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. Its release marked the beginning of a master’s career in entertainment. Composer John Williams, who has done several classics, scored the film but the theme is arguably the most iconic ever in cinema.
By the light of dawn on a beach on Amity Island, two 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 and 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, she is thrown into a buoy. Thinking it’s over and clinging for dear life, the thing gets ahold of her again and she never resurfaces.
The 4th of July is slowly coming up and 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 its 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 the acting feel normal and natural. I have enjoyed everyone’s performances but the three main characters are excellent. 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.
Hooper’s character has less of an obvious arc than the others. His character is criticized for being too dependent on technology and does less following his gut. He needs to prove that he isn’t just some stuffy New Englander with an education but more as a man who loves the sea. He has more respect for the shark until he sees him up close.
Lastly, 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. He is very much like Captain 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 due to having been this phenomenon since its release in 1975.
The restoration process at Universal was done with a wet-gate scan from the original negatives that were used to create digital scans. Then, the images had to be cleaned up from the dirt, tears, and any other damage that was on the original negative. Apparently, the color timing was also an issue due to the lighting when it was filmed. It was matched up perfectly or at least I didn’t see any issues. It was done for the 2013 Blu-ray release and taken directly to create the 4k release.
Roy Scheider as Chief Martin Brody
Robert Shaw as Quint
Richard Dreyfuss as Matt Hooper
Lorraine Gary as Ellen Brody
Murray Hamilton as Mayor Larry Vaughn
The video is a 2160p HEVC presentation that that possibly shows off the beauty of this film even better than the release from 7 years ago. The images are slightly sharper. It looks like a proper film rather than the digitally captured movies that are mostly seen nowadays. There is a fine grain on the film that delivers a richness that the movie is known to have. The town of Amity is lived in with that 70’s beach town feel. Storefronts and homes look nice with a “nothing bad ever happens here” feeling. The coloring that is seen in clothing is bright but somehow subtle at the same time. Patterns and textures are also sharp. The weathering on The Orca makes the ship look as battle-worn as Quint. Clearly seen splintered wood and paint chips add character. Hairs and scruff can be seen individually. The coloring seen in the HDR and Dolby Vision is also subtle but very different from anything that has come before it. The coloring is bolder but doesn’t look overly saturated by any means. The contrast in Dolby Vision creates clean lines and solid blacks. Skin tones are natural and toned well for the location/season.
It is absolutely brilliant. Blu-ray brings this now 45-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 the standard, more of the film is viewable than ever. Universal’s frame-by-frame 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.
The audio is a Dolby Atmos that will default to a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 mix depending on the equipment. This is an all-new mix that has been specially created for the format and it is a welcome change. The overhead channels create a fuller sound in many of the scenes. A quick list of the scenes that benefit the most: before Brody makes the beach signs and the parade is walking through the town, on the beach when Alex Kitner is attacked, and in the shark cage. Williams’ score is marvelous and just perfectly flows with this film as it always has. Effects are perfect and the nails scratching still chilled my spine. Dialogue is clean and prioritized well with the other elements.
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 the chalkboard was so realistic, I had to cover my ears.
SUPPLEMENTS & PACKAGING
-The Making of JAWS: 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.
-The Shark is Still Working: The Impact and Legacy of JAWS: 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 marketing for JAWS.
-JAWS: The Restoration: this short documentary shows the restoration processes that were taken to make the release perfect.
-From the Set: a featurette from 1974 British news interviewing Spielberg with behind the scenes footage.
-JAWS Archives: contains production photos, storyboards, and marketing items internationally.
-Deleted Scenes and Outtakes
2-Disc Set w/ 1 4k UHD and 1 Blu-ray
Lenticular Slipcase with 44-page collectible booklet
Native 4k 2160p HEVC / H.265
HDR: Dolby Vision & HDR10+
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
English Dolby Atmos
English Dolby TrueHD 7.1
English DTS 2.0 Mono
Spanish DTS 5.1
French DTS-HD HR 7.1
1080p AVC MPEG-4
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1
English DTS Mono
French DTS 5.1
Spanish DTS 5.1
THE BOTTOM LINE
JAWS is always an incredible film. It is classic and is an excellent Spielberg film. In the new format, this film looks gorgeous without making it look like everything has been boosted. With older films, subtlety is key and Universal followed this rule. The video is stunning and the audio mix is perfect. The extras are carried over from the initial