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Default Jaws: Special Edition




Reviewer: Styx
Review Date: August 2, 2000

Released by: Universal
Release date: July 11, 2000
MSRP: $14.95
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 2.35:1 | 16x9: Yes



The long awaited release of Steven Spielberg's classic shark thriller is finally upon us. For some time Spielberg insisted on holding back his films for release on DVD. To what purpose and reason is still not clear, but that all seems to have changed now with a deluge of Steven Spielberg titles now being announced for release in the near future. Universal has prepared a DVD version of their laserdisc Signature Collection of Jaws, boasting restored video and sound. Jaws also comes in two flavors: a Dolby Digital 5.1 version and a separate DTS release.

The Story

inline Image Chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider), his wife Ellen (Lorraine Gary) and two children Michael (Chris Rebello) and Sean (Jay Mello) are getting acquainted with their new home in the quiet and peaceful coastal town of Amity. One night a young girl, Chrissie Watkins (Susan Backlinie), goes off swimming and is violently attacked by a shark just off shore. Chrissie's remains are washed up on the beach and Chief Brody is called in to investigate. The coroner reports that Chrissie was the victim of a shark attack. Brody immediately decides to do the rational thing and close the beaches so that no one else crosses paths with this man-eating predator. Mayor Larry Vaughn (Murray Hamilton) gets whiff of this information and confronts Brody about closing the beaches. He explains that Amity is a summer town that thrives on its beaches for commerce. The coroner changes his opinion that the cause of death could've been the work of a boat propeller and Chief Brody reopens the beaches but is troubled that a shark may really be out there preying on the shores of Amity's beaches.

inline Image His fears are confirmed when a young boy, Alex Kitner (Jeffrey Voorhees), is attacked while swimming. The boy's mother, Mrs. Kitner (Lee Fierro), places ads in papers announcing a $3,000 reward for anyone who can catch the shark. Soon there is a panic. Brody closes the beaches again and plans to bring in a shark expert from the Oceanographic Institute. Meanwhile, Mayor Vaughn and Chief Brody are given an offer by ship captain and shark hunter Quint (Robert Shaw) that he'd catch this nasty shark but only for $10,000 dollars. Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) arrives from the Oceanographic Institute and meets with Chief Brody at the docks. Hooper asks to examine the remains of the first victim and confirms it was indeed a shark attack and not a boat accident. A Tiger shark is soon captured by the mirage of sailors who've swarmed Amity's waters in search of the shark and the $3,000 bounty. However, Hooper explains that it is not likely the same shark as the bite radius is different than those apparent on the first victim.

inline Image Hooper suggests cutting the shark open to see if the remains of the Kitner boy are inside the shark. That night they discover that it wasn't the shark. Brody and Hooper talk to Mayor Vaughn in an effort to close the beaches but he refuses, saying this is going to be one of the best summers yet...yeah right. The beaches are reopened and the inevitable happens; the shark strikes again creating pandemonium on the beaches. Mayor Vaughn finally gives into Brody's demand to hire Quint to kill the shark. Together with Hooper and Quint, Brody sets out into the open sea to try and kill a 25-foot Great White which, like Quint is fond of saying, "can swallow you whole".

inline Image Jaws. The mere mention of the word sums up everything one can love about the horror genre. The film has suspense, an intense 'monster', graphic violence, great characters and (surprise) a good story to tie it all together. Not everyone will agree but I believe Jaws is a milestone in the Horror genre. One that is so profound it's had an effect on popular culture and is etched in the mind of moviegoers and genre fans everywhere. Who hasn't seen Jaws and who can't conjure up its familiar foreboding theme? Few films can really penetrate into the culture of a period and quite simply, Jaws did to going to the beach what Psycho did to taking showers. You simply can't look at the water the same way again.

inline Image Jaws. Jaws is a predatoral film and it's concept is simple; a man eating shark is haunting the waters close to the shore line of a coastal town called Amity, who's chief attraction is it's golden brown beaches. The shark is no ordinary shark however, and killing it is no ordinary task. Jaws turns out to be a 25 foot Great White shark and his feeding habits are quite gruesome leading to plenty of graphic and at times disturbing scenes. It's amazing to look at Jaws and see the uselessness and incompetence of the MPAA. Jaws managed to get a PG rating, yet I find some of the death scenes more disturbing than many of the others one can find in bloodier films. The characters in this film, like all really good horror films, are robust and likeable. These aren't brainless teens lining up to be slaughtered by some mundane slasher, but rather interesting characters you care about. The cast does a stellar job in particular Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw who wind up being the three characters we'll spend the last part of the film with as they attempt to hunt down the shark, only to discover they really need a bigger boat. Robert shaw gives an impressive monologue near the end of the film which explains his character and it's so well done you hang on his every word - great stuff.

inline Image Jaws. Jaws also features one of the most disturbing (at least for me) death scenes in horror film history. After all these years the death of Quint still packs a strong punch and is one of the few death scenes that gives me an uneasy feeling. It's so well acted and directed that it's remarkably effective even if the shark looks less than realistic. Lets also not forget Jaw's score, which is probably one of the most recognized themes in the genre. Like John Carpenter's score for Halloween, the Jaws theme is simplistic but very suspenseful and memorable. The only thing bad you could say about Jaws is maybe it's slow to start and plodding by today's standards; where nowadays every film cuts down it's exposition in favor of getting to the good stuff as soon as possible. If you're going to let that stop you from seeing Jaws, you're doing yourself a grave disservice. Jaws, along with films like Alien and Psycho, are some of the best horror films to ever come out of the Hollywood stable.

