Jaws appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. I always thought the 2000 release of Jaws looked decent but flawed, and the same impression greeted the 2005 DVD.
That’s probably because all the Jaws DVDs appear to sport identical transfers. Unfortunately, no work was done to improve the master from 2000 for this 2005 release. That remains a shame, as a flick of this one’s stature really needs a stronger transfer.
Two significant problems presented themselves: softness and source defects. While much of the movie appeared adequately sharp and clear, a fair amount seemed rather fuzzy and indistinct. That didn't mean the DVD looked poor, as the majority of the movie offered accurate definition. However, noticeable softness occurred, particularly in wider shots that revealed some edge enhancement.
I saw no problems with jagged edges, but shimmering cropped up at times. This was most evident in clothes such as Mayor Vaughn’s sport jackets. A few other elements displayed this slight distraction as well, but usually it was complicated clothing that created the concern.
As for the source flaws, they weren’t a constant distraction, but they popped up more often than I’d expect. Mild grain showed up from time to time and various other flaws existed. I noticed nicks, white speckles, and black grit in the picture. The image seemed dirtier than I expected, especially given the film’s status. I thought the prevalence of defects decreased somewhat during the second half, but they still interfered at times.
Colors appeared strong and acted as the transfer’s strength. Much of the movie was shot outdoors in sunlight, a situation that greatly aided the resolution of the picture, and this factor helped create some nicely saturated and rich colors. They fell just a little short of the "eye-popping" level, as the hues seemed accurate and dynamic.
Black levels on the DVD were pretty tight and deep, and shadow detail was acceptable. Some segments looked overly thick and opaque, but those occurred due to the use of "day for night" photography. For instance, check out the opening scenes on the beach or the shots of the fishermen on the pier and you'll see pieces that were filmed this way. Day for night doesn't always look excessively dim, but it happens fairly frequently, especially in older films. Otherwise, the low-light shots came across with good definition.
As I mentioned, the transfer of Jaws disappointed me in 2000, and it continues to be a letdown in 2005. I flip-flopped between a “B-“ and a “C+” for the visuals. I went with the higher grade because I thought too much of the movie looked good to merit the lower grade. The problems created definite distractions, especially because it wouldn’t take too much work to improve the movie. I’m sure it wouldn’t be terribly time-consuming or expensive to bring Jaws up to snuff. As it stands, the movie remains watchable and occasionally very attractive, but too many problems occur for it to earn anything above a “B-“.
Three English soundtracks appear on the Jaws 30th Anniversary DVD: remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 as well as the movie’s original monaural audio. Back when Jaws first hit DVD in 2000, you could get either the Dolby Digital or the DTS versions, but they weren’t on the same disc, and the monaural track was nowhere to be found. Fans really griped about that omission, so it’s good to see it rectified here.
I’ll talk about the monaural track soon, but first I want to discuss the 5.1 mixes. I found myself surprisingly pleased by the Dolby Digital 5.1 track when I first listened to it, and the DTS 5.1 edition improves on that one.
The soundfield maintained an environment that favored the forward speakers but it displayed very good range. Dialogue stuck to the center channel, as did many effects, although quite a lot of ambient noise spread to the front side speakers (primarily) and to the rears; the surrounds largely fired only during underwater scenes or other segments that used a gently-enveloping environment. The score also blended nicely across the front speakers, and to the rears as well. The DTS track seemed a bit more active than did the Dolby one; I got a much better sense of the effects and music that came from the sides and the rears on it, and the entire mix seemed more enveloping and natural.
Any fears that the remixers would go nuts and create inappropriately discrete audio were unfounded. The track remained fairly modest and made only minor changes to bolster the environment. In many ways, it seemed comparable to the 5.1 tracks found on the Star Trek: The Original Series DVDs, although the Jaws track easily topped those for dimensionality and quality; the mix of Jaws really opened up the surround spectrum, especially in the way it used the music.
Oh, that music! In my review, I stated my affection for John
Williams' work in the film, and I can't help but feel that some of my feelings stem from the positive sound quality of the score. Never before has this famous track packed quite such a wallop. Early on, I doubted the effectiveness of the remix; the music starts out isolated in the right speaker, and I initially found that disconcerting.
However, once the score kicked in more fully and I could appreciate the clarity and depth of the music, I was completely happy with the remix. The high end seemed a little thin and less than crystal-clear, and I also noted some mild tape hiss that appeared attached to the score, but the bass more than compensated for these minor deficits; the oomph resulting from Williams' famous music cues made this track wonderfully and appropriately jarring. I read another review that stated the score has never sounded better "on video"; I'll go further, as I doubt it's ever sounded so good on any recorded medium.
