It was the game that turned mere fishing into an extreme sport. With frazzled nerves, you gingerly cast your line and hoped for success, always mindful that the jaws of death might suddenly steal your catch of the day … and scare the living daylights out of you along the way. It took nerves of steel to mess with this plastic carnivore and few emerged unshaken by their encounter with a great white in The Game of Jaws from Ideal.
The year was 1975 and the general population had one thing on their minds – sharks. Crowds dwindled at every beach in America and those who did brave a visit, did so with their eyes continuously scanning the waters for emerging dorsal fins. This was all a result, of course, of the blockbuster Steven Spielberg film, Jaws. And although the film didn’t spawn a wide variety of playthings – there was no Matt Hooper Dolls or a plastic ORCA boat to take into the bathtub – there was this memorable game that allowed players to experience some of the fright that those in the movie felt. The Game of Jaws was introduced by Ideal Toys shortly after the film’s release and was certain to make young players jump from their seats just like those who saw the movie.
The game consisted of a menacing shark, complete with spring-loaded jaws that could snap closed without warning. A number of items were placed in the shark’s gullet such as bones (both human and aquatic), life preserver, anchor, wheel and for that added touch, a skull and severed human hand – lest you forget you were dealing with a man-eater here. Using a gaffer’s hook, players took turns carefully removing items from the shark’s mouth, desperately hoping to accomplish their mission before Jaws decided he had enough of their excavating and slammed his mouth shut – causing hapless young fishermen to darn-near soil themselves. If you thought the game Operation was tough on the nerves, The Game of Jaws made it look like a cakewalk.
Jaws didn’t remain on store shelves for very long once the fervor surrounding the first film died down. Even a number of movie sequels weren’t enough to sustain the fear that the original induced and the game fell by the wayside. The memories still linger, however, for anyone that ever held that gaffer’s hook in their shaking appendage, fearful that their hand might become another of the morbid objects resting in the shark’s belly. Memories like that don’t fade easily and few that ever played The Game of Jaws will ever forget their encounters.