jaws was the highest-grossing film of all time until Star Wars, which debuted two years later. Star Wars surpassed Jaws for the U.S. record six months after its release and set a new global record in 1978.
Across all of its releases Jaws has grossed $472 million worldwide; adjusted for inflation, it has earned almost $2 billion at 2011 prices and is the second-most successful franchise film after Star Wars. In the United States and Canada it has grossed $261 million, equivalent to $1.2 billion at 2020 prices (based on an estimated 128,078,800 tickets sold), making it the seventh-highest-grossing movie of all time adjusted for ticket price inflation. In the United Kingdom, it is the seventh-highest-grossing film to be released since 1975, earning the equivalent of over £70 million in 2009/10 currency, with admissions estimated at 16.2 million. Jaws has also sold 13 million tickets in Brazil, the second-highest attendance ever in the country behind Titanic.
On television, the American Broadcasting Company aired it for the first time on November 4, 1979 right after its theatrical re-release. The first U.S. broadcast received a Nielsen rating of 39.1 and attracted 57 percent of the total audience, the second-highest televised movie audience at the time behind Gone with the Wind and the fourth-highest rated. In the United Kingdom, 23 million people watched its inaugural broadcast in October 1981, the second-biggest TV audience ever for a feature film behind Live and Let Die.
Jaws received positive reviews. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film four stars, calling it "a sensationally effective action picture, a scary thriller that works all the better because it's populated with characters that have been developed into human beings". Variety's A. D. Murphy praised Spielberg's directorial skills, and called Robert Shaw's performance "absolutely magnificent". According to The New Yorker's Pauline Kael, it was "the most cheerfully perverse scare movie ever made ... [with] more zest than an early Woody Allen picture, a lot more electricity, [and] it's funny in a Woody Allen sort of way". For New Times magazine, Frank Rich wrote, "Spielberg is blessed with a talent that is absurdly absent from most American filmmakers these days: this man actually knows how to tell a story on screen. ... It speaks well of this director's gifts that some of the most frightening sequences in Jaws are those where we don't even see the shark." Writing for New York magazine, Judith Crist described the film as "an exhilarating adventure entertainment of the highest order" and complimented its acting and "extraordinary technical achievements". Rex Reed praised the "nerve-frying" action scenes and concluded that "for the most part, Jaws is a gripping horror film that works beautifully in every department".
Vincent Canby of The New York Times wrote, "It's a measure of how the film operates that not once do we feel particular sympathy for any of the shark's victims. ... In the best films, characters are revealed in terms of the action. In movies like Jaws, characters are simply functions of the action ... like stage hands who move props around and deliver information when it's necessary". He did describe it as "the sort of nonsense that can be a good deal of fun". Los Angeles Times critic Charles Champlin disagreed with the film's PG rating, saying that "Jaws is too gruesome for children, and likely to turn the stomach of the impressionable at any age. ... It is a coarse-grained and exploitative work which depends on excess for its impact. Ashore it is a bore, awkwardly staged and lumpily written." Marcia Magill of Films in Review said that while Jaws "is eminently worth seeing for its second half", she felt that before the protagonists' pursuit of the shark the film was "often flawed by its busyness". William S. Pechter of Commentary described Jaws as "a mind-numbing repast for sense-sated gluttons" and "filmmaking of this essentially manipulative sort"; Molly Haskell of The Village Voice similarly characterized it as a "scare machine that works with computer-like precision. ... You feel like a rat, being given shock therapy". The most frequently criticized aspect of the film has been the artificiality of its mechanical antagonist: Magill declared that "the programmed shark has one truly phony close-up", and in 2002, online reviewer James Berardinelli said that if not for Spielberg's deftly suspenseful direction, "we would be doubled over with laughter at the cheesiness of the animatronic creature." Halliwell's Film Guide stated that "despite genuinely suspenseful and frightening sequences, it is a slackly narrated and sometimes flatly handled thriller with an over-abundance of dialogue and, when it finally appears, a pretty unconvincing monster."
Jaws won three Academy Awards, those being for Best Film Editing, Best Original Dramatic Score, and Best Sound (Robert Hoyt, Roger Heman, Earl Madery, and John Carter). It was also nominated for Best Picture, losing to One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Spielberg greatly resented the fact that he was not nominated for Best Director. Along with the Oscar, John Williams's score won the Grammy Award, the BAFTA Award for Best Film Music, and the Golden Globe Award. To her Academy Award, Verna Fields added the American Cinema Editors' Eddie Award for Best Edited Feature Film.
Jaws was chosen Favorite Movie at the People's Choice Awards. It was also nominated for best Film, Director, Actor (Richard Dreyfuss), Editing, and Sound at the 29th British Academy Film Awards, and Best Film—Drama, Director, and Screenplay at the 33rd Golden Globe Awards. Spielberg was nominated by the Directors Guild of America for a DGA Award, and the Writers Guild of America nominated Peter Benchley and Carl Gottlieb's script for Best Adapted Drama.
In the years since its release, Jaws has frequently been cited by film critics and industry professionals as one of the greatest movies of all time. It was number 48 on American Film Institute's 100 Years ... 100 Movies, a list of the greatest American films of all time compiled in 1998; it dropped to number 56 on the 10th Anniversary list. AFI also ranked the shark at number 18 on its list of the 50 Best Villains, Roy Scheider's line "You're gonna need a bigger boat" 35th on a list of top 100 movie quotes, Williams's score at sixth on a list of 100 Years of Film Scores, and the film as second on a list of 100 most thrilling films, behind only Psycho. In 2003, The New York Times included the film on its list of the best 1,000 movies ever made. The following year, Jaws placed at the top of the Bravo network's five-hour miniseries The 100 Scariest Movie Moments. The Chicago Film Critics Association named it the sixth-scariest film ever made in 2006. In 2008, Jaws was ranked the fifth-greatest film in history by Empire magazine, which also placed Quint at number 50 on its list of the 100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time. The film has been cited in many other lists of 50 and 100 greatest films, including ones compiled by Leonard Maltin, Entertainment Weekly, Film4, Rolling Stone, Total Film, TV Guide, and Vanity Fair.
In 2001, the United States Library of Congress selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry, recognizing it as a landmark horror film and the first "summer movie". In 2006, its screenplay was ranked the 63rd-best of all time by the Writers Guild of America. In 2012, the Motion Picture Editors Guild listed the film as the eighth best-edited film of all time based on a survey of its membership.
Jaws was key in establishing the benefits of a wide national release backed by heavy television advertising, rather than the traditional progressive release in which a film slowly entered new markets and built support over time. Saturation booking, in which a film opens simultaneously at thousands of theaters, and massive media buys are now commonplace for the major Hollywood studios. According to Peter Biskind, Jaws "diminished the importance of print reviews, making it virtually impossible for a film to build slowly, finding its audience by dint of mere quality. ... Moreover, Jaws whet corporate appetites for big profits quickly, which is to say, studios wanted every film to be Jaws." Scholar Thomas Schatz writes that it "recalibrated the profit potential of the Hollywood hit, and redefined its status as a marketable commodity and cultural phenomenon as well. The film brought an emphatic end to Hollywood's five-year recession, while ushering in an era of high-cost, high-tech, high-speed thrillers."
Jaws also played a major part in establishing summer as the prime season for the release of studios' biggest box-office contenders, their intended blockbusters; winter had long been the time when most hoped-for hits were distributed, while summer was largely reserved for dumping films thought likely to be poor performers. Jaws and Star Wars are regarded as marking the beginning of the new U.S. film industry business model dominated by "high-concept" pictures — with premises that can be easily described and marketed — as well as the beginning of the end of the New Hollywood period, which saw auteur films increasingly disregarded in favor of profitable big-budget pictures. The New Hollywood era was defined by the relative autonomy filmmakers were able to attain within the major studio system; in Biskind's description, "Spielberg was the Trojan horse through which the studios began to reassert their power."
The film had broader cultural repercussions, as well. Similar to the way the pivotal scene in 1960's Psycho made showers a new source of anxiety, Jaws led many viewers to fear going into the ocean. Reduced beach attendance in 1975 was attributed to it, as well as more reported shark sightings. It is still seen as responsible for perpetuating negative stereotypes about sharks and their behavior, and for producing the so-called "Jaws effect", which allegedly inspired "legions of fishermen [who] piled into boats and killed thousands of the ocean predators in shark-fishing tournaments." Benchley stated that he would not have written the original novel had he known what sharks are really like in the wild. Conservation groups have bemoaned the fact that the film has made it considerably harder to convince the public that sharks should be protected.
Jaws set the template for many subsequent horror films, to the extent that the script for Ridley Scott's 1979 science fiction film Alien was pitched to studio executives as "Jaws in space". Many films based on man-eating animals, usually aquatic, were released through the 1970s and 1980s, such as Orca, Grizzly, Mako: The Jaws of Death, Barracuda, Alligator, Day of the Animals, Tintorera, and Eaten Alive. Spielberg declared Piranha, directed by Joe Dante and written by John Sayles, "the best of the Jaws ripoffs". Among the various foreign mockbusters based on Jaws, three came from Italy: Great White, which inspired a plagiarism lawsuit by Universal and was even marketed in some countries as a part of the Jaws franchise; Monster Shark, featured in Mystery Science Theater 3000 under the title Devil Fish; and Deep Blood, which blends in a supernatural element. The 2009 Japanese horror film Psycho Shark was released in the United States as Jaws in Japan.
Richard Dreyfuss made a cameo appearance in the 2010 film Piranha 3D, a loose remake of the 1978 film. Dreyfuss plays Matt Boyd, a fisherman who is the first victim of the title creatures. Dreyfuss later stated that his character was a parody and a near-reincarnation of Matt Hooper, his character in Jaws. During his appearance, Dreyfuss's character listens to the song "Show Me the Way to Go Home" on the radio, which Hooper, Quint and Brody sing together aboard the Orca.
Martha's Vineyard celebrated the film's 30th anniversary in 2005 with a "JawsFest" festival, which had a second edition in 2012. An independent group of fans produced the feature-length documentary The Shark Is Still Working, featuring interviews with the film's cast and crew. Narrated by Roy Scheider and dedicated to Peter Benchley, who died in 2006, it debuted at the 2009 Los Angeles United Film Festival.
On March 24, 2020, it was announced that Donna Feore will direct and choreograph Bruce, the musical retelling of the behind-the-scenes story of Jaws, with Richard Oberacker writing the musical book and lyrics and Robert Taylor working on the music and is set to premiere from June to July 2021 at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey.
On November 20, 2020, a replica of the shark, also called "Bruce", was lifted into place at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in preparation for the museum's April 2021 opening. It was expected to be a major attraction. Greg Nicotero spent seven months restoring Bruce, which had been created after the original three sharks were destroyed and was on display for 15 years at Universal Studios Hollywood. Bruce then spent 25 years in a junkyard, until the owner donated the shark to the museum in 2016.
The first ever LaserDisc title marketed in North America was the MCA DiscoVision release of Jaws in 1978. A second LaserDisc was released in 1992, before a third and final version came out under MCA/Universal Home Video's Signature Collection imprint in 1995. This release was an elaborate box-set that included deleted scenes and outtakes, a new two-hour documentary on the making of the film directed and produced by Laurent Bouzereau, a copy of the novel Jaws, and a CD of the soundtrack by John Williams.
MCA Home Video first released Jaws on VHS in 1980. For the film's 20th anniversary in 1995, MCA Universal Home Video issued a new Collector's Edition tape featuring a making-of retrospective. This release sold 800,000 units in North America. Another, final VHS release, marking the film's 25th anniversary in 2000, came with a companion tape containing a documentary, deleted scenes, outtakes, and a trailer.
Jaws was first released on DVD in 2000 for the film's 25th anniversary, accompanied by a massive publicity campaign. It featured a 50-minute documentary on the making of the film (an edited version of that featured on the 1995 LaserDisc release), with interviews with Spielberg, Scheider, Dreyfuss, Benchley, and other cast and crew members. Other extras included deleted scenes, outtakes, trailers, production photos, and storyboards. The DVD shipped one million copies in just one month. In June 2005, a 30th anniversary edition was released at the JawsFest festival on Martha's Vineyard. The new DVD had many extras seen in previous home video releases, including the full two-hour Bouzereau documentary, and a previously unavailable interview with Spielberg conducted on the set of Jaws in 1974. On the second JawsFest in August 2012, the Blu-ray Disc of Jaws was released, with over four hours of extras, including The Shark Is Still Working. The Blu-ray release was part of the celebrations of Universal's 100th anniversary, and debuted at fourth place in the charts, with over 362,000 units sold. The film was released on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray on 1 June 2020.
Adaptations and merchandise
The film has inspired two theme park rides: one at Universal Studios Florida, which closed in January 2012, and one at Universal Studios Japan. There is also an animatronic version of a scene from the film on the Studio Tour at Universal Studios Hollywood. There have been at least two musical adaptations: JAWS The Musical!, which premiered in 2004 at the Minnesota Fringe Festival, and Giant Killer Shark: The Musical, which premiered in 2006 at the Toronto Fringe Festival. Three video games based on the film were released: 1987's Jaws, developed by LJN for the Nintendo Entertainment System; 2006's Jaws Unleashed by Majesco Entertainment for the Xbox, PlayStation 2, and PC; and 2011's Jaws: Ultimate Predator, also by Majesco, for the Nintendo 3DS and Wii. A mobile game was released in 2010 for the iPhone. Aristocrat made an officially licensed slot machine based on the movie.
