InsidePulse DVD Review – Jaws: 30th Anniversary Edition


(Credit: Amazon.com)

Director:
Steven Spielberg

Starring:
Roy Scheider……….Police Chief Martin Brody
Robert Shaw……….Quint
Richard Dreyfuss……….Matt Hooper
Lorraine Gary……….Ellen Brody
Murray Hamilton……….Mayor Larry Vaughn

The Movie:

After 30 years of scaring little kids (and some adults) out of the water Jaws still stands to this very day as one of director Steven Spielberg’s greatest cinematic achievements. Movies today choose things leaping out from dark places to make the viewers jump out of their seats, but what Spielberg did was he tapped in to the audiences subconscious to bring them to an entirely new level of fear. He manipulated their imaginations and used that power against them. If you ask any director he’ll tell you what ever can be put on film pales in comparison to what ever images the audiences can create in their minds.

The movie takes place in the small beach resort town of Amity, where the entire community thrives on the success of their summer tourist season. But before the beach going crowds come to town with their pockets lined with money, a local girl has been found washed up on shore and by what is left of her remains Chief Martin Brody can only assume this to be a shark attack. Immediately he tells his deputy to set up signs informing the public that the beach is closed until further notice. Until Mayor Vaughn catches wind of what the Chief is doing and tells him that without proof of what happened they shouldn’t jump to conclusions that could harm the town financially.

Since Brody has no solid facts to go by he reluctantly agrees to keep the beaches open for the time being. But in a matter of days their small island community is shaken up by yet another shark attack, this time taking the life of a small boy splashing around on his inflatable raft. A town meeting is called to order as quickly as possible with all of the shop owners and city officials to find a way of dealing with their new threat. Brody calls in for professional help to track down the shark, only to find out that the mother of the child that was killed has personally set up a three thousand dollar reward to the man who captures and kills the creature that took her son. Soon enough the docks are packed with fishermen from all across New England looking to cash in on the bounty.

Matt Hooper the marine biologist Brody contacted makes his way in to town and once he lays eyes on the remains of the first victim there isn’t a doubt in his mind that a shark had done the damage. A monstrous sized shark at that. After yet another scare everyone knows what must be done, the mayor finally agrees to pay a contractor to head up a hunt for the killer shark. Martin wastes no time to hire local fisherman and shark hunting expert by the name of Quint. Hastily the two men along with Hooper head out on the wide open sea in search of the great white, it’s them against the shark, man versus nature.

There’s a reason so many movies that try to follow the same structure as Jaws fail. They never build their protagonists to the point where the audience has developed any sort of compassion for them. Or they leave them so one dimensional they become walking stereotypes. And instead studio’s rely on the grand scale of their special effects to win people over. Jaws never needed that, it built all of its characters up slowly and progressively so that by the time everything begins to look the worst the viewers wanted to see their hero’s pull through.

For a cast whose three leading men were neither the first or second choices for their respected roles, the chemistry between them is impeccable. What makes this picture so different from other summer movies or most movies in general even, is that each character is given depth. They depict the words from the pages so well that the audience grows a bond with them instantaneously.

Spielberg was forced to alter scenes on the spot almost daily due to shark malfunctions, weather changes and other unforeseeable troubles. it’s those unintended and improvised moments when Steven had to just make due with what he had that created a joyful experience for the audience. The magic we see on screen shows what Spielberg could do when faced with a limited budget and time constraints. The effects in Jaws still hold up today, in fact in some cases the animatronics in this movie put todays CGI to shame. The work might have been harder for Spielberg and his crew but the final product they created is timeless.

When Jaws was released back in the summer of 1975 it took the nation by storm and became the first American film to ever surpass the hundred million dollar mark at the box office. In beach towns across the country you couldn’t walk past a shop without seeing something with a Jaws logo on it or something shark oriented. And with all of that buzz the “summer blockbuster” was born. After three decades the visual effects may have deteriorated ever so slightly, but the story and the portrayal by the actors haven’t skipped a beat. It’s just as entertaining as it was 30 years ago.

Score: 9.5/10

The Video:
(Presented in 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen)
This release of the movie is exactly the same print from the previous 25th Anniversary DVD edition. And aside from a handful of scenes that appear grainy (mostly ones of the ocean), this is the best that the film has ever looked. While not pristine, it’s doubtful that anyone could do a better job at restoring this classic gem.

Score: 8/10

The Audio:
(English, French, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround, English DTS, and English 2.0 mono)
Once again the audio here is from the previous DVD release, the only differences are now both 5.1 and DTS tracks are available on a single disc rather than 2 separately sold ones. Also, for the first time the movies original theatrical 2.0 mono track is made available for the audio purists out there. All three are very well done, with DTS slightly in the lead. After all these years John Williams simple yet brilliant score will still send chills down your spine when it makes its way out of the surrounding speakers.

Score: 8/10

The Extras:

Included in the 2-Disc collection is a Commemorative 60 page Photo Journal, it’s a nice touch filled with on set pictures and screen captures from the actual film, accompanied with quotes from cast and crew about their experience with the production. Most of the quoted text is echoed in the Making of Jaws special feature on disc two. So it does become rather redundant, but it’s still a nice keepsake.

Disc One:
From the Set (9min) – This is a never before available interview with Steven Spielberg by the BBC during the production of the movie. It mostly focuses on his at the time previous film The Sugarland Express and he talks about how casting is the most crucial part of making a movie.

Deleted Scenes and Outtakes (13min) – Only about 3 of these deleted scenes are actual deleted scenes, the rest of them are extended existing shots. These never run past a minute each, but are enjoyable enough to watch at least once. Most are available on the old DVD also. The outtakes offer nothing and can easily be passed over.

Disc Two:
The Making of Jaws (2hrs 4min) – For the first time since its release on the old Jaws laserdisc this two hour feature length making of piece is finally released in its entirety. The old DVD has this but due to restraints it was edited down to a mere 59 minutes. This piece is the best you’ll find when it comes to a “making of” documentary for the movie. Every aspect imaginable is covered in great detail, how the book’s title originated, how the studio purchased the rights to the book, casting, the faults of the animatronic shark, how John Williams came up with the sharks iconic theme, everything you could possibly dream of. In all honesty this is the only thing from the special features that is keeping the score from being a 2 or lower. This piece alone is worth picking up the DVD set, but it’s also the only thing worth watching after the movie.

Included on the disc are Photo galleries of Storyboards , Production Photos, Marketing Jaws, and Jaws Phenomenon. The problem with all of these is after one viewing your done with them, there is absolutely zero replay value.

Score: 6.5/10