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Long overdue Blu Ray for big fish no.2....
on 14 July 2016
At long last, then, Jaws 2 gets a Blu Ray release. I’ve always had a soft spot for this film: partly because I think it’s great, but also because it had the unenviable task of following the first, iconic, utterly wonderful first film. How do you follow that…?? Apparently it was one of the very first sequels made – in those days, such things were rare – and paved the way for the mega-franchises we see (or endure) to this day.
Without spoiling it, the plot basically involves another shark wreaking havoc on some of the inhabitants of Amity Island. However, this film is perhaps slightly more expansive (geographically speaking), eventually following a group of kids sailing out to sea, where our fishy friend can do his/her worst. Some themes from the first film are still in evidence, e.g. tourist dollars versus public safety, business versus authority, family tensions, personal demons and, of course, the notion of “be careful out there”….
The Blu-Ray quality is terrific, considering this is nearly 40 years old. The film is strong on action shots, the director really made these work; they are pretty spectacular (e.g. following the fish from above/POV, the water-skiing, helicopter etc.), and Blu Ray enhances them considerably. I also think there are a couple of genuinely terrifying, proper “horror” moments – possibly even better than any such scenes in the first film (or at least on a par with Quint’s bloody departure). The special effects, and the ways in which they were created, still impress, again when you consider the film is from 1978.
The acting is, once again, first-rate. Roy Scheider, despite his initial reluctance to play Chief Brody again, is great: haunted by the events of the first film and wary of what’s to come, whilst having to tolerate small-minded islanders and money-men – the latter personified superbly by Joseph Mascolo, playing the sleazy Len Peterson. Lorraine Gary provides strong support, as does Murray Hamilton as the Mayor (who tries to be more supportive of Brody this time round). It’s also nice to see Jeffrey Kramer’s nice character, Hendricks, get more screen time here. I also find the kids’ performances impressive – they’ve all got quite distinctive, endearing personalities rather than being just a bunch of bland “screamers”. Indeed, unlike with other horror films, you don’t find yourself rooting for the bad guy after a while!
John Williams is also on hand again to provide a similar, but even grander-sounding, score. It’s wonderful; the opening scene in particular is perfection. I just can’t imagine Jaws without Williams. The only disappointment with this release is that the soundtrack is in 2.0 rather than 5.1; listening through headphones is fine but surround sound would’ve been the icing on the cake.
There are some nice extras on the disc:- a couple of “making of” features with some interesting stories from the director, producers etc. (the story about Murray Hamilton and his wife is heartbreaking); and some deleted scenes, the most interesting being an extra few shots from the “helicopter” scene.
All in all, regardless of the first film, Jaws 2 is a fine film which can even be enjoyed as a stand-alone effort – yes, it continues an over-arching storyline but familiarity with the original isn’t essential (though I doubt you’d actually watch this before the first one, obviously….). Anyway, as I’ve tried to outline above, the interesting plot, terrific action sequences, moments of terror and fine acting all go to make Jaws 2 a solid sequel but, on its own, a highly absorbing and entertaining film.