Jaws Blu-ray Review
The image presented by a modern day high definition television is actually considerably better than the film looked when first projected back in 1975, however, the restoration process undertaken for this Blu-ray release sees the movie looking far better than it's ever looked before.
Firstly, there's no hard evidence that the movie hasn't always looked this good. Unruly edge enhancement and DNR are nowhere to be found which is comforting, as the risk of terrible shimmering effects with water when the footage is treated with any kind of enhancement is significant. I'm happy to report, nothing to moan about here.
The negatives were in pretty bad shape, and the process was painstaking, often interpolating two frames to remove horrific artefacts and blemishes that ran top to bottom across several frames, but the resto-artists have done a bang up job. All the nasty noise has been brought under control, and all of the hiccups with previous versions of the film have been rectified. It's a great restoration for sure.
Colour has had a bit of a make over here, and what were previously extremely saturated and brightly lit daylight scenes, have been tamed and lovingly balanced. There are still the rich blue's and golden sands you'll remember in the Amity scenes, but they now have a more controlled and natural feel to them. The ocean scenes have had a rebalancing of the sky tone, lending it a more grey and flat colour as the director had originally intended. Overall, colour is a mix of dazzling and rich with the odd bit of bleakness thrown in for good measure.
Contrast is strong as an ox during daylight scenes on the beach, but never pushed too far. It does mean that shadows during these scenes are extremely prominent and doesn't feature a hell of a lot of detail really. That being said, during night scenes where the original print had a distinct lack of clarity and sharpness, we get an incredibly believable picture with almost no loss of detail or clarity. Previous versions I've seen, even the original theatrical prints re-released in my local cinema a few years back had a terrible washed out look to them. Not here. The blacks are deep and feel extremely strong.
Skin tones look good, but they don't look authentically exposed. Never did. Everything has texture and detail, but it simply wont stand up to reference quality material we're seeing released more and more frequently on the format. However, you'd be mad to expect anything else from a movie almost 40 years old.
Overall it's an extremely solid video presentation that those of you with a nice big fat projector will absolutely love. Of course, I checked the quality on my TV too, and I was no less impressed, so there's very little to complain about picture wise.
The first thing you're gonna notice about this absolutely fantastic DTS-HD Master audio track is that it's one of the few that is delivered exploiting the full range of the formats capabilities. The 7.1 up-mix from the original stereo audio track is excellent, and I must say, being something of a traditionalist, I was apprehensive about the fact that there was only 2 channels of audio to play with from the original film, and that an up-mix would have to consist of new sound designers creating new sound effects. I was very quickly quieted when I suddenly found myself enveloped in a rich lather of glorious uncompressed silky ocean spume.
It's worth mentioning that the English audio track is the only uncompressed language on the disc. All other languages, though utilising DTS encoding, are compressed.
First off, the dialogue. Where would you be without the dialogue in a movie like this? Thankfully, the dialogue is not lost; far from it – It's strong and bold and has had quite a deft hand with an EQ giving it some attention. Where the original dialogue track suffered slightly from feeling thin and weak in places, often becoming messy and intertwined with the limited frequency range the original audio track utilised, what we have here is unquestionably remastered, and it's remastered well. It's clear, and it's sharp, and it has a thickness to it that simply wasn't there before. With the original dialogue track, there were several moments in the movie where some sample degradation had occurred because of clipping on the mic's. They did what they could with it at the time, but some moments such as Quint's raucous yelling at hooper “Ain't you watchin'!” simply didn't come out clean as a whistle. Seems they spent some time rectifying some if not all of these moments, but I couldn't spot any. Some lines in the movie have stuck in my head over the years I've seen the movie that many times, so imagine my surprise when I realised what I thought they'd said, was in fact something entirely different. I'm not going to shame myself with exact details here, but suffice to say, the dialogue is crispy and crystal clear.
Sound effects are a mixed bag. The danger with remastering and up-mixing like this is introducing a disparity between the original source sound effects and the new ones. This is unfortunately an area where this Blu-ray has suffered slightly. You might think I'm a bit mental for saying that the new sound effects are just a little bit shiny in places, and jar ever so slightly with the original, more harsh sounding effects track. Of course, I'm only drawing attention to this fact briefly, so that I don't seem overly forgiving because it's my favourite film.
Once you get past the ever so slight difference in the quality of the new and the old merged, it's actually quite a pleasant and appealing audio track. I guess when you're so close to a movie, you just get used to stuff sounding, well... bad I guess. I kind of came to love some of the defects in the sound on this movie.
You're probably wondering “when is this clown going to mention the soundtrack in this audio review..?” - Right about now. As soon as the opening credits start to roll, and that theme tune starts thumping away at you, you realise what and unbelievable job the remastering team did with this soundtrack. They have given the soundtrack a new lease of life, and it's as heart-stoppingly frightening as it ever was. Music is used well in the mix too, using the full range of the 7.1 array to allow dynamic range for the action where appropriate. It feels seamless, and it feels slick, without ever feeling “tampered” with.
