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Jaws: 30th Anniversary Edition

Review Written by: Estefan Ellison
Film: A+
Video/Audio/Extras: A/A+/A

Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Written by: Peter Benchley and Carl Gottlieb
Based on the book by: Peter Benchley
Produced by: David Brown and Richard D. Zanuck
Starring: Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, Robert Shaw, Murray Hamilton, Lorraine Gary, Jeffrey Kramer, Chris Rebello
Buy it!, Buy it, rent it or skip it: Buy it!

If you were to ask me what the most noticeably bad special effect in film history was, I would say the shark in Jaws. However, despite it's obvious fakeness, the film is a classic. Plus you have to give Steven Spielberg and crew a break, since the shark broke down about a million times. This would be Spielberg's second feature (after The Sugarland Express, which I have yet to see) and he was worried it would be the end of his career. Yet, many 100 million dollar blockbusters and three Oscars later, that is not the case. I first saw Jaws when I started to become a real film buff and after watching it, I loved it and vowed never to go back in the water again. Even though, I have since gone swimming again, I still love this film and this new DVD is better than the last one.

The film starts with the point of view of a fish swimming through the water. The next shot we see a group of teenagers who are having the time of their life. Then a girl named Chrissie (Susan Blacklinie) is drowned in the water. The chief of police (Roy Scheider) hears about this and decides that it's a shark attack. He wants to close the beaches, but the mayor (Murray Hamilton) won't let him. A boy (Jeffrey Voorhes) is later attacked and they decide to call a marine biologist (Richard Dreyfuss) to sort it out. He says the shark is out there, so that means they have to close the beaches. Meanwhile, they ask an anonymous shark hunter (Robert Shaw) to go and kill the beast. The triumphant climax has the chief of police, the marine biologist and the shark hunter on one small boat against the great white shark.

Looking back at Jaws's Academy Award nominations, It's shocking to see that while the films got very well deserved nominations for Best Picture, Best Original Score, Best Sound and Best Film Editing (the latter three, it actually won), Spielberg and the three main players got snubbed. They are all superb and right now, the Academy are probably kicking themselves. Sure, the shark looks fake, but Spielberg intelligently allows the audience to not see it until there is twenty minutes left in the film. The decision in Jaws 2 to make the shark right at the beginning was a bad one. The image of Jaws in it's original aspect ratio is perfect and shows that VHS would ruin the experience. The image is very good and gets an "A" grade. Unlike the 25th Anniversary Edition, this DVD has the original sound from 1975 and it is wonderful, especially whenever John Williams's classic score pumps through the sound system. The sounds of Jaws get an "A+."

Universal has removed some extras from the original release, but adds some goodies as well. Available with the DVD is a new booklet with nice behind-the-scenes pictures and great quotes from the filmmakers. It's well worth a read. On Disc One of the Jaws DVD, there is a batch of deleted scenes and outtakes that give information on scenes that were taken out and we see why. Also on Disc One is a British mini-documentary from 1974 called "From the Set" that talks to Spielberg about his troubles making the film. It's a great historical footnote.

Moving on to Disc Two is the two hour long documentary, "The Making of Jaws", which features interview with everyone of the cast and crew that are still alive. Laurent Bouzereau's documentaries are all excellent and this is no exception. Even though, Steven Spielberg refuses to record a commentary (Come on, Steve! Do one for us at least!), this is the closest that we're going to get to one. The disc caps off with photo galleries of storyboards, posters and Jaws toys. Unfortunately, the film's excellent trailer doesn't appear on any of the discs.

They don't seem like much, but the extras provide a busload of information about the making of one of the all-time horror classics and get an "A" grade. If you don't already own this masterpiece, you should definitely buy it. If you already own the previous edition, you don't have to get this version (unless you're a huge Jaws fan).

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