Every once in a while a film enters the pop culture that leaves a tremendous impact on both the reel and the real worlds. Jaws ended up launching the career of one of the top directors of all time, Steven Spielberg. It is hard to imagine that there might be no E.T, Jurassic Park, Close Encounters, or even Indiana Jones if not for the huge success of Jaws. The film was even blamed for a dramatic decline in ocean swimmers in the summer of 1975. A tourist board in South Carolina even filed suit against the filmmakers for damages to the tourist industry. How many of us haven’t heard the deep vibrating tones of John Williams’ haunting score in our minds as we wade into the waters of our local ocean? From a chilling novel by Peter Benchley and based on a true account of a series of shark attacks in New Jersey, Jaws is all about our most primal fears.
Amity Chief of Police Martin Brody (Scheider) believes that the remains of a woman found on the small tourist island’s beach was the result of a shark attack. Unable to convince the town’s mayor (Hamilton) to close the beaches he is forced to sit by while a young boy becomes a victim.
Soon Brody calls for a shark expert Hooper (Dreyfuss) and hires a local shark hunting legend Quint (Shaw) to kill the shark. Together the trio embark on a hazardous mission to get the monster shark.
Jaws, like the first two Jurassic Park films, was released in both a DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 versions. There is almost no difference between the two. Both tracks are remasters of the film’s original mono soundtrack. The two main components of the audio are the dialogue and the score. Very little use is made of ambient sounds in the film, and the center and mains get almost all of the action. What the film misses in surround use it more than makes up for in quality. All dialogue is clear, and the score is a bright jewel to be taken out and simply admired. Perhaps the sound is at its best when Quint delivers his chilling account of the Indianapolis and her crew. You can hear the creaking of the ship, the light sound of waves breaking, and every breath Robert Shaw takes to accent his monologue.
Jaws is presented in its original theatrical widescreen aspect ratio of 2.35:1. For the most part, the film is a wonderful experience. Colors are true and vivid evidenced by the incredible reproduction of the ocean scenes. You can actually make out the shades of blue and green, as well as the shadow effects of water depth. The skin tones do reflect the age of the film and the stock of the time. The print is not flawless, but the occasional scratch or score mark is easily forgiven by the overall care shown to the film. Blacks are surprisingly deep and accurate. Note the detail in the opening beach scene which is such an essential mood setter for the entire film.
There are enough extras here to feed a twenty foot shark. Many of the features offered in the laserdisc box set are also included here. To get anything more “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”
“Making of Jaws” is a re-release of the laserdisc special cut from over 2 hours to just under an hour. From this special we are taken on a much more intimate look at the film than these specials usually provide. Instead of the common gushing interviews about how wonderful everything and everybody was, this special points out just how frustrating and painful this film was to make.
There is a generous helping of outtakes and deleted scenes. The deleted scenes are a special treasure that offer us more insight into the subtle plotlines left out of the final film. There are two galleries, trailers, a trivia game, and the usual assortment of text based features, most notably an informative primer on the world of sharks.
The menus are a disappointment, just text lines and an intro that while entertaining takes too long and can’t be bypassed. Lastly this should have been a 2 disc set if ever a film deserved it.
The shark may well be the star of Jaws, but it’s the chemistry between Scheider, Dreyfuss, and Shaw that make this film worth watching again and again for the last 25 years. The cinematography is so much more impressive when you discover how much agony the crew was in. This disc delivers it all: “The head, the tail, the whole damned thing.”