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Site created 12/15/97.


review added: 6/14/00
(updated: 7/12/00)




Jaws

review by Todd Doogan of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Jaws: Anniversary Collector's Edition

Jaws
Anniversary Collector's Edition - 1975 (2000) - Universal

Film Rating: A

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/A-/A

Specs and Features

125 mins, PG, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 43:28 in chapter 9), Amaray keep case packaging, The Making of Jaws documentary, 3 theatrical trailers, cast and crew bios, production notes, 2 outtakes, 10 deleted scenes, a gallery production photos, storyboards and original production drawings, Shark World (text section on sharks), Get Out of the Water trivia game, DVD newsletter ad, DVD-ROM feature (PC screensaver), animated film-themed menu screens with sound effects, scene access (20 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1), subtitles: English and French



Jaws: Anniversary Collector's Edition (DTS)

Encoded with DTS 5.1 Digital Surround
Jaws (DTS)
Anniversary Collector's Edition - 1975 (2000) - Universal

Film Rating: A

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/A+/A

Specs and Features

125 mins, PG, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 43:28 in chapter 9), Amaray keep case packaging, The Making of Jaws documentary, 3 theatrical trailers, cast and crew bios, production notes, 2 outtakes, 10 deleted scenes, a gallery production photos, storyboards and original production drawings, Shark World (text section on sharks), Get Out of the Water trivia game, DVD newsletter ad, DVD-ROM feature (PC screensaver), animated film-themed menu screens with sound effects, scene access (20 chapters), languages: English (DTS 5.1 & DD 2.0), subtitles: English and French


Note: the following review has been updated to include
a comparison between the Dolby Digital and DTS versions.

"What we are dealing with here is a perfect engine, uh... an eating machine. It's really a miracle of evolution. All this machine does is swim and eat and make little sharks and that's all."

What can anyone say about Jaws that hasn't already been said? It's the most impossible mission out there. We all have a fear of swimming because of it. Any one of us can tell a story about how at night, when we get into a pool, the first image in our mind is that there's a giant shark in the water with us. I don't hear anyone talk about piranhas, alligators or snakes like that. Just sharks. And a beach? Shit, no one but a surfer is brave enough to wade too far out. Nope. There be sharks out there, me matey. And who do we thank for that? Steven Spielberg, that big phobia giving jerk. Sure, he's a great storyteller and a visual genius, but some of us over here wanted to be marine biologists or something like that until we saw a shark bite a boat in half. Jaws is another one of those life changing movie experiences in the lives of every Gen-Xer out there. There's no way around it. Like it or not, the film touched us all.

Jaws, in case you've been sitting at the bottom of the ocean for your entire life, is about a giant shark - a Great White to be exact - who terrorizes the small northeastern town of Amity for a summer. Former New York cop Sheriff Brody (Roy Scheider), who has a nice water phobia of his own going, is charged with protecting the town. One day, a young woman is torn to shreds by something while taking a long swim in the ocean after a late night party. The town wants it to be a boating accident, because too much business is riding on the summer beach-going season. But as marine biologist Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) later observes, "This was no boat accident." More people die, Hooper and Brody plead for the beach to be shut down and into the picture comes Quint, a grizzled fisherman with a dark past, played by the legendary Robert Shaw. He knows what's doing the killing - a giant shark. Better still, he has plans on how to kill it. But there will be a price to pay, and that's not just monetarily speaking. Hooper and Brody will find out just how high that price is when they tag along.

The appeal of Jaws is in its low-tech approach. Like every horror film, the best scares are the ones left to the imagination. Jaws works on so many levels, because it happens in a world that we have no grasp of. You're out far from land, the ground is miles below you and there are things in the water that can eat you up whole. That's enough to keep you out of the bathtub, man. Jaws is, at its simplest level, just a very well made, well written and well acted film. It grabs you, locks you in and doesn't let you go. Much like this DVD.

The first thing you will walk away with, after watching this new DVD, is an understanding of how much of this movie was a happy accident. A key line like, "We're going to need a bigger boat", the audience-friendly ending and even the low-tech approach to the film - many of these things either came together by happenstance on the set during the production, or were the fault of something that was planned not working, meaning that the cast and crew had to improvise. But we'll talk about that further down.

