Being the huge fan of movies that I am, I remember being so excited by the advent of the DVD format. Not for the pristine digital transfers or the re-mixed 5.1 soundtracks. Sure that was a big bonus, but for me, it was ALL about the special features. I've always had a fascination with all the details surrounding the making of my favorite films and I remember as a kid rushing to find a blank or erasable VHS tape anytime some kind of making-of feature appeared on TV. With that kind of devotion, I've become a big fan of the documentaries that usually accompany a DVD release.

I'd heard so much about what was sure to be the definitive JAWS documentary, "The Shark Is Still Working" while it was in the works, and being a huge fan of the entire JAWS saga (Yes, even the sequels, especially Part 2!), I couldn't wait to check it out for myself. Well, I've finally screened the documentary.

"The Shark Is Still Working: The Impact and Legacy of JAWS" is a 3 hour epic, and by far the best, most extensive, well put-together and entertaining documentary on a movie of ANY genre. It's more then I possibly could've imagined it being and for the most part, that's a good thing. (I'll get into what works against the doc a bit later on.)

"The Shark Is Still Working" opens with a great introduction into what a grand task (and accomplishment) it was to make JAWS, accompanied by tons of promotional images I'd never, ever seen before. We hear static messages back and forth through walkie-talkies between the crew saying, "The shark is not working… Repeat… the shark is not working…"

Well, eventually they DID get the shark to work, to an extent, and the fact that it often didn't work ended up being an advantage for the final film. We're brought right into the world of JAWS and introduced to the notion that it was the first summer "blockbuster". (Which of course, it was.)

The documentary starts at the beginning and that's with the book by Peter Benchley, who appears several times through out the duration of the special. Everyone, and I mean everyone is in this documentary. Steven Spielberg, Richard Dreyfus, Roy Scheider (who also narrates), Director Of Photography Bill Butler, composer John Williams and many, many more.

Then they start covering stuff I would have never expected, but that I found extremely intriguing. For example, the advertising of JAWS. We hear recollections from "the voice" of the JAWS infamous TV spots, Percy Rodrigues. The advertising of JAWS is illustrated here as one of the many reasons behind it’s overall success.

Later on, we get to meet Roger Kastel, who's the artist that painted the poster for JAWS (which originally was the cover for the paperback edition of the book.) It goes as far as to show the influence of the poster art, by showing a series of political cartoons from newspapers parodying the image over and over and over again.

Dozen's of recognizable filmmakers of today pop up to talk about the legacy of JAWS and how it directly influenced them and their work. Among them, we've got Robert Rodriguez, Kevin Smith, Eli Roth, Bryan Singer and surprisingly Anthrax drummer Charlie Benante! I actually love seeing someone like Charlie pop up in these things and talk about how many times he stepped up to the movie theater counter to order yet another ticket for JAWS.

Filmmaker Kevin Smith points out that he's even gone as far as naming characters from his movies after JAWS characters. (Personally, I never caught the obvious nods, like "TS Quint" and "Brodie Bruce" in Mallrats.) Filmmakers like Eli Roth and Bryan Singer talk about what a huge influence "THE JAWS LOG" - a book chronicling the making of JAWS by Carl Gottlieb, was on them. Bryan Singer went as far as naming his production company "Bad Hat Harry Productions" after a line by Roy Scheider in JAWS.

The legacy & influence stems even further, such as in segments with MEG author Steve Alten, who unlike most JAWS fans, preferred the shark attack sequences over the character development in JAWS and focused on more shark attacks when writing his own novels. Greg Nicotero from KNB FX talks about how seeing JAWS as a kid is what triggered his obsession with creating special effects for movies, and there’s a wonderful segment showing him recreating "Bruce the shark" for the JAWSFEST event in Martha's Vineyard back in 2005.

Even the fan phenomenon is covered extensively in this documentary. From JAWSFEST itself, the footage of various worldwide premieres to fan-devoted websites. Hell, it compelled me to visit Jawscollector.com as soon as the doc ended. Although there's plenty of new footage with fans & filmmakers of today, there's plenty of emphasize on the vintage stuff as well.
I loved the footage of Steven Spielberg eagerly awaiting the Ocsar nomination announcements and being robbed of a “best director” nod. (With 'MANIAC' actor Joe Spinell sporting a JAWS T-Shirt in the background during the whole thing.) There's a tour with the new owners of the house that belonged to editor Verna Fields (who DID win an Oscar for JAWS), which is priceless stuff.

Here's a first! A documentary about JAWS featuring a making of a documentary about JAWS?! We get a brief history into Universal’s Signature Series, which featured extensive documentaries on old Universal films when they were released on Laserdisc. And speaking here is Laurent Bouzereau, who essentially saved tons of JAWS material from obscurity when he began constructing his documentary. There's also new vintage footage supplied by Hooper's stuntman Dick Warlock (Michael Myers from Halloween 2!) who also is interviewed about his experiences on JAWS.

Remember the girl at the very beginning of JAWS that becomes the great white’s first victim? That's Susan Backline and she's here too talking about that infamous opening and later we see her attending JAWSFEST.

As the doc gets into it's second half, it steers into different directions, focusing in part on the JAWSFEST celebration, collectors of JAWS props, and even "fan" made films. (Some of which look like a total hoot, and which I pray will end up as bonus features on the eventual DVD release!) There is a segment with Ron and Valerie Taylor whom both supplied the real shark footage for JAWS, and they tell an interesting story about how they used a little person in a small cage to give the appearance of a bigger shark for JAW's great white. And would you believe there's a JAWS: THE MELODRAMATIC MUSICAL? You get a taste of it here.

So, is there anything NOT awesome about this documentary? Well, there are a few things holding it back from perfection. For one, the length. This is a 3 hour epic, which makes it a long investment of your time. While I found most of it interesting, a good chunk of it could be separated into special feature segments for a future DVD release. For example, all the JAWSFEST material. On the Halloween: 25 Years Of Terror DVD, they saved all the panel footage from the actual 25th anniversary celebration as bonus material for the 2nd disc.

The other thing I was disappointed in was the lack of material on the sequels. Granted, they're not as great or as influential as the original, but I grew up with the sequels and loved them all for my own reasons. They DO cover JAWS 2 a bit, which has the best and most imitated tagline to a movie EVER. "Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water." But I would have loved to have heard more about ALL the sequels.

I can understand that the focus is meant to be on the original film (hence the "Impact" and "Legacy" of JAWS), but I can only assume (and hope) that there will be some awesome segments about those individual sequels set aside for the DVD release. With the amount of footage they shot, that stuff’s got to exist!

Overall, I'm just in awe in with what these filmmakers have created. This is THE biggest love letter to a movie I’ve ever seen and the love, care & time that was put into this is obvious from the start. I hope that we get a proper DVD release of this in the not-too-distant future because JAWS fans are absolutely going to love this. –Robg.


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