'Jaws' on Blu-ray: A Triumph of Storytelling Over Special Effects

'Jaws' on Blu-ray: A Triumph of Storytelling Over Special Effects

The old Hollywood saw about never working with children or animals got updated in 1975.

Never work with children, animals or mechanical sharks.

The crew behind “Jaws” ignored that sound advice. Who needs a fully functional shark when you’ve got iconic characters, memorable dialogue and an ocean full of dramatic tension?

The eagerly awaited release of “Jaws” on Blu-ray today does more than allow us to applaud a darn near perfect film all over again. It’s a reminder of all the things too often missing in today’s summer blockbusters.

If “Jaws” came out today, and it’s a miracle some thick-headed studio exec hasn’t already greenlit a remake, the shark would look so realistic audiences wouldn’t be able to tell the movie shark from the real McCoy. And, most likely, the film’s storytelling would suffer as a result.

Why bother writing a great script or indelible characters when all movie goers will be talking about are the special effects long after the lights turn back on in the theater?

Heck, Spielberg himself admits as much during the release’s copious “making of” features. The director couldn’t rely on “Bruce” the shark for extended closeups or elaborate poses. So he showed less of it, and the result was far more frightening than any CGI shark.

Raise your hand if you still think about “Jaws” every time your toes touch beach sand.

The film’s impact wasn’t limited to how infrequently the title character appears on screen. “Jaws” serves as a character study with or without the man-eating antagonist.

Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) is a New Yorker who gives up the Big Apple for a more tranquil gig on Amity, a lush beachfront town which relies heavily on its vacation business. Scheider’s scenes with with Lorraine Gary as his wife reflect a quiet but solid marriage, one able to withstand the sudden shift from subway trains to dune buggies.

Spielberg’s “Jaws” nails the essentials of the Brody marriage as well as every other detail in the film, from the high-strung mayor who refuses to close the beaches – until it’s too late – to the salty shark killer (Robert Shaw) who enters the film by scraping his nails on a chalkboard.

The film’s script is a thing of beauty, filled with quiet reflections on marriage, death and duty. When shark expert Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) nervously straps on a diving mask while entering a shark cage he confesses to Brody, “I got no spit” to clean the glass visor.

“Jaws” remains a classic because it treats every aspect of the story, from the mundane details of a regular family to the final assault on the good ship Orca, with equal reverence.

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The Blu-ray edition of “Jaws” lines up a smorgasbord of extras, some recruited from previous home video editions and others fresh for the high-def release.

The deleted scenes shed new light on Chief Brody’s investigation into the death of the first woman killed in the movie as well as a moment showing the lighter side of Quint pestering a lad playing the clarinet.

Other goodies include a peek into the loving restoration process that made “Jaws” look as good as it did back in 1975, plus a multi-segmented feature, “The Shark is Still Working: The Impact & Legacy of ‘Jaws.'” The video lets some of the biggest directors working today, including Robert Rodriguez, share why “Jaws” was an instrumental part of their filmmaking education.

Follow Christian Toto on Twitter @TotoMovies