The summer has arrived, and the resort town of Amity Island, MA is preparing for the annual Fourth of July festivities and the influx of tourists. This will be the first summer for Police Chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider), who had just relocated with his family from New York City the prior fall. When the body of a young woman washes ashore likely due to a shark attack, Brody immediately wants to shut down the beaches. Mayor Larry Vaughn, concerned about the local economy, reminds Brody that Amity is a summer town that needs summer dollars. He overrules Brody’s request, and suggests to the coroner that he list the official cause of death as a boating accident. However, as soon as the residents return to the beach, the shark strikes again, this time taking the life of a young boy. The boy’s mother then offers a big reward for whoever captures and kills the shark. Chaos quickly breaks out as the town is overrun with folks from all over, all eager to get out on the water, find that shark, and claim the reward.
Meanwhile, Brody calls for the assistance of oceanographer Matt Hooper, hoping that he would be able to help them figure out what they are dealing with and how to contain the problem. However, once they determine that the predator could be a massive 25-foot mako shark, it becomes evident that they are going to need more help. So Brody enlists local professional shark hunter Quint (Robert Shaw), a gruff no-nonsense older gentlemen who speaks what’s on his mind, seems to know what he’s doing, and isn’t afraid of what lies ahead. The three men board the Orca and head out into the ocean to hunt down the shark, but the task isn’t going to be easy, and may require a bigger boat.
It had been years since I last saw Jaws, but it didn’t take long for me to remember why this has become a beloved classic. Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece is an expertly-crafted thriller. The viewer is initially just given small glimpses of the creature, leaving the mind to fill in the gaps. The film’s iconic score builds the tension and sells the menace of this unseen monster as it stalks and approaches its prey. At first we don’t see too much blood and gore—for the first victim, there is just a far away shot of her arm covered in seaweed on the edge of the beach. It’s not until much later in the film that things get a bit more graphic, and the viewer actually sees just how massive and deadly this shark really is. While this measured reveal could be chalked up to good luck that the film’s mechanical shark had broken down and its role in the film had to be reduced, but I saw it was destiny. Building this slow reveal really increases the effectiveness when we see it in all its glory in the film’s third act.
In addition the monster tale, the film also explores the lives and unlikely friendship that is formed between the three men trying to save the town. The film is wonderfully cast with a trio of amazing actors, who have transformed each their parts into what have become roles. The second half of the film follows these three very different men as they come together to hunt down the shark. It becomes a game of cat and mouse (or is it fish and fishermen)—the tide is constantly turning, with the predator becoming the prey and vice-versa. Brody has had some sort of traumatic drowning incident in his past and doesn’t like the water, and yet he moves from New York City to become the police chief of an island town. Now he finds himself on a boat in the middle of the water being hunted by a deadly killer. Hooper is a scientist who comes from a wealthy background, but is constantly trying to prove himself and his worth to Quint, who often treats him like a spoiled, rich weakling. And Quint is a former Navy seaman whose traumatic experiences have turned him into the hardened, tough man he is. Quint is on a mission to kill that shark, and he won’t let anything get in his way.
JAWS has held up amazingly well over the decades—ignoring some of the clothing styles, it certainly doesn’t look and feel 45 years old. Parts of the film’s story are surprisingly relevant to what’s been going on just in the past month. As Brody calls for the beaches to be shut down for 24 hours, you can hear one of the residents whining in the background that “24 hours is like 3 weeks”. The beach-goers are more concerned about the inconvenience than a possible major health threat. At the same time, those in charge are eager to ignore the health risks in order to keep the economy going. (Sound familiar?!). The rest of the story also feels quite timeless—a story of predator vs prey, or man against nature.
Universal’s 4K release looks and sounds amazing. In 2012, the film was completely cleaned up and remastered for Universal’s 100th Anniversary Blu-ray release, and that same master has been used for this release as well. The Blu-ray version of the film already looks and sounds phenomenal, with a clean, detailed picture with just a pleasant amount of film grain. I wouldn’t say that the 4K release makes a world of a difference to the already nearly-perfect Blu-ray. However, there is a definite uptick in detail to faces and textures, such as clothing or the scratches in the wooden boat, in reflections and shadows, or in ripples on the ocean water. The Dolby Vision color palette helps to bring out the beautiful underwater shots and bright blue sky. There is the odd exterior scene here and there where the grain is briefly a little more excessive, but these are the exception. The colors are well balanced and don’t vary wildly like you would typically see in a film of this age. This film certainly looks better than it could have even when it was first released in theaters. The audio track provides clear dialogue and really showcases the film’s iconic score. You instantly feel the terror as those da-dummmm da-dummmm notes fill the room and speed up as the shark approaches its victim.
