Welcome to another episode of I Would Have Saved/Killed. It goes like this: one of our writers will pick a character, big or small, from a movie and explain how they, for whatever reason, would have altered the fate of that character.
Don't worry, we will never spoil anything pre-jump, though obviously everything after the break is operating under the assumption you've seen the film at hand, so be warned. And a big tip of our hat to Arbogast on Film for inspiring us with his post The One You Might Have Saved.
Cause of Death: Eaten by an enormous shark
Verdict: I would have saved him
Reason: This choice is wholly and unabashedly selfish. I am in no way insinuating that Spielberg made the wrong decision to leave the fate of Capt. Quint unaltered from the words on the pages of Peter Benchley's novel. There are occasions when I feel saving one character from their onscreen demise or dooming a cinematic survivor to an alternate universe where they perish within that same film serves the betterment of the film itself. Today's divine, if hypothetical, intervention is predicated more on the fact that I simply love the hell out of Quint.
Robert Shaw not only delivers a well-rounded and entertaining performance as the salty sea captain with the taste for shark-killing, but he also creates one of the most iconic characters in American cinema. He is essentially a modern incarnation of Herman Melville's Captain Ahab except with more limericks and his white whale is a great white shark. He is a man with a hellish past who, while unrepentantly loony, is still mysterious and deep. His character had such a connection to Capt. Ahab that the original script introduced Quint in a movie theater showing the 1956 version of Moby Dick starring Gregory Peck. His prophetic duel with Jaws, thematically, couldn't have gone any other way.
But recently I found myself adrift on a Texas lake watching this, one of my all time favorite films, projected onto a gigantic inflatable screen on the shore. As I floated there, legitimately pondering the existence of a fresh water shark, I was once again captivated by Robert Shaw's performance and marveled as he continued to solidify his position as one of my absolute favorite film characters. That scene where he enters the death slide into the open mouth of the killer shark is seven different kinds of heart-breaking...if not spectacularly cool. I would have saved Quint if only to have heard more dirty limericks or war stories or to watch him continue to deride Matt Hooper.
But as it stands, "farewell and adieu to you fine Spanish ladies..."