The Good

The Bad

It is amazing to think that when Jaws was first made, many people thought that it was going to be a turkey. Even Richard Dreyfuss, one of the film’s stars, was quoted as saying that. So of course, the film went on to defy box office and Hollywood conventions and became a mega-hit. When you consider the amount of money this movie made when it was originally released in the mid 1970s (and then you realize that those figures are right up there with many of today’s money makers), this films staying power and importance, not just as a hit, but as a well done movie, cannot be denied.

Whenever I screen Jaws, I am always impressed with how involved in the story I allow myself to become. I really start rooting for Roy Schieder, Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss all over again. I also get caught up in this movie’s pacing. This film was blockbuster but it didn’t move like one. It relied on slowly built layers of tension, that culminated in an elongated battle scene as the three leads fight for their lives. This movie, with it’s Herman Melville/Nixon Era inspiration ingrained within the subtext of the film, was so many things on so many levels that it makes sense that it would still pack a punch today. In some ways, I think Steven Spielberg, like many directors, was at his best before he had “mastered” the medium of filmmaking. This isn’t to say that I don’t like his current films (I do, very much), I just think he was really exploring themes and subjects in his earlier movies that he seems to have pretty much abandoned today. Whether this is good or bad, I don’t have any idea, it all depends on what you like.

Features

The Making of Jaws

This is a thickly layered two hour look at everything that went into making Jaws a reality. I had a DVD that had something like this, but I know that the documentary I screened was certainly not this long or as in-depth. I consider myself a pretty aggressive movie person, so I really enjoyed this little piece of nostalgia. However, you don’t have to be a “cinephile” to appreciate everything that went into making this movie the great film that it is.

From the Set

Spielberg even had it then, I think. We get to see the daily humdrumness of a movie set. What I personally like about this is that it was shot before EVERY movie had a featurette and supplemental material. Not that I mind this stuff in any way, I just think that this featurette is very interesting because what it is predates what it became. When this movie was made, who would have thought that 30 years later we would be celebrating it? Who would have thought that all the “extra” footage shot would become so valuable? This featurette very much speaks to that.

Jaws Archives

Now this is for the film fanatics. It features such archival material as production photos, storyboards and other marketing materials that were used to bring this movie into the forefront of the public consciousness. There is a even a small piece on the phenomenon that this movie is and was. I don’t get too much into this type of stuff mainly because looking at storyboards on a TV screen (especially my small TV screen), is a very daunting task for my eyes.

Deleted Scenes and Outtakes

I only glossed over this but I have a very good explanation why. Jaws is a pretty stellar film at 124 minutes. I was afraid that if I got too in-depth with this set of extras, I might really hurt my opinion of the film. I would see things that I didn’t think should have been excised, or I just would get information about a character or scene that would effect my feelings about this film. After 30 years of watching something one way, I think it is understandable that I might want to keep things that one way.

Video

Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1. One can also obtain this movie in Full Screen but lets be truly honest with ourselves, why in the world would you want to do that? This movie has that 1970s look, and while it is dated, it does nothing to detract from the film in any way. I love the feel that Steven Spielberg has achieved. The town of Amity seems like the perfect tourist community, it is everything you could want it to be, yet lurking deep in it’s underbelly is something that will have a profound effect on this town and change it forever. This movie also had the benefit of Verna Field’s cutting it. There has been some scuttlebutt that she “saved” this movie, and while I don’t think we’ll ever know the whole story, I think that both Spielberg and Fields needed each other. This movie is so many different things. In some ways it speaks to the French New Wave films of that time, in other ways it is structured with classical storytelling and in other ways it seems to be all Spielberg.

Audio

English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (DTS 5.1), English (Dolby Digital 2.0), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1). As you can see, there are a bevy of ways and formats for you to hear all the majestic sounds that this film has to offer. Personally, I think what makes this movie so scary is the sound. Of course there is the Jaws song, which has been played out in so many movies, but watching it here where it in fact originated, still packs a very strong punch. This movie really maximized the chills and thrills factor with the sound design. It also was able to rely on the story and the dialogue and let that carry the movie for long stretches. What I really think is the most impressive part of this movie, is that you can take out the scares and you still have a very solid film. You still have something that moves at a good pace and tells an interesting story. In many ways, it is as if the scares are the icing on the cake.

Package

Okay, after 30 years are you really going to start changing things this late in the game? What else would this cover be without the image of the poor, hapless swimmer and the enormous shark coming up from the bowels of hell? There is a nice mix of black and blue with the red Jaws letters adding just the right effect. The back has pictures, a description of the movie, an extras listing and some technical specifications. Truthfully, I don’t know that other then this being the 30th anniversary of Jaws, if you own any other version of it on DVD, that you need another. I like new supplemental materials but that only goes so far. There reaches a point where it seems like this stuff could never end.

Final Word

Jaws announced to the world that Spielberg was force to be reckoned with. He and his pal George would go on to revolutionize almost every aspect of cinema, and in doing so they transformed the film industry in both good and bad ways. I think that Jaws is a must see, just because this film was really the tip of the iceberg. When you think about what Steven Spielberg has gone on to do within the realms of filmmaking, it is truly mind-blowing. People who don’t like scary movies are not going to go for this film, but for the rest of the world, you will be amazed when you revisit this movie and see how strongly it holds up to any of the “scary” movies made today. On top of this, you will also see that the politics discussed are basically just as relevant.

It took this film 30 years but it seems like Jaws has come full circle.

Jaws was released June 18, 1975.