A beginning is a very delicate time
A snippet DVD extra review contained in the region 2 30th Anniversary Special Edition
double disk release of JAWS by Camus
 
"Don't worry, Martin. Nothing's going to happen…"
Matt Hooper about to get ahead.
 
"People applied every known assumption to something that had never been done before…"
Richard Zanuck, producer, Jaws

 

Quaint isn't a misprint of the name of the crusty fisherman who drinks to his own and Hooper's leg. It's the only adjective I can muster up for an utterly charming extra on the new DVD 2-disc edition of Jaws…

It's not a reprehensible practice to dust off the American Jaws 25th Anniversary Collector's Edition Laserdisc and from it re-master the Region 1 DVD. It's a damn fine Laserdisc. Neither is it particularly shameful to model the 30th Anniversary 2-Disc Region 2 edition of Jaws from its five year old Region 1 counterpart. The metallic streamlining of the shark artwork is also something that crossed the Atlantic. In fact, the artwork and design of the two discs' packaging is quite laudable (colour treated production stills that manage to convince those under twenty that this movie may be an older classic but it can still at least look hip). No, the real gem – not on the Region 1 – is a short extra that is poignant in a way that DVD extras usually can never be. It's for this reason alone, the Region 2 DVD stands tall.

Back in the dim, distant and clichéd descriptive past (the 70s), vying for Barry Norman's job, was a young movie journalist called Iain Johnstone. When Norman vacated the big chair for reasons (pre-Sky) I could not know nor guess at, Johnstone jumped in and to my mind, for a brief spell in the early eighties before Bazza returned, he did a sterling job agreeing with almost everything I agreed with regarding those years' crop of offerings – how lame of me is that? Barry Norman became bigger to the viewer than the movies he reviewed (that's stardom for you) and so his opinions, while cautiously valued, were never really embraced by this particular film nut. Add to this, Bazza admitted that he'd much rather watch cricket than a movie. He slipped a few rungs hellward after that remark.

Probably on the behest of the BBC, Johnstone was sent out to cover a hot director's shooting start on his next movie. It's so, so quaint. The featured film has to be from the BBC (it says copyright Iain Johnstone but…) because the countdown leader, inexplicably but delightfully included, has its sync beep on the 4. The universal location for the sync beep for the rest-of-the-world-but-not-the-BBC, is on the 3. The film has lost a lot of colour and has taken on a reddish tinge. It's scratched 16mm but then that's how we know it's real. How else? Spielberg, known at this time only for the marvellous Sugarland Express, not exactly a runaway hit, looks all of his 26 years. It's a tribute to the man at this stage in his career, how effortlessly he commands a salty bunch of Hollywood die hards. They are on their second day of shooting. Get that. Their second day of shooting. Spielberg is pragmatic about how the sea chortles delightedly and subversively at his planned schedule. The scene being shot features scriptwriter and actor Carl Gottlieb finding Ben Gardner's boat (a scene which never made it even to the deleted scenes). In a personal memory flashing moment, Gottlieb mis-times his reach and tumbles into the drink – a sequence of events shown in photo format in Gottlieb's own book about the making of the film, The Jaws Log. It needles my memory because the sound effect of his fall is oh so obviously taken from a 33rpm BBC sound effects library disc – this particular splash occurs on every single splash output from the BBC from 1945 to 1980 (after which they may have gone out and recorded another one just to keep us on our toes). There is no way the 16mm camera and attached crystal sync sound person would have been that close to faithfully record his fall.

So what's so special? Spielberg talks of all the things that can go wrong on the schedule smashing ocean and wonders if he can really stay the 50 days-on-the-ocean shooting schedule. This is a very rare glimpse – a glimpse of a masterpiece being built from brick number one. This is the movie equivalent of seeing Monet choose his brushes, of witnessing the careful placement of solid marble that was to become 'David' in Michaelangelo's workshop. This was before anyone knew anything about Jaws because at this point there was nothing… Just some semi-hot-shot director and the promise of 50 long, hard days on a boat shooting another boat… It makes me smile even more to know that Spielberg and the crew were out there for five months, three times longer than scheduled. Seeing all their game faces in May 1974 makes me yearn for the time when there was innocence, flair and balls on a film set not just a cadre of mini DV cameras cataloguing a cookie cutting event…

Oh – check out this extra (From the Set 1974) and replay and listen at 8'13" in. I think it's a fairly distinct "No fucking way!" from a crew member. Later in the principal extra on the disc (see the Region 1 review for details as it's the same 2 hour doc: it's Chapter 8, 9'03" in), Spielberg quotes the sound guy as the Orca starts to sink and everyone is yelling to save the actors. "Fuck the actors! Save the sound department!" but the "Fuck" (Spielberg's own, gosh) is deleted. Aren't standards great seeing as they always travel in pairs?

 

For a retrospective look back at the film, click here.

Jaws: 30th Anniversary Special Edition

USA 1975
124 mins
director
Steven Spielberg
starring
Roy Scheider
Robert Shaw
Richard Dreyfus
Lorraine Gary
Murray Hamilyon
Carl Gottlieb

DVD details
region 2
video
2.35:1 anamorphic
sound
Dolby Digital 5.1
languages
English
subtitles
English
French
extras
A Look Inside Jaws behind the scenes documentary
Deleted scenes and outtakes
From The Set Spielberg interview
Shark facts
Stills gallery
Storyboard to film comparison
distributor
Universal
review posted
7 September 2005