In 2017, video game developer Zen Studios developed and released a virtual pinball adaptation of the film as part of the Universal Classics add-on pack for the virtual pinball game Pinball FX 3. This table features 3-D figures of Quint and Jaws, with the opportunity to play missions from either character's perspective.
Jaws spawned three sequels to declining critical favor and commercial performance. Their combined domestic grosses amount to barely half of the first film's. In October 1975, Spielberg declared to a film festival audience that "making a sequel to anything is just a cheap carny trick". Nonetheless, he did consider taking on the first sequel when its original director, John D. Hancock, was fired a few days into the shoot; ultimately, his obligations to Close Encounters of the Third Kind, which he was working on with Dreyfuss, made it impossible. Jaws 2 (1978) was eventually directed by Jeannot Szwarc; Scheider, Gary, Hamilton, and Jeffrey Kramer all reprised their roles. It is generally regarded as the best of the sequels. Jaws 3-D (1983) does not feature any of the original actors, although it was directed by Joe Alves, who had served as art director and production designer, respectively, on the two preceding films. Starring Dennis Quaid and Louis Gossett Jr., it was released to heavily negative reviews in 3D format. The effect did not transfer to television or home video, where it was renamed Jaws 3. Jaws: The Revenge (1987), directed by Joseph Sargent and starring Michael Caine and Lorraine Gary returning as Ellen Brody, is considered one of the worst movies ever made. While all three sequels made a profit at the box office (Jaws 2 and Jaws 3-D were among the top 20 highest-grossing films of their respective years), critics and audiences alike were largely dissatisfied with the films.
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The Tasman Bridge in Tasmania, Australia, is struck by the bulk ore carrier Lake Illawarra, killing twelve people
Tasman Bridge from east following collision, 1975
|Hobart, Tasmania, Australia|
|Hit by Lake Illawarra||5 January 1975|
|Derwent River, Hobart|
The Tasman Bridge disaster occurred on the evening of 5 January 1975, in Hobart, the capital city of Australia's island state of Tasmania, when a bulk ore carrier travelling up the Derwent River collided with several pylons of the Tasman Bridge, causing a large section of the bridge deck to collapse onto the ship and into the river below. Twelve people were killed, including seven crew on board the ship, and the five occupants of four cars which fell 45 m (150 feet) after driving off the bridge. Hobart was cut-off from its eastern suburbs, and the loss of the road connection had a major social impact. The ship’s master was officially penalised for inattention and failure to handle his vessel in a seamanlike manner.
Collision and collapse
The collision occurred at 9:27 p.m. (Australian Eastern Summer Time UTC+11) on Sunday 5 January 1975. The bulk carrier Lake Illawarra, carrying 10,000 tonnes of zinc ore concentrate, was heading up the Derwent River to offload its cargo to the Electrolytic Zinc Company at Risdon, upstream from Hobart and about 3 km from the bridge. The 1,025 m long main viaduct of the bridge was composed of a central main navigation span, two flanking secondary navigation spans, and 19 approach spans. The ship was off course as it neared the bridge, partly due to the strong tidal current but also because of inattention by the ship's master, Captain Boleslaw Pelc. Initially approaching the bridge at eight knots, Pelc slowed the ship to a 'safe' speed. Although the Lake Illawarra was capable of passing through the bridge's central navigation span, the captain attempted to pass through one of the eastern spans.
Despite several changes of course, the ship proved unmanageable due to its insufficient speed relative to the current. In desperation the captain ordered 'full speed astern', at which point all control was lost. The vessel drifted towards the bridge midway between the central navigation span and the eastern shore, crashing into the pile capping of piers 18 and 19, bringing three unsupported spans and a 127 m section of roadway crashing into the river and onto the vessel's deck. The ship listed to starboard and sank within minutes in 35 m of water a short distance to the south. Seven crew members on the Lake Illawarra were trapped and drowned. The subsequent marine court of inquiry found that the captain had not handled the ship in a proper and seamanlike manner, and his certificate was suspended for six months.
As the collision occurred on a Sunday evening, there was relatively little traffic on the bridge. While no cars were travelling between the 18th and 19th pylons when that section collapsed, four cars drove over the gap, killing five occupants. Two drivers managed to stop their vehicles at the edge, but not before their front wheels had dropped over the lip of the bridge deck. One of these cars contained Frank and Sylvia Manley.
Sylvia Manley: "As we approached, it was a foggy night ... there was no lights on the bridge at the time. We just thought there was an accident. We slowed down to about 40 km/h and I'm peering out the window, desperately looking to see the car ... what was happening on the bridge. We couldn't see anything but we kept on travelling. The next thing, I said to Frank, "The bridge is gone!" And he just applied the brakes and we just sat there swinging. As we sat there, we couldn't see anything in the water. All we could see was a big whirlpool of water and apparently the boat was sinking. So with that, we undid the car door and I hopped out."
Frank Manley: "[Sylvia] said "The white line, the white line's gone. Stop!" I just hit the brakes and I said "I can't, I can't, I can't stop." And next thing we just hung off the gap...when I swung the door open, I could see, more or less, see the water...and I just swung meself towards the back of the car and grabbed the headrest like that to pull myself around. There's a big automatic transmission pan underneath [the car] – that's what it balanced on."
The other car contained Murray Ling, his wife Helen and two of their children. They were driving over the bridge in the east-bound lanes when the span lights went out."I knew something bad must have happened so I slowed down". Ling then noticed several cars ahead of him seemingly disappear as they drove straight over the edge and slammed his foot on the brakes. He stopped the car inches from the drop. A following car, caught unaware by the unexpected stop, drove into the rear of Ling's car, pushing its front wheels over the breach. He, too, eased himself and his young family out of the car, then stood there horrified as two other cars ignored his attempts to wave them down, raced past, one of which actually swerved around to avoid him, and hurtled over the edge into the river. A loaded bus full of people swerved and skidded slamming into the side railings after being waved down by Ling.
Private citizens living nearby were on the scene early, even before the ship had sunk. Three of these were Jack Read in his H28 yacht Mermerus, David Read in a small launch, and Jerry Chamberlain, who had their boats moored in Montagu Bay close by. These and others, and many shore-based residents, were responsible for saving many of the crewmen from the Lake Illawarra. Those in small craft acted alone in very difficult circumstances with falling cement, live wires, and water from a broken pipe above, until the water police arrived on the scene. A large number of other organisations were involved in the emergency response, including police, ambulance service, fire brigade, Royal Hobart Hospital, Civil Defence, the Hobart Tug Company, Marine Board of Hobart, Public Works Department, Transport Commission, HydroElectric Commission, Hobart Regional Water Board, the Australian Army and the Royal Australian Navy. At 2:30 am, a 14-man Navy Clearance Diving Team flew to Hobart to assist Water Police in the recovery of the vehicles which had driven off the bridge. Two vehicles were identified on 7 January; one was salvaged that day and the second three days later. Another vehicle was found buried under rubble on 8 January.
A comprehensive survey of the wreck of the Lake Illawarra was completed by 13 January. The divers operated in hazardous conditions, with little visibility and strong river currents, contending with bridge debris such as shattered concrete, reinforced steel rods, railings, pipes, lights, wire and power cables. Strong winds on the third day brought down debris from the bridge above, including power cables, endangering the divers working below.
A total of 12 people died in the disaster: seven crew of the MV Lake Illawarra and five motorists.
A divided city
The collapse of Tasman Bridge isolated two sides of the city which had heavily relied upon it for most daily activities. 30% of Hobart's residents lived on the eastern shore and were effectively isolated. The day after the incident, as 30,000 residents set out for work, they found that the former three-minute commute over the bridge had turned into a 90-minute trip. Within an hour of the incident, the Sullivans Cove Ferry Company started services across the river, and continued its services throughout the night.
Three private ferries were in place the next day while the Sydney Ferries' Lady Wakehurst was also sent down to assist. People on the eastern shore quickly became isolated, as most schools, hospitals, businesses and government offices were located on the western shore. Prior to the disaster, many services on the eastern shore were severely lacking. Access to medical services in particular posed problems for residents in the east, as services consisted only of local clinics. Hobart's hospitals—the Royal Hobart Hospital and the Calvary Hospital—were located on the western shore. What was previously a short drive across the river became a 50 km (31 mi) trip via the estuary's other bridge in Bridgewater. Most of Hobart's cultural activities, such as theatres, cinemas, the museum and art gallery, restaurants, meeting places, lecture theatres and the botanical gardens, were located on the western shore.
The disaster caused a variety of social and psychological difficulties. Although comparatively minor in loss of life and damage, it presented a problem beyond the capacity of the community to resolve. The disaster had unique characteristics and occurred at a time when the effects of disasters on communities were not well understood. "Opportunities for the community to be involved in the response to the disaster and the physical restoration of infrastructure were minimal because of the nature of the event. It is likely that this lack of community involvement contributed to the enduring nature of the effects of the disaster on a number of individuals."
A study of police data found that in the six months after the disaster, crime rose 41% on the eastern shore, while the rate on the city's western side fell. Car theft rose almost 50% in the isolated community, and neighborhood quarrels and complaints rose 300%. Frustration and anger was directed towards the transport services. Visible progress on restoration of the bridge was slow because of the need for extensive underwater surveys of debris and the time required for design of the rebuilding. "The ferry queues did however provide some assistance by providing a forum where people with much in common could vent their frustration." A sociological study described how the physical isolation led to debonding (the setting aside of bonds that constitute the fabric of normal social life). The loss of the Tasman Bridge in Hobart disconnected two parts of the city and had far-reaching effects on the people separated.
The disaster was a major contributor to ferry services being the lifeline for people needing to cross the river for daily work. Bob Clifford was the major operator of ferries at the time, and quickly built more of his small aluminium craft, using his company Sullivans Cove Ferry Company. He later went on to become the major Tasmanian shipbuilder with a firm which continues today, called Incat.
Repairing the bridge
In March 1975, a Joint Tasman Bridge Restoration Commission was appointed to restore the Tasman Bridge. The Federal Government agreed to fund the project, which began in October that year. The reconstruction included modification of the whole bridge to accommodate an extra traffic lane, allowing for a peak period 'tidal flow' system of three lanes for major flow and two for the minor flow. Approximately one year after the bridge collapse, a temporary two lane Bailey bridge 788 m long, linking the eastern and western shores of the Derwent, was opened.
Specialists in marine engineering undertook an extensive investigation to locate bridge debris. This survey took several months to complete, and parts of the bridge weighing up to 500 tons were accurately located using equipment developed by the University of Tasmania and the Public Works Department. Maunsell and Partners were appointed consultants for the rebuilding project. The firm John Holland was awarded the construction contract. Engineers decided not to replace pier 19 as there was too much debris on the site. The Tasman Bridge was re-opened on 8 October 1977, nearly three years after its collapse. The annual expenditures on the Tasman Bridge reconstruction were $1.7 m in 1974–75; $12.3 m in 1975–76; $13.2 m in 1976–77 and $6.1m in 1977–78.
The engineering design of the Tasman Bridge provided impact absorbing fendering to the pile caps of the main navigation span capable of withstanding a glancing collision by a large ship, but all other piers were unprotected. This disaster shares some common features with the Skyway Bridge collapse in Florida in 1980, and the I-40 bridge disaster in Oklahoma in 2002, both involving collisions with ships. When river traffic "comprises large vessels, even at low speed, the consequences of pier failure can be catastrophic". In the field of structural engineering, the concept of ‘pier-redundant’ bridges refers to a bridge superstructure which does not collapse when a single pier is removed. Two ‘pier-redundant’ bridges have been constructed in Australia – over the Murray River at Berri and at Hindmarsh Island in South Australia. The probability of ship impact is now regularly evaluated by specialist consultants when designing major bridges. One solution is to protect bridge piers through strengthening or the construction of impact-resistant barriers.
The disaster resulted in changes to the regulations pertaining to shipping movements on the Derwent River. In 1987, a system of sensors measuring river currents, tidal height, and wind speed was installed near the bridge to provide data for ship movements in the area. The Marine and Safety (Pilotage and Navigation) Regulations (2007) contains specific provisions dealing with the Bridge, e.g.:
"The master of a vessel approaching the Bridge to navigate it through a span must (a) have the vessel fully under control; and (b) navigate the vessel with all possible care at the minimum speed required to pass safely under the bridge".
Vessels above a certain size are required to be piloted, and vehicle movements on the bridge are temporarily halted when large vessels are to pass underneath the bridge. As an added precaution, it is now mandatory for most large vessels to have a tug in attendance as they transit the bridge in the event that assistance with steerage may be required.
Development on the eastern shore
The disaster stimulated development in Kingborough, a municipality south of Hobart on the western shore, because of the reduced travel times for western shore workers compared to the eastern shore. The eastern shore eventually became a more self-contained community, with a higher level of employment and improved services and amenities, than had been the case prior to the disaster. The previous imbalance between facilities and employment opportunities was redressed as a result of the disaster.
