By Steve Vivona
1975 ushered in the era of the summer blockbuster with the release of Steven Speilberg`s contemporary classic Jaws. One of the most eagerly anticipated DVD`s, Jaws will open the floodgates for further Spielberg releases including Jurassic Park and The Lost World in October, as well as the Amblin-produced Men in Black in September. And in 2001 look for E.T., Schindler`s List, and Close Encounters.
For those living under a rock for the last 25 years Jaws is based on the novel of the same name by Peter Benchley and tells the story of a small island town terrorized by a great white shark.
The film is a hallmark of great characterization and suspense made even more impressive when you learn about the nightmarish conditions it was shot under. Spielberg himself believed he was helming a disaster that would swiftly end his burgeoning career.
A great white shark is found to be terrorizing the quaint island hamlet of Amity (located somewhere in New England but we`re never sure where). Sheriff Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) wants to close the beaches but the town fathers stubbornly refuse to scare away their much-needed tourist trade. Only after several deaths do they free him to take some action.
Brody enlists the aid of oceanographic expert Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) who confirms the gravity of the situation, a 25-foot great white shark has parked itself inside Amity Harbor and will feed on the populace until its gorged. Brody and Hooper hire Quint (Robert Shaw), an eccentric fisherman who boasts he can capture their great white.
The chemistry and tension between the three leads is undeniable. Scheider`s Brody is literally the fish out of water -- the sheriff of an island town who hates the water and must help kill a great white. Some of Scheider`s expressions during the shark hunt are priceless, as is his dialogue. "You`re going to need a bigger boat."
Hooper has a dry wit that helps lessen the tension a bit, but it is Shaw as Quint who steals the show. The quintessential sea dog, Quint is the film`s Captain Ahab, a man willing to risk his boat, his crew and himself in order to defeat this force of nature. Quint`s chilling description of his first experience with a shark is a classic moment that sets up the film`s third act brilliantly.
Universal`s DVD presentation of Jaws is excellent. Long forgotten are the grainy laserdisc presentations, initially believed to be the best this film would ever look. Here the widescreen image is sharp and the colors are strong and vivid. While the special features are terrific I would add only one caveat. The 120-minute documentary found on the laserdisc has been shorn to 75 minutes (guess I`ll be keeping the LD). Despite that one complaint this is a DVD I highly recommend.