Blu-ray Review “Jaws”

Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss
MPAA Rating: PG
Distributed by: Universal Home Video
Release date: August 14, 2012
Running time: 2 hour 4 mins

Film: 5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 4.5 out of 5 stars

As someone that considers “Jaws” his favorite film of all time it would be easy for me to review it like this:

“The greatest film ever made!”

The End

But that would not do justice to why I have loved this movie since the first time I saw it on September 21, 1975.

During a night time beach party a young woman and her beau run off towards the surf. Her intention is to go skinny dipping but his over indulgence leaves him passed out at the water’s edge. While swimming she is suddenly attacked by something and pulled, screaming beneath the waves. Thus begins one of the best stories ever to be brought to the screen. Featuring a trio of heroes, “Jaws” allows the audience to identify with each of them as the film progresses. There is police chief Martin Brody, newly arrived to the town of Amity via the streets of New York City. Oceanographer Matt Hooper, a wealthy wise ass with a love for sharks. And Quint (just Quint), the crusty fisherman whose chosen profession came about in part by a horrible tragedy in his past. Due to the often repeated story that “the shark was not working, director Spielberg had to improvise on the set, shooting the film without the shark visible. This decision makes the tension genuine as the audience is lulled into believing every time it hears the ominous notes of John William’s Oscar winning score that the shark is going to appear. However, after a few false alarms, you’re never sure when or where the shark is or will be. The cast delivers award winning performances, most notably Shaw. His lone soliloquy in describing the harrowing tale of the sinking of his ship during World War II is an acting tour de force. Spielberg’s direction is flawless. By placing his camera at the waterline the audience gets to imagine what it would be like to be in an unfamiliar situation. The film earned four Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, and won three Oscars (Best Musical Score, Best Film Editing and Best Achievement in Sound).

On the technical side, the transfer of “Jaws” is outstanding. I own a 16mm copy of the film and it isn’t as clean and bright as the picture here. Scenes that may have appeared overcast or murky are now vivid and bright. The audio transfer is equally well done. “Jaws” won an Oscar for its soundtrack and all of the original elements are heightened here. When you look at the 1080p transfer for the film, it is completely amazing.  Universal’s complete restoration is one of the best Blu-ray transfers that I have ever seen.  The DTS-HD 7.1 surround track is absolutely pristine.  It includes sounds incredible and include complete clarity and the film sounds better than it ever has.  Besides the Blu-ray disc, this film also includes a DVD copy of the film and a Ultraviolet streaming digital copy.

When it comes to the special features the spotlight of them is the documentary “The Shark Is Still Working”. With an original running time of over three hours, “The Shark is Still Working” is a labor of love created by a quartet of “Jaws” fans. It includes interviews with cast and crew, including the last interviews with the book’s author, Peter Benchley, and co-star Roy Scheider, who also narrates. Edited down to a smooth 100 minutes, the film is a worthy companion to the brilliant Laurent Bouzereau documentary that appeared on the “Jaws” laser disc boxed set. An added plus: both of Media Mikes “Mikes”appear in it, making this disc well worth purchasing. Other new features include The Restoration of “Jaws”, which is a short piece on the restoration of the film. For more on this process, see our interview with the man who directed the restoration, Peter Schade, here. ”The Making of ‘Jaws’” is a very condensed portion of the Bouzereau film. The original documentary ran a minute longer then “Jaws” and it’s a shame Universal didn’t include it here in its entirety. Outtakes including different footage from the estuary attack is included. There is a collection of various deleted scenes, none featuring the shark, most of which were included during the first television showing on ABC in November 1979. There are only a couple of outtakes included, the most recognizable one being where Scheider’s pistol constantly refuses to fire. Other outtakes are included in the various other extras.  “From the Set” is a a short but enjoyable visit to the set on the second day of filming. Includes an on-set interview with Steven Spielberg and the original discovery of Ben Gardner’s boat scene, scrapped when Carl Gottlieb, whose character was along for the ride, accidentally fell overboard. “Jaws” Archives is a collection of storyboards and production photos, as well as marketing items and bits on the phenomenon of the film. Lastly there is the theatrical trailer included for the film. There are other trailers, including a great teaser, featured in the full version of the Bouzereau documentary. Overall a great collection of extras but they lose ½ a star for not featuring the entire “Making of ‘Jaws’” doc.

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