Hot off the terrific ‘Spielberg-approved’ digital print of 'Jaws', ultra pristine and perfect, playing in select cities across the continent (including TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto), comes the first-ever Blu-ray edition of the film. It’s been over 5 years since Blu-ray won the HD war (we miss you HD-DVD), and for some people it has taken longer than expected to get master titles such as 'Jaws', 'Lawrence of Arabia' and 'Star Wars' onto Blu-ray. I always knew flooding the market with all these titles at once would dilute the value of each of these releases. Unfortunately, 'Jaws' had to wait this long…
Jaws (Blu-ray) (1975) dir. Steven Spielberg
Starring: Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, Robert Shaw, Murray Hamilton, Lorraine Gary
By Alan Bacchus
It's been worth the wait and the re-release on Blu-ray has given the film another shot of acclaim and appreciation as one of the greatest films of all time (despite not making the Top 50 cut from Sight and Sound Magazine).
The film is amazing no matter what format (even VHS!). On Blu-ray, it’s spectacular. It’s one of Spielberg’s least glossy films. Filming mostly in exteriors on locations and on the ocean meant there was little artificial lighting to be done. Instead Spielberg relied on Bill Butler’s camera realism for dramatic effect. But hell, the film looks sharp enough to cut glass. Filmmakers in the mid- to late-'70s often used trendy diffusion filters, which created a soft look to many films. Jaws has edges - razor sharp edges like shark’s teeth, a look only enhanced by high definition.
If anything, the special features offer minimal extra bonuses that have not already been seen in previous incarnations. The ‘new’ materials include a fan-created documentary entitled The Shark is Still Working: The Impact and Legacy of Jaws. It’s actually an older documentary, up-rezed in HD specifically for this disc. Unfortunately, it’s pretty awful and dated. Roy Scheider’s voiceover is overwritten and offers a simplistic examination of the making of film featuring anecdotes already familiar to us but told as if we’ve never heard of the film before.
The treasure of this disc is still the Laurent Bouzereau-produced 2-hour making-of documentary, originally released on the Jaws LaserDisc in the '90s. Bouzereau’s doc, comprehensively told, tells us everything about the production and has the story of Jaws covered from every angle. The candor of Spielberg, who is never shy about revealing details of the production, is still a joy to watch, and no one can tell a story better than Richard Dreyfuss.
Jaws is available on Blu-ray from Universal Home Entertainment.