Steven Spielberg’s Jaws is a truly amazing thing. Not only is it one of the greatest pure films ever made, but it’s that rare man vs. nature film that is still every bit as terrifying now as it was back when it was released in 1975. Jaws has been putting people off of the ocean for three decades, now, and while some of the dialogue and fashions may show some age, the shark’s still got bite, and still looks every bit as ferocious, frightening, and authentic. It’s both a testament to Spielberg as a filmmaker, and the terrifying-yet-simple visage of the Great White Shark itself, that no film since Jaws has managed to make the sea so scary.
Now, celebrating its 30th anniversary, Universal has re-released the Jaws DVD in a special edition that’s caused a bit of a stir amongst collectors. You see, five years ago, Universal released a perfectly good 25th anniversary edition DVD that featured a healthy amount of bonus goodies, and satiated some of the fans of the film who had longed for a DVD version to rival the classic laserdisc release. Even then, there were a vocal minority who decried the lack of a commentary (something Spielberg is loath to do), and complained that the included “making-of” feature ported over from the laserdisc was only half as long as the original version. There was also an angry group of purists who pointed out that the omission of the film’s original mono soundtrack meant that some dialogue and original audio was now lost in the new mix. So, despite what, at the time, seemed like Universal’s best efforts, the 25th anniversary edition of Jaws was an uneven release in the eyes of Jaws fanatics.
Now, in this new released, Universal has addressed most of these issues. The disc, which is slipcased and includes an attractive full-colour booklet now features the full, two hour plus making-of film from the original laserdisc and the original mono soundtrack. The DVD also features a vintage interview with Spielberg in a From the Set featurette that was filmed for British television during the making of the film. As with the 25th anniversary edition, this set also sports deleted scenes, but boasts a few more, and also features the same set of outtakes. And, to round things out, there’s an expanded Archive section, with more photos and ephemera. There's still no commentary track, but them's the breaks.
So what is the fuss? Well, people who bought the 25th anniversary edition are crying foul at Universal for slipping just enough new stuff into this 30th anniversary edition to make it a temptation, but not enough to make it, in their eyes, worth upgrading to. Personally, I don’t see the controversy at all. Universal is a business, and the 30th anniversary of one of their most beloved films is a fantastic opportunity to make a lot of money from it. It’s up to fans to decide if what they’re offering this time around is worth giving them said money for.
The bottom line is that the new 30th anniversary Jaws DVD is a slightly more buff version of the disc so many of us already own, and it comes down to whether or not you feel that having the full documentary, some extra deleted scenes, nicer packaging, and a booklet will make your collection that much more or less complete. Personally, I was thrilled, as I’ve never seen the making-of feature in its entirety, and, that alone, is worth the $20 or so dollars one would shell out for this set. I’m also psyched to watch the film with the original mono soundtrack, as I want to see what that particular fuss is all about.
So, for me, this upgrade is well worth it, and, for those of you who don’t yet own a copy of Jaws (hey, the flick is thirty years old now; it’s getting a new audience every day!) this is the version to get…
At least until the 35th anniversary.