Anyway, the audio is really rather great. Again, it falls short of reference due to it's age, but there are some incredible moments of sheer brilliance that are not lost to new and impressive DSP chains effecting them. The scene on the boat where the line starts getting taken. Tick – Tick.... Tick – Tick TickTick... Spellbinding. The sound of the boat rocking during the USS Indianapolis speech, all the original audio is right there, but the surrounds get a great workout with the new audio, and it's absolutely memorizing. Hat's off to Universal here, they deserve credit for not getting too carried away and ruining an audio track I loved.
14 minutes of absolute gold. There are alternative takes and deleted scenes here that made me giddy as a schoolboy. There's one in particular with Quint where he goes to buy some fishing line in a music store and there's a small boy playing a clarinet. Quint leans on a bench behind the boy and starts to bark out the tune the boy is trying to play. It's shows a malicious and mean streak in the man that's left for us to find ourselves in the final cut.
Theres also a much more extended version of the chaotic harbour scene where hundreds of fishermen and boaters sail out to try and catch the shark for Mrs Kintner's $3,000 reward. Though it's understandable why the scene was cut, it shows another level to the chaos of the final cut.
These are some quality scenes from the dusty archives that any fan of the movie will feel a sense of wide-eyed wonder and awe at watching. Worth revisiting after watching the movie again.
The Making of JAWS
2 hours of incredible interviews with Dreyfus, Scheider and Spielber. Includes a plethora of anecdotal tales and memories from all. Also features extended discussions with Zucker and Brown the movies producers. Spielberg discusses in depth the problems he had with the shoot, and how it became something of a nightmare for him as director.
It's incredible to watch the actors and crew recall the obviously arduous production, but its comforting to see the joy that each of them has at the movies worldwide recognition as one of the best movies ever made, and having been a part of something so special.
The Shark is Still Working: The Impact & Legacy of JAWS
A series of 10 featurettes produced by fans of the movie, J. Michael Roddy, Jake Gove, Erik Hollander and James Gelet. It began to take shape years ago, and is a tribute to the movie that to miss is a colossal mistake. Narrated by Roy Scheider. Everyone's a little older looking and sounding.
17 minutes of production stills and sound bites of radio chatter, largely consisting of “The shark is not working”. It discusses the hardships faced during production, and consists of snippets of interviews from cast and crew. Theres a lot of behind the scenes footage, and discussion about Spielberg being so young and relatively unknown.
This is a Great White... A BIG One!
22 Minutes of further interviews and chatter from cast and crew. This segment focusses more on the marketing and pre-release draws the comparative successes of the Book and the Movie. Even some celebrities and movie makers such as Kevin Smith and Robert Rodriguez offer opinions on the movie and how it's problems being so well documented has paved a way forward for their own productions. There's a fair amount of discussion about the anticipation generated by the original marketing campaign with the TV Spots and Trailers - “It is as if God created the Devil, and gave him Jaws” bellows the ominous voice over of Percy Rodriguez on the theatrical trailer, so devastating was the delivery that it worked up a frenzied anticipation for the movie. There's also an interesting snippet of a TV interview with Michael Douglas who voices his disappointment that Steven Spielberg was not nominated for Best Drector at the academy awards, despite the movie being nominated for Best Picture. “Scandalous” is the word of the day, and I'd have to agree for my part. It is pretty scandalous that a movie can be nominated for Best Picture where it's director is not nominated for Best Director... I just don't really see how that fits. Nevertheless, Jaws won it's other three nominations for Best Sound, Best Editing and Best Score. Deservedly so.
Take a guess? Yep, its 4 minutes on the iconic theme tune that opens with members of the public woefully replicating the famous theme tune. Interesting look at the simplicity of the score, and the brevity of using it despite that.
The Shark is Not Working
A 5 minute look at the problems they had with the shark. Being the most well documented problem the production faced, the mechanical shark not working, whilst being a major headache during filming, actually became something of a Godsend. It's 55 minutes into the movie before you see the shark, and not seeing the shark is arguably more powerful than seeing it. It's a thriller, and the thrill and horror would be compromised if using a digital shark had been possible.
Call Me Ishmael
17 minutes dissecting the backbone of the story behind Jaws. Huge credit is given to Benchley, the author of the novel, for delivering a narrative that outside of the technical aspects of making the movie, holds its own as a survival story. There's a considerable amount of time spent talking about the casting here too. Quite a lot of discussion on the use of non professional actors, and some interviews with Islanders from Martha's Vinyard that featured in the movie. Theres also a snippet from a heartfelt interview with the actor Jay Mello who played Sean Brody, Chief Brody's youngest son, about the untimely passing of Chris Rubello who played Chief Brody's eldest son, Michael. Both Martha's Vinyard islanders, the two boys grew up together.
