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Universal Studios Home Video presents
Jaws (1975)

"We're going to need a bigger boat."
- Chief Brody (Roy Scheider)

Review By: Dan Lopez   
Published: July 19, 2000

Stars: Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, Robert Shaw
Other Stars: Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton, Carl Gottlieb
Director: Steven Spielberg

Manufacturer: Digital Video Compression Center
MPAA Rating: PG
Run Time: 02h:05m:00s
Release Date: July 11, 2000
UPC: 025192091322
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A+ A+AB- A-

DVD Review

Steven Spielberg's Jaws is one of my favorite movies, for a variety of reasons. I know I'm not alone in this belief, as millions of people worldwide have already sung their praises for it. Having said that, though, I feel like nothing I can say can even encompass the sheer historical weight of this movie. The jokes, the dialogue, the music, and the complete style have been engraved into generations of moviegoers. Next to Psycho, Jaws is probably one of the most influential horror films of the 20th century, and we see ripples from the giant waves it made in almost every film of similar premise.

Based on the novel by Peter Benchley, the film follows the story of Amity Island, a small, peaceful community patterned after real-life Martha's Vineyard. When a young girl washes up on a beach, mangled and mutilated, Police Chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) suspects a shark attack. When Chief Brody tries to do the right thing and close the beaches, he meets a sea of bureaucracy trying to stop him. The mayor (Murray Hamilton) and his staff don't want bad publicity to ruin the July tourist season, so the beaches stay open. A marine biologist, Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss), confirms the attacks are shark oriented, as well as the fact that the shark is a huge Great White. As you might expect, more people wind up dead and the town has no choice but to hire shark hunter Quint (Robert Shaw) to help dispose of the beast. So, all three of these interested parties have to team together to try and fight the giant shark in his own territory.

So much makes Jaws stand out, it's almost impossible to really delve into them without writing a book. From the stylish direction to the top-notch acting, everything is up to the highest standards of thriller entertainment. This is actually ironic considering the legendary production problems the film went though where often it took weeks just to finish one scene. Much of the film's success is the marvelous casting. Roy Scheider perfectly captures the somewhat naive policeman who is new to Amity Island. He acts on instinct and seems so incredibly honest that he makes one of the best movie heroes of all time. On equal footing is Richard Dreyfuss' lighthearted, but deadly serious, scientific angle. Of course, the film would not be complete without the definitive role of Robert Shaw as seaman Quint. Shaw seems to combine several older roles (from films like Force 10 From Navarone and Swashbuckler) into a very tough, wise character that you can earnestly feel almost being a real person.

The concept of the film remains true to a very good rule of thumb in film: let the audience's imagination do most of the work. The giant shark isn't so much the central enemy in the film as is the threat of his mere presence. Simplistic elements like a fin peeking through the water, or a shadow under the surface speak volumes over elaborate effects. John Williams' brilliant musical score also effectively makes the shark a real personality. Who can forget the infamous theme?

Rating for Style: A+
Rating for Substance: A+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The 2:35:1 presentation is a must see for anyone who has never seen the widescreen version of Jaws. When I first saw the widescreen VHS, I was amazed at how much composition and detail is totally gone from the full-screen version. Quality-wise, the disc is absolutely top-notch. The image has incredible sharpness and clarity. There are no artifacts, and the color balance is excellent. Colors are also warmed up and re-defined a bit, giving a dramatic improvement to many of the classic scenes. Negative problems are also non-existent. What really impressed me was the lack of shimmer or haze since Jaws has a very noticeable diffusion filter effect in many scenes, giving a "glow" to many scenes. The DVD is certainly a gigantic leap in quality over any previous versions of the film on home video. The only thing that kept me from giving it a confident A+ was a few minor moments where the film would get a little grainy (one example being the dinner scene between Scheider, Lorraine Gary, and Dreyfuss). It also fascinated me that the film was actually watchable when zoomed in to full-screen. That's always a good sign of excellent mastering. The layer change is very well placed and doesn't interrupt sound or on-screen action.

