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Have you heard that the high-definition transfer on
Universal Studios Home Entertainment’s new JAWS Blu-ray is stunningly
beautiful? That the sound is vivid and powerful? That the disc is a must-own?
You heard correctly.
There is only one noteworthy addition to the special
features on this new JAWS release (the others are holdovers from the previous
Anniversary Editions), but the reason any movie lover needs to purchase this
disc is front-and-center: a heart-stopping adventure anchored by three
incredible performances and a million compelling details, the movie holds up as
one of the all-time greats and has never looked as good as it does on this
When a killer shark appears off the beach of Amity Island…
Does anybody really need to read a synopsis of JAWS? Envy the viewer who gets
to experience this film for the first time, taking in the power of Robert
Shaw’s iconic Quint, his drunken bluster only occasionally masking a steely
reservoir of haunted intensity; or Richard Dreyfuss turning Hooper into the
personification of a plea for sanity, good-humored and passionate and just
enough of a Napoleonic prick to be credible; or to freshly experience Roy
Scheider’s Martin Brody, who, in the least showy of the three above-the-title
roles, somehow managed to create the single most sympathetic and recognizably
human hero in modern movies. JAWS is the kind of film that inspires even the
most casual audience members to talk for hours about their favorite character,
scene or even shot, discovering and rediscovering nuances in the film every
time they watch it (personal favorite: the shark gliding just under the water
in the pond as it closes in on the doomed oarsman clinging to his capsized
The new hi-def transfer is another occasion for new
discoveries, with a picture so sharp and clear you can read the calendar
hanging on the wall in the background of Quint’s cabin, or see detail on
individual whitecaps as Brody looks out over the ocean from his bedroom window.
The new bonus feature is one that fans have clamored for over the years, and
after its egregious omission from the 30th Anniversary DVD, THE SHARK IS STILL
WORKING is finally included on the Blu-ray. Erik Hollander's feature-length
documentary does a good job of avoiding the same material covered in Laurent
Bouzereau’s excellent THE MAKING OF STEVEN SPIELBERG’S JAWS (also part of this
package), and focuses primarily on the legacy of JAWS and its fandom, covering
everyone from memorabilia collectors to locals who made up the supporting cast.
It’s a fun family album of a movie, sharing choice tidbits about the shoot and
an especially affectionate view of how the film impacted the lives of those who
lived through it (highlights include onetime Mrs. Kintner Lee Fierro’s
bewildered confession of her fans’ most common special request). THE SHARK IS
STILL WORKING doesn’t end up winning the title of ultimate JAWS companion—it’s
more of a JAWSFEST: THE MOVIE—but it’s certainly one of the most dedicated and
loving pieces of fan-tribute created in deference to the original film, and its
inclusion here is welcome, and about damn time.
There are a few nitpicks. While the newly color-corrected
transfer creates continuity and visual beauty missing from previous editions
(just check out the sky and the water in that first scene), at least one scene
is affected negatively: the unforgettable sequence on the dock that begins with
Charlie’s wife’s holiday pot roast thrown into the water as bait. Film prints
and previous editions keep the two men practically in silhouette, an effective
stylistic choice. On the Blu-ray, the two actors have been lightened so
considerably that not only can we see the details on their faces, we can
plainly notice that their dialogue does not match the movements of their
mouths. While this is not egregious digital tinkering on the level of
Spielberg’s E.T. DVD, it is a shame to see a once note-perfect suspense
sequence get damaged in the process of being “fixed.” Having said that,
considering other imperfections that have always existed in the film (fake
shark not matching real shark footage, weird hand-drawn shooting stars, a
preposterous method of killing the monster…the kind of stuff that really
bothers you on the 110th viewing), it’s a minor complaint in the face of what
is still a juggernaut of a movie and one helluva good-looking release.
DVD/ Blu-ray Reviews
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