Jaws 35th Anniversary (Bluray/DVD Combo)

Just when you thought it was safe to put a Bluray into your player again….

(I know… I know… I just had to.)

When “Jaws” was originally released into theatres in the summer of 1975, neither the studios nor Steven Spielberg had any clue that cinematic history was in the making. Based on Peter Benchley’s bestseller about a Great White Shark terrorizing the beaches of a small New England vacation spot, “Jaws” took a seemingly simple horror story and, despite all manner of technical issues, (most notably an often malfunctioning mechanical shark named Bruce) and delivered the stuff of nightmares.

I’m not sure there’s any way I could write any review of the movie “Jaws” without saying things that haven’t been said a thousand times before. It was the film that made Steven Spielberg a household name and kept countless people from swimming in the ocean since 1975. To be honest, as I was 12 years old when I first saw “Jaws”, it scared me so much that I wouldn’t even go swimming in a lake for several years. I realize how that sounds, but the one time I tried swimming in a lake about a year later, I freaked out because I couldn’t see what was beneath me and I have way too active of an imagination. I didn’t care if there was no such thing as a lake shark.

“Jaws” still stands out as one of the most frightening films ever made. Few consider it to be a horror film, but in many ways it is. After all, you've got people being terrorized by a huge man-eating shark of the coast of a small New England town. If anything, it was the fact that it could happen (and has happened) that made it so terrifying. No matter how many times I’ve seen it over the years, the opening sequence alone still makes me slide down in my seat to hide my face.

Steven Spielberg, no matter what the critics used to say about him, is a master craftsman when it comes to filmmaking. His films have a distinctive look to them, even back when he was a fledgling director. And as for directing actors, there’s no question that he can create multi-dimensional people out of even the flimsiest written character. I still consider the roles played by Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw to be amongst the best of their careers.

It seems like only a few years ago that “Jaws” was getting the Special Edition treatment for its 25th anniversary… well, I guess that was quite a few years ago. Then Universal went the extra mile and released a 30th Anniversary Edition. Well… they’re back with a 35th Anniversary Bluray Edition.

Before most of you start crying out about the studio’s triple-dipping their movie releases, just know that every now and then a film is re-released for all the right reasons. When the 25th Anniversary edition came out back in 2000, it was a fairly good release. It had its fair share of extra features, but overall just wasn’t packaged well. There were two separate editions and each came with its own set of soundtracks. One version had the Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound, while the DTS edition had the DTS 5.1 Digital Surround Sound track. The 30th Anniversary set came with both plus added an original Dolby Digital 2.0 track. Most consumers might not have cared about this, but DVDphiles loved it.

That said, you may ask yourself, “Why… oh why… should I run out to the local video store and pick up this ALL NEW 35th Anniversary Bluray Edition?” After all, if you have these earlier releases, you already own the “Making of Jaws” Documentary, which by the way is a terrific documentary and covers every aspect of the film. This documentary was created for the earlier LaserDisc release, and for some reason it was cut on the 25th Anniversary DVDs.

You would also already own the available deleted scenes and outtakes, the Jaws Archives, and the short featurette that was produced in 1974 that includes interviews with Spielberg and some of the members of the cast and crew while at work on the set.

But what you don’t have…. unless you pick up this new set… is the BRAND NEW documentary, “The Shark is Still Working: The Impact & Legacy of Jaws.” Coming in at 101 minutes, this new feature delves heavily into the movie’s impact on the filmmaking industry as a whole. Included are numerous interviews with many of the original cast and crew, but more importantly it also allows some of today’s filmmakers an opportunity to talk about how they were inspired by the movie. It is an excellent documentary and would alone be worth the price of picking up this release.

You’ll also find a DVD version and both an Ultraviolet and iTunes downloadable digital copy in case you find yourself wanting to watch “Jaws” while spending some time out on your boat. For those interested in the restoration process, there is also a short featurette on how the painstaking feat was accomplished.

Speaking of the restoration… This is another big reason to grab a copy of this set. It is, in a word, magnificent. While I cannot say it is perfect, considering the film’s age, you will not find a better audio or video experience of “Jaws” than you will find here. The work was done under the supervision of Spielberg from a restoration of the original camera negatives and absolutely blew me away.

The upgraded DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack is phenomenal, especially noticeable to those who have a well set up surround sound system. The engineers who worked on this project did an amazing job re-mixing the audio in order to offer a very realistic atmospheric experience while watching the movie.

There are so few films that really stand up to the test of time, especially when you get into the realm of horror. Audiences have been so desensitized over the years that few films from years ago really frighten the younger people today. But “Jaws” is such a terrifically crafted film that I guarantee it will scare the heck out of even the most MTV-muddled audience.

Directed by: Stephen Spielberg
Starring: Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, Robert Shaw
Special Features: The Making of Jaws; From the Set; Jaws Archives; Deleted Scenes and Outtakes; The Shark is Still working; Jaws – The Restoration; Trailer
Rated: R
Studio: Universal

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