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Jaws DVD Review (30th Anniversary Edition)

Directed by Steven Spielberg
Screenplay by Peter Benchley and Carl Gottlieb
Based on Benchley’s novel

Just when you thought it was safe to buy the Jaws (Anniversary Collector’s Edition) DVD out comes the Jaws (30th Anniversary Edition).

The film is an all-time classic, ranking #48 on AFI’s 100 Greatest American Movies list. It is a thrilling adventure in the grand tradition of “man vs. nature” films, such as Hitchcock’s The Birds, creating a new standard to which all later films would be compared. It was so successful that it led to three sequels, which got progressively worse, and B-movie rip-offs like Piranha.

Jaws won three Academy Awards for Editing, Best Sound and Best Music, Original Score by John Williams. It was nominated for Best Picture alongside Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon, Lumet’s Dog Day Aftenoon, and Altman’s Nashville with Forman’s One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest winning the award. 1975 was a year when the normally trite phrase, “It’s just an honor being nominated,” was a truism.

Jaws was the first to gross over $100 million as fans returned to relive the scares and excitement. The film put Spielberg on the map as a director and started an impressive run of hits. Along with Star Wars IV, it has been blamed by some for turning Hollywood into a soulless machine that churns out vapid blockbusters, but that is certainly not the fault of Spielberg and Lucas, even though they are responsible for cranking out their fair share of duds. Hollywood has always been about making money ever since its inception.

The problem with Hollywood is that moviemakers who have tried to mimic these two films have focused on the spectacle and thrills, not realizing that what draws people to the films are well-written stories. The situations are believable, the characters are intriguing, and the dialogue is captivating. If the audience doesn’t relate, it won’t care about the outcome.

For those who haven’t seen the film, it is about a ragtag team, comprised of three very different men: Quint, the crusty sea captain, Hooper, the scientist, and Brody, the policeman from New York City who can’t swim. They have to deal with a giant great white shark that is eating its way through the population of Amity. Jaws is similar to Stephen Crane’s story Open Boat in that the survivors do not turn out as expected from what we know of the characters.

In honor of the 30th anniversary of Jaws, or for more the cynical of you, since Universal found more Jaws-related material in the vaults, it has been re-released on DVD. The video is still presented in glorious Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1, so you get to see the film as it was shot and intended to be seen. Unfortunately, the suits would rather make money than elevate society, so there is a Full Screen version as well. For audiophiles, the sound has been upgraded, making it now available in Dolby Digital 5.1 for English, Spanish and French, DTS 5.1 Surround Sound and Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono for English.

Since the film is the same, the Special Features is where the discs can stand apart, but the material is pretty much the same. They both show storyboards and drawings as well as production photos and marketing materials. There are also deleted scenes and outtakes that are pretty forgettable.

The Making of Jaws feature from the previous DVD has been doubled in length into a two-hour documentary. The interviews of Spielberg, actors Richard Dreyfuss and Roy Scheider, the producers Richard Zanuck and David Brown, the screenwriters Benchley and Gottlieb, and first shark victim Denise Cheshire are from 1995. They provide quite an in-depth look at the film from selling the rights to the novel to the film’s release in theatres. The stories are very informative and fascinating.

In regards to unique features, the 30th DVD has a nine-minute BBC report from the set during the making of the film. A young Spielberg is shown dealing with the struggles of the shoot and is interviewed. It is an amazing find. There is also a little photo journal with stills from the film and behind the scenes. Quotes appear from the film and The Making of Jaws.

The previous edition has a lame trivia game about the movie that you can’t lose. If clues are needed, the game shows scenes from the film and DVD extras. There’s also the film’s trailer and a feature called “Shark World” that provides stills with info about sharks. I’m not sure why these items on the previous edition couldn’t have been included on the 30th DVD.

The film is must-have for any collection. Those who own the previous DVD don’t need to upgrade unless they are very serious about audio or are serious Jaws fanatics. I would recommend they rent the DVD just for the extras.
Edited: Tan The Man

About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS

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