A small service, led by members of the Tasmanian Council of Churches, was held on the occasion of the reopening on Saturday 8 October 1977. A large memorial service was eventually held 25 years after the disaster, in January 2000. In his address to the gathering, the Tasmanian Premier Jim Bacon stated that some people were still struggling with the memories of its effects, and he commended the resilience of the community in coping with the disaster. The Governor at the time, Sir Guy Green, described the pain and loss of loved ones and the social and economic disruption. He paid tribute to the efforts of emergency services personnel in responding to the disaster. He said that the "eastern shore had emerged more self-sufficient in the wake of the tragedy" and that "Tasmanians were now stronger, more self-reliant and mature". A plaque commemorating the tragedy was affixed to the main bridge support on the eastern shoreline.
- "The Tasman Bridge Collapse". Emergency Management Australia. Archived from the original on 7 October 2007. Retrieved 30 September 2008.
- "Tasmanian Shipwrecks". Oceans Enterprises. Retrieved 2 October 2008.
- "The Monaro Man". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. March 2002. Retrieved 2 October 2008.
- "Tasman Bridge". Australia Network. 15 January 2007. Retrieved 2 October 2008.
- "Australian Maritime Issues 2005" (PDF). Royal Australian Navy. 13 April 2006. Archived from the original (PDF) on 30 December 2008. Retrieved 30 September 2008.
- Lee, T (1981). Adjustment in the Urban System: The Tasman Bridge Collapse and Its Effects Upon Metropolitan Hobart. Pergamon.
- "The Bridge of Sighs". Time Magazine. 16 August 1976. Retrieved 3 October 2008.
- Lady Wakehurst (ferry) in Sullivans Cove, Hobart
- "Tasmanian Year Book 2000". Australian Bureau of Statistics. December 2006. Retrieved 30 September 2008.
- "Tasman Bridge Disaster: 25th Anniversary Memorial Service" (PDF). Emergency Management Australia. 13 March 2001. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 March 2012. Retrieved 18 June 2012.
- Gordon, R. "The Social Dimension of Disaster Recovery" (PDF). Recovery. Emergency Management Australia. p. 111. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 March 2012. Retrieved 18 June 2012.
- "Tasman Bridge Statistics". Government of Tasmania. Retrieved 30 September 2008.
- "Tasman Bridge Disaster". Government of Tasmania. Retrieved 30 September 2008.
- "Australian Road Financing Statistics 1970–1980" (PDF). Bureau of Transport Economics. 9 March 2001. Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 July 2008. Retrieved 30 September 2008.
- "Safety First for Bridge Design" (PDF). , republished by Cambridge University Dept of Engineering. 3 May 2004. Retrieved 5 October 2008.
- "Collapse resistance and robustness of bridges" (PDF). International Association for Bridge Maintenance Safety and Management. 1 April 2008. Retrieved 5 October 2008.
- Holbrook, Martin (1999). "Real Time System to Aid Vessel Manoeuvering in the Derwent River". Coasts & Ports 1999: Challenges and Directions for the New Century; Proceedings of the 14Th Australasian Coastal and Ocean Engineering Conference and the 7Th Australasian Port and Harbour Conference. Engineers Australia: 279. Retrieved 5 January 2019.
- "Marine and Safety (Pilotage and Navigation) Regulations". Government of Tasmania. Retrieved 5 October 2008.
- Lewis, T. By Derwent Divided: the story of Lake Illawarra, the Tasman Bridge and the 1975 disaster. Darwin: Tall Stories, 1999. ISBN 0-9577351-1-1
- Ludeke, M. Ten events shaping Tasmania's history. Hobart, Tas. : Ludeke, 2006 ISBN 0-9579284-2-4
- Johnson, S. "Over the Edge!" Reader's Digest, Nov. 1977.
- The Severed Artery
- Clarence City Council on disaster
- Australia Network news page
- Statistics on the bridge
A bomb explodes at LaGuardia Airport in New York City, killing 11 people and injuring 74.
|1975 LaGuardia Airport bombing|
|Location||Queens, New York City|
|Date||December 29, 1975 |
6:33 pm (local time)
|Target||La Guardia Airport|
|Bombing, mass murder|
On December 29, 1975, a bomb detonated near the TWA baggage reclaim terminal at LaGuardia Airport in New York City. The blast killed 11 people and seriously injured 74. The perpetrators were never identified. The attack occurred during a four-year period of heightened terrorism within the United States: 1975 was especially volatile, with bombings in New York City and Washington, D.C., and two assassination attempts on President Gerald Ford.
The LaGuardia Airport bombing was at the time the deadliest attack by a non-state actor to occur on American soil since the 1927 Bath School bombings, which killed 44 people. It was the deadliest attack in New York City since the 1920 Wall Street bombing, which killed 38 people, until the September 11 attacks in 2001.
The bomb exploded at approximately 6:33 p.m. in the TWA baggage claim area in the central terminal. Investigators later came to believe the equivalent of 25 sticks of dynamite had been placed in a coin-operated locker located next to the baggage carousels. The bomb blew the lockers apart, sending fragmentation flying across the room; the fragmentation caused all 11 deaths and injured several people. Others were injured by shards of glass broken off the terminal's plate glass windows. The force of the bomb ripped a 10-by-15-foot (3.0 by 4.6 m) hole in the 8-inch (20 cm) reinforced concrete ceiling of the baggage claim area. The subsequent fire in the terminal took over an hour to get under control.
The death toll could have been much worse if the area had not been largely clear of passengers at the time; two flights from Cincinnati and Indianapolis had arrived at 6:00 p.m. and most of the passengers on these flights had already left the area. Most of the dead and injured were airport employees, people waiting for transportation, and limo drivers.
– Mike Schimmel, a businessman who had been in a limo outside when the terminal blew up and who went into the terminal shortly afterward.
One witness, 27-year-old Indianapolis lawyer H. Patrick Callahan, was with his law partner at the time of the bombing. "My law partner and I had gone outside to see where the limo was...We had just gone back and we were leaning against one of those big columns. The people who died were standing next to us," said Callahan. When Callahan awakened, all he could see was dust, and he could not even see his companion, who was two feet away at the time. The blast damaged Callahan's hearing, which did not return for a week. "The bomb appeared to have been placed in the lockers directly adjacent to the carousel that the luggage was on...It was evil," said Callahan.
The bombing was condemned by Pope Paul VI and President Ford. Ford said he was "deeply grieved at the loss of life and injuries". He cut short his vacation in Vail, Colorado, and ordered FAA head John McLucas to look into ways of tightening airport security. Then Mayor of New York City Abraham Beame said the bombing "was the work of maniacs. We will hunt them down."
Queens Chief of Detectives Edwin Dreher led the investigation. Dreher was less than 2 miles (3 km) from LaGuardia investigating a drug-related murder in the Astoria neighborhood when he heard about the bombing. He immediately went to the airport and summoned by radio all available detectives from the five boroughs, launching at the time the largest criminal investigation in the NYPD's history. The investigation included 120 NYPD detectives, 600 FBI agents, ATF agents, and Port Authority investigators, who concluded that the bomb was made of either TNT or plastic explosives and was controlled by household items such as a Westclox alarm clock and an Eveready 6-volt lantern battery. One of the leads suggested was a paroled political activist who had been imprisoned for a previous bombing. The activist's brother had been arrested at LaGuardia on a fraud charge the day before the bombing. Subsequent investigations showed that the activist had an alibi and was ruled out as a suspect.
The investigation may have been hampered by the cleanup operation where victims and debris were removed from the scene.
Following the attack, telephone calls were made to several US airports warning them of further attacks, but these were hoaxes. In addition, an anonymous person called the news agency UPI claiming to be from the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and responsibility for the attack. However, the PLO spokesman at the United Nations denied all responsibility and condemned "the dastardly attack against the innocent people at LaGuardia". The PLO believed the call linking it to the bombing was an attempt to sabotage talks at the UN scheduled for January 12 regarding the plight of Palestinians.
Other suggested perpetrators included the Mafia, the F.A.L.N. (who were responsible for the bombing of New York's Fraunces Tavern in January 1975), and the Jewish Defense League, though there was nothing to link these groups to the bombing other than past violence.
Since there was no credible claim of responsibility, investigators concluded the bomb had gone off at the wrong time and that the intent had been for it to detonate either 12 hours earlier or later, when the area would have been nearly clear of people. John Schindler, writing for The Observer, suggested the Yugoslav State Security Administration (UDBA or UDSA) orchestrated the bombing as a false flag attack as part of an ongoing effort to discredit Croatian dissidents.
- Crime in New York City
- Domestic terrorism in the United States
- List of terrorist incidents in 1975
- List of unsolved murders
- Joseph T. McCann (2006). Terrorism on American soil : a concise history of plots and perpetrators from the famous to the forgotten. pp. 119–121. ISBN 9781591810490.
- Baker, Al (August 9, 2008). "Terrorist's Release Reopens Wound of Unsolved Bombing". The New York Times.
- "11 dead in LaGuardia bombing", Beaver County News, Beaver, pp. A3, December 30, 1975
- "LaGuardia Christmas bombing remains unsolved 27 years later". CNN.com. December 24, 2002.
- Springer, John (December 24, 2002). "LaGuardia Christmas bombing remains unsolved 27 years later". Court TV. Archived from the original on May 22, 2008. Retrieved July 11, 2013.
- "Firm Clues are lacking in LaGuardia airport blast", The Day, New London, p. 4, December 29, 1975
- Schindler, John (January 4, 2016). "Why Hasn't Washington Explained the 1975 LaGuardia Airport Bombing?". The Observer.
- "LaGuardia Reopens, Airport Security Up", Pittsburgh Press, p. 1, December 31, 1975
- "Why Some Terrorist Attacks Go Unsolved". Slate.com. April 18, 2013.
Suriname gains independence from the Netherlands.
Republic of Suriname
Republiek Suriname (Dutch)
Anthem: God zij met ons Suriname (Dutch)
(English: "God be with our Suriname")
Location of Suriname (dark green)
in South America (grey)
and largest city
|Recognised regional languages|
|Ethnic groups |
|Chan Santokhi (VHP)|
|Ronnie Brunswijk (ABOP)|
|15 December 1954|
• from the Kingdom of the Netherlands
|25 November 1975|
• current constitution
|30 September 1987|
|163,821 km2 (63,252 sq mi) (90th)|
• Water (%)
• July 2018 estimate
• 2012 census
|2.9/km2 (7.5/sq mi) (231st)|
|GDP (PPP)||2019 estimate|
• Per capita
|GDP (nominal)||2019 estimate|
• Per capita
|HDI (2019)|| 0.738|
high · 97th
|Currency||Surinamese dollar (SRD)|
|Time zone||UTC-3 (SRT)|
|ISO 3166 code||SR|
Suriname (//, US also /-/, sometimes spelled Surinam), officially known as the Republic of Suriname (Dutch: Republiek Suriname [reːpyˌblik syːriˈnaːmə]), is a country on the northeastern Atlantic coast of South America. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the north, French Guiana to the east, Guyana to the west and Brazil to the south. At just under 165,000 square kilometers (64,000 square miles), it is the smallest sovereign state in South America.[note 1] Suriname has a population of approximately 575,990, most of whom live on the country's north coast, in and around the capital and largest city, Paramaribo.
Situated slightly north of the Equator, Suriname is a tropical country dominated by rain forests. Its extensive tree cover is vital to the country's efforts to mitigate climate change and maintain carbon negativity.[note 2] A developing country with a high level of human development, Suriname's economy is heavily dependent on its abundant natural resources, namely bauxite, gold, petroleum and agricultural products.
Suriname was inhabited as early as the fourth millennium BC by various indigenous peoples, including the Arawaks, Caribs, and Wayana. Europeans arrived in the 16th century, with the Dutch establishing control over much of the country's current territory by the late 17th century. During the Dutch colonial period, Suriname was a lucrative source of sugar, its plantation economy driven by African slave labor and, after abolition of slavery in 1863, indentured servants from Asia. In 1954, Suriname became one of the constituent countries of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. On 25 November 1975, Suriname left the Kingdom to become an independent state, nonetheless maintaining close economic, diplomatic, and cultural ties to its former colonizer.
Suriname is considered to be a culturally Caribbean country, and is a member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). Suriname is the only sovereign nation outside Europe where Dutch is the official and prevailing language of government, business, media, and education. Sranan Tongo, an English-based creole language, is a widely used lingua franca. As a legacy of centuries of colonialism, the people of Suriname are among the most diverse in the world, spanning a multitude of ethnic, religious, and linguistic groups.
The name Suriname may derive from an indigenous people called Surinen, who inhabited the area at the time of European contact. It may also be derived from a corruption of the name "Surryham" which was the name given to the Suriname River by Lord Willoughby in honour of the Earl of Surrey when an English colony was established under a grant from King Charles II.
When the territory was taken over by the Dutch, it became part of a group of colonies known as Dutch Guiana. The official spelling of the country's English name was changed from "Surinam" to "Suriname" in January 1978, but "Surinam" can still be found in English; a notable example is Suriname's national airline, Surinam Airways. The older English name is reflected in the English pronunciation, / - /,. In Dutch, the official language of Suriname, the pronunciation is [ˌsyriˈnaːmə], with the main stress on the third syllable and a schwa terminal vowel.
