BLU-RAY REVIEW: Jaws (Universal 100th Anniversary Edition)
Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Get Back to Watching New Movies...
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While the latest and greatest movies feature the latest and greatest special effects and newest and often youngest talent, it's hard to ignore the classic films which have become a timeless part of movie history. In reality, it’s hard to imagine our culture without some of these classics as it was these movies which helped establish some of the most popular characters, songs, ideas, and even helped establish movie going as one of our nation’s great past time activities. (And if you don’t think it is, simply look at the box office receipts and tell me otherwise!). So it’s no surprise to find movie studios releasing many of these classic films on blu-ray hi-def for modern movie goers looking to re-watch, remember, and cherish the memories of yesteryear all while enjoying the latest and greatest in video and audio quality.
In June 1975, the world was shocked as it watched New England’s Amity Island become the setting of a nightmare. Reports of shark attacks began to pop up, driving the locals to extremes and the vacationers and boaters to shore. What seemed like reality was simply a viscous shark named Jaws and brilliant film making by talented producers Richard Zanuck and David Brown, creative writers Peter Benchley (author of the book) and Carl Gottlieb, and amazing directing by a young, up-and-comer named Steven Spielberg.
Now, almost 40 years later, Jaws is a film classic beyond compare. No matter when you were born, you’ve heard of the cultural icon, a ruthless, remorseless, and relentless shark the likes of which have never been seen before. So it’s only fitting Universal Studios would release Jaws on blu-ray hi-def as a part of its 100th anniversary celebration and stock it full to the gills with bonus material and special features.
The story itself is easy to remember: a tourist town suddenly becomes frightened with shark attacks begin to haunt the residence and visitors on holiday. The town’s new police chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) works to protect the people by shutting down the beaches but, of course this doesn’t fly in a town whose business is summer tourism. Thus, Mayor Vaughan (Murray Hamilton) sets his sights on keeping the beaches open…until the next mangled body appears. Enter a marine biologist Matt Hooper (the talented Richard Dreyfuss) and a veteran of the waters named Quint (Robert Shaw) who, together with Chief Brody, hit the high water and take the battle to the sea beast aboard Quint’s boat.
It must be said the film is a classic "man versus nature" story chock-full of metaphor. This story is civilization versus the wild, man versus beast, and us versus them. Of course, only one can survive. But what does it mean to survive an ordeal like this? Is it truly possible to remain unscathed and unaffected? Of course not. So it seems does the film haunt us, the viewers, even years after our watching it for the first time. How can we look at a beach the same way again? Don't we immediately look for that solitary dorsal fin that brings death and destruction? How can we hear John Williams' haunting score and not instantly feel submerged and surrounded, in need of a life preserver? It is both of these and other ways in which Jaws haunts us, just as the shark haunts Brody, Hooper, Quint, and the people of Amity Island.
Jaws marvelously intertwines visual and audio cues throughout its 124 minutes to ensure its audience is immersed in the suspense and drama of every single moment. With near-perfect pacing, smartly written dialogue, and engaging camera work which places each and every viewer into the film's fantastic setting, Jaws epitomizes the ideal summer blockbuster. It's no wonder Jaws is often considered by many the first of its kind and birthed the idea of the summer blockbuster. And no doubt there have been hundreds of other summer blockbusters in the decades since Jaws first hit the big screen, but there are few films which have had the cultural impact Jaws has had since its release.
This new release, which features a gorgeous 1080p hi-def picture in the film's original 2.36:1 aspect ratio, features a fully restored video overseen by Spielberg himself. Thus, fans are getting not only a beautiful transfer of the film, but also the director's version of the beautiful film, something some classic releases aren't able to receive. Likewise, the audio - presented here in both a newly created DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track and a more accurate to the original DTS 2.0 track - is impressive and well made. As is expected, the audio is engrossing and surrounding when delivered through a home theater, ensuring home viewing is on par with the studio's expectations.
As for special features, this multi-disc set includes the film on blu-ray, DVD, and digital copy as well as plenty of classic and new material for the die-hard fan and newcomer alike. The previously released 100 minute "The Shark is Still Working: The Impact and Legacy of Jaws" feature length documentary provides a look at how the movie has had an impression on the industry and culture while the all new 8 minute "Jaws: The Restoration" shows the efforts Universal and Spielberg went to update this movie for a new era of movie watching. The previously released 2 hour "The Making of Jaws" is an extensive look at how the film was brought to life and includes interviews with Spielberg, writer Peter Benchley and other cast and crew who reveal their thoughts and ideas about the film's story, production, acting, and more. A short 9 minute "From the Set" featurette shows a young Spielberg in 1974 from - you guessed it - the set. Other bonus material includes the previously released "Jaws Archives," the original trailer, and numerous deleted scenes and outtakes.
As previously mentioned, with Spielberg's involvement in the restoration and creation of the new release on blu-ray, this is the director’s vision and cut of the film. This is as new and modern as movie goers will ever experience Jaws and, as such, it makes this release an almost "must have" for any serious film fan and movie goer. There are certain movies which change movie making, influence culture, and shape the future. Jaws was one such film. Now, 38 years after the nightmare shark first hit the big screen and frightened us out of the water, we're still running. Only this time, we're running to see this brilliant, frightening and all-around amazing version of Jaws in the comfort of our own homes.
Jaws is available now in a special Universal 100th Anniversary Edition featuring the film on blu-ray, DVD, and digital copy and is available wherever fine home video is sold.
- Jess C. Horsley