Who knew that a movie about a shark, filmed in the 70s before the era of green screen and CG madness, would become one of the most memorable action films of all time?
Closing in on its 40th Anniversary, Jaws makes its way to Blu-ray as part of Universal’s 100th Anniversary series. The fully restored film has been remastered with 7.1 Audio and deservedly comes with a new feature-length documentary.
Jaws centers on the beachside community of Amity. When rumors of a shark attack begin to spread, the locals are more worried about the impact it will have on the summer vacation season and their businesses than the potential safety hazard of having a shark on their beach.
Unfortunately, tragedy strikes, forcing three unlikely allies to go head-to-head with Jaws, a great white shark. To this day, captivating performances by Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss keep Jaws on the short list of timeless classics. Steven Spielberg, then budding director, was younger and more daring in his cinematic choices. Instead of showing too much of the physical shark, Spielberg instead focuses mental and physical impact a 25-foot great white has on the human psyche. It was a smart decision, which was made for varying reasons – ranging from budget constraints to lack of the CG and engineering technology we have today. Looking back, those limitations actually made Jaws into a better movie than it would have been. The brief moments where you do see the great white, you’re more focused on how the humans will react to the threat and less focused on the artificial attacker.
Typically, 35MM films re-mastered in High Definition call attention to sound stages or antiquated special effects. In the case of Jaws, the re-mastering process primarily gives viewers a clean, near picture-perfect movie experience at home. Background colors match more evenly in this cut and don’t feel oversaturated. The restored version brings out more of the blue water and sky so that colors no longer look faded. Film imperfections like scratches have been removed for the most part, although one or two pop up for a brief moment.
The 7.1 sound doesn’t try to overshadow the action on the screen. Those moments of dead silence still feel tense, while the Jaws’ trademark thumping tune still gives a feeling of anxiety without being overbearing. Dialogue has been cleaned up and sound effects aren’t so powerful as to be distracting.
The Blu-ray release comes with a new documentary, “The Shark is Still Working: The Impact & Legacy of Jaws.” The new retrospectives from Steven Spielberg, Richard Dreyfuss and Roy Scheider are a welcome addition. Jaws was a major launching point for Spielberg’s career and it’s interesting to hear him talk with utter humility about the movie and hear how some of the key successes were accidental. The cast and crew also discuss the USS Indianapolis and the evolution of the monologue done by Robert Shaw. It’s one of the most remembered scenes in the movie, occurring just after the trios first attempt to slay Jaws and the film’s climax. While it briefly diffuses the action, giving us a chance to breathe, it also made Quint’s character the most intriguing character in the movie (in my opinion). The small dose of reality, which connected Quint to World War II, has kept this film on the list of best action movies of all time.
There is also a new featurette on the restoration process. Production discusses using the Wet Gate scan to get rid of scratches. The featurette brings you inside the editing bay so that you can see just how well they were able to color match and restore the 35MM print. The care and attention to preserving the heart of the film, while boosting it to HD makes you truly appreciate this magnificent Blu-ray release.