Today is the day a lot of cinephiles have been looking forward to. Ah yes.

JAWS, one of filmmaker Steven Spielberg’s most beloved, influential and arguably best movies is finally out on Blu-Ray.

And I’m going to skip over the actual review of the movie itself, because you guys all know the movie. And if you don’t, well you should because I’d say it’s not only in the top 10 horror movies of all time, but in the top 10 movies ever made. And no doubt, most of you already own one or several incarnations of a home video release whether it be on DVD, VHS, Laserdisc, etc. What you want to know is… is it worth the upgrade?

Short answer. Absolutely. In fact, it’s essential.

First and foremost, the new digital transfer for the movie itself is flawless. I can not believe how fantastic the picture looks. The digital restoration, which was cleaned up from the original 35 mm print was handled with such care on this release that it literally looks like the movie was shot just last year. I felt the same way when I saw the Blu-Ray release of the original 1968 PLANET OF THE APES. But even Spielberg himself says on “The Restoration” featurette that this is the best the movie has ever looked and sounded, even better than in it’s initial theatrical release. If you have the appropriate Blu-Ray set-up for your home theater, then you’ll feel as if you’re watching the movie for the first time again, even if you’ve already seen it 100 times. (I feel that way about all of Kubrick’s films on Blu-Ray as well.) If you want a quick taste at the difference in this HD transfer, then check out this little featurette culled from the Blu-Ray release. It’ll make a true believer out of you for sure:

The other big draw for this release is the much talked about fan-made documentary THE SHARK IS STILL WORKING, a long-in-the-works labor of love for 4 producers/JAWS fanatics, much in the vein of Paul Davis’ AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON retrospective BEWARE THE MOON and my own documentary THE PSYCHO LEGACY. (All Universal titles, no less.)

It’s been several years since I first watched a rough cut of the documentary which ran 3 hours long, but here on the Blu-Ray, we’re got a refined & lean 110 minute version which is just plain fantastic. While Laurent Bouzereau’s 2 hour documentary on “The Making of JAWS” is carted over from the Laserdisc and DVD release for this Blu-Ray, it doesn’t interfere or overlap in the production stories told from THE SHARK IS STILL WORKING. What’s great is that Bouzereau’s documentary focuses heavily on every aspect on the making of the original film starting with Peter Benchley’s novel, the producers obtaining the film rights and right on through the entire production and first screenings of the film that solidified it as the first official summer blockbuster. THE SHARK IS STILL WORKING, does cover the making of the film but from a slightly different perspective; it shifts gears to focus more on the impact and legacy of the movie talking to filmmakers today such as Bryan Singer, Kevin Smith, M. Night Shyamalan, Eli Roth and so on and so forth. There’s also the “fan” impact the film has had as we get to see snippets from JAWS-FEST, the annual event held in Martha’s Vineyard (the original shooting location for JAWS) and get to see people’s personal collections of incredible JAWS merchandise from over the years.

On top of all the principles involved in JAWS (Steven Spielberg, Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, etc), the filmmakers behind this doc talk to every one, and I mean every one! We get to hear from Percy Rodrigues, the original “voice” from the JAWS trailer and TV spots, as well as Roger Kastel, the artist who drew the now-iconic poster image. There’s also a great segment on the now infamous yet simple John Williams theme, which illustrates the influence of how powerful a films score can really be.

The title of the doc is in reference to the infamous story of how the actual mechanical shark (nick-named “Bruce” by Speilberg) never worked, hence why we barely see the shark during the course of the movie. However, as the doc proves by showing the influence, the shark is still working after all these years. Simply put, this is a fan made documentary for the fans and the enthusiasm, love and care for the film is evident from everyone involved.

As I mentioned previously, the wonderful 2 hour “Making Of JAWS” feature originally created for the Laserdisc is also on the Blu-Ray, as well as a handful of deleted scenes, a featurette chronicling the restoration process and much, much more. Even if none of these features were included, the Blu-Ray would be worth the upgrade simply for how great the movie looks and sounds in this format. THE SHARK IS STILL WORKING documentary is just the icing on the cake.

Films like JAWS and this release are the reason the Blu-Ray format was invented; the preservation of timeless, classic movies.

Verdict: MUST OWN.

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