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Universal Studios Home Video presents
"The thing about a shark, it's got lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll's eyes. When it comes at you it doesn't seem to be livin'... until he bites you, and those black eyes roll over white."
DVD Review"You're gonna need a bigger boat." - Police Chief Brody (Roy Scheider)
Inspiring three dreadful sequels, a theme park ride, and numerous imitations, Jaws still remains effective 30 years after its original release. Created by an ambitious 28-year-old unknown named Steven Spielberg, the gripping tale overcomes nearly all of the genre pratfalls that have doomed many similar pictures. Prior to this release, he had directed only several pictures: the TV movie Duel and the popular Sugarland Express in 1974. The now-premier director understood the essential fact that the audience did not need to see the shark for most of the picture. Our imaginations will take small glimpses and fill in the details that we fail to actually see. John Williams' classic score adds to the feelings of menace and fear, which grow to a feverish pitch during the attacks. Add a few jarring sound effects to the mix, and the overall result is some of the more terrifying moments in film history.
Based on the novel by Peter Benchley, this film conveys a literary sense that raises it above B-movie status. Its first half includes the obligatory shark attacks of swimmers, fishermen, and beachgoers, but the story really comes to life when it becomes a simpler 'man vs. beast' tale. Police Chief Brody (Roy Scheider), the shark expert Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss), and old hunter Quint (Robert Shaw) venture into the dangerous waters to find the shark. Along the way, their discussions help us to understand each individual's motivations in attempting this voyage. Quint's feelings are the most personal, as he barely survived an encounter with the vicious enemies many years ago. Apart from the shark hunt, the confrontations of Brody and Hooper against Quint add a realistic component that lifts the story past the typical horror film.
"I'm not going to waste my time arguing with a man who's lining up to be a hot lunch." - Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss)
The bare-bones story begins with a party of teenagers crowded around a bonfire near the water. Two drunk, bright-eyed kids make a connection and sprint towards the water for some skinny dipping. The faster one is an attractive all-American girl, but her quickness unfortunately leads to a nasty resolution. In predictable fashion, the city council does not believe the reports of a shark attack because it will destroy tourist season. Mayor Larry Vaughn (Murray Hamilton) cares little for Brody's warnings and cannot see past the dollar signs of the large summer crowds. A shark is caught, and the city's welfare is saved. Or is it? Hooper believes the Great White remains in the area, and it's only a matter of time before it claims new victims.
Steven Spielberg recently released War of the Worlds, which promises a bloated special-effects tale with a big star and little need for subtlety. That type of movie did not exist in 1975, which found Hollywood in the midst of a golden era of personal cinema. A new crop of film-school directors were starting to take the Hollywood by storm, and this film actually can stand among that pack of accomplished pictures. Its protagonist is a giant shark, but even the less-effective moments retain a surprising level of normalcy. This everyday atmosphere leads to a more personal experience for the audience, who can picture themselves swimming in the waters near Amity. Spielberg's decision to utilize a first-person perspective for many of Jaws' scenes also brings the viewer closer to the impending attack.
Jaws grossed more than 100 million dollars during its initial run at the box office, which represented a record amount for the time period. The studio also made the ingenious decision to release the film in more than 400 theaters, a practice that is commonplace today. Along with Star Wars, this movie receives credit for inaugurating the idea of the blockbuster and changing the face of the Hollywood marketing machine. This practice that currently haunts our cinema experience does owe much to those films, but Spielberg and Lucas should not receive blame for the effects of their creations. Crafty Hollywood producers realized that they could earn huge amounts of money in a few weeks with the proper marketing, and the rest of history. Even given its murky role in this deplorable practice, Jaws continues to attract new viewers and remains a viable picture on its 30th anniversary.
Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A-
Image Transfer Review: Jaws (Widescreen 30th Anniversary Edition) provides the same 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that has appeared on previous releases. This is not a criticism, as the DVD producers did a great job on the original version, so there was no need for a newly remastered option. This transfer offers a much brighter image than you might expect on a film from the '70s, which allows us to really observe the outdoor sequences. There are a few minor moments of grain, but they only slightly detract from an excellent presentation.
Image Transfer Grade: A
Audio Transfer Review: Unlike the image transfer, the audio options do represent an improvement over past DVDs because of the wide array of choices. Both 5.1-channel Dolby Digital and DTS tracks appear here and provide an impressive listening experience. The 2.0-channel mono version has not been included before, and we now have Spanish and French 5.1-channel Dolby Digital transfers. None of these possibilities is disappointing, which warrants a strong recommendation.
Audio Transfer Grade: A-
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
13 Deleted Scenes
Packaging: unknown double keepcase
This documentary begins with insights from author Peter Benchley concerning the origins of the novel and its title. He also wrote the original draft of the screenplay, which was modified by several writers, including Carl Gottlieb. The casting details are especially informative and openly mention other actors who turned down the part. Throughout this presentation, one of the liveliest speakers is Dreyfuss, who definitely enjoys recounting his experiences. The difficulties with this production were extreme, and it was minor miracle that Spielberg and his crew actually finished it. The Martha's Vineyard residents were not very accommodating, and filming out in the waters is always a major chore. Created prior to the age of digital effects, this film did not benefit from computer-manufactured scenery. The second hour includes lengthy conversation with composer John Williams that goes on for too long but offers an impressive look at his process.
The second disc also includes a collection of archives that have been included with prior releases. The sections are divided into four slideshows: storyboards, production photos, Marketing Jaws, and The Jaws Phenomenon. Another carryover on Disc 1 is the collection of 13 deleted scenes and outtakes that offer extended scenes and more background but don't add anything too significant. One moment depicts Quinn acting crazy and foreshadows his eventual actions. Another presents a crazier battle between the fishermen all vying to capture the shark.
The first disc also offers a brief eight-minute featurette from British television that has not appeared on past discs. Hosted from the set by Ian Johnstone, the cameras follow Spielberg and his crew and showcase their difficulties. The final supplement is a limited edition 60-page booklet that should be a nice keepsake for devoted fans. It includes quotes from both the film and the documentary and offers an attractive design with full-color photos. The information given is fairly predictable, but as a collectible it works effectively and makes this release a more worthwhile purchase.
Extras Grade: A
Final CommentsI've watched Jaws many times, but it has been a considerable time since I sat down for the entire film. Observing it with a fresh perspective revealed several intriguing aspects that I did not remember from the past. The key moments remained the same, but the personal elements appeared stronger this time, especially the performances from Scheider, Dreyfuss, and Shaw. Combined with Spielberg's ingenious direction, their performances keep the story memorable even after repeated viewings.
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