Indigenous settlement of Suriname dates back to 3,000 BC. The largest tribes were the Arawak, a nomadic coastal tribe that lived from hunting and fishing. They were the first inhabitants in the area. The Carib also settled in the area and conquered the Arawak by using their superior sailing ships. They settled in Galibi (Kupali Yumï, meaning "tree of the forefathers") at the mouth of the Marowijne River. While the larger Arawak and Carib tribes lived along the coast and savanna, smaller groups of indigenous people lived in the inland rainforest, such as the Akurio, Trió, Warrau, and Wayana.
Beginning in the 16th century, French, Spanish and English explorers visited the area. A century later, Dutch and English settlers established plantation colonies along the many rivers in the fertile Guiana plains. The earliest documented colony in Guiana was an English settlement named Marshall's Creek along the Suriname River. After that there was another short-lived English colony called Willoughbyland that lasted from 1650 to 1674.
Disputes arose between the Dutch and the English for control of this territory. In 1667, during negotiations leading to the Treaty of Breda after the Second Anglo-Dutch War, the Dutch decided to keep the nascent plantation colony of Suriname they had gained from the English. In return the English kept New Amsterdam, the main city of the former colony of New Netherland in North America on the mid-Atlantic coast. The British renamed it after the Duke of York: New York City.
In 1683, the Society of Suriname was founded by the city of Amsterdam, the Van Aerssen van Sommelsdijck family, and the Dutch West India Company. The society was chartered to manage and defend the colony. The planters of the colony relied heavily on African slaves to cultivate, harvest and process the commodity crops of coffee, cocoa, sugar cane and cotton plantations along the rivers. Planters' treatment of the slaves was notoriously brutal even by the standards of the time—historian C. R. Boxer wrote that "man's inhumanity to man just about reached its limits in Surinam"—and many slaves escaped the plantations. In November 1795, the Society was nationalized by the Batavian Republic and from then on, the Batavian Republic and its legal successors (the Kingdom of Holland and the Kingdom of the Netherlands) governed the territory as a national colony, barring a period of British occupation between 1799 and 1802, and between 1804 and 1816.
With the help of the native South Americans living in the adjoining rain forests, these runaway slaves established a new and unique culture in the interior that was highly successful in its own right. They were known collectively in English as Maroons, in French as Nèg'Marrons (literally meaning "brown negroes", that is "pale-skinned negroes"), and in Dutch as Marrons. The Maroons gradually developed several independent tribes through a process of ethnogenesis, as they were made up of slaves from different African ethnicities. These tribes include the Saramaka, Paramaka, Ndyuka or Aukan, Kwinti, Aluku or Boni, and Matawai.
The Maroons often raided plantations to recruit new members from the slaves and capture women, as well as to acquire weapons, food and supplies. They sometimes killed planters and their families in the raids; colonists built defenses, which were so important they were shown on 18th-century maps.
The colonists also mounted armed campaigns against the Maroons, who generally escaped through the rain forest, which they knew much better than did the colonists. To end hostilities, in the 18th century the European colonial authorities signed several peace treaties with different tribes. They granted the Maroons sovereign status and trade rights in their inland territories, giving them autonomy.
Abolition of slavery
From 1861 to 1863, with the American Civil War underway, and enslaved people escaping to Northern territory controlled by the Union, United States President Abraham Lincoln and his administration looked abroad for places to relocate people who were freed from enslavement and who wanted to leave the United States. It opened negotiations with the Dutch government regarding African-American emigration to and colonization of the Dutch colony of Suriname. Nothing came of the idea, and the idea was dropped after 1864.
The Netherlands abolished slavery in Suriname in 1863, under a gradual process that required enslaved people to work on plantations for 10 transition years for minimal pay, which was considered as partial compensation for their masters. After that transition period expired in 1873, most freedmen largely abandoned the plantations where they had worked for several generations in favor of the capital city, Paramaribo. Some of them bought the plantation they worked on, especially in the district of Para and Coronie. Their descendants still live on those grounds today. Several plantation owners did not pay their former enslaved workers the pay they owed them for the ten years after 1863. They paid the workers with the property rights of the ground of the plantation to get out of debt.
As a plantation colony, Suriname had an economy dependent on labor-intensive commodity crops. To make up for a shortage of labor, the Dutch recruited and transported contract or indentured laborers from the Dutch East Indies (modern Indonesia) and India (the latter through an arrangement with the British, who then ruled the area). In addition, during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, small numbers of laborers, mostly men, were recruited from China and the Middle East.
During World War II, on 23 November 1941, under an agreement with the Netherlands government-in-exile, the United States occupied Suriname to protect the bauxite mines to support the Allies' war effort. In 1942, the Dutch government-in-exile began to review the relations between the Netherlands and its colonies in terms of the post-war period.
In 1954, Suriname became one of the constituent countries of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, along with the Netherlands Antilles and the Netherlands. In this construction, the Netherlands retained control of its defense and foreign affairs. In 1974, the local government, led by the National Party of Suriname (NPS) (whose membership was largely Creole, meaning ethnically African or mixed African-European) started negotiations with the Dutch government leading towards full independence, which was granted on 25 November 1975. A large part of Suriname's economy for the first decade following independence was fueled by foreign aid provided by the Dutch government.
The first President of the country was Johan Ferrier, the former governor, with Henck Arron (the then leader of the NPS) as Prime Minister. In the years leading up to independence, nearly one-third of the population of Suriname emigrated to the Netherlands, amidst concern that the new country would fare worse under independence than it had as a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Surinamese politics did degenerate into ethnic polarisation and corruption soon after independence, with the NPS using Dutch aid money for partisan purposes. Its leaders were accused of fraud in the 1977 elections, in which Arron won a further term, and the discontent was such that a large portion[clarification needed] of the population fled to the Netherlands, joining the already significant Surinamese community there.
1980 military coup
On 25 February 1980, a military coup overthrew Arron's government. It was initiated by a group of 16 sergeants, led by Dési Bouterse. Opponents of the military regime attempted counter-coups in April 1980, August 1980, 15 March 1981, and again on 12 March 1982. The first counter attempt was led by Fred Ormskerk, the second by Marxist-Leninists, the third by Wilfred Hawker, and the fourth by Surendre Rambocus.
Hawker escaped from prison during the fourth counter-coup attempt, but he was captured and summarily executed. Between 2 am and 5 am on 7 December 1982, the military, under the leadership of Dési Bouterse, rounded up 13 prominent citizens who had criticized the military dictatorship and held them at Fort Zeelandia in Paramaribo. The dictatorship had all these men executed over the next three days, along with Rambocus and Jiwansingh Sheombar (who was also involved in the fourth counter-coup attempt).
Civil war, elections, and constitution
The brutal civil war between the Suriname army and Maroons loyal to rebel leader Ronnie Brunswijk, begun in 1986, continued and its effects further weakened Bouterse's position during the 1990s. Due to the civil war, more than 10,000 Surinamese, mostly Maroons, fled to French Guiana in the late 1980s.
National elections were held in 1987. The National Assembly adopted a new constitution that allowed Bouterse to remain in charge of the army. Dissatisfied with the government, Bouterse summarily dismissed the ministers in 1990, by telephone. This event became popularly known as the "Telephone Coup". His power began to wane after the 1991 elections.
On 19 July 2010, the former dictator Dési Bouterse returned to power when he was elected as the president of Suriname. Before his election in 2010, he, along with 24 others, had been charged with the murders of 15 prominent dissidents in the December murders. However, in 2012, two months before the verdict in the trial, the National Assembly extended its amnesty law and provided Bouterse and the others with amnesty of these charges. He was reelected on 14 July 2015. However, Bouterse was convicted by a Surinamese court on 29 November 2019 and given a 20-year sentence for his role in the 1982 killings.
After winning the 2020 elections, Chan Santokhi was the sole nomination for president of Suriname. On 13 July, Santokhi was elected president by acclamation in an uncontested election. He was inaugurated on 16 July in ceremony without public due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Republic of Suriname is a representative democratic republic, based on the Constitution of 1987. The legislative branch of government consists of a 51-member unicameral National Assembly, simultaneously and popularly elected for a five-year term.
In the elections held on Tuesday, 25 May 2010, the Megacombinatie won 23 of the National Assembly seats followed by Nationale Front with 20 seats. A much smaller number, important for coalition-building, went to the "A‑combinatie" and to the Volksalliantie. The parties held negotiations to form coalitions. Elections were held on 25 May 2015, and the National Assembly again elected Desire Bouterse as president.
The president of Suriname is elected for a five-year term by a two-thirds majority of the National Assembly. If at least two-thirds of the National Assembly cannot agree to vote for one presidential candidate, a People's Assembly is formed from all National Assembly delegates and regional and municipal representatives who were elected by popular vote in the most recent national election. The president may be elected by a majority of the People's Assembly called for the special election.
As head of government, the president appoints a sixteen-minister cabinet. A vice president is normally elected for a five-year term at the same time as the president, by a simple majority in the National Assembly or People's Assembly. There is no constitutional provision for removal or replacement of the president, except in the case of resignation.
The judiciary is headed by the High Court of Justice of Suriname (Supreme Court). This court supervises the magistrate courts. Members are appointed for life by the president in consultation with the National Assembly, the State Advisory Council, and the National Order of Private Attorneys.
President Dési Bouterse was convicted and sentenced in the Netherlands to 11 years of imprisonment for drug trafficking. He is the main suspect in the court case concerning the December murders, the 1982 assassination of opponents of military rule in Fort Zeelandia, Paramaribo. These two cases still strain relations between the Netherlands and Suriname.
Due to Suriname's Dutch colonial history, Suriname had a long-standing special relationship with the Netherlands. The Dutch government has stated that it will maintain limited contact with the president.
Bouterse was elected as president of Suriname in 2010. The Netherlands in July 2014 dropped Suriname as a member of its development program.
Since 1991, the United States has maintained positive relations with Suriname. The two countries work together through the (CBSI) and the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Suriname also receives military funding from the U.S. Department of Defense.
European Union relations and cooperation with Suriname are carried out both on a bilateral and a regional basis. There are ongoing EU-Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and EU-CARIFORUM dialogues. Suriname is party to the Cotonou Agreement, the partnership agreement among the members of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States and the European Union.
On 17 February 2005, the leaders of Barbados and Suriname signed the "Agreement for the deepening of bilateral cooperation between the Government of Barbados and the Government of the Republic of Suriname." On 23–24 April 2009, both nations formed a Joint Commission in Paramaribo, Suriname, to improve relations and to expand into various areas of cooperation. They held a second meeting toward this goal on 3–4 March 2011, in Dover, Barbados. Their representatives reviewed issues of agriculture, trade, investment, as well as international transport.
In the late 2000s, Suriname intensified development cooperation with other developing countries. China's South-South cooperation with Suriname has included a number of large-scale infrastructure projects, including port rehabilitation and road construction. Brazil signed agreements to cooperate with Suriname in education, health, agriculture, and energy production.
The Armed Forces of Suriname have three branches: the Army, the Air Force, and the Navy. The president of the Republic, Chan Santokhi, is the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces (Opperbevelhebber van de Strijdkrachten). The president is assisted by the minister of defence. Beneath the president and minister of defence is the commander of the armed forces (Bevelhebber van de Strijdkrachten). The military branches and regional military commands report to the commander.
After the creation of the Statute of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the Royal Netherlands Army was entrusted with the defense of Suriname, while the defense of the Netherlands Antilles was the responsibility of the Royal Netherlands Navy. The army set up a separate Troepenmacht in Suriname (Forces in Suriname, TRIS). Upon independence in 1975, this force was turned into the Surinaamse Krijgsmacht (SKM):, Surinamese Armed Forces. On 25 February 1980, a group of 15 non-commissioned officers and one junior SKM officer, under the leadership of Dési Bouterse, overthrew the government. Subsequently, the SKM was rebranded as Nationaal Leger (NL), National Army.
In 1965, the Dutch and Americans used Suriname's Coronie site for multiple Nike Apache sounding rocket launches.
The country is divided into ten administrative districts, each headed by a district commissioner appointed by the president, who also has the power of dismissal. Suriname is further subdivided into 62 resorts (ressorten).
|District||Capital||Area (km2)||Area (%)||Population
|Population (%)||Pop. dens. (inhabitants/km2)|
Suriname is the smallest independent country in South America. Situated on the Guiana Shield, it lies mostly between latitudes 1° and 6°N, and longitudes 54° and 58°W. The country can be divided into two main geographic regions. The northern, lowland coastal area (roughly above the line Albina-Paranam-Wageningen) has been cultivated, and most of the population lives here. The southern part consists of tropical rainforest and sparsely inhabited savanna along the border with Brazil, covering about 80% of Suriname's land surface.
The two main mountain ranges are the Bakhuys Mountains and the Van Asch Van Wijck Mountains. Julianatop is the highest mountain in the country at 1,286 metres (4,219 ft) above sea level. Other mountains include Tafelberg at 1,026 metres (3,366 ft), Mount Kasikasima at 718 metres (2,356 ft), Goliathberg at 358 metres (1,175 ft) and Voltzberg at 240 metres (790 ft).
