Bonus Points: DVD Reviews

A 'Jaws' That Lacks Bite

The outdated extras on the 30th anniversary "Jaws" DVD may be hard for some fans to swallow. (Richard Forman - Universal Pictures)
By Jen Chaney Staff Writer
Monday, June 13, 2005; 1:29 PM

"Jaws: 30th Anniversary Edition" (List price: $22.98)

Release Date: June 14

Thirty years ago, a shark with a killer theme song changed the American cinematic landscape forever.

"Jaws" was released in June of 1975 and quickly went from mere movie to full-blown phenomenon. It not only launched the career of Steven Spielberg, but also was the first film to earn (and eventually surpass) $100 million at the box office, spawning the concept of the summer blockbuster as we now know it. In fact, Darth Vader might never have existed if it weren't for that 25-foot fish with the voracious appetite.

Given all of that, you'd think Universal would have packed a little more meat on its 30th anniversary DVD of "Jaws." Unfortunately -- apart from a nine-minute 1974 featurette, a lengthy documentary that's already appeared in various forms on previous "Jaws" releases and an attractive commemorative booklet -- there's not much to recommend about this two-disc set.

The best part of the DVD is its audio: In Dolby 5.1 surround sound, John Williams's spooky under-the-sea score sounds all the more ominous. The movie, on the other hand, looks decent but could have been sharper had it been remastered. As it is, the occasional spots and flecks may be noticeable, particularly to widescreen TV viewers.

But the biggest disappointment is the extras, which appear to have been tossed together like a plate of stale leftovers. The two-hour "Making of 'Jaws'" is mildly interesting, if one can forget that all of it appeared on the 1997 "Jaws" laserdisc and portions were featured on the 25th anniversary DVD release. And if the 13 minutes of deleted scenes and outtakes look familiar, they should: Those also showed up on the 2000 DVD. There is no commentary track (as is the case on virtually every Spielberg DVD) and no newly produced featurette to savor. Given the signifance of the anniversary, not to mention the movie, a look at the overall "Jaws" phenomenon -- including more on its pop culture impact and the increasingly shlocky sequels that followed it -- seems long overdue. Perhaps they're saving that for the 35th anniversary edition.

Of course, if you're dying to own a copy of "Jaws," you'll probably be satisfied enough. But you'll probably hope that a better version of this shark shocker -- one with fabulous features like those that accompanied last year's "Star Wars" trilogy -- will swim onto shelves eventually.

Best Spielberg Bonus Point: "From the Set," the 1974 featurette hosted by Brit Iain Johnstone, provides a semi-entertaining peek at a super-young Spielberg at work on the water. During an interview conducted between takes, the director offers this nugget of wisdom about his casting choices: "I like people who are outspoken and very large, so I can bring them down to life level." So that explains why he works with notorious sofa-jumper Tom Cruise.

Most Interesting Bonus Point: If you've never seen the "Making of 'Jaws'," it's worth a look. You'll hear all the usual stories about the movie (the mechanical shark didn't work, cast and crew members got seasick, etc.), but some more-obscure nuggets -- like the fact that the shark's first victim (played by Susan Backlinie) is pulled underwater by Spielberg himself -- are shared as well. Those make this a worthwhile, if out of date, doc.

Also New on DVD This Week: "A Dirty Shame," "Hitch" and "Tarzan II."

If you have feedback about "Bonus Points" or want to suggest a DVD for review, e-mail Jen Chaney.

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