Blu-ray brings this now 37 year old movie back to life with such a brilliance that left me speechless.
Before I begin discussing this classic, I would like to say that I have a very special connection with this film. I, like my father and my brother, am completely fascinated with sharks and some of my earliest memories with my brother stem from watching JAWS. We had it taped from a network version that was on VHS and very, very edited. We would watch it so often that I’m really surprised it never stopped playing. So, I hope you enjoy the review.
In 1975, a director with little experience made a movie about a small New England Town that is terrorized by a killer shark. Adapted from the novel written by Peter Benchley, ‘JAWS’ is one of Steven Spielberg’s earliest films and was a production nightmare. It’s release marked the beginning of a master’s career in entertainment. It stars Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, Robert Shaw, Murray Hamilton, and Lorraine Gary. John Williams, who has done a number of classics, scored it but the theme is arguably the most iconic ever in cinema.
On a low-light beach on Amity Island and 2 college kids that met at a bonfire are going skinny-dipping in the ocean. The girl, Chrissie Watkins, is very quick to get into the water and leisurely swims around. Incredibly drunk, the guy rolls off a dune and passes out in the sand. Chrissie, while treading in the water waiting for the guy to get into the water, is quickly ripped underwater by an unknown force. Thrashing her around violently while she gasps for air and tries to scream, is thrown into a buoy. Thinking its over and clinging for dear life, the force gets ahold of her again and she never resurfaces.
It’s summer time and the 4th of July is slowly coming up. Chief Brody (Scheider) is called out to the beach to find the girl that went missing the night before. They find her mutilated body on the beach and the medical examiner decided she died from a shark attack. Word gets to the Mayor that the chief intends to close the beaches for precautions. Brody is overruled when the medical examiner changes his mind and says it was a boat accident. From then on, Brody is on edge and fearful for anyone to go in the water. While sitting on the beach and his wife trying to relax him, a kid swims into the shallow water on a raft. While swimming and splashing around, the shark swims under him, attacks, killing the child and leaves nothing but a raft with a bite mark.
The mother does what she finds rational and takes out an ad with a $3k reward to kill the shark. It attracts every fisherman up and down the northeast to come to catch the shark. The ad also attracts a local shark hunter named Quint (Shaw) to catch and kill the shark but he proposes due to the size of the shark, his price is $10k unless the town wants to lose all it’s summer business. The chief takes a different approach and requests a Marine biologist come to help from a local oceanographic institute named Hooper (Dreyfuss). He figures out the shark the fisherman catch is the wrong species entirely and a great white rogue is in the waters, waiting to find its next meal.
JAWS is genius in all of its simplicity. The characters from the film mesh so well that it makes all of the acting feel normal and natural. I have enjoyed everyone’s performances but the 2 that stand out are Roy Scheider and Robert Shaw. First off, Schieder portrays a man who is not only worried about his family but his instincts are to protect anyone that enters the ocean. When something needs to be done to stop the shark, he overcomes his fears and faces them head on. Second, Robert Shaw may only really show up after the first half of the film but his character, Quint, is just larger than life. He seems to be motivated by money and can’t be wrong about anything like Capt. Ahab from Moby Dick. However, unlike Ahab he does decide to quit but it’s too little too late. Whether you have seen the movie or not, it is deeply a part of our American pop culture having been this phenomenon since its release in 1975.
It is absolutely brilliant. Blu-ray brings this now 37-year-old movie back to life with such a brilliance that left me speechless. The coloring pops in 1080p and creates a very natural look making the film seem native in HD. Also, it is presented in the theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 so since widescreen TVs are pretty much the standard, more of the film is viewable than ever. Universal’s frame-by-framer restoration creates a transfer that’s done with such attention to detail and love that doesn’t disappoint in the slightest. Being that practically the entire movie is on the bright sunny beach, there would be a fear that the daylight would wash out the colors but this isn’t the case. There is detail in the picture and vivid coloring that creates perfect summer days. Also, I remember the 25th anniversary DVD had some contrasting issues during the Indianapolis scene but the new transfer cleared that right up.
Universal took the original recorded soundtrack to create an all-new mix encoded DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 audio. First off, in separating the audio in this many channels, the spaces are filled with John Williams’ wonderful score. It is clear and utilizes the bass and treble. Second, the sound effects have been remastered as well. It sounds like a brand new film and I definitely heard effects/background dialogue that I have never heard in the film before. For example, the scene where Quint scratches his nails on chalkboard was so realistic, I had to cover my ears.
I’m giving the supplements a 4 just because I figured with as high profile release as JAWS, they would include all of the extras from the older DVD. There arena few gems in here that were included but the one I enjoyed the most was the restoration done by Universal.
-The Making of JAWS -SD- this documentary is comprised of cast interviews as well as the crew and author Peter Benchley. Maslow speaks about the problems throughout the making of the film.
-From the Set -SD- a featurette from 1974 British news interviewing Spielberg with behind the scenes footage.
-JAWS Archives -HD- contains production photos, storyboards, and marketing items internationally.
-Deleted Scenes and Outtakes -SD- a collection of deleted scenes and outtakes.
-Theatrical Trailer -SD- It’s the original theatrical preview
-The Shark Is still Working: The Impact & Legacy of JAWS -SD- A new documentary which they broke up into parts for faster viewing of specifics. It tells the story of how JAWS impacted the industry forever. There are interviews with directors, talks about the script, effects , music and the marketing for JAWS.
-JAWS: The Restoration -HD- this short documentary shows the restoration processes that were taken to make the perfect release.
2 disc (1 region-free BD-50 Blu-ray, 1 region 1 DVD)
Includes ITunes/Windows Media/Amazon Digital Copy and UltraViolet Digital Copy
English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1
English DTS 2.0
French DTS 5.1
Spanish DTS 5.1
Spielberg refers to the Blu-ray as the “New JAWS” and that is a fair statement to make. With the transfer looking amazing on this format as well as the new audio track, it did feel like I was watching it for the first time. Universal has really outdone themselves and have raised the bar on what the standard should looks like. So far, it is the best restoration I have seen and I hope that the releases keep getting treated well. Overall, I’m very impressed and I highly recommend picking this up as soon as you finish this sentence.