A movie that really needs no introduction, Steven Spielberg's "Jaws" has scared audiences for years now. The story still remains one of the most famous in cinema history; big, hungry shark makes suprise appearances along the coastline, taking out unsuspecting tourists and locals when he feels like a snack.
Suffering from a long shoot and production problems (as well as budget problems) Spielberg's film was not predicted to fare too well until audiences saw the final product and found it to be an extremely suspenseful classic. The film stars Roy Schnieder as local police chief Brody - going against the wishes of community leaders who want the beaches to remain open to keep business going. When the creature doesn't show any signs of slowing down, three men (Brody as well as a researcher played by Richard Dreyfuss and a fisherman played by Robert Shaw) attempt to hunt down the beast.
The film starts off establishing what's to come in the opening sequence, and after that, the film has the audience. When the film is near the water, the tension is so thick it can almost be felt - anything can, and probably will, happen. The film moves like the wind once it begins to get going, and never looks back. The performances and dialogue are top-notch, and the terror that director Spielberg creates is incredible. "Jaws" is, and easily always will be, a classic.
VIDEO: "Jaws" is now 25 years old, and this DVD transfer from Universal looks wonderful, and probably better than any other previous home video edition. Offering the film in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, the film looks incredibly crisp and clean, offering consistently sharp images that look really marevelous. The scenes that take place on the beach during the daytime look especially good, with pleasing colors; the blue of the water looking especially solid. Flesh tones are natural, as well.
There's absolutely no shimmering or pixelation, but in a situation like this, the main possible problem is the condition of the print used, and thankfully, there's nothing to worry about here. There's a mark here and a scratch there on occasion, but all in all, this is a remarkably clear picture that looks stunning. A few scenes are ever-so-slightly grainy, but again, this isn't anything that causes a distraction. Universal has really done top-notch work for "Jaws" and it looks nothing short of outstanding on this edition.
SOUND: The original mono audio has been remastered in 5.1 sound, and the results are adequate, although nothing groundbreaking. The majority of the audio still comes from the front of the room - the surrounds really don't come into play with the exception of a handful of small and subtle instances. John William's score sounds extremely clean, natural and crisp - it's really the most active element of the audio for the film. And really, it's the star of the sound - probably one of the most famous and thrilling scores in history. Dialogue sounds a little thin and hollow at times, but I never had any problems understanding it. Don't expect anything too agressive from this new remix, but I'm pleased to report that it sounds crystal clear. It would have been nice to have the original mono sound included, as well.
MENUS:: Although I suppose that a simpler approach may work, it wasn't exactly what I was expecting. The main menu contains some slight animation and background sound, but the sub-menus are non-animated and offer basic backgrounds. Subtle, but I guess it works.
EXTRAS:: Although I haven't seen the laserdisc, the "making-of" documentary that is included here is apparently edited down to one hour from two hours. Although I appreciate that it was included, Universal quite possibly could have said "We're gonna need a bigger DVD" and created a 2 DVD set - (or, what I have come to call, a "Fox", after that studio's outstanding 2 DVD sets). But, onto the extras...
Making Of "Jaws": Although it has been edited for this release, this "making-of" documentary is still an outstanding look at a classic film. Offering interviews with just about everyone who was involved with the making of the film, the presentation gives the viewer a pretty tremendous insight into the making of this film.
We hear from the producers as well as Spielberg and writer Peter Benchley, who detail the history behind the story that was eventually turned into the novel, and how that novel was taken and formed into a movie that Spielberg eventually became involved with. Some of the more fascinating information though comes in the form of the tales of production problems, such as how the schedule went overlong and how the shark frequently did not work. A lot of this documentary reminded me of another water-based film that had similar production problems - James Cameron's "The Abyss". You can see all of what that production went through on the similarly excellent documentary that is included on Fox's DVD set.
This "Making Of" though, really is a very engaging look at the behind-the-scenes of "Jaws". There's some great information offered and stories about what happened during the production of the film, and some funny interviews as the stars talk about what they had to go through during the filming. Definitely among one of the best documentaries that I've had the pleasure of seeing - it's unfortunate that this is an edited version of the documentary, but even in this format, it offers a huge amount of entertaining tidbits and amazing information. Recommended.
Outtakes: Unfortunately, there's only a tiny bit of footage offered during these two outtakes, but they are moderately funny and involve things not working quite as well as they could be.
Deleted Scenes: Only a couple of minutes worth, they don't offer too much in the way of additional information, but are nice to have included.
Galleries: This disc offers two galleries; one offers production photographs and the other offers storyboards - both offer a wealth of images and information, including some pretty neat behind-the-scenes images of the cast and crew at work.
Text Features: "Shark World", offering information on the habits and life of sharks; production notes; cast/crew bios.
Theatrical Trailers: The film's theatrical trailers, looking in pretty decent shape for material their age.
Also: Recommendations, screen-saver, trivia game, web-links.
Final Thoughts: There are some little complaints such as the fact that the documentary appears here in edited form, but the fact that a classic film like this can be watched with the top-notch picture and sound quality that is contained within the DVD is definitely something great - praise to Universal for doing a very solid job on the image quality. A classic film and definitely recommended on DVD.