Jaws: 30th Anniversary Edition
November 5, 2005
Starring: Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss, Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton, Carl Gottlieb, Jeffrey Kramer, Susan Backlinie, Jonathan Filley, Chris Rebello, Jay Mello, Lee Fierro, Jeffrey Voorhees, Craig Kingsbury, ,
The dominance of the Hollywood summer blockbuster can be attributed (or blamed depending on how you feel about them) to two filmmakers: Steven Spielberg with Jaws (1975) and George Lucas with Star Wars (1977). But Spielberg was there first with Jaws, an exciting adventure film about a great white shark terrorizing a small, seaside town that scared the crap out of millions of people the year it came out. The movie was a bonafide phenomenon, becoming the first one to ever surpass $100 million at the box office.
“What we are dealing with here is a perfect engine…an eating machine. It’s really a miracle of evolution. All this machine does is swim and eat and make little sharks and that’s all.” – Hooper
Chief Brody (Scheider) wakes up one day to find a grisly discovery: a girl has been killed and mostly eaten by a shark. This is right before the fourth of July—the town’s most lucrative day of the year which freaks out the town’s mayor (Hamilton), who tries his best to cover it up. After a young boy is subsequently killed by the shark Brody has had enough. He brings in a big city oceanographer named Hooper (Dreyfuss) and enlists the help of experienced local fisherman, Quint (Shaw) who’s in it for the money. Together, they set out to find and kill this efficient killing machine.
“This shark, swallow you whole. No shakin’, no tenderizin’, down you go.” – Quint
What makes the shark sequences so scary is that we rarely see the creature and it is this implied threat—filled in by our imagination—that is much scarier. Spielberg takes this a step further by actually showing things from the shark’s point-of-view and this gives these sequences a visceral impact that has never been equaled or surpassed.
Spielberg takes the time for us to get to know Brody and his family thus we become emotionally invested in them. Time is also spent developing the friendship between Brody and Hooper which makes Quint more of an enigmatic (and charismatic) character. Roy Scheider, fresh from his success in The French Connection (1971), is well cast as the town’s new police chief who is a stand-up guy dealing with a volatile situation. Richard Dreyfuss is also good as Hooper, the brainy scientist who isn’t thrilled with mixing it up with ignorant locals. Robert Shaw is the scene stealer as the grizzled Quint, the film’s Ahab. The chemistry between these three men is excellent. Hooper and Quint immediately form an antagonistic relationship with Brody stuck in the middle. It makes for an exciting dynamic that is one of the many joys of this film.
“You’re gonna need a bigger boat.” – Brody
Jaws holds up today because it is an adventure film that doesn’t rely solely on exciting action sequences. Its foundation is a strong story and engaging characters with memorable dialogue (most notably the famous monologue that Quint delivers with chilling intensity). More importantly, we care about what happens to these characters and that is something a lot of Jaws imitators failed to copy successfully. Spielberg and co. essentially created a contemporary monster movie that works so well because it plays on a primary fear of being in the water and not having control of one’s environment (i.e. drowning). As a result, Jaws has aged well over three decades while its numerous sequels and imitators have not.
When Jaws was released on DVD to commemorate its 25th anniversary it was heavily criticized for including a truncated version Laurent Bouzereau’s excellent feature-length Making Of documentary. For the 30th anniversary they’ve rectified this situation but unless you’re a devotee it’s not really worth the double-dip. Gone from the previous version is the trivia game, the Shark World documentary, the trailers and the screen saver so completists might want to hold on to their old discs.
On the first DVD are 13 minutes worth of deleted scenes and outtakes. There is more footage of the crime scene of the first shark attack and a nice bit where Quint playfully mocks some poor kid for playing a clarinet in a music store. One can see why this footage was cut because it was unnecessary and probably slowed down the pacing of the movie.
New to this edition is “From the Set,” a profile on the movie done on location. A British film crew follows a young Spielberg around and interviews him, providing an interesting snapshot of the then up-and-coming filmmaker.
The second DVD features the real reason to purchase this edition (aside from the excellent movie, of course), a two-hour retrospective documentary restored to its full glory. It covers all the usual bits: the mechanical shark that rarely worked, the mercurial presence of Robert Shaw, the source of Quint’s famous monologue, and so on. This is a fascinating, in-depth look at how Jaws came together, the challenges that a young Spielberg faced and the eventual phenomenon that developed as the film thrilled audiences all over the world.
Also included are galleries of storyboards by Tom Wright, production photos taken on location, and movie posters and ads from all over the world.
Finally, there is an attractive 60-page photo journal with glossy stills and quotes from cast, crew and the movie.