PictureUniversal has kept the ravishingly restored print that they used for the 25th Anniversary Edition and, as such, it is a beauty. The original theatrical ratio of 2.35:1 has anamorphic enhancement and it truly does boast some fabulously vibrant colours - I'm particularly entranced by the vivid blue skies and vast ocean tracts, the lashings of deep red gore and the clever use of the coded colour yellow. Yellow is the colour of the beast - the three barrels, poor Alex Kintner's inflatable raft, the dog-owner's shirt - always signposting a fatal attack, and it comes through with a dangerous clarity. The white beaches, rolling surf and grass in the dunes are picked out with great definition - look at the rows of karate-chopped picket fences and the rich colours in the harbour from the menagerie of boats to the weather-beaten faces on the docks. All lovingly scrubbed up nice and clean.
Print damage, unfortunately but unsurprisingly, is still evident with numerous tiny little flecks and pops. Never enough to detract, though. Grain emergences, however, in a very thin veil that is really only apparent on much larger screens. But there is one sequence early on involving Quint offering his terms to the good townsfolk -“I'll find him for three, but I'll catch him and kill him, for ten.” - where grain seems to fuzz about in the lower half of the screen, very obvious against the dark background. It's curious that it doesn't seem to affect any other portion of the image. There is also an unwelcome shimmer on Brody's curtains and some background cheque shirts but, hey, I'm really searching for something negative to say here. I found the image to be absolutely resplendent in the main. Skin tones are wonderfully natural, just check out the leathery chops on Quint and the deep tan on Brody. Close-ups offer a great wealth of detail - the interior of the Orca really benefiting here with every screw, every paint-chipping and knot in the wood picked out with tremendous definition.
Transitions from dark to light scenes, and vice-versa, pose no problems for the disc and the detail underwater, even in the intentionally murky depths surrounding Hooper's cage, is marvellously well held and realistic. I love that little wisp from the tip of Hooper's spear when he removes the protective cork. The splendidly eerie discovery of Ben's gouged boat in the mist has never looked more spectral and ominous. Black levels effortlessly deliver, too. Again, that gaping hole into which Hooper so unwisely probes could hold a multitude of nightmares. Spielberg's night-time sequences are never truly dark enough (perhaps my only real complaint about the movie, itself) but the disc nevertheless manages to make them more atmospheric and dangerous. And you'll be pleased to know that there is absolutely zero pixilation, dot crawl or artefacts present. Edge-enhancement is no problem here, either. A deservedly majestic transfer.
SoundHere we go. This is the bit where purists get all defensive and self-righteous. Well, rest assured you guys that now, finally, you've got the original 2-channel mono to savour, alongside the blisteringly re-vamped Dolby Digital 5.1 and tremendous DTS 5.1 makeovers. I realise that I'm going out on a limb here but I have to admit that, unlike the jokefest surround-mixes from, say, Anchor Bay, the multi-channel tracks really do work well here, with the DTS being my track of choice. The unfortunate thing is that you can't switch between the tracks for instant comparisons.
The 2-channel mono first of all, is exactly as you would remember from it the cinema and the numerous video incarnations and TV showings. John Williams' score sounds terrific and the action is bounced forth with conviction and clarity, but the odd line is still muffled and steamrolled over when things go ballistic - the panic of the trio as the Orca is hauled like a rag doll through the water, Brody's frantic final taunts to the shark. All things that are rectified in the surround mixes.
The Dolby Digital and DTS tracks are indeed sublime, well-steered and immersive experiences and not at all the harsh and artificial designs that purists have often complained about, except for some slightly heightened babble in the town meeting scene. I realise that it is all a matter of personal opinion but I, for one, love the added ambience - bird and whale song drifting around the speakers, the 4th July invasion of Amity, the haunting bubble-play underwater - and the truly jaw-dropping roar of Brody's bullets and the Private Ryan-style hiss as they zip through the waves. The sheer bombastic oomph on display here is actually quite staggering. The final explosion, particularly in DTS, is one of the best big-bang-booms that I've EVER heard. You can actually feel the air being sucked out of the room, and the little metallic snap just before the explosion is absolutely delicious. If this had been a video tape I would have worn that moment away within the first hour of repeated viewing.
Although the Dolby Digital track works wonders, the DTS has the edge over it in every department - widening and deepening the soundstage considerably. There is horrific weight to the initial attack, Williams' wild and frightening scoring reaching an almost demonic level. Ambience aboard the Orca puts you right alongside the beleaguered crew - creaks and groans and the sea sloshing against the side being particularly effective. Impacts are gut-wrenching and realistic when the shark butts the trio out of their bonding/jamming session, and when the winch gives way on the cage, just feel the thud as the beam snaps down. The DTS is just so much louder, meatier and more involving, lending the film an even greater sense of urgency and peril. But both surround mixes allow us to hear Brody clearly screaming “Show me the tank!” and “Blow up!” - snippets of dialogue badly submerged in the original mix.
