Directed by Steven Spielberg
Released by Universal Home Entertainment
“Jaws will do for the ocean what Psycho did for showers”
Such was the prediction of Carl Gottlieb, co-screenwriter of Spielberg’s breakout hit and the first movie to be considered a “summer blockbuster”, breaking the $100 million in ticket sales, domestic, within it’s first few weeks. This was a prediction that would ring true for many years to come, and indeed Gottlieb says that he’s still approached by people who say that Jaws scared them away from the ocean for life.
A monster hit that spawned three sequels (with decreasing degrees of quality), the original film is not only a classic horror/suspense movie, but a classic American film for the ages, and even to this day it’s still one of the most effective man vs. nature films ever made. So it’s not surprising that Universal continues to milk the films success even if it means double-and-triple dipping on DVD releases. This year marks its 30th anniversary, so of course the studio couldn’t resist yet another version for mass consumption.
Before I go into disc details, how about a bit of plot synopsis for the six people out there that haven’t seen the movie? Surely!
In the small island town of Amity, people are being attacked by a shark. Chief of Police Martin Brody (Scheider) is convinced that the beaches, the only real source of income for the town come summertime, have to be closed immediately before any more victims turn up. Oceanographer Matt Hooper (Dreyfuss) shows up in town to give his expert opinion on just what kind of shark they’re dealing with, and comes to the conclusion it’s a massive great white, possibly the biggest ever recorded.
All the more reason to get those beaches closed and find the shark, right? The town’s mayor believes, after some local fishermen catch a tiger shark, that the problem is solved, but Hooper’s not buying it. Late at night he and Chief Brody sneak to where the fish is being stored and cut it open. Since the remains of a little boy (the last victim) are not found, he now has proof the threat is still alive.
The film then completely shifts gear as Brody and Hooper team with local shark hunter Quint (the late great Robert Shaw) to catch the shark. While up until now the film has dealt with the suspense of who would be next, once they get the fish out to sea it’s all a matter of surviving the massive beast and destroying it once and for all. As has been pointed out many times before by those far more eloquent than I, the film is really pure brilliance from start to finish and has rightfully earned it’s place among American cinema classics.
Knowing this, Universal has decided to re-release the film on DVD yet again (the last was 2000’s 25th Anniversary Edition) with only one really significant extra feature from the last.
On the first disc we have the movie, of course. It looks and sound great, but then Uni’s had three DVD releases to get it right so you wouldn’t expect much less from them. There’s a gathering of deleted and alternate takes, none of which are all that interesting and would have only served to slow the film down, so it’s understandable why they were cut.
There’s also a 10-minute “From the Set” interview with Spielberg done for a UK entertainment show back in 1974, which is a bit of fun just because everyone’s so damn young (Spielberg was only 26 when he made this movie…unbelievable). The interview was shot during the film’s second day filming at sea and serves to show the already-growing level of frustration with shooting in such an unpredictable environment.
The main feature on Disc Two is “The Making of Jaws“, a two-hour documentary that features interviews with Spielberg, Scheider, Dreyfuss, Peter Benchley (author of the book on which the film was based), Lorraine Gray (Scheider’s on-screen wife), Carl Gottlieb, and even Denise Cheshire, the first victim of the Great White. For Jaws completists, this is a must-have; for casual Jaws fans, such as myself, it’s still a must-have; it’s just a great look at how a team of relatively young filmmakers and actors managed to overcome the horrible shooting conditions and still come out with a fantastic, classic film on the other end.
Between this and seeing him talk about Duel on that film’s long-delayed DVD release, I have a much greater respect for Spielberg as a regular person. Sure he makes award-winning films left and right, but he also seems to remember every little detail about his earliest works, the films that helped make him what he is today, and he’s still incredibly enthusiastic about all of them, contagiously so. He just reminds of a big geek (granted a very rich geek) that loves to talk about movies as much as he loves making them.
Also featured on Disc Two is the “Jaws Archive”, a collection of production sketches, stills, and marketing history for the film presented in a slideshow format. Nothing too spectacular overall, but an interested look at the history of Jaws from more of a behind-the-scenes perspective.
Outside of the DVD there is a 60-page photo booklet which features behind-the-scenes and production stills, populated mainly with quotes from the various interviews in the “Making of Jaws” featurette. It’s awful pretty, but that’s about it.
So the question remains; is this release worthy of you hard-earned money once again? If you own the 25th Anniversary Edition and aren’t too interested in more special features, the honest answer is no. The film looks and sounds as good as it ever will (which is damn good) on that release. If you never plopped down your money for that version, then this one is more than worth your time, if nothing else for the complete “Making of Jaws” documentary. It’s really your call, but then you might want to wait and see what Universal comes up with for the film’s 35th Anniversary…
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