Since the dawn of the Blu-ray format, people have been begging for JAWS to get a release. It's been at the top of wishlists around the globe, and for good reason. This story of a great white gone wild is one of the greatest thrillers of all time. It's also the film that made Steven Spielberg a household name -- maybe you've heard of him?
In case you haven't come face-to-face with this great beast before, JAWS is based on the Peter Benchley novel of the same name. It's also the main reason movie watchers of all ages have spent summers building sandcastles instead of frolicking in the surf.
It's the story of a killer great white who begins feasting on the fictional town of Amity, right in the middle of the busy summer tourist season. Instead of watching the citizens "lining up to be a hot lunch," the town's police chief Brody (Roy Schneider) and marine biologist Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) enlist shark hunter Quint (the always excellent Robert Shaw) to stop it.
JAWS earned a few Oscars, made a name for its then-28-year-old director, and changed the game for movies in general. It was a bonafide blockbuster when there really was no such thing. Besides encouraging a slew of sea-based horror flicks, the movie continues to be the basis for countless "best of" lists and has a killer (no pun intended) amount of movie quotes. Even better, it's still manages to be scary every single time you see it.
According to Universal, "The entire restoration process was conducted in conjunction with Steven Spielberg and Amblin Entertainment's post-production team to ensure the integrity of Spielberg's original vision remained intact." Yeah, that's not just some marketing speak; Universal has put together a fantastic release. The 2.35:1 image is sharp, detailed and absolutely beautiful. The colors, in particular, are phenomenal, from the burnt grass on Brody's lawn to the blue skies to the underwater scenes. Detail is also very nice; you can see hair wisps blowing in the beach breezes, chunks of chum, and every little anchor on the Mayor Vaughn's sweet jacket.
The audio on this release perfectly matches the image. In fact, it may go one step better. After umpteen viewings of JAWS, I actually heard new music and new details, all which previously seemed to fade into the background. The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track is perfect, from John Williams' wonderful score to the Amity ambience. The screech of Quint's fingernails on the chalkboard, the sounds of chains and helicopters, and the panic-stricken splashing are just a few of the things that make this track an exciting experience from beginning to end.
However, before it ends, there will also be a barrage of booms, thuds, cranks, creaks, and other surprises. Once the crew heads out on Quint's boat, there are sounds of the vessel, the barrels going over the side, and the shark trying to get in; that doesn't even scratch the surface of what's here -- and everything will keep you immersed and on the edge of your seat.
After years of making people wait for the JAWS Blu-ray, Universal was wise not to skimp out on the extras. If you want to nitpick, the studio did leave off a few of the special features seen on previous standard-def releases. That said, there's tons of fodder here, including deleted scenes and outtakes, storyboards, and other shorts. There are also a few must-see pieces, even though you may have to set aside an afternoon (or two) to get through them. And yes, you're going to want to make that time.
The first is a short titled, "JAWS: The Restoration." If you can't appreciate this purchase, this is worth your 8 minutes. In fact, I wish they had put more into it. The Blu-ray process was a fascinating one, as is this featurette.
If you're looking for something a little longer, "The Making of JAWS" isn't a new piece (and it's not in HD), but it's one worth seeing -- and maybe even revisiting. At a little over 2 hours, this is a great in-depth documentary that covers pretty much everything you'd ever want to know about JAWS and then some. It has cast and crew interviews, and even input from author Peter Benchley.
After that, schedule in some additional time to watch "The Shark Is Still Working: The Impact & Legacy of JAWS." Although it's not in HD, this 101-minute documentary has more behind-the-scenes footage, interviews, and peeks at the film's place in Hollywood history. It's an absolutely wonderful addition to the set, but if you can't hack it all at once, it is viewable as 10 separate chapters.
JAWS on Blu-ray is an absolute must-have. Surprised? You will be. The restored image and audio tracks are better than I expected and nothing short of stellar. No matter how many times you've seen this movie, you've never seen it like this. It was absolutely worth the wait.
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