JAWS – The Blu Review
By Joe Vanourney
Just when you thought it was safe to turn off your Blu-Ray player, Universal Studios Home Entertainment has released an all-new digitally remastered and fully restored version, complete with 7.1 surround sound, of its classic JAWS in a Blu-Ray-DVD Combo Pack along with Digital Copy and UltraViolet.
JAWS, released in 1975, nominated for Best Picture and winner of three Oscars (Best Film Editing, Best Original Score, and Best Sound), is one of the most successful and influential films in the history of the medium, and Universal has chosen to restore it as part of their 100th Anniversary celebration.
They deliver. This is hands-down, one of the must-own Blu-Rays of the year and a standard for how to present a catalog title on home video both in terms of presentation and also bonus features.
Let’s start with the presentation. JAWS has never looked or sounded better. Each frame of the film has been fixed to remove all scratches and imperfections and the colors have been corrected to match other frames and shots. The result is breathtaking. The film looks brand-new. The original analog mono soundtrack has also been upgraded to meet today’s 7.1 surround sound standards. The underwater scenes pop. The beach scenes have more life. And John Williams’ iconic score sounds better than ever.
The restoration process is detailed in one of the brand new extras produced specifically for this disc in a 8 ½ minute feature appropriately titled JAWS: The Restoration. Members of the restoration team are interviewed about the process, showing the types of scratches and tears in the original film negative that they were dealing with fixing, and how they went about doing it. The sound team is also interviewed. JAWS director Steven Spielberg comments that “the film looks better today in HD than it did when it came out in theaters in 1975.”
Before I talk about the second new bonus feature on the Blu-Ray, I need to briefly discuss one of the other features which has been included on previous home video versions of JAWS, and wisely included again here–Laurent Bouzereau’s wonderful 2-hour documentary THE MAKING OF JAWS. This documentary was made for the 1995 laserdisc box set of JAWS, and even now, seventeen years later, it is STILL, hands-down, the GREATEST behind-the-scenes making-of documentary I have ever seen. Bouzereau interviewed all of the major players from JAWS—Spielberg, JAWS novel author Peter Benchley, actors Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, and Lorraine Gary, composer John Williams, screenwriter Carl Gottlieb, producers Richard D. Zanuck and David Brown, and many more. He edited the interviews together to tell the chronological story of the making of JAWS in a insightful and entertaining way, starting with Peter Benchley telling of the genesis of the novel, to Zanuck and Brown discussing how they acquired it and hired Spielberg, to the casting of the film, to stories of the production, editing it together and adding the famous music, and finally talking about the test audiences, to the final release of the film and the impact it had on moviegoers across the world. It is a PERFECT movie.
This leads us to the other brand-new bonus feature on the new Blu-Ray—a second feature-length making-of documentary titled The Shark is Still Working: The Impact and Legacy of JAWS. This film, directed by Erik Hollander, was made in 2005 and played the festival circuit for a few years, amassing lots of fans but ultimately failing to find distribution until Universal licensed it to be included as a bonus feature on this new disc. Hollander also interviewed all of the major players—Spielberg, Scheider, Dreyfuss, Gary, Williams, Benchley, Zanuck and Brown.
Which begs the question—How can one create another making-of-documentary on JAWS with all of the major players when a PERFECT version using those same players already exists? This film is not as good as The Making of Jaws. Not even close. But it’s not a bad film. And parts of it are quite good. Hollander got the major players to tell different stories and added people who weren’t in the original documentary. Scheider tells the story of the dinner table scene where Sheriff Brody’s young son mimics his hand gestures. A grown-up Jeffrey Voorhees, who played Alex Kintner, the young boy on the raft who is eaten by the shark talks about how they filmed that attack. Lee Fierro, who played the grieving Mrs. Kintner who slaps Sheriff Brody for not closing the beaches, laughs about how hundreds of strangers have asked her to slap them over the years. Percy Rodrigues, who narrated the original JAWS trailer is interviewed. Filmmakers Kevin Smith, Eli Roth, M. Night Shyamalan, Robert Rodriguez, Bryan Singer, Tom Savini and Greg Nicotero discuss how JAWS influenced them as young men and inspired them to make movies.
Other highlights from the new doc:
Amazing footage of a young Steven Spielberg watching television as the1975 Oscar Nominations are announced and he is NOT listed as a Best Director nominee but JAWS is nominated for Best Picture.
Behind the scenes at JAWSfest, where fans from around the world come together at Martha’s Vineyard, where parts of JAWS was filmed, to tour locations, look at props, and meet some of the lesser actors featured in the film.
And, honorably, a small section of the new film is devoted to the OLD documentary The Making of JAWS, as Laurent Bouzereau himself is interviewed about how making the original documentary changed and impacted his life. In 1995, people were buying laserdisc players specifically so they could own a copy of The Making of Jaws.
Besides the two documentaries, other bonus features on the new Blu-Ray are familiar from previous home video versions of JAWS:
From the Set, a 1974 vintage look at life on the set of JAWS, including an interview with Steven Spielberg.
Deleted Scenes and Outtakes—about 14 minutes worth, nothing notable.
Original Theatrical Trailer—old school, baby—narrated by creepy-voiced Percy Rodrigues.
JAWS Archives- A collection of storyboards, production photos, and marketing materials including movie posters and lobby cards.
This Blu-Ray is worth owning for the film itself, but adding on the two feature-length documentaries and other bonus features makes this a candidate for Blu-Ray of the year and a must-own for anyone who loves movies. You’re gonna need a bigger shelf.
FILM QUALITY: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS
VIDEO QUALITY: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS
AUDIO QUALITY: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS
BONUS FEATURES: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS
THE MAKING OF JAWS: 6 OUT OF 5 STARS (YES, IT’S THAT GOOD)