Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss, Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton, Carl Gottlieb, Jeffrey Kramer, Susan Backlinie, Jonathan Filley, Chris Rebello
Peter Benchley (novel and screenplay), Carl Gottlieb
When a gigantic great white shark begins to menace the small island community of Amity, a police chief, a marine scientist and a grizzled fisherman set out to stop it.
$7,061,513 on 409 Screens.
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English DTS-HD MA 7.1
Spanish DTS 5.1
French DTS 5.1
Runtime: 124 min.
Release Date: 8/14/2012
• Deleted Scenes and Outtakes
• “The Making of Jaws” Documentary
• “The Shark Is Still Working: The Impact and Legacy of Jaws” Documentary
• “Jaws: The Restoration” Featurette
• “From the Set” Featurette
• Production Photos
• “Marketing Jaws” Gallery
• “The Jaws Phenomenon” Gallery
• DVD Copy
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Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.
Jaws [Blu-Ray] (1975)
Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 24, 2012)
When it hit screens in 1975, Jaws terrified me. This didn't occur because I saw the movie and found it frightening; no, my eight-year-old self was too scared to even enter the theater. The hype around the film was almost overwhelming, and all of the word of the movie's terrors definitely kept me away from it.
Instead, I chose to read the book. Actually, it was the Reader's Digest abridged edition, but hey - I was eight! Gimme a break! Of course, my young age didn't stop my pretentiousness, as I pompously informed family that I needed quiet - I was reading Jaws!
I enjoyed the book but still couldn't muster the courage to view the film. That breakthrough wouldn't occur until 1978, when the sequel - cleverly titled Jaws 2 - appeared. My friend Kevin and I eagerly greeted it and loved every second of it. In retrospect, it was actually a pretty weak movie, but it deserves some credit for more formally introducing a couple of kids to the wonderful cinematic world of Jaws.
The original film hit theaters as a re-release during the summer of 1979, and I welcomed the chance to see it. Home video was not much of a force in 1979; neither my family nor those of my friends had VCRs, and the availability of titles was limited anyway. Actually, I think Jaws may have been out on tape at the time, but it was a moot point for us.
As such, we children of the Seventies had to wait for either these sporadic theatrical reissues to see older hits, or we had to find them when they finally hit broadcast TV. (Cable was a minor factor at that time, too.) Today huge successes reach broadcast TV quickly, but that wasn't the case back then; it could take many years for some pictures to reach that level. That meant we often had loooong waits to view or rewatch some movies.
(An aside: Although I clearly wouldn't trade the current home video situation for those days, I must admit I miss the "special" quality that became attached to films back then. They were more of an event and seemed more exciting. Of course, part of that stems from the fact I was a kid; everything appears bigger and fresher when you’re young. Still, movies lost some of their magic when they became a commodity that could be bought at the grocery store.)
When I finally saw Jaws in the summer of 1979, I definitely dug it. Because I was a moron, I preferred the sequel to the original. Not any more. Not for many years, really. I saw Jaws 2 on TV in the early Nineties and realized how flawed it truly was. In case this impression stemmed from the pan and scan transfer, I rented the letterboxed laserdisc a few years later and felt the same way; Jaws 2 isn't a terrible movie, but it's nothing more than a pale imitation of the original.
Ironically, it was my initial impression of Jaws on home video that led me to give the sequel that second chance. Between the theatrical reissue of Jaws in 1979 and my purchase of its first letterboxed LD in 1992, I'd watched the movie a few times on pan and scan videotape and thought it was kind of dull. In fact, I'd ignored the movie for quite some time.
However, my acquisition of an LD player in 1991 changed that. I soon discovered just how much of a difference letterboxing made for some movies; titles like Star Wars and Die Hard had seemed blah on videotape though I'd loved them theatrically. Once I saw the letterboxed LDs, I realized how much of a difference composition made and rewatched other films I'd neglected due to boring P&S versions.
When its letterboxed LD finally appeared in 1992, Jaws was high on that list. I grabbed the LD, loved it, and never looked back. I'm now on my fifth disc-based copy of the movie, but I don't regret a thing; the movie is that special.
Although this attitude may not always come through in my reviews, I really do try to respect alternate viewpoints; one man's skanky tub of goo is another's hot babe. However, there's a limit to tolerance, which leads me to this proclamation: if you think Jaws is less than a masterpiece, you're wrong. And if you go so far as to think that any of its sequels or even the wretched Deep Blue Sea are better shark movies, then you've sacrificed any chance of credibility around these parts, and I may have to kick you in the head.