The effects were also strong. The audio controversy greatly involved these parts, as it was clear some of the effects would be re-recorded for the new mix. The purists cried foul, and I don't blame them, but when one considers the improvements that don't appear to have caused many compromises, I'll happily take the new recording. I only noticed a few effects that were clearly new; for example, gunshots are much too crisp to have come from the old track, and they replaced the “shark exploding” sound. However, I think the DVD displayed relatively few re-recorded stems; I can't formally quantify my impression, but I believe most of the effects still came from the original. The whole thing sounded quite good, as the added bass kicked in nicely, and the entire package came across well.
To the best of my knowledge, none of the dialogue has been re-recorded, so it's not surprising this area displays the most flaws. Speech seems slightly flat and dull, with a hard edge that made it blend a little awkwardly with the other elements. However, the dialogue seemed eminently intelligible, and the new mix actually let me hear speech more distinctly than in the past; I picked up on lines that always were submerged in the original. The relatively-weak quality of the dialogue stood out a bit more strongly than it might just because of the improvements in the other areas, but it didn't harm the track.
I've watched Jaws many, many times, and I thought it lost the ability to jolt me years ago. However, the power of the new soundtrack brought the old beast back to life in ways I didn't anticipate. I really liked the remix.
I made a few minor comparisons between the DTS and the Dolby Digital mixes but I'd like to more completely discuss the issues. Other reviewers have indicated that the differences between the two tracks are major, but I disagree with that. I have no doubts that the DTS version was superior, but I found the improvements to be less than "night and day". The DTS mix sounded more natural, and it made the distinction between different discrete domains more clear. As I mentioned, the use of the side channels and the surrounds sounded more obvious, but in a good way; I was more aware of a fully-enveloping environment on the DTS track.
I noticed some split surround usage that hadn't seemed apparent on the Dolby mix; for example, sometimes during the Orca scenes, waves lapped in way that favored the left rear speaker. Audio panned better on the DTS version, as evident during the Fourth of July beach scene when the helicopter flew past us; the DTS mix blended the motion between channels more cleanly and smoothly.
The DTS track also made various components of the audio more prominent. I noticed some parts of dialogue that had always seemed buried in the past. Bits of the music and effects came across more clearly as well.
As I mentioned, these differences were not huge. The Dolby track remained terrific and was very satisfying. However, the DTS mix added even more life to the old girl and is the way to go for anyone with DTS capabilities.
I also gave the original monaural track a listen. It holds up exceedingly well over all these years. While I criticized the quality of the speech as part of the 5.1 mixes, when heard in its original context, I had few problems with the dialogue. The lines could be a little hard and edgy, but they remained fairly distinctive and concise.
The quality of the music surprised me. Given the age of the mix, I didn’t expect it to appear so dynamic and rich. The music’s low-end was quite good, and the track replicated the score nicely. No, it didn’t sound as good here as during the 5.1 tracks, but it fared well.
Effects were also more than satisfactory. Occasional distortion occurred, but not enough to create a distraction. In general, these elements appeared fairly accurate and clean. No issues with background noise occurred. Overall, I thought the mono mix deserved a “B”.
Which soundtrack you choose will depend on what you want out of the movie. If you prefer to replicate Jaws exactly as it appeared on movie screens, go with the mono mix. It sounds good and doesn’t show its age too badly. If you want something a little more modern, go with one of the 5.1 tracks, preferably the DTS one if you have the necessary equipment. Yes, it changes some things from the original, but I think it makes up for this with all its improvements. Either way, you can’t go wrong.
When we head to the supplements that appear on the 30th Anniversary DVD, we find some changes from the 2000 release. Most of these are improvements, though I’ll eventually note a few negatives.
The majority of the extras show up on DVD Two, but Disc One includes a couple. We get a 13-minute and 34-second collection of Deleted Scenes and Outtakes. Most of these pieces are trims from existing scenes, though two are alternate takes of included segments, and one that involves Quint has no corresponding portion in the film. All of the scenes are interesting and fun, but you can see why were omitted, as they generally slowed down the story. I don't want to ruin the sole true deleted scene by describing it in detail, but let's just say it involves Quint, a young musician, and "Beethoven's Ninth". It's a truly delightful piece, but it also deserved to be cut, as it introduced Quint too early; it would have made the existing scene when Quint scratches the blackboard less compelling.
For reasons unknown, the old DVD cut a few minutes of the "Deleted Scenes" that originally appeared on the 1995 laserdisc. Happily, this set restores all of the missing footage. These reinstated clips include: a few seconds at the start of the Quint segment as we now see him emerge from his truck. We also regain some shots in which Quint's assistant explains why he didn't make the boat trip, and there's another missing bit that shows the first identification of Chrissie's remains.