I Love Sharks... I Love Them
4 minutes 20 look at humanities fascination with monsters and predators, in particular sharks. We get a look at “Karl”, a little person whom Spielberg hired to go into the cage that would go into the water, where the sharks were. Unsurprisingly, we discover that this poor man was pretty much terrified from day one. After a shark got caught in the wiring on top of the cage one day and began thrashing around wildly, tearing the cage to pieces, they never got Karl in the water again. I forgive him...
The USS Indianapolis
7 minutes on the “speech”. Quint delivers a breathtaking and captivating monologue. This discusses the numerous iterations the speech went through, finally ending up with Robert Shaw's edit. Interestingly, the USS Indianapolis story was deemed classified for years and years, and some attribute the widespread knowledge of the ill fated ship to Jaws and Quint's spooky and believable tale. This segment ends with recognition for Robert Shaw, and some anecdotes about how Shaw picked on Dreyfus on set, constantly goading him and pointing out his failings. Dreyfus remembers this relationship with a fondness and a frustration that's clearly evident.
A 12 minute look at the festival of all things Jaws held on Marthas Vinyard. A good demonstration of the legacy the movie has left, and how the island is benefitting greatly from tourism as a result of the move. Props from the movie are discussed and traced to see where they've ended up. Sadly, this segment informed me how the Orca, the famous ship, was eventually chopped up for timbre. Incredible. It's actually quite depressing to watch this whole segment and see how little remains of the original props. Little pieces of history that, though committed to screen, are lost forever.
Life Imitates JAWS
In 2004, a great white shark wandered into the shallows around Marthas Vinyard. It's impossible to know what made the shark swim into this type of water, but this is a 4 minute piece that looks at that event, and argues the pros and cons about public perception of sharks.
The Shark is Still Working
9 minutes of gushing over Steven Spielberg and how the movie Jaws inspired so many directors to get into film and so many effects artists to pursue film making. Lots of noteworthy interview snippets wraps up this epic 10 part documentary compiled over the course of thirty years. It's really the true legacy of the shark that for as long as there are sharks in the ocean, the movie will always be there to inspire further generations of movie makers.
The Restoration of JAWS
An 8 minute examination of the rigorous restoration of the footage. Thankfully, Universal Studios dedicates ridiculous time and effort to preservation of footage, so the restoration process was hoped to be pretty easy. Sadly, a lot of the negative was in poor condition. The team put a lot of effort in to remove scratches and blemishes. Often spending several hours on one particular frame. Intriguing to watch.
If you let this segment run on its own, it amounts to 30 minutes of illustrator Tom Wright's storyboards, compiled from images he made based on the novel before the movie's production began. Perhaps one for the absolute die-hard fans of the movie. You don';t have to watch these at normal speed. Each frame is presented as its own chapter on the Blu-ray, so you can happily skip through them at your own pace.
Production stills, mostly black and white, of the production underway. Lots of shots early on of Spielberg with his head in his hands. This little lot will take you around 50 minutes to get through if you leave it to play, but sadly the resolution is pretty small, so some might struggle to get through the lot. Those die-hard fans that managed to sit through the storyboards might make it through this segment. Perhaps the score playing in the background might have made this a more attractive feature, nevertheless, another worthy addition to the well stocked extras.
The JAWS Phenomenon
10 minutes of stills of posters and one sheets of the movie from around the world. It includes some rare glimpses of lobby cards handed out at French screenings, all tagged with “Les Dents De La Mer” - The Teeth of the Sea. Plenty of others too on this reel. Not particularly interesting stuff, but novel for sure.
Self explanatory. Feature the voice over from Percy Rodriguez. 3 minutes of original footage with original sound. It's lengthy, and not being a fan of trailers generally, it would almost certainly have spoiled the movie for me. This is a good chance to compare the restoration of the Blu-ray with the originally presented footage.
If you've never seen Jaws, you're either 12 years old or you've been locked in a cupboard for far too long. Either way, boy do you have a treat in store when you settle down to watch Jaws for the first time. It's a masterpiece that has thankfully stood the test of time, and still manages to terrify audiences new and old almost 40 years after it first rose from the depths onto our screens. It's a classic, and effortlessly earned the many accolades bestowed upon it over the years as of one of the finest thrillers ever made. Without a doubt, it's one of the best pieces of cinema you'll ever see, and there's no shame in admitting that I've watched it more times than I could count – and it never gets old. It gave rise to the notion of the “Summer Blockbuster”, but don't let this put you off, it's absolutely nothing like anything you're likely to see from the likes of Michael Bay. It's masterful, it's beautiful, it's gripping, and it has some serious teeth.
This Blu-ray release sees the wonderful movie brought to the modern day with a fresh and absolutely fantastic restoration that almost makes it timeless. With a great picture, and an amazingly well presented up-mix to 7.1, and an absolute boat-load of extras, you'd be absolutely crazy not to add this Blu-ray to your collection, even if it's already in there on DVD.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £24.99
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