From 1975 through 1982, Steven Spielberg was the greatest filmmaker alive. In that period, he made four absolute classics: Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Raiders of the Lost Ark and ET the Extraterrestrial. He only faltered in 1979 with the abysmal 1941; the other four movies touched perfection. I won't call E.T. Spielberg's last gasp, as he's clearly made some fine films since 1982, but I think it was the final time he made a truly great movie; some of those that have followed have been very good but flawed.
Don't ask me to rank those four films made between 1975 and 1982, because it's nearly impossible. However, it's actually thinkable to call Jaws the worst of the bunch; that's how good Spielberg was in those days. Not only do those four movies fare better any of his other work, they stack up with anybody else's films as well; I’d put Spielberg’s “top four” up against any other director’s four best.
And Jaws was where it all started. Although it may be worse than three of its four descendants, that definitely isn't a slight on Jaws itself; the film seems nearly perfect. As I watched it tonight, I tried to imagine what scenes could arguably disappear and not affect the movie, or which felt like "padding". Of the whole film, the only scene I might delete would be the one with the fishermen who nearly become dinner for the shark; it serves no purpose other than to give the audience a quick jolt and up the adrenaline ante. I don't necessarily advocate the removal of the scene, but it appears expendable.
But that's it - I don't think the rest of Jaws shows an ounce of fat. Spielberg and editor Verna Fields managed to create an unbelievably tight and taut piece that displays virtually immaculate pacing; the story follows such a straight and coherent line from start to finish that I still can't imagine anything quite as well-structured.
However, don't think that Jaws is obsessed with plot, plot and more plot to the expense of other factors. The film boasts three wonderfully well-rounded lead characters via main protagonist Chief Brody (Roy Scheider), wealthy young marine biologist Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) and grizzled old fisherman Quint (Robert Shaw).
The personalities don't receive a tremendous amount of exposition, however. We learn bits and pieces as the film progresses: Brody is a former New Yorker who hasn't quite adjusted to island life, Hooper is a bit of a spoiled brat as well as smart and cocky, and Quint is a somewhat bitter but committed and fearless shark stalker. At no time does the movie pause to have a character tell his "life story"; these pieces of information are conveyed almost effortlessly through the script.
The actors themselves bring quite a lot to the roles as well. Although I know that none of the actors were Spielberg's first choices, it now seems impossible to imagine anyone else in the parts. Scheider is strong enough as Brody to be believable, but he never lapses into "superman" territory. Brody exists as the audience's entry into the story, and while we have to see him as capable and effective, Scheider brings a human quality to the role that keeps him an underdog throughout the movie.
Dreyfuss came into his own with Hooper. The part allowed Dreyfuss to show a strong, quirky character, and this role really marks the start of the smarmy, snide persona Dreyfuss portrayed so many times over the years. In many ways, Quint seems like the "anti-Hooper", as the two display the disparities between the rich and the working class as well as between book-learning and life-knowledge. However, they're more alike than they'd like to think, though it's fascinating to see the differing ways Quint and Hooper were drawn to sharks; the actors' attitudes make it clear that although both men initially were attracted to the beasts via violent episodes, their reactions were completely different.
Quint marked one of Shaw's final roles before his untimely death in 1978, and it might be his best performance. Shaw was clearly a very versatile actor - Quint doesn't have a lot in common with Mallory in Force 10 From Navarone or Lonnegan in The Sting - and Quint displays his abilities well as any of his other parts. Perhaps better, since it forced him into a grittier American role; ironically, the British Shaw had a tougher time with his Irish accent in The Sting than his American voice here. Since Quint was my earliest exposure to Shaw, I was shocked when I found he wasn't American; he fits the role so well that it's hard to believe he's not a native. (And it’s bizarre to see 1974 interviews with Shaw in which we see him look like Quint but speak with a British accent.)
In spite of a troubled, difficult production, virtually everything fell neatly into place for Jaws in the long run. I've never been a fan of movie music, and I really think too many films go overboard with score; most pictures could benefit from a serious cutback in on-screen music. John Williams has been as guilty as anyone in the excessive scoring department; I found his cloying music for Saving Private Ryan to be one of the film's main faults.