This new 4K release includes the same disc from Universal’s 100th Anniversary Blu-ray release, along with all of the same bonus material—2 feature-length making-of documentaries, 13 minutes of deleted scenes/outtakes, an 8-minute look at how the film was restored, a 9-minute visit to the set by a British journalist, the original trailer, and four photo galleries. All of the material except for the photo galleries also appear on the 4K disc. There is new bonus material created specifically for this 4K release, but I don’t see how they could really top the many hours of excellent, extensive material that have already been ported over.
The 4K and Blu-ray discs are packed in a standard 4K keepcase, placed inside of a nice 3D-looking lenticular slipcover, along with a beautiful 44-page full-color booklet with photos, sketches, storyboards and stories about the production, cast and crew. Also included is a code for a 4K Movies Anywhere compatible digital copy of the film, as well as a bonus code to redeem for digital movies and more in the new Universal All-Access Rewards program.
4K Ultra HD:
- 2160p / Widescreen 2.35:1
- Dolby Vision / HDR 10
- Audio: English Dolby Atmos, English DTS Digital Surround 2.0 Mono, French DTS-HD High Resolution Audio 7.1, Spanish DTS Digital Surround 5.1
- Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
- 1080p / Widescreen 2.35:1
- Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, English DTS Digital Surround 2.0 Mono, French DTS Digital Surround 5.1, Spanish DTS Digital Surround 5.1
- Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
- 4K digital copy redeemable via Movies Anywhere
- Universal All-Access Rewards Code (Redemption Deadline 6/30/2021)
Code can be redeemed for points towards a free digital movie (current titles are Along Came Polly, Being Flynn, Cop and a Half, Hyde Park on Hudson, and Mystery Science Theatre 3000) or other items in the new Universal All-Access Rewards program.
Digital (code may not be valid after 6/30/2021):
Some bonus material can only be found on the Blu-ray disc. These are notes with an *. The rest is available on both discs. All of this bonus material is ported over from the previous Blu-ray release.
A beautiful 44-page full-color booklet with photos, sketches, storyboards and stories about the production, cast and crew.
- Deleted Scenes and Outtakes (13:33)
Collection of deleted scenes/outtakes that play back-to-back. Presented in 4:3 Letterbox format.
- The Making of JAWS (2:02:48)
Originally filmed for the 1996 Signature Collection Laserdisc release, this fascinating 2-hour documentary provides an in-depth look at the making of the movie. It includes lots of behind-the-scenes footage, outtakes, home video footage, and interviews with the cast and filmmakers. Participants include director Stephen Spielberg, author/co-screenwriter/ actor Peter Benchley (“The Interviewer”), producers David Brown, Richard D. Zanuck, co-screenwriter/actor Carl Gottlieb (“Meadows”), shark cinematographers Ron & Valerie Taylor, former MCA president Sid Sheinberg, stuntmen Ted Grossman & Richard Warlock, production designer Joe Alves, director of photography Bill Butler, composer John Williams, and stars Roy Scheider (“Brody”), Richard Dreyfuss (“Hooper”), Lorraine Gary (“Ellen Brody”) & Susan Backlinie (“Chrissie”). Presented in 4:3 Full Frame format.