All in all, how can you go wrong when you've got all options covered? The choice is yours, but I love the DTS. Check out the final boom. WOW!
ExtrasThe main attraction of this release is, of course, the inclusion of the full 2-hour Making Of Documentary that graced the original laser-disc version. Cruelly cut in half for Jaws 25th Anniversary Edition, this distinctive and impeccably mounted retrospective is to be found on Disc 2. Disc 1 houses 13.30 minutes of Deleted Scenes and Outtakes where we get to meet Brody's dogs, have a bit more shenanigans on the Amity ferry and have earlier meetings with Ben Gardner and Quint. There's also some wild shark-hunting lunacy and the quite naff outtake of Brody's revolver not working properly. Also contained on this disc is the new addition of a contemporary interview with Spielberg actually shot on location in Martha's Vineyard during the making of the film. Called From The Set (8.45) Brit Iain Johnstone's little featurette is a great, atmospheric scene-setter that utilises Williams' score with talking head stuff and a fair chunk of behind-the-scenes footage - a crew member falling into the sea etc. Spielberg gives a good insight into his movie-making mindset - a style that I can't believe has altered that much in the thirty years since. Very grainy but offers good retro-value.
Disc 2 is where it's all happening though. The Making-Of clocks in at 2.02 and is worth its weight in gold. Even this mightily comprehensive retrospective is a little dated now, but the wealth of information and anecdotage here is quite staggering. We have real shark footage filmed off the coast of Australia by experts Ron and Valerie Taylor, home-movie footage from Spielberg, production designer Joe Alves and even stuntman Dick Warlock. Fabulous interviews with an animated Spielberg, clearly relishing the treasure-trove of experience he gained from making Jaws, even if it proved to be a nightmare to shoot. Funny stories from Richard Dreyfuss, Roy Scheider, Carl Gottlieb, Peter Benchley and Lorraine Gary (Mrs Brody) encompass everything from initial bemusement at the concept of the film to improvisation on set and the colossal food-fight they orchestrated to alleviate the pressure of the lengthy shoot. Original casting choices are revealed and there is some interesting evidence of scenes cut from the movie - such as the original, and far more horrific, death of the estuary victim played by Ted Grossman. The genius producing combo of Zanuck/Brown give great background and overview of the scale of the project and Joe Alves provides fantastic material on Bruce's conception, development and the merry hell he played with the crew by refusing to work for ninety per cent of the shoot. Susan Backlinie details the level of commitment she had to undertake to make Chrissie's moonlit death agonisingly convincing. And good old John Williams receives a good appreciation for his outstanding contribution to making Jaws the unrivalled classic that it is. A fabulous documentary that leaves no stone unturned. A commentary track would have been a nice companion piece though. Suppose we can always hope for one on War Of The Worlds, hint, hint.
In the Jaws Archives, which will be familiar to those who already own the 25th Anniversary Edition, you will find various photo galleries covering behind-the-scenes and production, the marketing of the film in the States and worldwide, with many different posters and lobby cards on offer, shark facts and warnings from the producers and heaps of Jaws toys and memorabilia. But the best of the bunch are the various storyboards featured - from conceptual illustrations with some really horrible sketches of people being devoured to some fantastic elements that were removed from the movie like Hooper's original death scene and the horrendous fate of a character that luckily never made it beyond an early draft. Luckily for him, that is. It would have made a terrifically nasty sequence, in my opinion.
Overall, it is a great package. Worth it for the big Making Of alone, which is well worth the high mark on its own merits. But, we also get, with this Widescreen version, a fabulous 60-page Commemorative Photo Journal that contains some tremendous stills and a neat line of that oh-so-quotable dialogue. Excellent.
VerdictJaws is a movie that I can watch from start to finish, over and over again. Like Star Wars, it has become part of the fabric of our lives. A myth that will never die, never fade away. Beyond the creative, and collective, genius at work here, there is an elemental quality, a deep-core primal resonance that connects to every human being. We are all vulnerable and defenceless in the face of nature. As Quint so succinctly taunts Hooper by calling him “a big yahoo on the land,” it proves that no matter strong, trained and resourceful you may be - you're still just lunch when those jaws open.
A clutch of stellar performances, genre-defining shocks and a hearty dose of pure, liberating adventure all conspire to propel a great story. Jaws is the ultimate predator and this movie, folks, still has bite.
If you don't already own a version of Jaws on silver disc then it is a no-brainer. You must purchase this now. If you already own the 25th Anniversary Edition then you already know and love the movie enough to replace it with this. They'd make nice bookends anyway. You get the full-length documentary, the little vintage interview and the 60-Page book to commend it. But, I suspect that many will be swayed by the inclusion of the original soundtrack. So, everyone should be happy. Until the 40th Anniversary Edition comes cruising along, that is. Oh, and look out for the mega-retrospective new documentary The Shark Still Works that rumour-mongers maintained would actually be added to this release. That promises to be something really special, too.
So, until then, “here's to swimming with bow-legged women.”
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