However, I have no similar complaints here. Williams cues the action and tone of Jaws to perfection. At times I marveled at how nicely his score complemented the film's events, from the deep menace of the legendary theme to the light and fun "nautical" quality of the more carefree moments on the sea as our heroes hunt the shark. Usually when I notice film scores, it's a bad thing; it rarely happens unless I'm annoyed at the music. Williams' track for Jaws is a happy exception, as it adds measurably to the success of the film.
Jaws may have a negative legacy in some ways, from its poor sequels to the fact it single-handedly created the "summer blockbuster"; Star Wars sealed the deal, but Jaws first enabled the yearly on-rush of crummy movies that dominate multiplexes for the warmer months. However, we can't blame the film for the phenomenon that followed it. 37 years after its initial release, Jaws retains its ability to thrill and delight. Movies just don't get better than this.
The Blu-ray Grades: Picture A-/ Audio A/ Bonus A
Jaws appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Without question, the film has never looked better.
Actually, the opening sequence scared me a bit. I thought the Chrissie scenes tended to look… off. The colors just seemed too warm and didn’t match my concept of how the movie should appear.
After that, though, Jaws more closely connected to my experiences with the film over the decades – except it looked vastly superior to prior video incarnations. Sharpness was almost always terrific. A few wide shots – such as those of Hooper’s boat – were a little fuzzy, but those remained rare. The vast majority of the flick displayed excellent clarity and definition.
No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and the image lacked edge haloes. I noticed no obvious signs of noise reduction, as the movie featured a good sense of grain. The image lacked print flaws and consistently remained clean.
Following the (in my opinion) overly warm opening, colors went with a natural feel that came across well on the Blu-ray. The hues seemed full and rich as they replicated the summer sights nicely. Blacks were deep and dense, while shadows usually showed solid clarity. The movie’s use of “day for night” photography resulted in some excessively dark low-light shots, but those were inevitable and inherent to the original photography.
Honestly, I had no real complaints with the transfer. It provided an objectively strong visual presentation but didn’t go out of its way to “update” the image. This still “looked like” Jaws.
The Blu-ray sported a DTS-HD MA 7.1 remix as well as the movie’s original monaural audio. I’ll talk about the monaural track soon, but first I want to discuss the 7.1 mix.
The soundfield maintained an environment that favored the forward speakers but also displayed good scope. Dialogue stuck to the center channel, as did many effects, although quite a lot of ambient noise spread to the front side speakers and to the rears. The surrounds fired mostly during underwater scenes or in other segments that used a gently-enveloping environment. The score also blended nicely across the front speakers, and often to the rears as well.
Any fears that the remixers would go nuts and create inappropriately discrete audio were unfounded. The track remained fairly modest and made only minor changes to bolster the environment. These added life to the soundscape, such as when a helicopter zoomed from the right rear to the front. The shark’s nighttime assault on the boat created a good thump as well, and some other sequences used the back speakers in a convincing manner, but the track didn’t pour on the surround gimmicks.
Audio quality was always quite good. Music sounded lively and warm, with real punch and power. Effects showed nice range and clarity; expect solid low-end response to accompany these elements. At times, speech seemed slightly flat and dull, but that was an artifact of its age. The lines still blended well with the other material and seemed just fine. Multichannel remixes can be awkward and jarring, but that wasn’t the case here; I thought the 7.1 track gave us an involving reworking of the source material.
I also gave the original monaural track a listen and thought that it’s held up well over all these years. The lines could be a little hard and edgy, but they remained fairly distinctive and concise. The quality of the music surprised me. Given the age of the mix, I didn’t expect it to appear so dynamic and rich. The music’s low-end was quite good, and the track replicated the score nicely. Effects were also more than satisfactory. Occasional distortion occurred, but not enough to create a distraction. In general, these elements appeared fairly accurate and clean. No issues with background noise occurred. Overall, I thought the mono mix deserved a “B”.
Which soundtrack you choose will depend on what you want out of the movie. If you prefer to replicate Jaws exactly as it appeared on movie screens, go with the mono mix. It sounds good and doesn’t show its age in a negative way. If you want something a little more modern, go with the 7.1 track. Yes, it changes some things from the original, but I think it compensates for this with all its improvements. Either way, you can’t go wrong.
