Jaws (Blu-ray / DVD)
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Distributed by Universal Home Entertainment
First off, it must be said that I have seen Jaws more than any other movie that I know of. I used to watch it every day after getting out of elementary school. From VHS to Laser Disc to DVD, I studied it and learned everything I could about it. What I’m trying to say is I know every frame, every brush stroke, every character's inflection, and every flaw about Jaws.
So now we have the definitive version of the film, and I have once again dived into the deep waters off Amity Island. I love watching my favorite movies on Blu-ray and rediscovering them, and while I have some nitpicks, Universal has done a damn good job putting this thing together.
Let me get this off my chest first: I want to make sweet love to whoever decided to finally fire the idiotic Photoshop-happy intern who redesigned the classic Jaws poster for the DVD. Finally we can all own the original beautiful Roger Kastel poster on the cover of our Blu-rays! Now, on to the movie itself.
The film is presented in an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in gorgeous 2.36:1 that was personally overseen by Steven Spielberg. The color balance and picture quality are crisp, and honestly, Jaws has never looked better. And it’s not an overblown digital mess either. The Wet Gate process Universal used to transfer the original 35mm negative to this HD master fixed many of the scratches and blotches on the original print; yet, it still has that wonderful natural film emulsion grain.
Even as someone who has seen Jaws so many times, I started catching things almost immediately that I had never seen before. Obvious things that I just never quite saw with the production and sound design:
The amount of work Universal and its team put into restoring Jaws is mind-blowing (especially after watching the featurette on it, but we’ll get to that later). No longer are the day-for-night scenes a whitewashed blue; now they're a deep beautiful blue. The water glistens and gleams in moonlight like never before. It was actually quite shocking to see just how detailed the water looks. I know that’s a strange thing to focus on, but it was the first thing I really noticed about the Blu-ray.
If you are one of those silly people who always say, “The shark looks fake,” well, first of all, don’t speak to me. We will not get along. Secondly, the shark looks fantastic. The transfer to an HD format doesn’t suddenly showcase the flaws of the shark as much as I was afraid it might.
I do have one small gripe, and I’m probably going to reveal more about myself than the film, but, Universal, what the hell? For years I have looked upon Chrissie Watkins' fabulous bouncy breasts on my worn-out VHS tape doing some sort of soft form of young adolescent mind masturbation. I could just barely make out those sweet gozongas when the shark was coming up from the depths to dine. It is a very awkward feeling for a young boy to have strong sexual urges right before seeing the same source for those urges be ripped to shreds while screaming obscenities at an unhelping deity. Talk about having a murder boner.
So you’d think that in this glorious new Blu-ray edition we’d finally be able to take a good long look at Ms. Watkins' chesticles.
They colored her chest area darker. Now you can’t see anything at all!
So I ask again: Universal, what the hell?
As for the audio quality, the BD passes in spades. John Williams’ beautiful score booms through the soundtrack in a beautiful DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track. The crowd scenes roar to life with all the background screams and splashing sounds. Where the audio really comes to life, however, is in the more somber silent scenes where the atmosphere pours through the speakers--specifically, the scene with Brody and his son mimicking him, which is my all-time favorite scene of any movie. The audio of that scene makes you feel as if you are in the Brody’s home, hearing the creaks of the house, the clinking of the glass on table, everything. It’s quite beautiful.
Now for the extras.
Thankfully with this new release Universal pulled no punches. From the Special Edition DVD we have all the deleted scenes and outtakes (which are mastered in standard definition) along with the original Making of Jaws, From the Set footage and Jaws promotional archives. Nothing exactly new here, but it's still cool to watch them over again (especially the deleted scenes, which I always get a kick out of).
A new feature exclusively on Blu-ray is the highly anticipated The Shark Is Still Working: The Impact and Legacy of Jaws. I was fortunate enough to see this documentary many years ago and even did a review of it on Dread (which you can read here). It was actually one of the main sources of inspiration for us when making Never Sleep Again and was a perfect example of a film retrospective that gets it right. While the version included on the Blu-ray is very much that documentary, it is sadly not nearly as all-encompassing as its previous incarnation, which is ironically sad to me because in my original review I nitpicked that it was a bit too long. Now I feel it is just a bit too short.
Even so, it’s still an amazing documentary, narrated by the late Roy Scheider, that delves deep into the making of the film. No stone is left unturned here. The filmmakers' rich and loving enthusiasm for Jaws bleeds through the screen and makes you remember why you’re a Jaws fan. It’s hard for me to really properly review it, though, as I have now seen both cuts and couldn’t tell you for sure what was missing from this new one. That being said, what we do get on the Blu-ray is still nothing short of incredible. And nostalgic… When I first saw the documentary, everyone was still alive. Re-watching it in 2012, I’m reminded that we have lost so many wonderful and powerful artists since 2007: Zanuck and Brown, Percy Rodriguez, Peter Benchley, and of course Roy Scheider himself. More than anything we need to thank these guys for capturing the final word on Jaws from people whom we’ll sadly never get to hear from again.
The other brand new special feature is Jaws: The Restoration, in which we take a 10-minute trip into the vaults at Universal and explore how they were able to take the 35mm original negative (like before they made the day-for-night scenes really look like night), put it through a process called the Wet Gate, which I mentioned above, and then through a rigorous coloring and digital scratch fixing course, all of which was overseen personally by Steven Spielberg. I loved watching this featurette as not only is it shot fantastically (it’s the only true HD bonus feature on the BD), but it’s extremely informative. As a film geek who works in the business, it's nice to get a featurette on a Blu-ray that actually takes the time to teach you something instead of just the usual “It was so great working with such and such.”
All in all this is an exceptional package. While I wish Universal would change up its BD menus, this release far surpasses previous Universal Blu-rays and makes me look forward to future releases.
No matter how it looks, Jaws will always be my favorite movie of all time. Sure, it’s nice to see it in crystal clarity, but, like with most legendary films that have become a part of the American mythos, it was always the story that attracted me. It made me fall in love with storytelling, filmmaking, characters, horror, marine biology, sharks, essentially all the things that make me...well...me.
I have Jaws to thank for the life I lead. And I truly am thankful indeed.
Blu-ray Bonus Features
- Advanced Remote Control: A sleek, elegant new way to operate your Blu-ray™ player. Users can navigate through menus, playback and BD-Live™ functions with ease.
- Video Timeline: Users can easily bring up the video timeline, allowing them to instantly access any point in the film.
- Mobile-To-Go: Users can unlock a selection of bonus content with their Blu-ray™ discs to save to their device or to stream from anywhere there is a Wi-Fi network, enabling them to enjoy content on the go, anytime, anywhere.
- Browse Titles: Users will have access to a complete list of pocket BLU™-enabled titles available and coming to Blu-ray™. They can view free previews and see what additional content is available to unlock on their device.
- Keyboard: Entering data is fast and easy with your device’s intuitive keyboard.
DVD Bonus Features:
5 out of 5
4 1/2 out of 5 (1/2 point deducted over loss of titty)