Wednesday, September 17, 2008

R.I.P.: O captain! My captain!

The New York Times reports that Frank Mundus, the famed shark hunter who claimed to be the inspiration for Jaws' Quint, passed away of heart attack in his tropical island home in Hawaii.

From the obit:

Frank Mundus, the hulking Long Island shark fisherman who was widely considered the inspiration for Captain Quint, the steely-eyed, grimly obsessed shark hunter in “Jaws,” died on Wednesday in Honolulu. He was 82 and lived on a small lemon-tree farm in Naalehu, on the southern tip of the Big Island of Hawaii, 2,000 feet above shark level.

Was he really the inspiration for Robert Shaw's unforgettable character?

The legend grew, and in the next few years, he repeatedly took Peter Benchley, who wrote the best seller “Jaws,” out to sea.

Mr. Mundus told a New York Times reporter that Mr. Benchley loved the way he harpooned huge sharks with lines attached to barrels to track them while they ran to exhaustion.

In 1975, “Jaws” was turned into Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster movie, which for years left millions of beachgoers toe-deep in the sand. Robert Shaw played Quint, who exits by sliding feet first into the belly of a monster great white.

Mr. Benchley, who died in 2006, denied that Mr. Mundus had been the inspiration for Quint, whom he described as a composite character.

Clearly irked, Mr. Mundus said: “If he just would have thanked me, my business would have increased. Everything he wrote was true, except I didn’t get eaten by the big shark. I dragged him in.”

Curiously, the Times fails to mention that Mundus was the subject of two book length profiles: Robert F. Boggs's Monster Man (Mundus's rep for catching monster fish and his well-known advert – which promised charters "Monster Fishing" – earned him the nickname "Monster Man") and the shamefully out-of-print In the Slick of the Cricket by Russell Drumm. The latter is, for my money, one of the finest bits of nature writing in American letters. Mundus's memoirs came out under the title Fifty Years a Hooker. If you go the Amazon page for his book, you can see the short note Frank left there:

Dear Amazon customers,

If you want to find out what kind of a pesty old goat I turned into, buy my book Fifty Years A Hooker

Jaws for Sport,
Frank Mundus

Mundus was less than impressed by Spielberg's blockbuster:

“It was the funniest and the stupidest movie I’ve ever seen, because too many stupid things happened in it . . . For instance, no shark can pull a boat backwards at a fast speed with a light line and stern cleats that are only held in there by two bolts.”

And, finally, the scene that secured Quint's place in the pantheon of Coolest Film Characters of All Freakin' Time:

1 comment:

Arbogast said...

no shark can pull a boat backwards at a fast speed with a light line and stern cleats that are only held in there by two bolts.”

Yeah, that's where I turned the fucking thing off. I mean, really.