I’m glad Universal finally got it right when it comes to “Jaws” on DVD. Admittedly, two-disc Special Editions weren’t the norm when the first version was released in 2000, but I and many others were bummed by the fact that they chopped the original laserdisc documentary in half to fit it on the same disc as the movie. (Many were also irritated by the lack of a mono soundtrack, but I admit I’m not as much of a purist when it comes to stuff like that.)
Now we have a nice two-disc set that includes the whole documentary on disc two, giving the film plenty of breathing room on disc one, and Universal even threw in a 55-page photo journal packed with behind-the-scenes shots, quotes, and so forth. Oh, and the studio also included that mono soundtrack. Considering that you can find this 30th Anniversary Edition for around 15 bucks, that’s a hell of a bargain. Makes you wonder what the music industry is smoking when they keep selling vanilla CDs of 30-plus-year-old albums for close to the same price.
My only quibble here is that Universal didn’t redo the menus from the original release. Given how far DVD production has come in just five years, I was hoping to see a CGI shark swim toward the screen, mouth agape, before dissolving into some cool motion menus, where the scene selections are points on Amity Island or individual teeth or whatever. Yeah, I like to pop in a new DVD just to see the menus. I guess I’m geeky that way.
When I look at what Van Ling did with “Star Wars,” I had my hopes up that another classic film from the 70s would receive the same treatment. Yes, we’re talking about different studios and different DVD producers, and, yes, this is a very, very minor thing. Very minor. But I wanted to mention it anyway.
So, moving along, I’m not going to bother rehashing the plot because all of you know it by now. I mean, Bryan Singer’s company is called Bad Hat Harry Productions because he loves the film so much. References to it pop up everywhere from Kevin Smith films to TV shows. “Jaws” is ingrained in our popular culture, so if you haven’t seen it yet, stop reading and get thee to your Netflix want list. Suffice it to say, you’re missing out on an amazing cinematic experience. Such is the curse inflicted on those of us who grew up during the 70s and 80s.
In addition to the movie, disc one features a series of deleted scenes and outtakes from the film as well as a never-before-scene interview with Spielberg that was shot on location during the original production (it seems to be British in origin). Here’s where my minor quibble about the menus comes back into play: you can’t select any of the deleted scenes and outtakes individually. They’re divided into chapters, but you have to skip backward and forward if you want to get to a specific one.
I would have liked a bit of exposition accompanying the deleted scenes. Where were they supposed to fit in the film? Why were they cut? Admittedly, none of them would add much to the movie if they were reinserted, but it would be interesting to hear why. The Spielberg interview is likewise presented without any explanation of where it came from.
There’s no commentary on disc one, but anyone who’s purchased a Spielberg film on DVD knows that there never are commentary tracks on those releases. He prefers to talk about his movies through interviews, which is fine with me.
My bitching about the menus also comes into play on disc two, where—like the deleted scenes and outtakes—the documentary is cut into chapters, but there’s no way to access them other than flipping back and forth through it. Okay, it’s not a big deal, but you never know when you’ll want to go right back to a specific spot.
For “Jaws” fans who don’t have the original laserdisc, though, the documentary makes this DVD a worthwhile repurchase. Yeah, I hate buying a movie more than once too, but this takes the sting out of it. Assembled by Laurent Bouzereau, who has made documentaries about many of Spielberg’s other films, “The Making of Jaws” is an exhaustive look at the production, from the sale of the film rights before the book was published to the grueling shoot that was bogged down by a frequently malfunctioning shark to the triumphant test screenings and the resulting box office bonanza. There are plenty of great anecdotes in here, along with a nice dollop of additional outtake footage and scads of behind-the-scenes stuff. Top-notch work, Mr. Bouzereau.
Disc two also features an archives area full of production photos, storyboards, marketing pieces and “The Jaws Phenomenon,” a look at all the tie-in stuff. That last one reminds us that George Lucas may have kicked the merchandising machine into high gear with “Star Wars,” but it clearly has its roots in “Jaws,” which also happened to be the first summer blockbuster.