Suriname contains six terrestrial ecoregions: Guayanan Highlands moist forests, Guianan moist forests, Paramaribo swamp forests, Tepuis, Guianan savanna, and Guianan mangroves. Its forest cover is 90.2%, the highest of any nation in the world. The country had a 2019 Forest Landscape Integrity Index mean score of 9.39/10, ranking it 5th globally out of 172 countries.
Suriname is situated between French Guiana to the east and Guyana to the west. The southern border is shared with Brazil and the northern border is the Atlantic coast. The southernmost borders with French Guiana and Guyana are disputed by these countries along the Marowijne and Corantijn rivers, respectively, while a part of the disputed maritime boundary with Guyana was arbitrated by the Permanent Court of Arbitration convened under the rules set out in Annex VII of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on 20 September 2007.
Lying 2 to 5 degrees north of the equator, Suriname has a very hot and wet tropical climate, and temperatures do not vary much throughout the year. Average relative humidity is between 80% and 90%. Its average temperature ranges from 29 to 34 degrees Celsius (84 to 93 degrees Fahrenheit). Due to the high humidity, actual temperatures are distorted and may therefore feel up to 6 degrees Celsius (11 degrees Fahrenheit) hotter than the recorded temperature. The year has two wet seasons, from April to August and from November to February. It also has two dry seasons, from August to November and February to April.
Suriname is already seeing the effects of climate change, including warming temperatures and more extreme weather events. As a relatively poor country, its contributions to climate change have been limited; moreover, because of the large forest cover the country has been running a carbon negative economy since 2014.Suriname was the second country to update its Nationally Determined Contributions in 2020.
Located in the upper Coppename River watershed, the Central Suriname Nature Reserve has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its unspoiled forests and biodiversity. There are many national parks in the country including Galibi National Reserve along the coast; Brownsberg Nature Park and Eilerts de Haan Nature Park in central Suriname; and the Sipaliwani Nature Reserve on the Brazilian border. In all, 16% of the country's land area is national parks and lakes, according to the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
Suriname's democracy gained some strength after the turbulent 1990s, and its economy became more diversified and less dependent on Dutch financial assistance. Bauxite (aluminium ore) mining used to be a strong revenue source. The discovery and exploitation of oil and gold has added substantially to Suriname's economic independence. Agriculture, especially rice and bananas, remains a strong component of the economy, and ecotourism is providing new economic opportunities. More than 93% of Suriname's land-mass consists of unspoiled rain forest; with the establishment of the Central Suriname Nature Reserve in 1998, Suriname signalled its commitment to conservation of this precious resource. The Central Suriname Nature Reserve became a World Heritage Site in 2000.
The economy of Suriname was dominated by the bauxite industry, which accounted for more than 15% of GDP and 70% of export earnings up to 2016. Other main export products include rice, bananas, and shrimp. Suriname has recently started exploiting some of its sizeable oil and gold reserves. About a quarter of the people work in the agricultural sector. The Surinamese economy is very dependent on commerce, its main trade partners being the Netherlands, the United States, Canada, and Caribbean countries, mainly Trinidad and Tobago and the islands of the former Netherlands Antilles.
After assuming power in the fall of 1996, the Wijdenbosch government ended the structural adjustment program of the previous government, claiming it was unfair to the poorer elements of society. Tax revenues fell as old taxes lapsed and the government failed to implement new tax alternatives. By the end of 1997, the allocation of new Dutch development funds was frozen as Surinamese Government relations with the Netherlands deteriorated. Economic growth slowed in 1998, with decline in the mining, construction, and utility sectors. Rampant government expenditures, poor tax collection, a bloated civil service, and reduced foreign aid in 1999 contributed to the fiscal deficit, estimated at 11% of GDP. The government sought to cover this deficit through monetary expansion, which led to a dramatic increase in inflation. It takes longer on average to register a new business in Suriname than virtually any other country in the world (694 days or about 99 weeks).
- GDP (2010 est.): U.S. $4.794 billion.
- Annual growth rate real GDP (2010 est.): 3.5%.
- Per capita GDP (2010 est.): U.S. $9,900.
- Inflation (2007): 6.4%.
- Natural resources: Bauxite, gold, oil, iron ore, other minerals; forests; hydroelectric potential; fish and shrimp.
- Agriculture: Products—rice, bananas, timber, palm kernels, coconuts, peanuts, citrus fruits, and forest products.
- Industry: Types—alumina, oil, gold, fish, shrimp, lumber.
- Exports (2012): $2.563 billion: alumina, gold, crude oil, lumber, shrimp and fish, rice, bananas. Major consumers: US 26.1%, Belgium 17.6%, UAE 12.1%, Canada 10.4%, Guyana 6.5%, France 5.6%, Barbados 4.7%.
- Imports (2012): $1.782 billion: capital equipment, petroleum, foodstuffs, cotton, consumer goods. Major suppliers: US 25.8%, Netherlands 15.8%, China 9.8%, UAE 7.9%, Antigua and Barbuda 7.3%, Netherlands Antilles 5.4%, Japan 4.2%.
According to the 2012 census, Suriname had a population of 541,638 inhabitants. The Surinamese populace is characterized by its high level of diversity, wherein no particular demographic group constitutes a majority. This is a legacy of centuries of Dutch rule, which entailed successive periods of forced, contracted, or voluntary migration by various nationalities and ethnic groups from around the world.
The largest ethnic group are the East Indians which form about 27.4% of the population. They are descendants of 19th-century indentured workers from India, hailing mostly from the modern Indian states of Bihar, Jharkhand, and Eastern Uttar Pradesh along the Nepali border. The largest group of people are however the Afro-Surinamese; around 37.4%. They are usually divided into two cultural/ethnic groups: the Creoles and the Maroons. Surinamese Maroons, whose ancestors are mostly runaway slaves that fled to the interior, comprise 21.7% of the population; they are divided into six tribes: Ndyuka (Aucans), Saramaccans, Paramaccans, Kwinti, Aluku (Boni) and Matawai. Surinamese Creoles, mixed people descending from African slaves and mostly Dutch Europeans, form 15.7% of the population. Javanese make up 14% of the population, and like the East Indians, descend largely from workers contracted from the island of Java in the former Dutch East Indies (modern Indonesia). 13.4% of the population identifies as being of mixed ethnic heritage. Chinese, originating from 19th-century indentured workers and some recent migration, make up 7.3% of the population. Other groups include Lebanese, primarily Maronites; Jews of Sephardic and Ashkenazi origin, whose center of population was the community of Jodensavanne. Various indigenous peoples make up 3.7% of the population, with the main groups being the Akurio, Arawak, Kalina (Caribs), Tiriyó and Wayana. They live mainly in the districts of Paramaribo, Wanica, Para, Marowijne and Sipaliwini. A small but influential number of Europeans remain in the country, comprising about 1% of the population. They are descended mostly from Dutch 19th-century immigrant farmers, known as "Boeroes" (derived from boer, the Dutch word for "farmer"), and to a lesser degree other European groups, such as Portuguese. Many Boeroes left after independence in 1975.
The vast majority of Suriname's inhabitants (about 90%) live in Paramaribo or on the coast.
The choice of becoming Surinamese or Dutch citizens in the years leading up to Suriname's independence in 1975 led to a mass migration to the Netherlands. This migration continued in the period immediately after independence and during military rule in the 1980s and for largely economic reasons extended throughout the 1990s. The Surinamese community in the Netherlands numbered 350,300 as of 2013 (including children and grandchildren of Suriname migrants born in The Netherlands); this is compared to approximately 566,000 Surinamese in Suriname itself.
According to the International Organization for Migration, around 272,600 people from Suriname lived in other countries in the late 2010s, in particular in the Netherlands (ca 192,000), the French Republic (ca 25,000, most of them in French Guiana),[note 3] the United States (ca 15,000), Guyana (ca 5,000), Aruba (ca 1,500), and Canada (ca 1,000).
Suriname's religious makeup is heterogeneous and reflective of the country's multicultural character. According to PEW research from 2016, the country comprises Christians (51.6), Buddhists (<1%), folk (5.3%), Hindu (19.8%), Jew, (<1%), Muslim (15.2%), other (1.8%), unaffiliated (5.4%). According to the 2012 census, 48.4% were Christians; 26.7% of Surinamese were Protestants (11.18% Pentecostal, 11.16% Moravian, and 4.4% of various other Protestant denominations) and 21.6% were Catholics. Hindus formed the second-largest religious group in Suriname, comprising 22.3% of the population, the third largest proportion of any country in the Western Hemisphere after Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago, both of which also have large proportions of Indians. Almost all practitioners of Hinduism are found among the Indo-Surinamese population. Muslims constitute 13.9% of the population, the highest proportion of Muslims in the Americas; they are largely of Javanese or Indian descent. Other religious groups include Winti (1.8%), an Afro-American religion practiced mostly by those of Maroon ancestry; Javanism (0.8%), a syncretic faith found among some Javanese Surinamese; and various indigenous folk traditions that are often incorporated into one of the larger religions (usually Christianity). In the 2012 census, 7.5% of the population declared they had "no religion", while a further 3.2% left the question unanswered.
Suriname has a total of around 14 local languages, but Dutch is the sole official language and is the language of education, government, business, and the media. Over 60% of the population are native speakers of Dutch and around 20%-30% speak it as a second language. In 2004, Suriname became an associate member of the Dutch Language Union. It is the only Dutch-speaking country in South America and the only independent nation in the Americas in which Dutch is spoken by a majority of the population and one of the two non-Romance-speaking countries in South America, the other being English-speaking Guyana.
In Paramaribo, Dutch is the main home language in two thirds of the households. The recognition of "Surinaams-Nederlands" ("Surinamese Dutch") as a national dialect equal to "Nederlands-Nederlands" ("Dutch Dutch") and "Vlaams-Nederlands" ("Flemish Dutch") was expressed in 2009 by the publication of the Woordenboek Surinaams Nederlands (Surinamese–Dutch Dictionary). It is the most commonly spoken language in urban areas; only in the interior of Suriname (namely parts of Sipaliwini and Brokopondo) is Dutch seldom spoken.
Sranantongo, a local English-based creole language, is the most widely-used vernacular language in daily life and business. Together with Dutch, it is considered to be the one of the two principal languages of Surinamese diglossia. Both are further influenced by other spoken languages which are spoken primarily within ethnic communities. Sranantongo is often used interchangeably with Dutch depending on the formality of the setting; Dutch is seen as a prestige dialect and Sranan Tongo the common vernacular.
The Maroon languages are also English-based creole languages, and include Saramaka, Okanisi, Aluku, Pamaka, Kwinti and Matawai. Aluku, Paramakan and Kwinti are so mutually intelligible with Okanisi that they can be consindered dialects of the Okanisi language. The same can be said about Matawai, which is mutually intelligible with Saramaka.
The Javanese language is somewhat used by the descendants of Javanese indentured labourers.
The national capital, Paramaribo, is by far the dominant urban area, accounting for nearly half of Suriname's population and most of its urban residents; indeed, its population is greater than the next nine largest cities combined. Most municipalities are located within the capital's metropolitan area, or along the densely populated coastline.
Largest cities or towns in Suriname
|3||Nieuw Nickerie||Nickerie||13 143|
|5||Nieuw Amsterdam||Commewijne||4 935|
Owing to the country's multicultural heritage, Suriname celebrates a variety of distinct ethnic and religious festivals.
- 1 January – New Year's Day
- 6 January – Three Kings Day
- January – World Religion Day
- January/February – Chinese New Year
- 25 February – Day of the Revolution
- March (varies) – Holi
- March/April – Good Friday
- March/April – Easter
- 1 May – Labour Day
- May/June – Ascension day
- 5 June – Indian Arrival Day
- 1 July – Keti Koti (Emancipation Day – end of slavery)
- 8 August – Javanese Arrival Day
- 9 August – Indigenous People's Day
- 10 October – Day of the Maroons
- 20 October – Chinese Arrival day
- October/November – Diwali
- 25 November – Independence Day
- 25 December – Christmas
- 26 December – Boxing Day
- varies - Eid-ul-adha
There are several Hindu and Islamic national holidays like Diwali (deepavali), Phagwa and Eid ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-adha. These holidays do not have fixed dates on the Gregorian calendar, as they are based on the Hindu and Islamic calendars, respectively. As of 2020, Eid-ul-adha is a national holiday, and equal to a Sunday.
There are several holidays which are unique to Suriname. These include the Indian, Javanese and Chinese arrival days. They celebrate the arrival of the first ships with their respective immigrants.
New Year's Eve
New Year's Eve in Suriname is called Oud jaar, Owru Yari, or "old year". It is during this period that the Surinamese population goes to the city's commercial district to watch "demonstrational fireworks". The bigger stores invest in these firecrackers and display them out in the streets. Every year the length of them is compared, and high praises are given for the company that has imported the largest ribbon.
These celebrations start at 10 in the morning and finish the next day. The day is usually filled with laughter, dance, music, and drinking. When the night starts, the big street parties are already at full capacity. The most popular fiesta is the one that is held at in the main tourist district. The parties there stop between 10 and 11 at night, after which people go home to light their pagaras (red-firecracker-ribbons) at midnight. After 12, the parties continue and the streets fill again until daybreak.
The major sports in Suriname are football, basketball, and volleyball. The Suriname Olympic Committee is the national governing body for sports in Suriname. The major mind sports are chess, draughts, bridge and troefcall.
