Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Collectible of the Week: The Game of Jaws (Ideal; 1975)

I was in kindergarten the September after Steven Spielberg's Jaws (1975) premiered in theaters, and I'll never forget that for Halloween, one of my best friends showed up costumed as Bruce, the great white shark. 

I also very vividly remember that at the book-mobile sale that year, I purchased a joke book based on Jaws.

Yep, America was in the clutches of Jaws-mania. 

Even though I didn't see the film at the time (I was five...) everybody was talking about it.  I remember my Aunt Vivian describing the movie to me in vivid terms when I saw her at my Granny's house.  Vivian was always great for that kind of thing.  While I was too young in the 1970s to watch R rated horrors like Halloween (1978) or Alien (1979), my aunt Vivian was great at giving me blow-by-blow descriptions of the movies, and let's just say I appreciated her devotion to providing ALL the details.

So for me, Jaws -- at least in 1975 -- came down to an appreciation of a joke book...and of this toy: the Game of Jaws (from Ideal). 

Designed for 2 to 4 players (ages 6 and up), the game box noted: "It's you against the great white shark...One wrong move, and the JAWS go snap!"

The goal of this game was to use a probe to fish the contents (yuck...) out of the shark's stomach, without those fierce jaws a-snappin'. 

Some of those contents included a human skull, a fish skeleton, a tire, a camera, a pistol, a glove, a boot, a walkie-talkie, and a wagon wheel (!).  In the version of the game I own, these delicacies are all molded in white or blue plastic, but the game box shows different colored items.

Jaws' snapping mouth was held together by two rubber bands, and alas, those are the only parts of this game that have not survived the intervening decades. 

When Joel and I play this game in my office, our shark is sort of slack-jawed, unable to close his mouth, unless we slam it shut.  

Every time I look at this Ideal game, I remember being a little kid, playing this game, and wondering what on Earth the movie Jaws could possibly be like...


  1. Anonymous7:58 AM

    John, what kind of Freudian mess is going on over there? Of all the figures to sacrifice to a shark, why a female therapist? -rc

  2. Hi Rick,

    Ha! That's awesome.

    Counselor Troi was the obvious choice because her action figure was broken already. One of her legs had come off years ago, so she could best simulate a shark victim. When the shark threw up, she came out in pieces.

    But don't worry, Riker, Data, Picard, Guinan and Worf all went into the shark's mouth shortly after Troi...

    Had it been my choice, Shatner would have battled the shark...and won.


  3. John - Have to leave a comment as I had this game as a kid and played with it constantly. I was six when Jaws came out so didn't see it during its initial run. But I do remember seeing it in my local theater maybe in '76 or '77. My grandparents owned a fishing resort in northern Minn. at the time, and after seeing it, I couldn't even bring myself to go out fishing with my g'pa on their lake.

    My youngest nephew (age 7) saw it recently and is totally freaked out. I feel for him, but at the same time, I'm really happy that it has the same effect on a new generation. Is that wrong?

    Luckily, the plastic shark in the game didn't affect me to same level...

  4. Hi Chadillac,

    Great comment! We're in the same boat, to use a Jaws-related phrase. I didn't see the film until years after the release. And when I saw it, it did freak me out, big time.

    It is good to know that the film holds up nearly forty years later, for the youngest generation. :)

    I'll say this, Jaws has terrified my wife for decades. Every time she goes to the beach, she just about has a panic attack...


  5. George10:03 AM

    Hi John. I had this game as a kid too. I eventually saw Jaws on tv. Remember what a big deal it would be as a kid when these movies would be first shown on tv pre wht/hbo/beta/vhs? I think Jaws was shown in two parts. I remember watching Force 10 from Navarone like this as well along with James Bond on ABC.

  6. Wow, what a blast from the past! I totally remember playing this game with a friend of mine. I actually used to revel at the detail in all the assorted objects that went into the shark's mouth, especially that weird wagon wheel and the human skull. Thanks for sharing!