To commemorate the 45th anniversary of the film Jaws, Universal has released the film in Limited Edition packaging and in 4k UHD with Dolby Atmos audio.
The Production: 5/5
To write a review of a classic like Jaws, forty-five years after its initial theatrical release, is probably not necessary. For those who have never heard of the film, a giant great white shark invades the waters off the shores of Amity Island, a small resort town in the New England area of the Atlantic Northeast, devouring swimmers and attacking fishing boats. Police Chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) wants to close the beaches and call in ichthyologist Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfus), but Mayor Vaughn (Murray Hamilton) needs to keep the beaches open because “Amity needs summer dollars.” After a disastrous July 4th celebration at the beach, the mayor agrees to allow Chief Brody and Hooper to hire fisherman Quint (Robert Shaw), who has a particular knack for capturing sharks. The three men set out to sea on an adventure that would change the way movies are made and marketed forever. It is that adventure and how the three men have to work together to survive that the three sequels failed to remember is what made Jaws such a classic. It wasn’t about the shark.
Jaws is better known as the first summer blockbuster, and was the all-time box office champ for nearly two years (until another little film came along known as Star Wars). It was also a troubled production, and is one of those classic films where, after viewing the documentaries on the making of the film, you grow an even deeper appreciation for the sheer talent (particularly a young Steven Spielberg in the director’s chair) involved for pulling off what seemed a nearly impossible feat. I first saw Jaws during it theatrical release in 1975 at the Eric Twin Horsham located inside the now demolished Village Mall in Horsham, PA. It was the first PG-rated movie I was allowed to see without a parent (at the age of 10), but it was also my two younger sisters’ first PG movie, as well (that part never seemed fair to me). Although not nearly old enough to truly appreciate the cinematic art that it was, I do remember really enjoying it with some new-found friends (we had just moved to Horsham one month earlier). It was the theatrical re-release a few years later, the summer before it premiered on ABC, that I began to really appreciate this film, and that continued during TV broadcasts and 16mm screenings at Cinekyd Family Movie Night (a weekly fund raiser and community event at an after-school program I was involved with). Jaws was often the subject of debate among friends as to what was Steven Spielberg’s best film (my pick was Raiders of the Lost Ark, my friend George stuck by Jaws), although it never caused any division among my filmmaking friends. As it stands today, Jaws rates number two on my Spielberg list, number six on my all-time favorites.
3D Rating: NA
Jaws received a complete restoration back in 2011, with Universal scanning the original 35mm negative at 4K and performing additional cleanup and color correction, and was the basis of that year’s Blu-ray release. This new UHD Blu-ray release uses that same digital restoration, adding HDR10, HDR10+, and Dolby Vision high dynamic range. This disc was screened on equipment capable of HDR10. Color fidelity is slightly improved and more stable, and the darker sequences are more refined thanks to the deeper blacks (clearly evident in the underwater shot of Chrissy just before she gets attacked in the opening sequence). The major improvement, though, is in overall detail, revealing the boat anchor patterns in Mayor Vaughn’s suit, imperfections on the Orca, weather-worn details of the lifeguard stations, etc. Film grain is noticeable but kept to a minimum without sacrificing detail.
For the 2011 Blu-ray release, Universal remixed the original mono soundtrack into a tasteful 7.1 track that was never overly flashy, honoring the film’s original sound design. The studio has now taken that 7.1 track and expanded it into a very respectful Dolby Atmos mix, widening and deepening the soundstage very subtly. Overheads are used to add dimensionality to splashes of water, the sounds of waves lapping the shore, water submersion, seagulls flying overhead, to name but a few, plus further immersing you in John Williams’ Oscar-winning score. Dialogue is clear and understandable throughout. LFE is used sparingly, adding a deeper bass to that all-too-familiar theme. For the purists, the original mono mix is included in DTS 2.0 encoded at 447 Kbps (as opposed to the Blu-ray’s DTS 2.0 at 768 Kbps).
Special Features: 4.5/5
Although nothing new is included in this release, the meatier special features are included on the UHD disc. The 2011 Blu-ray release is included in this set, rounding out the special features.
The Making of “Jaws” (upscaled 1080p; 122:48): Laurent Bouzereau’s documentary ported from the massive Laserdisc box set.
The Shark is Still Working: The Impact & Legacy of “Jaws” (upscaled 1080p; 101:06): independently produced documentary on the making and impact of the film.
“Jaws:” The Restoration (1080p; 8:29): As the title implies, a look at the restoration efforts that went in to preserving Jaws.
Deleted Scenes and Outtakes (upscaled 1080p; 13:33)
From the Set (upscaled 1080p; 8:46): A vintage behind the scenes featurette.
Theatrical Trailer (upscaled 1080p; 3:15)
Deleted Scenes and Outtakes (480i; 13:33)
The Making of “Jaws” (480i; 122:48)
The Shark is Still Working: The Impact & Legacy of “Jaws” (480i; 101:21)
“Jaws:” The Restoration (1080p; 8:29)
From the Set (480i; 8:46)
Jaws Archives (upscaled 1080p): Four galleries, including Storyboards, Production Photos, Marketing “Jaws”, and “Jaws” Phenomenon.
Theatrical Trailer (480i; 3:15)
Collectable Booklet: I’m assuming this is a reprint of the booklet included in the 2011 Best Buy exclusive digibook release, but not having owned that edition (the retailer only shipped a handful per store, despite taking up a half-page ad in their own Sunday circular) I cannot confirm.
Digital Copy: An insert contains a code to redeem a digital copy (in UHD, I assume if redeemed after street date) on Movies Anywhere. As of the date of this review, the code was showing as redeeming in HD when logged out of the Movies Anywhere website. On the reverse side of the insert is a code for Universal’s “new and improved” rewards program that launches on June 1, 2020.
Jaws has never looked or sounded better than on this UHD release. Highly recommended.