Image Quality

inline Image Universal Home Video presents Jaws widescreen at 2.35:1 in a new 16x9 enhanced transfer celebrating the 25th anniversary of the big shark. This is a great looking transfer from top to bottom and thanks to Universal who almost always provide anamorphic transfers this is the best Jaws has looked to date. The transfer is very clear and clean with hardly any grain visible except on occasional interior shots. The transfer is in marvelous shape and exhibits no print defects or artifacts creating a very solid and stable presentation. The image is almost always sharp with excellent detail. Close-ups look excellent as do the medium and distances shots with few instances of the image taking a slightly softer look.

The colors are great and nicely saturated. Reds looked especially good and the blood that shows up whenever Jaws does looks great. The warm hues and colors of the beach scenes really stand out and are so effective you can almost feel the sun bearing down. Blacks are solid and deep. Compared with the transfer of Jaws on the CAV LD box set, the DVD looks sharper and better defined, but the LD transfer was no slouch. Overall this is a great transfer for a 25-year-old film, even outdoing some of the transfers one would find of newer films shot in the 90s.

Sound

Jaws is presented in a newly remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 and it sounds excellent. John Williams' amazing score has been given a second life with this fantastic mix fully engulfing and recreating the thrilling ominous score Jaws is famous for. Not much action comes from the rear surrounds but the .1 channel really makes an impact with several instances of floor shakings and rumblings. Unfortunately for purists who want to hear what Jaws sounded like in theaters in its original Mono mix, Universal once again disappoints with the exclusion of this track.

Supplemental Material

inline Image It's Jaw's 25th anniversary. Universal has given the film special edition treatment on this DVD, but there are a couple of irritating things about this release. As I describe in the opening paragraph, the supplement content on this DVD is derived from Universal's Signature Collection Laserdisc. However, several of the supplements got nixed from the line-up and the documentary on the making of Jaws, which ran a hefty 2 hours, has been shortened to 75 minutes. The reason of course is simple; a dual layered disc can hold four hours of data. The film itself takes up 2 hours and with the outtakes and deleted scenes also taking up space, compromises had to be made. However, nothing could've been lost had Universal opted to release Jaws as a two-disc set.

inline Image Well what's done is done so lets move on to the disc's content. The first thing that struck me about this disc is that the menus are very bland and very badly designed. For a much-anticipated release it seems Universal really rushed this and it doesn't seem that much thought went into its design. The biggest supplement on the disc is hands down the documentary on the making of Jaws. As mentioned earlier this is a cut down version of the 2-hour plus version contained on the laserdisc Signature set. The documentary is pretty good and features interviews with director Steven Spielberg, actors Roy Schieder and Richard Dreyfuss as well as numerous members of the crew. The documentary goes in depth about the trials and difficulties in making Jaws and much of the 75 minutes is devoted to that aspect of the film. Overall this is a good documentary as is but nowhere as extensive as the 2-hour plus version contained on the LD Box Set.

inline Image Also on the disc are some very brief outtakes of Roy Scheider firing his gun, which wouldn't work, and Robert Shaw screaming. There are also 4-5 deleted scenes present, most of which are extensions of existing scenes and it's clear that most of these were cut in order to get to the scenes with Brody, Hooper and Quint hunting down the shark quicker. There is also a cool little "Shark World" which contains a lot of great information on real sharks.

Finally we have some basic supplements like three theatrical trailers. One is letterboxed at 2.35:1 and is fair quality and not anamorphic. The other two are full screen, the third one being a "re-release" trailer. One side note - the trailers can not be selected individually through the menus, but rather are played in sequence when you select the "Theatrical Trailers" option on the disc's Bonus Menus. To me this is another example of poor design. We also have storyboards from the "Jaws Archives". The storyboards are great and feature layouts of some of the shark attacks and storyboards of scenes from an earlier version of the script that were never shot, as well as an alternate confrontation between Hooper and Jaws in which he is killed. The archives also feature stills of conceptual art.

Also accounted for are extensive production photographs and there are quite a lot of them. This gallery features a lot of great behind the scenes stills of Speilberg and crew as well as various merchandise and poster artwork. It's great stuff to look through if you have the time and patience. It would have been nice if Universal had sectioned off the stills and put them into indivdual sections. For example, the stills of Spielberg should have been put under his section and stuff like poster art and lobby cards in their own section. Instead you have to sit through and click your way through dozens of stills to get to the stuff you want. Again, poor design. Overall this is a pretty good special edition but the supplement grade loses some points for the shortened documentary and badly designed menus.

Final Thoughts

Steven Spielberg's Jaws has finally made it to DVD. Universal has done credible justice to one of the gems of the horror genre. There's not much to say here. Jaws belongs in every horror fans library and I'd recommend this disc even if it were a standard release with just the film and a trailer. Thankfully though, the disc comes packaged with a nice selection of extras to more than justify the measly $26.98 price tag. [Editor's Note: The disc has since been repriced to $14.95]

Rating

Image Quality A
Sound A-
Supplements B

Technical Info.
  • Running Time - 2 hours 5 minutes
  • Color
  • Rated PG
  • 1 Disc
  • 20 Chapter Stops
  • English Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements
  • The Making of Jaws Documentary
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Outtakes
  • Get Out of the Water Trivia Game
  • Production Photos and Storyboards
  • Theatrical Trailer
Other Pictures

 

 

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