DVD Extra: 'Jaws' in HD
Posted August 16, 2012
Nearly 40 years ago, Steven Spielberg's Jaws made beach-goers afraid to go into the water and ushered in an era of summer blockbuster films. The story of a man-eating great white shark terrorizing the townsfolk and tourists on Amity Island is presented in high-definition for the first time.
Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss star in the film (1975, Universal, PG, Blu-ray+DVD+digital copy, $30), which has been fully restored and digitally remastered. They play, respectively, the police chief, fisherman and marine biologist desperately trying to capture the voracious predator who strikes with random suddenness and unbridled ferocity.
The film, based on Peter Benchley's best-selling novel, made a star out of the then-27-year-old Spielberg, whose first feature, Sugarland Express starring Goldie Hawn, had flopped. He went way over budget and had all kinds of production problems while shooting in Massachusetts on Martha's Vineyard. But he still crafted an edge-of-your-seat horror film that induced as much fear by anticipating the shark's arrival (John Williams' evocative score helped greatly) as did the actual attacks themselves. That Hitchcock-like approach was necessitated in part because of persistent on-set failures of the three mechanical sharks.
The opening scene with the doomed skinny-dipping swimmer grips viewers from the start and sets the tone for the dread that washes over them whenever somebody is in the water and the music starts to play. Jaws became the must-see film that summer and, at the time, the biggest-grossing film ever ($123 million), until it was bested two years later by Star Wars.
But more than that, it changed how Hollywood did business and started many practices that are common today. The studio spent $1.8 million promoting the movie, including $700,000 on pre-release TV advertising. They used synergy with the book's sales to create buzz. Then the studio opened it in nearly 500 theaters (when common practice called for a gradual rollout) and released it in the summer, where movie companies tended to dump the dregs of their schedules.
It was also accompanied by a massive merchandise campaign that included T-shirts, beach towels, books, toys and shark-tooth jewelry.
Jaws received widespread critical acclaim, though there were detractors who found the characters shallow and the killings gruesome. It was nominated for four Academy Awards and won for editing, sound and Williams' original score. The movie has had a lasting cultural impact, generating three (more terrible than terrifying and not directed by Spielberg) sequels and a slew of imitators with gators, bears, snakes and other man-killers standing in for the shark. It also spawned theme park rides, a pair of musicals and video games.
The new set comes with more than four hours of bonus material, including the new documentary The Shark Is Still Working: The Legacy & Impact of Jaws, which features never-before-seen footage and interviews with Spielberg, Dreyfuss and Scheider. There are also features on both the making and restoration of the film, deleted scenes and outtakes, storyboards and the original theatrical trailer.
It may not be safe, but could be fun, to go back into the water again.
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