Jaws (1975), 30th Anniversary Edition

by | Jun 22, 2005 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

Director: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss
Studio: Universal
Video: 2.35:1 widescreen
Audio: DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1, DD 2.0 mono
Languages: English, Spanish, French
Subtitles: Spanish, French
Captions: English
Extras: Disc 1 = Deleted scenes & outtakes, Interview with Steven
Spielberg; Disc 2 = The Making of Jaws (2-hour documentary), Jaws
Archives: Production photos, storyboards, marketing items, The Jaws
Phenomenon, Color Commemorative Photo Journal (printed booklet)
Length: 2 hours, 4 minutes (for feature)
Rating: *****

Here we go again, making generations of people afraid to go in the
ocean. Spielberg says in the recent interview: “When I think of Jaws, I
think about courage and stupidity. And I think of both of those things
existing under water.”  One of the people in the documentary says
if they had only read the book a second time they might have decided
not to try to make it into a movie. Richard Dreyfus reveals that he
originally turned down the offer to be in the film, saying he’d love to
watch it but knew it would be a bitch to shoot. The newer interview
with Spielberg duplicates some of the material in the documentary
(which was done for the 1995 laserdisc set), and there is no commentary
during the film by Spielberg or anyone else. The three lead actors and
everyone else are perfect in their roles, though Robert Shaw’s
“sharker” is so extreme he sometimes seems dropped in from another
novel dealing with a more historical/poetic character. One can’t help
thinking of Ahab (though as I recall that one doesn’t get eaten at the
end).

The major problem was the mechanical shark.  It never worked
properly, and Spielberg had to be creative – finding alternate ways to
create the threat of the giant white shark.   He used
subjective camera shots at times, as seen from the shark’s point of
view, and many feel this actually increased the dramatic effect. It is
also revealed that there was a different director originally
considered, but he kept saying he always wanted to make a movie about a
whale. So they nixed him. Peter Benchley, the writer of the original
novel, and the studio people talk about how they had to pare down some
of the script ideas in order to concentrate on the suspense of the
effort to kill the shark. The ficticious beach community in the film
was actually Martha’s Vineyard.  Spielberg chose the location
because the water was only 30 feet deep for 12 miles out, and that
would aid manipulating the mechanical shark and the scenes with the
shark cage.  He also had a shark-expert couple in Australia shoot
footage of more normal-sized real sharks there, using a smaller cage
with a midget actor inside to retain the proper scale to intercut with
the big shark scenes. Didn’t touch on the plot, did I? Well, nothing
will be spoiled by saying the shark gets his in the end. Was there any
doubt?

The transfer is good though there were a few little artifacts on the
screen, but hardly annoying. The DTS soundtrack really brought out John
Williams’ famous rumbling Jaws theme at appropriate moments, and made
it easier to hear most of what was being yelled at one another on the
boat by the three actors during the final chase and kill of the shark.
But there wasn’t as much creative use of the surrounds as I had
expected, considering all the visual opportunities.  In general
this is a superb version of a super-classic flick, with enough extras
to keep the most avid fan busy for some time.

– John Sunier

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