Many Suriname-born football players and Dutch-born football players of Surinamese descent, like Gerald Vanenburg, Ruud Gullit, Frank Rijkaard, Edgar Davids, Clarence Seedorf, Patrick Kluivert, Aron Winter, Georginio Wijnaldum, Virgil van Dijk and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink have turned out to play for the Dutch national team. In 1999, Humphrey Mijnals, who played for both Suriname and the Netherlands, was elected Surinamese footballer of the century. Another famous player is André Kamperveen, who captained Suriname in the 1940s and was the first Surinamese to play professionally in the Netherlands.
The most famous international track & field athlete from Suriname is Letitia Vriesde, who won a silver medal at the 1995 World Championships behind Ana Quirot in the 800 metres, the first medal won by a South American female athlete in World Championship competition. In addition, she also won a bronze medal at the 2001 World Championships and won several medals in the 800 and 1500 metres at the Pan-American Games and Central American and Caribbean Games. Tommy Asinga also received acclaim for winning a bronze medal in the 800 metres at the 1991 Pan American Games.
Swimmer Anthony Nesty is the only Olympic medalist for Suriname. He won gold in the 100-meter butterfly at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul and he won bronze in the same discipline at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona. Originally from Trinidad and Tobago, he now lives in Gainesville, Florida, and is the coach of the University of Florida, mainly coaching distance swimmers.
Cricket is popular in Suriname to some extent, influenced by its popularity in the Netherlands and in neighbouring Guyana. The Surinaamse Cricket Bond is an associate member of the International Cricket Council (ICC). Suriname and Argentina are the only ICC associates in South America, although Guyana is represented on the West Indies Cricket Board, a full member. The national cricket team was ranked 47th in the world and sixth in the ICC Americas region as of June 2014, and competes in the World Cricket League (WCL) and ICC Americas Championship. Iris Jharap, born in Paramaribo, played women's One Day International matches for the Dutch national side, the only Surinamese to do so.
In the sport of badminton the local heroes are Virgil Soeroredjo & Mitchel Wongsodikromo and also Crystal Leefmans. All winning medals for Suriname at the Carebaco Caribbean Championships, the Central American and Caribbean Games (CACSO Games) and also at the South American Games, better known as the ODESUR Games. Virgil Soeroredjo also participated for Suriname at the 2012 London Summer Olympics, only the second badminton player, after Oscar Brandon, for Suriname to achieve this. Current National Champion Sören Opti was the third Surinamese badminton player to participate at the Summer Olympics in 2016.
Multiple time K-1 kickboxing world champions Ernesto Hoost and Remy Bonjasky were born in Suriname or are of Surinamese descent. Other kickboxing world champions include Rayen Simson, Melvin Manhoef, Tyrone Spong, Jairzinho Rozenstruik and Regian Eersel.
Suriname, along with neighboring Guyana, is one of only two countries on the mainland South American continent that drive on the left, although many vehicles are left hand drive as well as right hand drive. One explanation for this practice is that at the time of its colonization of Suriname, the Netherlands itself used left-hand traffic, also introducing the practice in the Dutch East Indies, now Indonesia. Another is that Suriname was first colonized by the British, and for practical reasons, this was not changed when it came under Dutch administration. Although the Netherlands converted to driving to the right at the end of the 18th century, Suriname did not.
Airlines with departures from Suriname:
Airlines with arrivals in Suriname:
- Caribbean Airlines (Trinidad & Tobago)
- Insel Air (Curaçao)
- KLM (Netherlands)
- Gol Transportes Aéreos (Brazil)
- Copa Airlines (Panama)
- Tui (Netherlands)
- Fly All Ways (Curaçao), Cuba (Havana), (Santiago de Cuba)
- Surinam Airways (SLM) (Aruba), Brazil (Belém), (Curaçao), Guyana (Georgetown), Netherlands (Amsterdam), Trinidad & Tobago (Port of Spain), & USA (Miami).
Other national companies with an air operator certification:
- (ACS) – General Aviation Aeroclub
- (CAF) – Agriculture Cropdusting
- (EAS) – Agriculture Cropdusting
- (ERK) – Agriculture Cropdusting
- (OAS) – General Aviation Charters
- (PAS) – Helicopter Charters
- Suriname Air Force / Surinaamse Luchtmacht (SAF / LUMA) – Military Aviation Surinam Air Force
- (SSF) – Agriculture Cropdusting
- (MAF – Mission Aviation Fellowship) – General Aviation Missionary
- (VAS) – General Aviation Maintenance & Flightschool
The Global Burden of Disease Study provides an on-line data source for analyzing updated estimates of health for 359 diseases and injuries and 84 risk factors from 1990 to 2017 in most of the world's countries. Comparing Suriname with other Caribbean nations show that in 2017 the age-standardized death rate for all causes was 793 (males 969, females 641) per 100,000, far below the 1219 of Haiti, somewhat below the 944 of Guyana but considerably above the 424 of Bermuda. In 1990 the death rate was 960 per 100,000. Life expectancy in 2017 was 72 years (males 69, females 75). The death rate for children < 5 years was 581 per 100,000 compared to 1308 in Haiti and 102 in Bermuda. In 1990 and 2017, leading causes of age-standardized death rates were cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes/chronic kidney disease.
Education in Suriname is compulsory until the age of 12, and the nation had a net primary enrollment rate of 94% in 2004. Literacy is very common, particularly among men. The main university in the country is the Anton de Kom University of Suriname.
From elementary school to high school there are 13 grades. The elementary school has six grades, middle school four grades and high school three grades. Students take a test in the end of elementary school to determine whether they will go to the MULO (secondary modern school) or a middle school of lower standards like LBO. Students from the elementary school wear a green shirt with jeans, while middle school students wear a blue shirt with jeans.
Students going from the second grade of middle school to the third grade have to choose between the business or science courses. This will determine what their major subjects will be. In order to go on to study math and physics, the student must have a total of 12 points. If the student has fewer points, he/she will go into the business courses or fail the grade.
Due to the variety of habitats and temperatures, biodiversity in Suriname is considered high. In October 2013, 16 international scientists researching the ecosystems during a three-week expedition in Suriname's Upper Palumeu River Watershed catalogued 1,378 species and found 60—including six frogs, one snake, and 11 fish—that may be previously unknown species. According to the environmental non-profit Conservation International, which funded the expedition, Suriname's ample supply of fresh water is vital to the biodiversity and healthy ecosystems of the region.
Snakewood (Brosimum guianense), a shrub-like tree, is native to this tropical region of the Americas. Customs in Suriname report that snakewood is often illegally exported to French Guiana, thought to be for the crafts industry.
On 21 March 2013, Suriname's REDD+ Readiness Preparation Proposal (R-PP 2013) was approved by the member countries of the Participants Committee of the (FCPF).
As in other parts of Central and South America, indigenous communities have increased their activism to protect their lands and preserve habitat. In March 2015, the "Trio and Wayana communities presented a declaration of cooperation to the National Assembly of Suriname that announces an indigenous conservation corridor spanning 72,000 square kilometers (27,799 square miles) of southern Suriname. The declaration, led by these indigenous communities and with the support of Conservation International (CI) and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Guianas, comprises almost half of the total area of Suriname." This area includes large forests and is considered "essential for the country's climate resilience, freshwater security, and green development strategy."
Traditionally, De Ware Tijd was the major newspaper of the country, but since the '90s Times of Suriname, De West and Dagblad Suriname have also been well-read newspapers; all publish primarily in Dutch.
Suriname has twenty-four radio stations, most of them also broadcast through the Internet. There are twelve television sources: ABC (Ch. 4–1, 2), RBN (Ch. 5–1, 2), Rasonic TV (Ch. 7), STVS (Ch. 8–1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6), Apintie (Ch. 10–1), ATV (Ch. 12–1, 2, 3, 4), Radika (Ch. 14), SCCN (Ch. 17–1, 2, 3), Pipel TV (Ch. 18–1, 2), Trishul (Ch. 20–1, 2, 3, 4), Garuda (Ch. 23–1, 2, 3), Sangeetmala (Ch. 26), Ch. 30, Ch. 31, Ch.32, Ch.38, SCTV (Ch. 45). Also listened to is mArt, a broadcaster from Amsterdam founded by people from Suriname. is one of the popular cartoons in Suriname.
There are also three major news sites: Starnieuws, Suriname Herald and GFC Nieuws.
In 2012, Suriname was ranked joint 22nd with Japan in the worldwide Press Freedom Index by the organization Reporters Without Borders. This was ahead of the US (47th), the UK (28th), and France (38th).
Most tourists visit Suriname for the biodiversity of the Amazonian rain forests in the south of the country, which are noted for their flora and fauna. The Central Suriname Nature Reserve is the biggest and one of the most popular reserves, along with the Brownsberg Nature Park which overlooks the Brokopondo Reservoir, one of the largest man-made lakes in the world. In 2008, the Berg en Dal Eco & Cultural Resort opened in Brokopondo. Tonka Island in the reservoir is home to a rustic eco-tourism project run by the Saramaccaner Maroons. Pangi wraps and bowls made of calabashes are the two main products manufactured for tourists. The Maroons have learned that colorful and ornate pangis are popular with tourists. Other popular decorative souvenirs are hand-carved purple-hardwood made into bowls, plates, canes, wooden boxes, and wall decors.
There are also many waterfalls throughout the country. Raleighvallen, or Raleigh Falls, is a 56,000-hectare (140,000-acre) nature reserve on the Coppename River, rich in bird life. Also are the Blanche Marie Falls on the Nickerie River and the Wonotobo Falls. Tafelberg Mountain in the centre of the country is surrounded by its own reserve – the Tafelberg Nature Reserve – around the source of the Saramacca River, as is the Voltzberg Nature Reserve further north on the Coppename River at Raleighvallen. In the interior are many Maroon and Amerindian villages, many of which have their own reserves that are generally open to visitors.
Suriname is one of the few countries in the world where at least one of each biome that the state possesses has been declared a wildlife reserve. Around 30% of the total land area of Suriname is protected by law as reserves.
Other attractions include plantations such as Laarwijk, which is situated along the Suriname River. This plantation can be reached only by boat via Domburg, in the north central Wanica District of Suriname.
Crime rates continue to rise in Paramaribo and armed robberies are not uncommon. According to the current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of the 2018 report's publication, Suriname has been assessed as Level 1: exercise normal precautions.
The Jules Wijdenbosch Bridge is a bridge over the river Suriname between Paramaribo and Meerzorg in the Commewijne district. The bridge was built during the tenure of President Jules Albert Wijdenbosch (1996–2000) and was completed in 2000. The bridge is 52 metres (171 ft) high, and 1,504 metres (4,934 ft) long. It connects Paramaribo with Commewijne, a connection which previously could only be made by ferry. The purpose of the bridge was to facilitate and promote the development of the eastern part of Suriname. The bridge consists of two lanes (one lane each way) and is not accessible to pedestrians.
The construction of the Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral started on 13 January 1883. Before it became a cathedral it was a theatre. The theatre was built in 1809 and burned down in 1820.
Suriname is one of the few countries in the world where a synagogue is located next to a mosque. The two buildings are located next to each other in the centre of Paramaribo and have been known to share a parking facility during their respective religious rites, should they happen to coincide with one another.
A relatively new landmark is the Hindu Arya Dewaker temple in the Johan Adolf Pengelstraat in Wanica, Paramaribo, which was inaugurated in 2001. A special characteristic of the temple is that it does not have images of the Hindu divinities, as they are forbidden in the Arya Samaj, the Hindu movement to which the people who built the temple belong. Instead, the building is covered by many texts derived from the Vedas and other Hindu scriptures. The beautiful architecture makes the temple a tourist attraction.
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The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the longest-running release in film history, opens in London.
|The Rocky Horror Picture Show|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Jim Sharman|
|Based on||The Rocky Horror Show|
by Richard O'Brien
|Narrated by||Charles Gray|
|Edited by||Graeme Clifford|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Box office||$170 million|
The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a 1975 musical comedy horror film by 20th Century Fox, produced by Lou Adler and Michael White and directed by Jim Sharman. The screenplay was written by Sharman and actor Richard O'Brien, who is also a member of the cast. The film is based on the 1973 musical stage production The Rocky Horror Show, with music, book, and lyrics by O'Brien. The production is a parody tribute to the science fiction and horror B movies of the 1930s through to the early 1960s. Along with O'Brien, the film stars Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, and Barry Bostwick and is narrated by Charles Gray with cast members from the original Royal Court Theatre, Roxy Theatre, and Belasco Theatre productions including Nell Campbell and Patricia Quinn.
The story centres on a young engaged couple whose car breaks down in the rain near a castle where they seek a telephone to call for help. The castle or country home is occupied by strangers in elaborate costumes celebrating an annual convention. They discover the head of the house is Dr. Frank N. Furter, an apparently mad scientist who actually is an alien transvestite who creates a living muscle man in his laboratory. The couple are seduced separately by the mad scientist and eventually released by the servants who take control.
