In my unending pursuit of cinema appreciation, I have only sat in movie theaters two times in my life with my hands strategically in position to quickly cover my eyes.
First, the obvious, nail biting, Ridley Scott epic “Alien.”
The second time was for the movie now available in spectacular high definition glory co-starring the ocean’s most feared predator.
Jaws (Universal Studios Home Entertainment, rated: PG-13, $29.98) stands the test of time as one of the best monster movies ever made. A 124-minute event that shocked audiences back in 1975 leaving them with the visceral reminder “don’t go in the water.”
Based on the novel and screenplay by Peter Benchley, director Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece explores how the peaceful town of Amity dealt with a menace literally taking a bite out of its citizens and, heaven forbid, the all too short tourism season.
The movie’s re-release to Blu-ray is part of Universal’s 100th Anniversary celebration receiving a tender loving, remastering treatment, pulling together all of the elements of the original negatives and digitally restoring and reassembling them in pristine condition.
And it is very, very pretty.
Now, while “Jaws” might be remembered for the illusive and often-finicky shark, it also presented a rousing, tension loaded, drama fueled by brilliant acting performances as an odd trio of men bond while attempting to kill the beast.
First, actor Roy Scheider as Chief of Police Martin Brody, is a hopeless New Yorker looking to give his family a quieter life. His courage is never in question during the hunt but the man’s fatal flaw is his fear of water.
Next, Richard Dreyfuss portrayed Matt Hooper, a researcher whose fascination with sharks recklessly drove him to seek real life knowledge about the fascinating creatures to his own potential demise.
Finally, actor Robert Shaw adds an element of reckless abandon to his role of the obsessed fisherman Quint, a man on a permanent revenge bender against sharks.
I defy anyone to not be mesmerized by Mr. Shaw’s monologue of his character’s tragic adventure on the U.S.S. Indianapolis.
The unlikely group becomes a sitting duck on Quint’s rickety vessel Orca as they verbally spar with each other while battling their hungry friend.
What is tantalizing about the film is the audience knows when this beast will strike, helped often and only by the Academy Award winning musical score from composer John Williams.
“Jaws” is masterful, blockbuster storytelling at its finest. From a historical perspective, it not only began Steven Spielberg’s ascension to legendary director status but also gave generations of moviemakers’ inspiration and millions of viewers a new way to appreciate the dangers of the deep.
Best Extras: Amidst a plethora of bonus content found on the single Blu-ray disc (culled from previous releases), Universal delivers a pair of “must see” documentaries that fans will devour.
I would start with the slightly over two-hour deconstruction of the film from documentarian Laurent Bouzereau called “The Making of Jaws.”
The 1995 feature, presented in a 4x3 format, overloads viewers with production information culled from insightful interviews with Peter Benchley, Steven Spielberg, and many of the cast and moviemaking team.
Wonderful moments abound as Mr. Spielberg explains how real Amity fisherman Craig Kingsbury was the inspiration for Quint (as well as portraying Ben Gardner in the film) and that the director had written his own Jaws script adaptation with an included scene (that was never shot) of Quint watching Gregory Peck’s Captain Ahab in the 1956 film “Moby Dick” in the local Amity theater.
Next, the 2009 retrospective “The Shark is Still Working: The Impact and Legacy of Jaws” really dives into the loving memory of the movie and is built specifically for hard-core fan.
Narrated by the late Roy Scheider, viewer get 101 minutes of gushing memories through over 60 interviews with everyone from current movie makers such as Robert Rodriguez, M. Night Shyamalan, Bryan Singer, Eli Roth and Kevin Smith to new thoughts from cast members such a feisty Richard Dreyfuss (he is a riot) and Lee Fiero (Mrs. Kitner).
Some overlap from “The Making of Jaws” exists but some interviews from the production offer a personnel shine.
For example, It’s wonderful to get insight from the artist, Roger Kastel, who drew the famous Jaws book cover and movie poster. Kastel talks about using a female model swimming on a stool to craft the female victim seen in the illustration.
Or, the actor who did the voiceover work for the trailers, Percy Rodriguez, who explains his strategy for his ominous presentation. Kevin Smith humorously explains Mr. Rodriguez impact on the film with a drug reference as he calls Mr. Rodriguez “the weed to the crack of Jaws.”
Additionally viewers get a dose of the pop culture impact of the movie with a look at Jaws merchandise, a JawsFest held in Martha’s Vineyard in 2005 and the famous Jaws ride at Universal Studios theme parks.
Blu-ray revolution: Please take the time and watch the eight-minute featurette on the restoration of Jaws. Some amazing craftsmen digitally ingested over 2,700 pieces of original camera negative material (in a wet gate scan, bathing the film in liquid) to clean up damaged frames, digitally, a frame at a time (with sometimes 3 to 4 hours on a frame) to get the perfect copy.
Mr. Spielberg (who supervised and approved the project) says it now looks better on a high def television than when the original prints were projected on screens back in 1975.
From the glistening water, slimy pieces of chum, age lines on all of the actors and looking through the window of the Orca onto the ocean, the digital restoration really is mind blowing.
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