It was on a 13″ black and white TV that took up more space and weighed more than my convection oven. The year was 1984. I had rabbit ears wrapped in Reynolds Wrap to scientifically and accurately amplify the crappy network TV signal. This describes the first time I saw the 1975 classic thriller about the peckish shark who nibbled on the unsuspecting beach bunnies of Amity.
Despite the lack of technology, it still scared me. Having always lived near water but not particularly interested in being in the water, I never considered it dangerous. After seeing the scene where Jaws heaved himself into a boat and chomped down the captain, I started to categorize my San Francisco landmarks differently. Golden Gate Bridge – accessible. Pacific Coast Highway – not a problem. From these lofty distances it was easy to hurl a smug, “Jaws, you’re just a punk-ass goldfish with ashy skin”. Rocky beach under the Cliff House where the surfers gather? Not possible, nope, high probability of carnivorous creatures wriggling on shore and chewing my ass to death.
As I passed through Target and saw the Blu Ray version of this almost 40-year old film I wondered: would it still have the same impact and how well can an almost 40-year old film be converted to Blu Ray?
The answer to the first question is obvious; like all experiences from our youth, they do not wield the same impact. But, to the latter question, they have done a remarkable job on the restoration. Included on the Blu Ray are two segments on interest: the first explains how the original movie was made, the other explains the restoration process. The restoration was an extremely long and complex process but the effect is absolutely stunning. However, having greater definition is both blessing and curse. The good news is the film is in true widescreen format, looks much, much clearer, the colors brighter, to the point of actually feeling as though you are part of the frightened masses. The downside is that the mechanical shark Spielberg used actually looked mechanical in some scenes, turning what should be tense moments into Rocky Horror camp.
I was surprised to learn that the entity responsible for deeming things culturally significant and therefore worthy of preservation, has deemed Jaws culturally significant. That designation might be rhetorical and certainly by today’s standards a shark attack is not the biggest threat, however Jaws, 40 years on, still has the capacity to shock and more importantly, entertain.