Steven Spielberg, then a “good” director with but a few credits to his name, took a novel by Peter Benchley and turned it into quite possibly one of the most popular movies of all time. “”Jaws”” is the reason that many people, me included, are afraid of the ocean. With other titles to his credit (and it’s quite the long list, and likely to keep getting longer) including “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (excuse me “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark”), “E.T.”, “Schindler’s List”, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “Jurassic Park” to name but a few. It’s also interesting to note that all of these “A” list titles are not presently available on DVD, though an announcement was made regarding Jurassic Park and its sequel “The Lost World”. A few of Spielberg’s titles did manage to pop onto DVD before this giant, most notably the highly popular “Saving Private Ryan”. With a few other minor titles including “Amistad”, “Gremlins” and “Poltergeist” being released already, we have to wonder what title(s) will be next…Anyway, “Jaws” is more than a movie, it’s a phenomenon and it looks and sounds better than it ever has on DVD.
Part of what made “Jaws” the hit it was at the time was the shark itself. In the documentary, they mention that they were constantly having problems with the mechanical shark, and as a result had to limit the number of scenes that it appeared in. Strange that a problem would ultimately result in the movie’s success. Anyhow, this brings us to the plot of “Jaws”. For the three people out there who haven’t seen “Jaws”, I’ll summarize. In the small town of Amity (meaning “Friendship”), the summer season represents tourists. Tourists represent money so the local townspeople don’t have to starve during the winter season. All is well and good and the town is getting ready to celebrate their 50th anniversary show when a few people turn up missing. It’s rumored that sharks are the reason, but it’s no reason to stop the entire tourist season…so the events go on. So do the attacks. It’s not long that the local sheriff, Chief Brody (Roy Schieder) wants to shut the beaches down, hence driving away the town’s profits, and hunt down the shark that is doing all of the killing. Of course the town is in an uproar to this outrageous notion that something could actually be wrong…
After the town is publicly convinced, as if almost some sort of show is being put on, by a shark attack; a local fisherman offers to catch the shark (in what is a classic scene) for the mere price of $10,000. The die is cast, the sheriff, a local oceanographic institute expert by the name of Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) and the fisherman, Quint (Robert Shaw) all set out to catch the killer beast. It’s here that the killings cease and the fun really begins. Three men out on the open sea trying to catch what has got to be nature’s perfect killing machine. The three bond (in one of the film’s more memorable scenes), see the extent of the shark’s powers and are convinced that it’s no ordinary shark that they’re dealing with.
To give away the ending would not only be to tell the inevitable, but to anyone who hasn’t seen it, downright cruel. But there are three sequels that have also made their way to the screen, so if that tells you anything…”Jaws” is one of those movies that has been copied and copied and copied. If it’s not “Deep Blue Sea”, it’s “The Deep” or some other movie. Not to say that these copies aren’t good, but there’s really no substitute for the original. I simply cannot recommend “Jaws” enough. But I have to warn you that the tagline reads “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…” and it’s true. If you haven’t seen this movie and live near the ocean, don’t ruin a good thing!
Video: How does it look?
In my review of the 25th Anniversary DVD, I noted “”…The 2.35:1 image looks postively splendid for a film of this age. While some faults are bound to be found, and they are, on the transfer the colors and images almost leap off the screen”…” Ok, maybe I overstated that a bit. But, that was five years ago and I was still doing my reviews on a 32″ Sony tube TV. Much has changed (in DVD and with my reviewing setup) and though the picture for “Jaws” does indeed look good, it’s not perfect. Many of the outdoor shots are very vivid, the blue sky contrasts nicely with the blackness of the water. While a number of the underwater shots do appear murky ““ they’re supposed to appear that way. There’s a little dirt and grain on the print, but this is by no means a bad transfer. It looks nearly identical to the transfer used on the previous version. At any rate, viewers won’t be disappointed.
Audio: How does it sound?
Universal was up to their tricks five years ago as “Jaws” was released in separate Dolby Digital and DTS versions with the Dolby Digital one having all of the supplements and the DTS being bare bones. Well, five years has eclipsed and now the soundtracks are on the same disc (rejoice)! It’s no secret that “Jaws” has one of the most instantly recognizable soundtracks in the history of film and I’m happy to report that the “Duh duh”…duh dum”…” sounds as good as it ever has. Dialogue is clear and I found the surrounds very active on both the Dolby Digital and DTS mix. I’d give the edge to the DTS, but unlike the last version this time you won’t have to buy another disc if you want to listen to both soundtracks.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Ok, there is a lot of debate as to why this disc is being put out”…again. The earlier version had a couple of deleted scenes (which are included here), a trailer, cast and crew bios and some production notes. There was also a featurette, but that was about it. The main draw of this new disc is the two hour documentary “The Making of Jaws”. It’s the same one that was on the old LaserDisc and it’s a great reason to buy the disc. Universal is rehashing a popular title and it’s nothing that all of the other studios aren’t doing themselves. Personally I think it’s ridiculous and if I were the average consumer I’d be outraged. But I’m in the precarious position that I don’t have to pay for 90% of my DVD’s and I’d say that if you were to own a version of “Jaws”, this would be it. The audio and video are the same as the last version and they’re on the same DVD, the documentary alone is worth the price of admission.