- The Shark Is Still Working: The Impact & Legacy of JAWS (1:41:21)
Originally produced in 2007, this ten-part feature-length, documentary (narrated by Roy Scheider) not only looks at the making of the film and the technical challenges the filmmakers faced, but also the influence the film has had in the decades that followed its release. Includes interviews with director Stephen Spielberg, monster movie historian Bob Burns, author Peter Benchley, director of photography Bill Butler, producers Richard D. Zanuck & David Brown, production designer Joe Alves, special mechanical effects Roy Arbogast, screenwriter/actor Carl Gottlieb, production executive William S. Gilmore Jr., actors Richard Dreyfuss, Roy Scheider, Lorraine Gary, Jay Mello (“Sean Brody”), Jeffrey Kramer (“Deputy Hendricks”), Susan Backlinie, Lee Fierro (“Mrs Kintner”), Jeffrey Voorhees (“Alex Kintner”), Jonathan Filley (“Tom Cassidy”), Will Pfluger (“Armada Boater”), Hershel West (“Quint’s Mate”), Henry Carreiro (“Felix”) & Dick Young (“Pratt”), trailer voice Percy Rodrigues, former Universal Studios CEO Sid Sheinberg, directors Kevin Smith, M. Night Shyamalan, Robert Rodriguez, Patrick Read Johnson, Bryan Singer, Eli Roth, Eduardo Sanchez & Chris Kentis, Anthrax drummer Charlie Benante, Hollywood Worldviews author Brian Godawa, Cinefex associate editor Joe Fordham, documentarian James Gelet, The Making of Jaws director Laurent Bouzereau, art collector Richard Martel, poster art illustrator Roger Kastel, composer John Williams, “Hooper” stunt double Dick Warlock, shark behavioral ecologist R. Aidan Martin, daughter of Craig Kingsbury Kristen Kingsbury Henshaw, special effects Kevin Pike, owners of editor Verna Fields’ former residence Jeff & Victoria Myers, shark cinematographer Ron & Valerie Taylor, marine biologist Greg Skomal, and effects artist Greg Nicotero. Presented in widescreen format on the 4K disc, and in 4:3 Letterbox format on the Blu-ray disc. Play All, or select from:
- Martha’s Vineyard, 1974 (17:29)
A look at the production.
- This is a Great White… A BIG One! (21:50)
The marketing of and reactions to the film, the Oscar snub for Spielberg, the merchandising, and more.
- The Theme (4:00)
The film’s iconic score.
- The Shark Is Not Working (5:00)
The blessing in disguise about the shark constantly breaking down and not being able to have more of it in the movie.
- Call Me Ishmael (17:39)
The mythological parallels of the story that make it a classic, timeless hero’s journey story. Plus a look at the actors who played the victims and smaller roles.
- I Love Sharks… I Love Them. (4:20)
The fascination with sharks, and filming the real-life shark scenes.
- The USS Indianapolis (6:38)
The evolution of Quint’s monologue, and working with actor Robert Shaw.
- JAWSFEST (12:02)
A look at the annual Jawsfest celebration in Martha’s Vineyard on June 3, 2005, and the props that fans have collected.
- Life Imitates JAWS (3:45)
A real life shark spotted in Martha’s Vineyard in 2004.
- The Shark Is Still Working (8:32)
The influence of the film on today’s filmmakers.
- Martha’s Vineyard, 1974 (17:29)
- JAWS: The Restoration (8:28)
Originally created for the 2012 Universal 100th Anniversary Blu-ray release, this featurette takes a look at the extensive work that went into restoring the film. Includes interviews with director Stephen Spielberg and Universal execs, technicians, colorists and audio mixers Peter Shade, Michael Daruty, Bob O’Neil Seanine Bird, Daniel DeVincent, Eric Bauer, Phil Defibaugh, Leo Dunn, Frank Montaño, Richard LeGrand, and John Edell.
- From the Set (8:56)
In this vintage featurette from 1974, Brit Iain Johnstone takes viewers on a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film. Presented in 4:3 Full Frame format. Includes interviews with director Stephen Spielberg.
- JAWS Archives*
Collections of storyboard and production photos as well as domestic and international marketing material. Slides auto-advance every 8 seconds.
- Storyboards* (29:45)
- Production Photos* (48:44)
- Marketing JAWS* (9:20)
- JAWS Phenomenon* (10:08)
- Theatrical Trailer (3:15)
Presented in widescreen format on the 4K disc, and in 4:3 Letterbox format on the Blu-ray disc.
JAWS is a fantastic film that really holds up 45 years later. The movie looks and sounds amazing, thanks to a recent extensive restoration effort. The release includes the same excellent bonus material ported from the 2012 Blu-ray release, but doesn’t add anything new, except a collectible 44-page booklet. As to whether or not those who already own the previous Blu-ray release should upgrade to this new 4K release? Die hard fans will certainly want to pick it up for the slight increase in quality as well as the collectible packaging and booklet. I personally did not find a drastic difference to the already-stellar remastered Blu-ray picture/sound that would warrant a $20 double-dip for more casual fans. However, if/when this goes on sale, it may be worth it. Either way, this release still comes Highly Recommended based on the quality of the film itself, the presentation, and the bonus material (the ported material is so extensive that it didn’t feel lacking).