First, let's discuss quality. This is an old film. As anyone who knows DVD can attest, old films don't make the best DVDs. But for its age - and knowing that newer films than this have been seen to deteriorate - this film looks awesome. It's quite beautiful in fact. The film has always had a slight soft, even dull look to it. The tone of the film was always "fishing village". You know... light blues, hard grays and deep blacks. All that is here and in great form. The picture is anamorphic (yeah Universal!) and there are few video defects to be seen. There are some print flaws here and there - faded negative spots, scratches, white density and the like. But when a film this good is playing out on your screen, you won't notice any of that. The sound is also good. It's a full-blown Dolby Digital 5.1 track, with more front-end work than anything else. The subwoofer gets some action as well, especially when the barrels come into play near the end. That deep bass has never sounded better in any home. That's how I'd put this DVD. Until a better home video format comes along, I seriously doubt that Jaws will ever look any better than this in your home.

Now, we can get to the extras. I'm pretty torn about this special edition. As special editions go, this is a pretty top-notch job. But for a film like Jaws, I think it's a bit on the soft side. We'd heard that Universal was planning to go gung ho on this film, with an ass-kicking two-disc release. What happened between the planning stages and this single-disc SE, we couldn't begin to explain. Hell, it certainly couldn't have been cost. They'll definitely make their money back on this disc - it's going to fly off the shelves and rightfully so. But given all of the other 2-disc sets we've seen coming out lately from Fox and Buena Vista, I couldn't help wondering why a classic film like this didn't get similar treatment.

But you do get some good stuff, second disc or not. First up is The Making of Jaws and it's a nice look back at the film. It runs about an hour and touches upon a few interesting topics. It's not the best piece of documentary filmmaking on DVD, but it's good. I did want more though. Spielberg is pretty adamant about not doing commentaries, so any questions I had about this film really should have been answered here. For example, the shark kept breaking down causing major holdups - so what shots were lost because of this fact? Also on the disc are some storyboards, which show scenes that were either altered during the making of or dropped all together. There's a great drawing in the sequence on the Kintner boy's death, that features a bird's-eye shot of the boy on the raft with the shark circling around him. That would have been a really scary moment if it had made it to film. Put yourself in that position - freaky. There's also over 10 minutes of deleted scenes (although, truth be told, only two are truly deleted scenes - the other 8 are extended takes or trims from scenes in the film). You can also look for two outtakes that are pretty funny, most notably one involving Roy Scheider trying to shoot a revolver.

But that's not all. Also on board are 3 trailers (one being a re-release trailer), production notes, cast and crew bios, production photos (which include a look also at the Jaws "phenomena"), a text section called "Shark World" (which gives you scientific information about sharks), a "Get Out of the Water" trivia game (solve it and you get to see a shark blowed up real good) and a weird little thing that I say everyone should look at: a Universal DVD newsletter ad. You can sign up online and get news and special events before everyone else. Big props to Universal for recognizing the DVD audience. Finally, on the DVD-ROM side, you get a PC screensaver. Altogether, it's a really nice package that will take you a few hours to properly enjoy. But in terms of the film it supports, forgive me for wanting a little more. I don't necessarily hold Universal accountable for my expectations, but I think they should know that I'm probably not the only one out there who would have liked that extra disc's worth of supplements. This should really have been the kind of set where you think to yourself, "We're gonna need a bigger boat to hold these extras...."

Jaws is also available separately in a DTS 5.1 DVD version, and in many ways (if you have a DTS processor in your home theater) this is the way to go sound-wise. The disc is virtually identical to the standard Dolby Digital 5.1 version in every video and supplement arena. All the extras are here, and the wonderful video transfer shines on this disc as well. I originally wasn't all that impressed with the new 5.1 track constructed for the film. But after hearing it in DTS, I can see what Universal was getting at. The soundstage is much more spacious and clear, as are most DTS tracks. But because this film is so musically and bass driven, the effects are that much more enjoyable as well. The sound really ends up being much more natural here, and although you'd have to set up an A/B comparison between the two versions to tell a "real" difference between the Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS tracks, when and if you do, you will be shocked at the difference. The real reason I hold this version in such high regard, is it also contains a tricked-out Dolby Digital 2.0 track. If you're looking for a retro feel as well as a full blown sound effects ride for Jaws, this is the disc to buy.

Jaws is a milestone. It's not only a great summer movie, but it's also a pretty damn near perfect film. On DVD, it looks wonderful and definitely belongs in everyone's collection. Could it be better? Sure. But I suppose most DVDs could. I'm happy with it, despite my minor rumblings. Wherever audio version you buy, it's a great disc and Universal and producer Laurent Bouzereau should be very proud. Absolutely check it out - just make sure you get out of the water first. Dum-dum... dum-dum...

Todd Doogan
todddoogan@thedigitalbits.com


Jaws: Collector's Edition


Jaws: Collector's Edition (DTS)


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