The “Outtakes” last about one minute, and they cover three different topics. We get to delight in Roy Scheider's pain as his gun jams endlessly, and we also see some extra shots of Shaw as he spits blood. We get a few takes of Quint’s assistant as well. It's not much, but it's a lot of fun.
Something brand-new to the 30th anniversary DVD, From the Set lasts eight minutes and 47 seconds. This vintage featurette looks at May 6, 1974, the second of shooting in America. The British production focuses on Spielberg on the set. We see him at work and also in some short interview clips. Spielberg talks about real-life shark attacks as well as the then-current Sugarland Express, his work with the actors and the challenges of filming at sea. Out on the water, we watch problems with the scene in which Brody and Hooper find Ben Gardner. There’s nothing terribly revealing here, but it offers a nice slice of period life.
With that we head to DVD Two and the package’s most substantial component: a two-hour, two-minute and 36-second documentary called The Making of Jaws. Originally found on the 1995 laserdisc, this program offers the standard mix of movie clips, archival materials, and interviews. We hear from Spielberg, author Peter Benchley, screenwriter Carl Gottlieb, producers Richard Zanuck and David Brown, shark documentarians Ron and Valerie Taylor, former MCA president Sid Sheinberg, stuntmen Richard Warlock and Ted Grossman, production designer Joe Alves, director of photography Bill Butler, composer John Williams, and actors Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, Susan Backlinie, and Lorraine Gary.
An extremely detailed program, “Making” starts at the beginning as Benchley discusses the origins of the novel. From there we find out about its title, the acquisition of the rights, finding a director, adapting the story and unused concepts, shooting real sharks and related topics, casting, filming at Martha’s Vineyard, filming many of the movie’s sequences, editorial choices, color and visual design, issues filming at sea, the design and creation of the mechanical shark as well as connected problems, the Orca, technical innovations, editing, reshoots, the score, screenings and audience reactions, ratings concerns, and general production problems and anecdotes.
Boy, do we get a lot of anecdotes here! And they’re uniformly good ones. The show includes more than enough basic data to ensure it’s not just relentless storytelling, but those tales are what adds life and personality to the program. We get a real feeling for all the problems that befell the production. The show moves things along briskly to make sure we find appropriate detail but we don’t get bogged down in minutiae. Fast, fun and informative, this is an excellent documentary.
A Storyboards domain offers some details on changes from the book. This area provides 195 screens, 30 of which are actually production drawings. The 165 storyboards detail seven different scenes, five of which are alternate versions of existing pieces; those stuck more closely to the original book. The other two storyboard scenes pretty much just equal what ended up in final cut. I'm not a huge fan of storyboards, but these are valuable since they cover material not found elsewhere.
The Production Photos section provides a whopping 364 frames worth of material. These are almost all candid shots from the set. The presentation isn't very friendly - God help you if you loved picture 350 and want to access it, since you'll have to skip through 349 frames to get there - but the material is strong.
Inside Marketing Jaws we get 70 stills. These include posters, ads, lobby cards, book and magazine covers, toys and other promotional materials. These are fun to see.
The final stillframe area, The Jaws Phenomenon includes 76 screens of images. We find a lot of international ads as well as promos for the Oscar campaign and elements that discuss the movie’s financial success - as well as the cute ads that appeared when Star Wars passed Jaws as the box office champ.
The 30th Anniversary Edition of Jaws includes a 60-page Commemorative Photo Journal. That’s a fancy title for a big booklet. It presents pictures from the movie and the production along with film dialogue, some quotes heard in “The Making of Jaws”, and a few other factoids. This adds up to a fairly nice little package.
So what elements disappeared from the old DVD? We lost text production notes, “Cast and Crew” listings and “Shark World”, a few screens about the beasts. The new DVD also discarded a trivia game, some DVD-ROM elements, and trailers.
Only that last omission comes as a disappointment. Jaws had some good trailers, and it’s a shame that got the boot from the new edition. And a strange change as well – they easily could have fit here.
After 30 years, Jaws remains one of the all-time great movies. Tight, briskly-paced and fully engrossing, it deserves its status as a classic. The DVD offers acceptable but disappointing picture quality along with excellent audio and some satisfying supplements.
If you don’t own a prior version of Jaws, run to the store and buy this 30th Anniversary Edition; it’s the best release of the film available. However, if you do possess one of the 25th anniversary discs, you’ll find only two reasons to “upgrade”: the inclusion of the original monaural soundtrack and the restoration of the full two-hour “Making of Jaws” documentary. If neither matters to you, stick with the old set. Otherwise, this one merits your money.