• Jaws

    Released by: Universal Studios

    Released on: August 14, 2012.

    Director: Steven Spielberg

    Cast: Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, Robert Shaw, Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton

    Year: 1975

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    The Movie:

    Directed by Steven Speilberg in 1975 and based on the novel by Peter Benchley, Jaws is widely considered to be the first summer blockbuster film – debate the merits of that and its influence on the Hollywood machine all you like, but don’t let it take away from the fact that the picture holds up well. The story is simple enough – in a small New England town a great white shark has closed in on the beach just as tourist season is set to start, and this shark is hungry.

    When a body or two washes up on the beach, the town’s sheriff, Brody (Roy Scheider), has to do something about it despite protests from the mayor (Murray Hamilton), who would just as soon let things go on as normal so as not to hurt the town’s most profitable time of year. Things go from bad to worse and before you know it, there are townsfolk out in their boats hunting sharks left right and center but the young upstart marine scientist, Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss), knows that the shark that has been doing the damage is still at large. Eventually he and Brody team up with a local fisherman named Quint (Robert Shaw) to try and do away with the great white menace once and for all before it can kill again…

    Jaws is one of those movies that has it all and just really comes together. At just over two hours in length it’s longer than average but never overstays its welcome and somehow manages to pack in loads of action, adventure and genuine horror without sacrificing character development or storytelling. Some may argue that the spectacle is what matters here but the way Scheider’s character transformers as the film progresses, not to mention the similar way in which Dreyfuss’ young hotshot scientist changes, disputes that. Once the action shifts from the shore to the board, where only Quint, previously believed to be insane, starts to make any sense the movie is as much about the experience that the trio go through as it is about sharks eating people and messing up summer vacations.

    Spielberg directs this with enough style to matter but not so much that it winds up a distraction. Much of the film is shot with the camera lens level with the water, to puts us ‘in the action’ so to speak and it winds up giving the movie an effectively claustrophobic feeling. It works and it works well, and those with an affinity for traditional effects will appreciate what went into making the mechanical shark that was responsible for so much of the mayhem in the film (though those who don’t appreciate traditional effects will lament the fact that in some scenes, the mechanical shark is obviously just that). The movie was simultaneously ahead of its time and a throwback to the simple pulp style adventure films of the past. Some pretty flawless performances from the principal and supporting cast members help make this one you can return to time and again while the theme of man versus nature never gets old. We’ll stop short of calling it a perfect film and state that it is instead a damn near perfect film. It’s beloved for a reason and considered a classic for a reason and it remains a high point in the collective filmographies of all involved.


    Jaws finally arrives on Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition widescreen transfer framed at 2.35.1 widescreen and restored from original 35mm film elements. How does it look? In short, great. Supervised by Spielberg and Amblin Entertainment, the movie shows excellent color reproduction and very strong detail throughout the duration of the film. There are going to be those who will complain simply because this is a Universal Catalogue title (many of which have fell prey to excessive DNR) but Spielberg’s comments in the extras more or less seal the deal here – this is how HE wants Jaws to look and when you see the image in motion, it’s hard to really disagree with the man. Texture is strong, skin tones look good and fine grain doesn’t look to have really been monkied with at all (you can see a good bit of it intact in the screen caps). The film definitely retains its mid-seventies look and the enhanced resolution and clarity afforded by the Blu-ray presentation really help to make it shine.

    The main audio option on the disc is an English language DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio mix, but feel free to check out alternate tracks offered up in English DTS Digital 2.0 Surround Mono, Spanish 2.0 Dolby Digital Mono and French DTS Digital Surround 5.1 with optional subtitles provided in English SDH, French and Spanish. As it is with the video presentation, the audio presentation too gets a nice high definition upgrade. The DTS-HD mix does beautiful things with the iconic John Williams score without sounding artificially remixed and it offers up crisp, clear dialogue and some great sound effects throughout every channel in the mix. The track is active when the movie needs it to be and subtle and quieter when called for while the levels remain properly balanced from start to finish. There are no issues with any hiss or distortion and all in all, the movie sounds excellent here.

    Extras? Universal has got you covered here too. First up is an hour and forty one minute long standard definition featurette entitled The Shark is Still Working: The Impact and Legacy of Jaws. Though listed on the packaging as ‘all new’ this featurettes is from 2007 and some will have seen this before. Regardless, it’s a great look at the history of the film, what the cast and crew went through while on the set and working on the picture and about the influence that the picture had on God only knows how many other films that came in its wake. Directed by Erik Hollander, there’s a lot of focus put here on the technology and special effects used in the movie but also a good bit of time spent discussing what the cast and crew members dealt with on a more personal level as well – this was not an easy shoot and the stories that have come out of it are impressive indeed.

    From there, we get an all new high definition featurettes entitled Jaws: The Restoration which spends eight and a half minutes with the restoration technicians and Steven Spielberg himself discussing what went into restoring the film from vault elements and getting it into the impressive condition that we see it in on this Blu-ray presentation. Carried over and seen before but still worth noting is the standard definition feature length documentary entitled, simply, The Making of Jaws which spends just a hair over two hours talking about the making of the film (again with a lot of emphasis on the effects). Included here are some great archival interviews with director Steven Spielberg, author Peter Benchley and the principal cast and crew members – if you haven’t seen this before, you should fix that and if you have, and you’re a fan, it’s worth watching again. Also included here is the nine minute 1974 featurette From the Set in which a young Steven Spielberg discusses the making of his picture. It’s not nearly as in-depth but it’s interesting regardless.

    Rounding out the extras are thirteen and a half minutes of Deleted Scenes and Outtakes in standard definition, the Jaws Archives still gallery (made up of bits and pieces on storyboards, production photos, a section on marketing the movie and more, the original Theatrical Trailer for the film in standard definition, animated menus and chapter stops. The Blu-ray disc is also Pocket BLU, D-Box Motion Code and Blu-ray Live encoded. Included inside the slipcase packaging is a DVD version of the movie and extras as well as an Ultraviolet Digital Copy of the film. It would have been nice to see Universal include the book that came with the 30th Anniversary DVD release and maybe a director’s commentary but that didn’t happen – regardless, what’s here is good, even if much of it is familiar to fans of the film.

    The Final Word:

    Jaws remains the consummate summer adventure film, equal parts monster movie and male bonding film with some great performances, impressive (for their time, at least) special effects and a story that anyone who has ever hesitated to swim in the ocean can relate to. Universal has treated this film, one of their flagship catalogue titles, with the utmost respect on Blu-ray and offered it up in high definition in great shape, with some impressive audio and with a host of impressive extra features. The perfect summer Blu-ray!

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps (some spoilers)!

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Todd Jordan's Avatar
      Todd Jordan -
      I've been waiting for this one for so long. It's nearly impossible for me to say what my favorite movie is, but with a gun to my head, this would be the one I blurt out. The three leads are just perfect and the older I got growing up watching this movie, the more I appreciated the chemistry on screen between Brody and Hooper and the parallels bewtween this story and Moby Dick. Robert Shaw is absolutely fantastic as Quint and this is totally his movie.See you next Tuesday, Jaws.