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Jaws is one of those classic films that needs very little introduction, so ingrained is it in our pop-culture. There can be very few people who have not seen the film at least once on some late night TV screening, and the phrase 'we're gonna need a bigger boat' is frequently used to describe some insurmountable problem or the like. In fact, it's such a popular film that it's even been lampooned in one of a series of ads used to promote a certain UK mobile phone network. The film first received the Anniversary Edition treatment back in the year two thousand, but Universal obviously decided that they could go one better with this, the 30th Anniversary Edition of Jaws. Just how much of a difference can five years make?
Jaws: 30th Anniversary Edition
For those of you who have been living under a rock since 1975, the film tells the story of an enormous great white shark that is terrorizing the small island resort of Amity. When the grisly remains of a young girl are discovered, Chief of Police Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) closes the beaches and enforces a strict ‘no-swimming’ policy. With the Fourth of July weekend fast approaching, and keen to protect the commercial interests of the townspeople, the Mayor tries to sweep the whole incident under the carpet and re-opens the beaches, much to Brody’s disgust.
After a young boy becomes the shark’s second victim, Brody teams up with shark expert Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss), and together they set out to stop the finned menace. It soon becomes apparent that they aren’t capable of dealing with the problem on their own, so the duo seeks to enlist the help of a contractor. Enter Quint (Robert Shaw), a wily old seafarer who offers to help the pair track down and kill the shark before it can devour any more holidaymakers. Unfortunately for our daring trio, the shark proves to be a dam sight more troublesome than your average fish…
Jaws features a number of fine performances, most notably from Robert Shaw (Quint). His ‘Indianapolis’ speech alone is enough to send shivers up and down your spine… Roy Scheider is also great as Brody, the hydrophobic cop who takes on the task of ridding Amity of the killer shark, and Richard Dreyfuss puts in a good performance as the wealthy young shark expert, Hooper. Still, there are some that might argue that the real star of the show is the mechanical shark, or Bruce, as he was otherwise known. Sure it looks like a big rubber fish, but it still made me jump the first time it unexpectedly reared out of the water! In actual fact, very little is seen of the shark for the majority of the runtime and this proves to be the movie’s greatest strength. More often than not it’s what we don’t see that is the most terrifying, as our minds have a way of filling in the blanks…

Jaws: 30th Anniversary Edition
At first glance this would appear to be the same 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer found on the previous Anniversary Edition, but closer inspection tells a different story. On the whole things are much the same, but this effort is ever so slightly sharper than the previous version, quite possibly because of recent advances in compression methods. I’m not suggesting that there’s a huge discrepancy between the two, and one really has to examine the background detail to appreciate the differences, but this 30th Anniversary release undoubtedly has superior definition. Other than that things are pretty much as they were before: image quality is excellent for a film of this age, but there are a couple of minor problems that set this transfer apart from the very best restoration efforts. For one, the print is quite dirty, and there are a number of instances where print damage is evident. There is also some noticeable aliasing during a number of scenes. However, everything is nice and colourful—providing a showcase for the wonderful cinematography—while both contrast and black levels are pleasing. If I’d been presented with this disc five years ago I‘d have almost certainly awarded it top honors, but as things stand it is merely a good effort, rather than an outstanding one.
This release of Jaws goes one better than the previous effort by providing 5.1 tracks in both Dolby Digital and DTS. Once again the Dolby Digital effort is a lowly 384Kbps affair, which makes the inclusion of the 768Kbps DTS track all the more welcome. However, even the inclusion of a DTS track with a superior bitrate can’t hide the fact that this was originally a Mono mix. It all sounds good enough, but the surrounds are only really used for John Williams’ admittedly excellent score and a few ambient effects. With that said, Jaws isn’t really the sort of film that calls for an explosive, dynamic soundtrack, and what we do get is actually pretty atmospheric. Dialogue is nice and clear throughout—save for a couple of muddled lines towards the end—and the bass is actually quite punchy on occasion (the first shark attack being one that sticks in the mind). John Williams’ infamous score also sound sounds particularly impressive coming at you from all angles, but thankfully it never overwhelms the dialogue or effects.