The film was shot in the United Kingdom at Bray Studios and on location at an old country estate named Oakley Court, best known for its earlier use by Hammer Film Productions. A number of props and set pieces were reused from the Hammer horror films. Although the film is both a parody of and tribute to many kitsch science fiction and horror films, costume designer Sue Blane conducted no research for her designs. Blane has claimed that her creations for the film directly affected the development of punk rock fashion trends such as torn fishnet stockings and colourfully-dyed hair.
Although largely critically panned on initial release, it soon became known as a midnight movie when audiences began participating with the film at the Waverly Theater in New York City in 1976. Audience members returned to the cinemas frequently and talked back to the screen and began dressing as the characters, spawning similar performance groups across the United States. At almost the same time, fans in costume at the King's Court Theater in Pittsburgh began performing alongside the film. This "shadow cast" mimed the actions on screen above and behind them, while lip-syncing their character's lines. Still in limited release forty-five years after its premiere, it is the longest-running theatrical release in film history. It is often shown close to Halloween. Today, the film has a large international cult following and has been considered by many as one of the greatest musical films of all time. It was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 2005.
A criminologist narrates the tale of the newly engaged and innocent couple, Brad Majors and Janet Weiss, who find themselves lost and with a flat tire on a cold and rainy late November evening, near a town called Denton in 1974. Seeking a telephone, the couple walks to a nearby castle where they discover a group of strange and outlandish people who are holding an Annual Transylvanian Convention. They are soon swept into the world of Dr. Frank-N-Furter, a self-proclaimed "sweet transvestite from Transsexual, Transylvania". The ensemble of convention attendees also includes servants Riff Raff, his sister Magenta, and a groupie named Columbia.
In his lab, Frank claims to have discovered the "secret to life itself". His creation, Rocky, is brought to life. The ensuing celebration is soon interrupted by Eddie (an ex-delivery boy, both Frank's ex-lover and Columbia's current partner, as well as partial brain donor to Rocky) who rides out of a deep freeze on a motorcycle. Eddie then proceeds to seduce Columbia, get the Transylvanians dancing and singing and intrigue Brad and Janet. When Rocky starts dancing and enjoying the performance, a jealous Frank kills Eddie with a pickaxe. Columbia screams in horror, devastated by Eddie's death. Frank justifies killing Eddie as a "mercy killing" to Rocky and they depart to the bridal suite.
Brad and Janet are shown to separate bedrooms, where each is visited and seduced by Frank, who poses as Brad (when visiting Janet) and then as Janet (when visiting Brad). Janet, upset and emotional, wanders off to look for Brad, when she discovers Frank in bed with Brad (who is smoking a cigarette) on a video monitor. She then discovers Rocky, cowering in his birth tank, hiding from Riff Raff, who has been tormenting him. While tending to his wounds, Janet becomes intimate with Rocky, as Magenta and Columbia watch from their bedroom monitor.
After discovering that his creation is missing, Frank returns to the lab with Brad and Riff Raff, where Frank learns that an intruder has entered the building. Brad and Janet's old high school science teacher, Dr. Everett V. Scott, has come looking for his nephew, Eddie. Frank suspects that Dr. Scott investigates UFOs for the government. Upon learning of Brad and Janet's connection to Dr. Scott, Frank suspects them of working for him; Brad denies any knowledge of it, and Dr. Scott assures Frank that Brad is not involved in UFOs. Frank, Dr. Scott, Brad, and Riff Raff then discover Janet and Rocky together under the sheets in Rocky's birth tank, upsetting Frank and Brad. Magenta interrupts the reunion by sounding a massive gong and stating that dinner is prepared.
Rocky and the guests share an uncomfortable dinner, which they soon realise has been prepared from Eddie's mutilated remains. Janet runs screaming into Rocky's arms, provoking Frank to chase her through the halls. Janet, Brad, Dr. Scott, Rocky, and Columbia all meet in Frank's lab, where Frank captures them with the Medusa Transducer, transforming them into nude statues. After dressing them in cabaret costumes, Frank "unfreezes" them, and they perform a live cabaret floor show, complete with an RKO tower and a swimming pool, with Frank as the leader.
Riff Raff and Magenta interrupt the performance, revealing themselves and Frank to be aliens from the planet Transsexual in the galaxy of Transylvania. They stage a coup and announce a plan to return to their home planet. In the process, they kill Columbia and Frank, who has "failed his mission". An enraged Rocky gathers Frank in his arms, climbs to the top of the tower, and plunges to his death in the pool below. Riff Raff and Magenta release Brad, Janet, and Dr. Scott, then depart by lifting off in the castle itself. The survivors are then left crawling in the dirt, and the narrator concludes that the human race is equivalent to insects crawling on the planet's surface, "lost in time, and lost in space... and meaning".
- Tim Curry as Dr. Frank-N-Furter, an eccentric bisexual transvestite scientist
- Susan Sarandon as Janet Weiss, a heroine
- Barry Bostwick as Brad Majors, a hero
- Richard O'Brien as Riff Raff, a hunch-backed handyman
- Patricia Quinn as Magenta, a domestic
- Nell Campbell (credited as Little Nell) as Columbia, a groupie
- Jonathan Adams as Dr. Everett V. Scott, a rival scientist
- Peter Hinwood as Rocky Horror, a creation (Trevor White as singing voice)
- Meat Loaf as Eddie, an ex-delivery boy
- Charles Gray as the Criminologist, an expert
- Jeremy Newson as Ralph Hapschatt
- Hilary Farr (credited as Hilary Labow) as Betty Munroe
Concept and development
Richard O'Brien was living as an unemployed actor in London during the early 1970s. He wrote most of The Rocky Horror Show during one winter just to occupy himself. Since his youth, O'Brien had loved science fiction and B horror movies. He wanted to combine elements of the unintentional humour of B horror movies, portentous dialogue of schlock-horror, Steve Reeves muscle flicks, and fifties rock and roll into his musical. O'Brien conceived and wrote the play set against the backdrop of the glam era that had manifested itself in British popular culture in the 1970s. Allowing his concept to come into being, O'Brien states "glam rock allowed me to be myself more".
O'Brien showed a portion of the unfinished script to Australian director Jim Sharman, who decided to direct it at the small experimental space Upstairs at the Royal Court Theatre, Sloane Square, Chelsea, London, which was used as a project space for new work. O'Brien had appeared briefly in a stage production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Jesus Christ Superstar, directed by Sharman, and the two also worked together in Sam Shepard's The Unseen Hand. Sharman would bring in production designer Brian Thomson. The original creative team was then rounded out by costume designer Sue Blane, musical director Richard Hartley, and stage producer Michael White, who was brought in to produce. As the musical went into rehearsal, the working title, They Came from Denton High, was changed just before previews at the suggestion of Sharman to The Rocky Horror Show.
Having premiered in the small sixty-seat Royal Court Theatre, it quickly moved to larger venues in London, transferring to the 230-seat Chelsea Classic Cinema on King's Road on 14 August 1973, before finding a quasi-permanent home at the 500-seat King's Road Theatre from 3 November that year, running for six years. The musical made its U.S. debut in Los Angeles in 1974 before being played in New York City as well as other cities. Producer and Ode Records owner Lou Adler attended the London production in the winter of 1973, escorted by friend Britt Ekland. He immediately decided to purchase the U.S. theatrical rights. His production would be staged at his Roxy Theatre in L.A. In 1975, The Rocky Horror Show premiered on Broadway at the 1,000-seat Belasco Theatre.
Filming and locations
The film was shot at Bray Studios and Oakley Court, a country house near Maidenhead, Berkshire, England, and at Elstree Studios for post-production, from 21 October to 19 December 1974. Oakley Court, built in 1857 in the Victorian Gothic style, is known for a number of Hammer films. Much of the location shooting took place there, although at the time the manor was not in good condition. Much of the cast were from the original London stage production, including Tim Curry, who had decided that Dr Frank N. Furter should speak like the Queen of the United Kingdom, extravagantly posh. Fox insisted on casting the two characters of Brad and Janet with American actors, Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon. Filming took place during autumn, which made conditions worse. During filming, Sarandon fell ill with pneumonia. Filming of the laboratory scene and the title character's creation occurred on 30 October 1974.
The film is both a parody and tribute to many of the science fiction and horror movies from the 1930s up to the 1970s. The film production retains many aspects from the stage version such as production design and music, but adds new scenes not featured in the original stage play. The film's plot, setting, and style echo those of the Hammer Horror films, which had their own instantly recognizable style (just as Universal Studios' horror films did). The originally proposed opening sequence was to contain clips of various films mentioned in the lyrics, as well as the first few sequences shot in black and white, but this was deemed too expensive and scrapped.
Costumes, make-up, and props
In the stage productions, actors generally did their own make-up; however, for the film, the producers chose Pierre La Roche, who had previously been a make-up artist for Mick Jagger and David Bowie, to redesign the make-up for each character. Production stills were taken by rock photographer Mick Rock, who has published a number of books from his work. In Rocky Horror: From Concept to Cult, designer Sue Blane discusses the Rocky Horror costumes' influence on punk music style, opining "[It was a] big part of the build-up [to punk]." She states that ripped fishnet stockings, glitter, and coloured hair were directly attributable to Rocky Horror.
Some of the costumes from the film had been originally used in the stage production. Props and set pieces were reused from old Hammer Horror productions and others. The tank and dummy used for Rocky's birth originally appeared in The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958). These references to earlier productions, in addition to cutting costs, enhanced the cult status of the film.
Costume designer Sue Blane was not keen on working for the film until she became aware that Curry, an old friend, was committed to the project. Curry and Blane had worked together in Glasgow's Citizens Theatre in a production of The Maids, for which Curry had worn a woman's corset. Blane arranged for the theatre to loan her the corset from the other production for Rocky Horror. Blane admits that she did not conduct research for her designing, had never seen a science fiction film, and is acutely aware that her costumes for Brad and Janet may have been generalizations.
"When I designed Rocky, I never looked at any science fiction movies or comic books. One just automatically knows what spacesuits look like, the same way one intuitively knows how Americans dress. I had never been to the United States, but I had this fixed idea of how people looked there. Americans wore polyester so their clothes wouldn't crease, and their trousers were a bit too short. Since they're very keen on sports, white socks and white T-shirts played an integral part in their wardrobe. Of course, since doing Rocky I have been to the United States and admit it was a bit of a generalization, but my ideas worked perfectly for Brad and Janet."
The budget for the film's costumes was US$1,600, far more than the stage production budget, but having to double up on costumes for the film production was expensive. For filming, corsets for the finale had to be doubled for the pool scene, with one version drying while the other was worn on set. While many of the costumes are exact replicas from the stage productions, other costumes were new to filming, such as Columbia's gold sequined swallow-tail coat and top hat and Magenta's maid's uniform.
Blane was amazed by the recreation and understanding of her designs by fans. When she first heard that people were dressing up, she thought it would be tacky, but was surprised to see the depth to which the fans went to recreate her designs. Rocky Horror fan Mina Credeur, who designs costumes and performed as Columbia for Houston's performance group, states that "the best part is when everyone leaves with a big smile on their face," noting that there's "such a kitschiness and campiness that it seems to be winking at you." The film still plays at many theatre locations and Rocky Horror costumes are often made for Halloween, although many require much time and effort to make.
The film starts with the screen fading to black and oversized, disembodied female lips appear overdubbed with a male voice, establishing the theme of androgyny to be repeated as the film unfolds. The opening scene and song, "Science Fiction/Double Feature", consists of the lips of Patricia Quinn (who appears in the film later as the character Magenta [in addition to the latter, appeared as 'Trixie the Usherette' in the original London production who sang the song]) but has the vocals of actor and Rocky Horror creator, Richard O'Brien (who appears as Magenta's brother Riff Raff). The lyrics refer to science fiction and horror films of the past and list several film titles from the 1930s to the 1960s, including The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), Flash Gordon (1936), The Invisible Man (1933), King Kong (1933), It Came from Outer Space (1953), Doctor X (1932), Forbidden Planet (1956), Tarantula (1955), The Day of the Triffids (1962), Curse of the Demon (1957), and When Worlds Collide (1951).
The soundtrack was released in 1975 by Ode Records and produced by English composer Richard Hartley. The album peaked at No. 49 on the U.S. Billboard 200 in 1978. It reached No. 12 on the Australian albums chart and No. 11 on the New Zealand albums chart. The album is described as the "definitive version of the [Rocky Horror] score".