How did this Blu-Ray compare to the 30th Anniversary DVD from 2005? Audio was clearer and more dynamic, while visuals seemed substantially improved. The Blu-ray demonstrated radically superior definition as well as more accurate colors, fewer print flaws and a loss of digital artifacts. I never felt pleased with prior home video transfers of Jaws, so this became the first version that really made me happy.
The Blu-ray packs all of the 2005 DVD’s disc-based extras and adds some new ones. We get a 13-minute and 33-second collection of Deleted Scenes and Outtakes. Most of these pieces are trims from existing scenes, though two are alternate takes of included segments, and one that involves Quint has no corresponding portion in the film. All of the scenes are interesting and fun, but you can see why were omitted, as they generally slowed down the story.
I don't want to ruin the sole true deleted scene by describing it in detail, but let's just say it involves Quint, a young musician, and "Beethoven's Ninth". It's a truly delightful piece, but it also deserved to be cut, as it introduced Quint too early; it would have made the existing scene when Quint scratches the blackboard less compelling.
The “Outtakes” last about one minute, and they cover three different topics. We get to delight in Roy Scheider's annoyance as his gun jams endlessly, and we also see some extra shots of Shaw as he spits blood. We get a few takes of Quint’s assistant as well. It's not much, but it's a lot of fun.
Next comes a two-hour, two-minute and 48-second documentary called The Making of Jaws. Originally found on the 1995 laserdisc, this program offers the standard mix of movie clips, archival materials, and interviews. We hear from Spielberg, author Peter Benchley, screenwriter Carl Gottlieb, producers Richard Zanuck and David Brown, shark documentarians Ron and Valerie Taylor, former MCA president Sid Sheinberg, stuntmen Richard Warlock and Ted Grossman, production designer Joe Alves, director of photography Bill Butler, composer John Williams, and actors Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, Susan Backlinie, and Lorraine Gary.
An extremely detailed program, “Making” starts at the beginning as Benchley discusses the origins of the novel. From there we find out about its title, the acquisition of the rights, finding a director, adapting the story and unused concepts, shooting real sharks and related topics, casting, filming at Martha’s Vineyard, filming many of the movie’s sequences, editorial choices, color and visual design, issues filming at sea, the design and creation of the mechanical shark as well as connected problems, the Orca, technical innovations, editing, reshoots, the score, screenings and audience reactions, ratings concerns, and general production problems and anecdotes.
Boy, do we get a lot of anecdotes here! And they’re uniformly good ones. The show includes more than enough basic data to ensure it’s not just relentless storytelling, but those tales are what adds life and personality to the program. We get a real feeling for all the problems that befell the production. The show moves things along briskly to make sure we find appropriate detail but we don’t get bogged down in minutiae. Fast, fun and informative, this is an excellent documentary.
New to the Blu-ray, The Shark Is Still Working: The Impact and Legacy of Jaws runs one hour, 41 minutes, 21 seconds as it provides notes from Dreyfuss, Spielberg, Benchley, Butler, Scheider, Zanuck, Brown, Alves, Gottlieb, Gary, Williams, Backlinie, monster movie historian Bob Burns, special mechanical effects creator Roy Arbogast, production executive William S. Gilmore, Jr., advertising narrator Percy Rodrigues, former Universal CEO Sid Sheinberg, musician Charlie Benante, Hollywood Worldviews author Brian Godawa, Cinefex associate editor Joe Fordham, documentarian James Gelet, “Making of Jaws” director Laurent Bouzereau, Jaws art collector Richard Martel, poster art illustrator Roger Kastel, stunt double Dick Warlock, shark behavioral ecologist R. Aidan Martin, horror effects artist Tom Savini, Spielbergfilms.com’s Steven Awalt, actor Craig Kingsbury’s daughter Kristen, special effects artist Kevin Pike, current owners of Jaws pool set Jeff and Victoria Myers, shark cinematographers Ron and Valerie Taylor, Jawsmoviearchives.com’s Edward McCormack, Jawsfest organizer Jeff Kristal, Jawsfest creative director J. Michael Roddy, Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce’s Valerie Richards, prop collectors Erik Hollander and Chris Kiszka, boat wranglers Lynn and Susan Murphy, Universal Studios Hollywood creative director John Murdy, marine biologist Greg Skomal, author Steve Allen, effects artist Greg Nicotero, filmmakers Kevin Smith, M. Night Shyamalan, Robert Rodriguez, Patrick Read Johnson, Bryan Singer, Eli Roth, Eduardo Sanchez, and Chris Kentis, and actors Jay Mello, Jeffrey Kramer, Lee Fierro, Jonathan Filley, Will Pfluger, Hershel West, Henry Carreiro, Dick Young, Marc Gilpin and Jeffrey Voorhees.