If I had to choose between the tracks I would have to give the DTS effort the edge on this occasion. Now I’m not normally one to rave on about how DTS is a vast improvement over Dolby, but on this occasion the Dolby track just sounds ‘thinner’ than the DTS offering. This is most likely due to the lower bitrate than is normally associated with Dolby tracks (384Kbps as opposed to 448Kbps). I would have liked to have studied the differences between the two tracks more thoroughly, but comparing them was an arduous task thanks to the reasons outlined below.
Jaws: 30th Anniversary Edition
Once again, Universal has elected to prohibit the switching of audio tracks on the fly, instead forcing the viewer back to the main audio menu to make the change. I for one detest this practice, which is, among other things, wholly unnecessary. I’m sure I can’t be the only member of the public who likes to switch tracks during playback, be it to listen to a portion of the commentary track, or to compare Dolby and DTS tracks. Please Universal, stop this infuriating practice.
Of greater concern is the lack of the original Mono track, as found on the region one equivalent of this release. Time and time again region two misses out on these tracks, which really are an important part of recreating the original theatrical experience for many viewers. One only has to compare the original Mono track found on The Terminator to the all-new, multi-channel soundtracks to conclude that ‘bigger isn’t always better’. It’s not as if space is an issue, as there’s clearly enough room left on the disc for the track to have been included, even with the presence of two foreign language tracks (the content only occupies 7.45GB of space on the disc—plenty of room left over for a Dolby Mono track). It’s not really good enough, Universal…
This anniversary edition comes packed with more extras than even the previous release, all of which are housed on disc two of the set. For starters, the complete two hour version of ‘The Making of Jaws’ is included, to the delight of fans everywhere. While those who own the 25th Anniversary Edition might feel a certain sense of déjà vu, the extended running time allows for a fuller account of the making of the film. The documentary features interviews with writer Peter Benchley, director Steven Spielberg, actors Roy Scheider and Richard Dreyfuss, and many other people involved in the production. There’s also plenty of behind the scenes footage, including the filming of at least one shark attack scene that didn’t make the theatrical cut or the deleted scenes. While not as exhaustive as some of the made for DVD documentaries to be found on newer releases, this is still an extremely entertaining and educational way to pass a couple of hours.
Jaws: 30th Anniversary Edition
Next up we have a series of deleted scenes, thirteen to be exact. These are, for all intents and purposes, exactly the same as those found on the previously release—only the final scene, ‘Quint’s Assistant’ is new. The scenes are a mixture of new and extended takes, and as with most deleted scenes are worth at least one viewing, even if it is easy to see why most of the cuts were made. A minute and a half of outtakes follow, which are identical to those on the previous release. They’re not really particularly interesting or amusing, but are probably worth skimming through once.

The ‘From the Set – 1974’ featurette comes to you direct from location shooting at Martha’s Vineyard, and is fronted by English presenter Iain Johnstone. The featurette runs for a little under nine minutes in total, and features interview footage with a young Steven Spielberg who talks not only about Jaws, but also his earlier film The Sugarland Express. There’s plenty of behind the scenes footage—in particular the original scene in which Hooper and Brody discover Ben Gardiner’s boat—presented in a dirty, gritty full frame transfer straight out of the seventies. Thankfully this doesn’t really detract from the experience, and this is actually a pretty decent trip down memory lane.

The interactive ‘Shark Facts’ feature provides access to detailed information about the various parts of a great white’s anatomy, simply by clicking on the relevant area of a 3D model of the fish. It makes for a nice, informative addition to the disc. Rounding off the supplemental material we have a number of storyboard comparisons and still galleries. The still galleries are an odd affair, as rather than employing the usual forward/back button presses to move between pages, the images are played back at a predetermined pace. This is an annoyance that often leaves you waiting for the page to tick over. Unfortunately the atmospheric trailers are missing from the disc, which is a peculiar oversight for a 30th Anniversary Edition.
With Jaws, director Spielberg created a film that still terrifies people of all ages three decades after its initial release (to this day I’m still paranoid about swimming in the sea). With an excellent script, accomplished performances and inventive (for their time) special effects, Jaws is an all-round winner. Its appeal lies not in gory, prolonged shark attacks, in which the evisceration of the victims is shown in detail, but rather in the apprehension of these attacks. Spielberg manages to build up enough suspense to completely engross the viewer in the narrative, so that by the time the decidedly fake looking shark is revealed suspension of disbelief is a given. I just wish the makers of Deep Blue Sea had taken note of this when making their film, but I digress. The fine video quality, pleasing soundtrack and generous collection of insightful extras combine to make this a worthy presentation of an all-time classic.

Jaws: 30th Anniversary Edition
Whether or not it should be on your shopping list depends on a number of factors. If you have yet to pick up a copy of Jaws on DVD and don’t have access to a multi-region machine, then this should definitely find its way onto your shelf. If, however, you own the previous release there’s very little to be gained in terms of audio-visual quality by purchasing this disc. On the other hand, the disc does include the full length documentary that Jaws fans have been clamoring for,  so I guess it boils down to how much importance you lend to this kind of supplemental material. Personally I don’t think it’s enough to warrant a second purchase, but the choice, as they say, is yours.