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A giant great white shark arrives on the shores of a New England beach resort and wreaks havoc with bloody attacks on swimmers until a part-time sheriff teams up with a marine biologist and an old seafarer to hunt the monster down.
For more about Jaws and the Jaws Blu-ray release, see Jaws Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on August 1, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss, Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton, Carl Gottlieb
Director: Steven Spielberg
» See full cast & crew
Jaws Blu-ray Review
Open wide and scream "Aaaaaaaahh".
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, August 1, 2012
Were there "event" summer blockbuster movies before Jaws debuted on what was then a staggering number of screens in late June of 1975? Probably, though you'd be hard pressed to find another film which so seemingly instantaneously captured the public's imagination and raked in so much lucre, not to mention a perhaps unexpected bevy of critical acclaim. Jaws's production had been so famously troubled that even co-star Richard Dreyfuss was by his own admission thinking he had signed on to one of the all time disasters in cinema history. Of course, Dreyfuss had instead hitched his star to one of the most epochal films of its era, and perhaps of all time. It's almost impossible to conceive it now, but Steven Spielberg was hardly a blip on the Hollywood map when he ultimately landed the directorial gig (after at least a couple of others either passed or didn't pass muster with producers Richard Zanuck and David Brown), but Jaws indelibly established Spielberg as one of the cinema masters of his generation. The film is brisk, brilliantly structured (with a sharp screenplay co-written by original novelist Peter Benchley and Carl Gottlieb), and what was initially thought to be a huge detriment turned out to be one of the film's most salient successes: the special effects crew just couldn't get a realistic looking shark to work properly, and so Spielberg had to invent other ways of suggesting menace. What ensued was a brilliant model of alluding to terror rather than depicting it outright, and Spielberg's "workaround" gives Jaws a lot of its visceral sense of horror. As any psychiatrist worth his or her salt will tell you, your imagination can conjure fears far more "real" than anything mere reality can present to your actual eyes.
Is there anyone who actually hasn't seen Jaws? It seems inconceivable, though I've been personally surprised before by comments from readers who have never seen everything from Casablanca to Gone With the Wind to Ben-Hur or even that staple of Easter television broadcasts, The Ten Commandments. So for those uninitiated in the story of the little village of Amity, here goes. Jaws relates the story of Amity's new police chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider), who has his idyllic summer "working vacation" spoiled when a badly mutilated corpse washed up on Amity's picturesque beach. We've already seen some clues as to what happened to this hapless young woman, and soon Amity's medical examiner is chiming in that she was killed by a shark. The machinations of Amity's business savvy and somewhat desperate Mayor Vaughan (Murray Hamilton in a fantastic supporting performance) keeps Brody's desire to close all of Amity's beaches at bay, until another tragedy strikes.
Even then Mayor Vaughan isn't especially well disposed to shutting down Amity's main source of revenue, but soon Brody, a salty seaman named Quint (Robert Shaw) and a young marine biologist named Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) set out in Quint's aging boat Orca to track down and kill the shark. What they encounter is a beast far larger and more vicious than they would have ever thought possible, a creature seemingly intent on exacting revenge. The final third or so of the film is a knock down, drag out fight between the shark and the three men on the boat, with rather evocative echoes of Herman Melville's Moby Dick pinging around the boat deck.
Jaws is a film of incredibly impressive set pieces, including the terrifying first sequence alluded to above. Spielberg simply had an inerrant intuition for how to frame scenes in this film, and his wandering tracking shots of swimmers taken from below in the water immediately establish a sense of dread in the viewer that the director revisits time and again throughout the picture. It must be admitted, however, that Spielberg and his team weren't completely able to cover up the kind of patent silliness of their fake shark. While a great deal of the film works beautifully, there are at least a couple of moments where the verisimilitude of the great beast leaves a little bit to be desired, including an admittedly terrifying sequence late in the film dealing with Quint (those who have seen the film will know what this refers to).
The film has become at least as famous for John Williams' two note ascending half step motif as it has perhaps for anything actually seen in the film. Rarely have image and music been so seamlessly interwoven, and Williams' score was one of three Academy Awards the film took home that year (the other two were for Verna Fields' brilliant editing and the film's evocative sound done by a quartet of craftsmen). A lot of once iconic films seem to lose at least a little of their luster as the years progress, but Jaws if anything has only grown in stature in the more than 35 years (wow!) since its initial release. It's a rare situation of things coming together near perfectly even as most everyone involved in the film is convinced things are falling apart.
Jaws Blu-ray, Video Quality
Jaws is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Universal Films with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 2.36:1. There is more often than not a coterie of Universal dislikers (some would say Universal bashers) who are eager to get out their virtual scissors to cut any Universal catalog release's transfer to shreds, but they should take this one small statement into account:
Jaws Blu-ray, Audio Quality
As much attention as image quality typically gets on major Blu-ray releases, for some reason people tend to give the audio quality short shrift a lot of the time. Maybe it's my background as a musician and composer that gets my hackles up about this, but I personally was actually more concerned about the repurposed lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track that adorns this new Blu-ray release of Jaws than I was about any suggested "usual" problems with a Universal catalog release's video. Jaws was released originally with a thrillingly effective mono track (which to Universal's credit is also provided on this Blu-ray courtesy of a DTS 2.0 mix), and I worried about how "tarting up" the original mix would potentially distract from the audio presentation. I needn't have worried. This is very smart repurposing, and if anything tends to be on the cautious side, which is how I personally prefer these repurposed surround mixes. There are certainly wonderful moments of immersion, especially in some of the panicked crowd scenes, but perhaps even more tellingly, in some relatively quieter moments when individual ambient environmental sounds are smartly placed around the sound field. Fidelity is superb and John Williams' towering score sounds magnificent. There's also a new clarity and precision to some of the foley effects (as Spielberg himself points out in the restoration featurette, you can now clearly hear the "dinosaur roar" as the shark meets its fate toward the end of the film).
Jaws Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Jaws Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Jaws continues to be a near perfect film experience now several decades after its release. Terrifying, disturbing and against considerable odds, often very funny, this film put Spielberg firmly on the map and continues to be one of his defining achievements. There's virtually no element out of place in this brilliantly structured film. Performances and direction are spot on and the technical achievements are for the most part stellar. This Blu-ray is simply stunning in all categories. A top notch restoration and transfer supervised and approved by Spielberg himself are augmented by a bevy of fantastic supplements (though it would have been great to have had a Spielberg commentary on this release). Highly recommended.
Jaws: Other Editions
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Jaws Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Jaws Kicks Off Cinemark's Fall Classic Films Series - August 20, 2012
Cinemark Holdings, the world's highest attended motion picture exhibitor, has announced that Steven Spielberg's recently restored iconic blockbuster, Jaws (1975), will kick off their "Fall Classics Series" in over 150 Cinemark theatres across the country.
• This Week on Blu-ray: August 14-21 - August 13, 2012
This week, Universal Studios is offering a Blu-ray upgrade for one of the most beloved titles in its back-catalog: Steven Spielberg's Jaws. Over the years, the film's reputation has become even greater than itself. It made a generation scared to go swimming; ...
• Jaws Blu-ray (Updated) - June 20, 2012
This summer, Universal Studios Home Entertainment will bring Jaws to Blu-ray. Director Steven Spielberg's classic adventure stars Roy Scheider (The French Connection) as a small-town police chief who has to defeat a man-eating great white shark. Jaws is expected ...
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