Image Transfer Grade: A


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The new Dolby 5.1 audio mix has been the source of MUCH controversy recently. I've seen plenty of films on DVD that had a mono soundtrack originally, but were given glorious new 5.1 audio. In all those cases, though, the re-creation of the soundtrack never altered the original one, except to add directionality and channel separations. The controversy of Jaws is the slightly altered soundtrack, where the remix replaced old sound effects and foley with new material. At first I thought the criticism was probably something very nitpicky, but now that I've seen the DVD, I can safely say that some artistically unsound decisions were made in the 5.1 remix. The best example I can think of is the famous scene where Brody, Hooper, and Quint are sharing stories and singing songs. In the original, we hear some eerie whale songs echoing in the background as the crew sing the night away. In this new mix, though, the whale song only occurs ONCE, and it's not even the same sound effect used in the original film. This did not sit well with me. Thankfully, it's the biggest difference in the whole film, but many things have been re-worked into sounding totally different. In most cases, the new sound work improves things and makes the film a bit louder and beefier, but in some cases it's just darn odd. It's like the engineering decided that any sound effect going into the surround speakers would have to be new rather than just digital enhancement to original material.

Assuming you can get past this strange alteration of the film, the 5.1 audio is pretty nice. The part of the film most effected by it is the John Williams score. You've never heard Jaws like this. The musical score is simply beautiful in this release, with amazing new surround stereo qualities and lots of good bass. Dialogue remains mostly center channel oriented, but a few moments of directional imaging pop-up. For the most part, the film is very front-loaded. Surrounds are hardly used at all, and even then it's mostly for the musical score. I can't really complain though, because the musical score's improved qualities almost make it a new film.

Strangely, Universal opted NOT to include the original Mono track, which again has caused much controversy.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Animated menu
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
2 Original Trailer(s)
1 TV Spots/Teasers
12 Deleted Scenes
Production Notes
1 Documentaries
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual
Layers Switch: 00h:43m:00s

Extra Extras:
  1. Trivia Game
  2. Shark World (shark information guide)
  3. Production Photos and Storyboards
  4. DVD-ROM Screensaver and weblinks
Extras Review: If the audio wasn't controversial enough, Universal invited even more hate mail with some of it's decisions in the extras department. This mainly concerns the making-of documentary, which was cut from the 2 hour Laserdisc version down to 1 hour so that everything would fit on one disc (Note: an even shorter version appeared on the widescreen VHS). At first this sounds kinda horrible, but frankly, I can't imagine sitting through a 2 hour version of this documentary. The show is entirely composed of interview-only material, with on-set snapshots. There's no real behind the scenes footage, and all the information presented seems extremely rich on it's own. In other words, this documentary does not feel short in any way. I still think Universal should have opted for a way of cramming the whole thing on the disc, but I don't think many people will be complaining over this once they've seen the making-of.

The deleted scenes are the next big bonus. Most of the scenes are simply alternate or longer takes of things already in the film. Included is the famous scene in which Quint buys piano wire for fishing. The outtakes (of which there are only two) are humorous, but should have just been part of the deleted scenes.

The trivia game is a well-designed feature where you answer 12 questions. Should you have lots of trouble, there is a help feature that will take you to the point on the disc where the answer is located, be it in the movie or in something else. The questions don't seem to randomize, and you don't really get anything special for winning. It's still a cute, though short-lived, feature.

"Shark World" is a text section that gives some scientific information on sharks.

The rest of the disc is finished off with a variety of storyboards and production photographs. There's some interesting information here, including plans for scenes never filmed and ideas to actually use the book's ending, rather than the new ending.

The presentation earns some points for a very nice, luminescent cover, and an attractive 2-page keepcase insert with Spielberg's signature. The simplistic menuing system is actually exactly what I had hoped for in a Jaws DVD. Instead of overusing the technology for effects-laden menus, the conservative design is much more effective. Viewers should take note that the lengthy pre-menu introduction can be skipped by fast-forwarding. There definitely should have been a few more chapter stops, but it's not that big a deal.

Extras Grade: A-


Final Comments

Should any of you out there not have seen Jaws yet, by all means you must, especially now, with this superb DVD edition sitting on store shelves. What fascinates me about this film is the effect it's had on so many people. The jumps and scares still freak me out sometimes. Some people even have a deathly fear of swimming in deep pools, or the ocean thanks to this film. While Jaws spawned sequels and imitations, nothing has really ever captured the same kind of breakthrough style and tension present here, at least in vicious animal movies.


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