At the start, we focus on the conditions on the set, with info about challenges shooting at sea, getting the mechanical shark to function, actors and performances. The lion’s share of the documentary looks at the film’s post-release life, though; it goes over promotion and success as well as elements connected to the film’s influence and continued life in pop culture.
The components not related to the film’s actual creation give “Working” the biggest reason to exist; after all, we already learned a ton about the production itself in the “Making of” documentary. “Working” does manage to unearth other details, and those fare pretty well. In particular, I like the parts about the film’s supporting actors/extras; it’s fun to learn that Fierro has been asked multiple times over the years to slap people in a recreation of her most famous scene.
The portions connected to the movie’s post-release life tend to be spottier, though. Make no mistake: this is a fan project, and it often feels that way, as it can be gushy and too heavily oriented toward praise for the movie and all involved. I’d prefer that “Working” focus on production elements not addressed in “Making of” and spend less time with the ways the film lives on in pop culture, as the former tend to be more interesting. Nonetheless, it’s a good documentary and an enjoyable experience for fans.
Another new component, Jaws: The Restoration lasts eight minutes, 28 seconds and features Spielberg, Universal VP of Content Management and Technical Services Peter Schade, Senior VP of Technical Operations Michael Daruty, Universal VP of Image Assets and Preservation Bob O’Neil, Universal Digital Services Project Manager Seanine Bird, Cineric senior colorist Daniel DeVincent, Universal Digital Services Inferno artist Eric Bauer, Universal Technical Services mastering supervisor Phil Defibaugh, Universal Digital Services colorist Leo Dunn, re-recording mixer Frank Montano, BluWave audio executive director Richard LeGrand, and supervising sound editor John Edell. We get an overview of the techniques used to bring the movie to Blu-ray. This is a decent overview, though like most featurettes of its kind, it tends to seem a bit self-congratulatory.
From the Set lasts eight minutes and 56 seconds. This vintage featurette looks at May 6, 1974, the second of shooting in America. The British production focuses on Spielberg on the set. We see him at work and also in some short interview clips. Spielberg talks about real-life shark attacks as well as the then-current Sugarland Express, his work with the actors and the challenges of filming at sea. Out on the water, we watch problems with the scene in which Brody and Hooper find Ben Gardner. There’s nothing terribly revealing here, but it offers a nice slice of period life.
A Storyboards domain offers some details on changes from the book. This area provides 195 screens, 30 of which are actually production drawings. The 165 storyboards detail seven different scenes, five of which are alternate versions of existing pieces; those stuck more closely to the original book. The other two storyboard scenes pretty much just equal what ended up in final cut. I'm not a huge fan of storyboards, but these are valuable since they cover material not found elsewhere.
The Production Photos section provides a whopping 364 frames worth of material. These are almost all candid shots from the set. The presentation isn't very friendly - God help you if you loved picture 350 and want to access it, since you'll have to skip through 349 frames to get there - but the material is strong.
Inside Marketing Jaws we get 70 stills. These include posters, ads, lobby cards, book and magazine covers, toys and other promotional materials. These are fun to see.
The final stillframe area, The Jaws Phenomenon includes 76 screens of images. We find a lot of international ads as well as promos for the Oscar campaign and elements that discuss the movie’s financial success - as well as the cute ads that appeared when Star Wars passed Jaws as the box office champ.
Finally, the disc includes the movie’s theatrical trailer. The 2005 DVD lacked any ads, so this situations offers an improvement, but the 2000 DVD had three trailers, so we’re still missing clips that’ve been previously released.
A second disc throws in a DVD copy of Jaws. This includes only one extra: a 50-minute, 10-second abbreviation of “The Making of Jaws”.
After 37 years, Jaws remains one of the all-time great films. Tight, briskly-paced and fully engrossing, it deserves its status as a classic. The Blu-ray offers excellent picture and audio as well as a broad and engaging set of supplements. This is as good as movies get, and the Blu-ray easily becomes the best home video version of it seen to date – by a wide margin.
To rate this film, visit the 30TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION review of JAWS