- "Science Fiction/Double Feature" – The Lips (those of Patricia Quinn; voice of Richard O'Brien)
- "Dammit Janet" – Brad, Janet, and Chorus
- "There's a Light (Over at the Frankenstein Place)" – Janet, Brad, Riff Raff, and Chorus
- "The Time Warp" – Riff Raff, Magenta, The Criminologist, Columbia, and Transylvanians
- "Sweet Transvestite" – Frank
- "The Sword of Damocles" – Rocky and Transylvanians
- "I Can Make You a Man" – Frank with Brad, Janet, Riff Raff, Magenta, and Columbia
- "Hot Patootie – Bless My Soul" – Eddie and Transylvanians
- "I Can Make You a Man (Reprise)" – Frank, Janet, and Transylvanians
- "Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me" – Janet with Magenta, Columbia, Rocky, Brad, Frank, and Riff Raff
- "Once in a While" (deleted scene) – Brad
- "Eddie" – Dr. Scott, The Criminologist, Janet, Columbia, Frank, Rocky, Brad, Riff Raff, and Magenta
- "Planet Schmanet Janet (Wise Up Janet Weiss)" – Frank
- "Planet Hot Dog" – Janet, Brad, and Dr. Scott
- "Rose Tint My World" – Columbia, Rocky, Janet, and Brad
- "Fanfare/Don't Dream It, Be It" – Frank with Brad, Janet, Rocky, and Columbia
- "Wild and Untamed Thing" – Frank with Brad, Janet, Rocky, Columbia, and Riff Raff
- "I'm Going Home" – Frank and Chorus
- "The Time Warp (Reprise)" – Riff Raff and Magenta
- "Super Heroes" (only present in the original UK release) – Brad, Janet, and Chorus
- "Science Fiction/Double Feature (Reprise)" – The Lips
The film opened in the United Kingdom at the Rialto Theatre in London on 14 August 1975 and in the United States on 26 September at the UA Westwood in Los Angeles, California. It did well at that location, but not elsewhere.[page needed] Before the midnight screenings' success, the film was withdrawn from its eight opening cities due to very small audiences, and its planned New York City opening on Halloween night was cancelled. Fox re-released the film around college campuses on a double-bill with another rock music film parody, Brian De Palma's Phantom of the Paradise (1974), but again it drew small audiences.
A second film poster was created using a set of red, lipstick painted lips with the tagline "A Different Set of Jaws", a spoof of the poster for the film Jaws (which was also released in 1975). The lips of former Playboy model Lorelei Shark are featured on the poster.
With Pink Flamingos (1972) and Reefer Madness (1936) making money in midnight showings nationwide, a Fox executive, Tim Deegan, was able to talk distributors into midnight screenings, starting in New York City on April Fools' Day of 1976. It was the "Secret" film, on May 20, in the first Seattle International Film Festival. The cult following started shortly after the film began its midnight run at the Waverly Theater in New York City,[page needed] then spread to other counties in New York, and to Uniondale, Long Island. Rocky Horror was not only found in the larger cities but throughout the United States, where many attendees would get in free if they arrived in costume. The western division of the film's release included the U.A. Cinemas in Fresno and Merced, the Cinema J. in Sacramento, California, and the Covell in Modesto. In New Orleans, an early organised performance group was active with the release there, as well as in such cities as Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Chicago (at the Biograph Theater). Before long, nearly every screening of the film was accompanied by a live fan cast.[page needed]
The Rocky Horror Picture Show is considered to be the longest-running release in film history. It benefited from a 20th Century Fox policy that made archival films available to theatres at any time. Having never been pulled by 20th Century Fox from its original 1975 release, it continues to play in cinemas. After The Walt Disney Company acquired 20th Century Fox in 2019 and began withdrawing archival Fox movies from theatres to be placed into the Disney Vault, the company made an exception in the case of The Rocky Horror Picture Show to allow the traditional midnight screenings to continue.
A Super 8 version of selected scenes of the film was made available. In 1983, Ode Records released "The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Audience Par-Tic-I-Pation Album", recorded at the 8th Street Playhouse. The recording consisted of the film's audio and the standardised call-backs from the audience.
The film was released on DVD in 2000 for the film's 25th anniversary. A 35th anniversary edition Blu-ray was released by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment in the US on 19 October 2010. The disc includes a newly created 7.1 surround sound mix, the original theatrical mono sound mix, and a 4K/2K image transfer from the original camera negative. In addition, new content featuring karaoke and a fan performance were included. A 45th anniversary edition Blu-ray was released in September 2020 by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert noted that when first released, The Rocky Horror Picture Show was "ignored by pretty much everyone, including the future fanatics who would eventually count the hundreds of times they'd seen it". He considered it more a "long-running social phenomenon" than a movie, rating it 2.5 out of 4 stars and describing Curry as "the best thing in the movie, maybe because he seems to be having the most fun" but thinking the story would work better performed on stage for a live audience. Bill Henkin noted that Variety thought that the "campy hijinks" of the film seemed laboured, and also mentioned that the San Francisco Chronicle's John Wasserman, who had liked the stage play in London, found the film "lacking both charm and dramatic impact". Newsweek, in 1978, called the film "tasteless, plotless and pointless".
Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a rating of 80% based on 44 reviews, and an average grade of 7.03/10, with the critical consensus reading "The Rocky Horror Picture Show brings its quirky characters in tight, but it's the narrative thrust that really drives audiences insane and keeps 'em doing the time warp again". A number of contemporary critics find it compelling and enjoyable because of its offbeat and bizarre qualities; the BBC summarised: "for those willing to experiment with something a little bit different, a little bit outré, The Rocky Horror Picture Show has a lot to offer." The New York Times called it a "low-budget freak show/cult classic/cultural institution" with "catchy" songs. Geoff Andrew, of Time Out, noted that the "string of hummable songs gives it momentum, Gray's admirably straight-faced narrator holds it together, and a run on black lingerie takes care of almost everything else", rating it 4 out of 5 stars. On the other hand, Dave Kehr of the Chicago Reader considered the wit to be "too weak to sustain a film" and thought that the "songs all sound the same".
The Rocky Horror Picture Show helped shape conditions of cult film's transition from art-house to grind-house style. The film developed a cult following in 1976 at the Waverly Theatre in New York, which developed into a standardised ritual. According to J. Hoberman, author of Midnight Movies, it was after five months into the film's midnight run when lines began to be shouted by the audience. Louis Farese Jr., a normally quiet teacher, upon seeing the character Janet place a newspaper over her head to protect herself from rain, yelled, "Buy an umbrella, you cheap bitch." Originally, Louis and other Rocky Horror pioneers, including Amy Lazarus, Theresa Krakauskas, and Bill O'Brian, did this to entertain each other, each week trying to come up with something new to make each other laugh. This quickly caught on with other theatre-goers and thus began this self-proclaimed "counter point dialogue", which became standard practice and was repeated nearly verbatim at each screening. Performance groups became a staple at Rocky Horror screenings due in part to the prominent New York City fan cast.[page needed] The New York City cast was originally run by former schoolteacher and stand-up comic Sal Piro and his friend Dori Hartley, the latter of whom portrayed Dr. Frank N. Furter and was one of several performers, including Will Kohler as Brad Majors, Nora Poses as Janet, and Lilias Piro as Magenta, in a flexible rotating cast.[page needed] The performances of the audience were scripted and actively discouraged improvising, being conformist in a similar way to the repressed characters.
On Halloween in 1976, people attended in costume and talked back to the screen, and by mid-1978, Rocky Horror was playing in over 50 locations on Fridays and Saturdays at midnight. Newsletters were published by local performance groups, and fans gathered for Rocky Horror conventions. By the end of 1979, there were twice-weekly showings at over 230 theatres. The National Fan Club was established in 1977 and later merged with the International Fan Club. The fan publication The Transylvanian printed a number of issues, and a semi-regular poster magazine was published as well as an official magazine.
Performance groups in the Los Angeles area originated at the Fox Theatre in 1977, where Michael Wolfson won a look-alike contest as Frank N. Furter, and won another at the Tiffany Theater on Sunset Boulevard. Wolfson's group eventually performed in all of the L.A. area theatres screening Rocky Horror, including the Balboa Theater in Balboa, The Cove at Hermosa Beach, and The Sands in Glendale. He was invited to perform at the Sombrero Playhouse in Phoenix, Arizona. At the Tiffany Theatre, the audience performance cast had the theatre's full cooperation; the local performers entered early and without charge. The fan playing Frank for this theatre was a transgender performer,[page needed] D. Garret Gafford, who was out of work in 1978 and trying to raise the funds for a gender reassignment while spending the weekends performing at the Tiffany. Presently, the live action rendition of The Rocky Horror Picture Show is available for attendance in various locations in Los Angeles, typically Saturday nights at midnight.
By 1978, Rocky Horror had moved from an earlier San Francisco location to the Strand Theatre located near the Tenderloin on Market Street. The performance group there, Double Feature/Celluloid Jam, was the first to act out and perform almost the entire film, unlike the New York cast at that time. The Strand cast was put together from former members of an early Berkeley group, disbanded due to less than enthusiastic management. Frank N. Furter was portrayed by Marni Scofidio, who, in 1979, attracted many of the older performers from Berkeley. Other members included Mishell Erickson as Columbia, her twin sister Denise Erickson as Magenta, Kathy Dolan as Janet, and Linda "Lou" Woods as Riff Raff. The Strand group performed at two large science fiction conventions in Los Angeles and San Francisco, were offered a spot at The Mabuhay, a local punk club, and performed for children's television of Argentina.[page needed]
Annual Rocky Horror conventions are held in varying locations, lasting days. Tucson, Arizona has been host a number of times, including 1999 with "El Fishnet Fiesta", and "Queens of the Desert" held in 2006. Vera Dika wrote that, to the fans, Rocky Horror is ritualistic and comparable to a religious event, with a compulsive, repeated cycle of going home and coming back to see the film each weekend. The audience call-backs are similar to responses in church during a mass. Many theatre troupes exist across the United States that produce shadow-cast performances where the actors play each part in the film in full costume, with props, as the movie plays on the big screen in a movie theatre.
The film has a global following and remains popular. Subcultures such as Rocky Horror have also found a place on the Internet. Audience participation scripts for many cities are available for download from the internet. The internet has a number of Rocky Horror fan-run websites with various quizzes and information, specialising in different content, allowing fans to participate at a unique level.
Members of the LGBT community comprised a large part of the Rocky Horror cult following: they identified with the embrace of sexual liberation and androgyny, and attended show after show, slowly forming a community. Judith A. Peraino compares Brad and Janet's initiation into Frank N. Furter's world to the self-discovery of 'queer identity', and to the traditional initiation of 'virgins' in the shadow screenings. June Thomas describes the midnight screenings in Delaware as a 'very queer scene,' which increased visibility for the LGBT community: "The folks standing in line outside the State in fishnets and makeup every Saturday night undoubtedly widened the sphere of possibilities for gender expression on Main Street."
The Rocky Horror Picture Show remains a cultural phenomenon in both the U.S. and U.K. Cult film participants are often people on the fringe of society that find connection and community at the screenings, although the film attracts fans of differing backgrounds all over the world.
"Bisexuality, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and Me", by Elizabeth Reba Weise, is part of the publication, Bi Any Other Name: Bisexual People Speak Out (1991), an anthology edited by Loraine Hutchins and Lani Ka'ahumanu about the history of the modern bisexual rights movement that is one of the first publications of bisexual literature.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show has been featured in a number of other feature films and television series over the years. Episodes of The Simpsons, The Venture Bros., The Boondocks, Glee, The Drew Carey Show, That '70s Show, and American Dad! spotlight Rocky Horror, as do films such as Vice Squad (1982), Halloween II (2009), and The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012). The 1980 film Fame featured the audience reciting their callback lines to the screen and dancing the Time Warp, the dance from the stage show and film, which has become a novelty dance at parties. Director Rob Zombie cited Rocky Horror as a major influence on his film House of 1000 Corpses (2003), while the film's fan culture of cosplaying and audience participation during screenings laid the groundwork for the similarly influential cult following surrounding Tommy Wiseau's The Room (2003). Rocky Horror also inspired John McPhail's zombie musical Anna and the Apocalypse (2018).
In 1979, O'Brien wrote a projected sequel to the film entitled Rocky Horror Shows His Heels. This script would have featured the return of all of the characters from the original film, and O'Brien wished to largely use the original production team to make the new film; however, Sharman did not wish to revisit the original concept so directly, and Tim Curry did not wish to reprise his role.
Instead, in 1981, Sharman reunited with O'Brien to film Shock Treatment, a stand-alone feature that was not a direct sequel to the original film. This film was originally conceived and written in 1980 under the title 'The Brad and Janet Show', using most of the songs from the original project Rocky Horror Shows His Heels with lyrical adjustments, and depicting the characters' continuing adventures in the town of Denton; however, these plans had to be adjusted due to a Screen Actor's Guild strike. The eventual production would entail the entire film being shot within a sound stage. Shock Treatment was poorly received by critics and audiences upon release (in no small part due to the principal cast of Curry, Sarandon and Bostwick not returning) but over time has built a small cult following, though not nearly as strong as the first film.
Ten years later, O'Brien wrote another script intended as a direct sequel to the cult classic, entitled Revenge of the Old Queen. Producer Michael White had hoped to begin work on the production and described the script as being "in the same style as the other one. It has reflections of the past in it." Revenge of the Old Queen had apparently commenced pre-production; however, after studio head Joe Roth was ousted from Fox in 1993, the project was shelved indefinitely. Although the script has not been published, bootleg copies can be read on the internet, and one song from the project's original demo tape circulates among fans. The script is currently owned by Fox, which produced the two original films. Most individuals associated with the project, including O'Brien, agree that the film will probably never be made, owing to the failure of Shock Treatment and the aging of the original cast.
Between 1999 and 2001, O'Brien was working on a third attempted sequel project with the working title Rocky Horror: The Second Coming, first to be made as a stage production, with an option to create a film if met with success. This script would largely integrate plot elements from Rocky Horror Shows His Heels, but with all-new songs. O'Brien completed a first draft of this script (which was read by Terry Jones) but had difficulties finalising anything beyond the first act, and little more has been heard of this project since the mid-2000s.[