This Week in the Mercury


Friday, August 17, 2012

Blu-ray Reviews: Jaws and Total Recall

Posted by Erik Henriksen on Fri, Aug 17, 2012 at 3:59 PM

Sorry. Even by my standards this is terrible.
  • Sorry. Even by my shoddy PhotoShop standards, this is terrible.

This is gonna be short, because these are two of the easiest Blu-rays I've ever had to review. Both Total Recall (which came out a few weeks ago, timed with the financially unsuccessful remake) and Jaws (which came out earlier this week, as part of Universal's 100th Anniversary Blu-ray push) are well worth your time and/or money—Jaws if you're a human being, and Total Recall if you're in any way inclined towards liking Total Recall. (Which you should be—I've shot my mouth off far too much about Total Recall, both the new one and the old one, so instead of doing so again, I'll direct you to the excellent Slate Spoiler Special discussion of the new one. Dana Stevens and Chris Wade should be able to convince you if I haven't.)

The films themselves are the most important thing about these releases: Total Recall is weird, bloody, cartoony, smarter-than-it-needs-to-be fun (a lot like director Paul Verhoeven's other two big sci-fi movies, RoboCop and Starship Troopers), while Jaws is one of the very, very few perfect films in existence and 100 percent deserving of every accolade that's ever been thrown at it.

Seeing Jaws on the big screen is a hell of a thing, as a short run at the Hollywood Theatre a few months ago proved, but if you can't do that, this Blu-ray is the way to do it: Boasting a gorgeous restoration, the 1975 film somehow looks better than a lot of movies shot today. Total Recall's been restored too, and looks sharper than it has in the past—all the better to see the crazy practical effects, miniature work, and make-up. Jaws, though... Jaws just looks amazing. I've lost count of how many times I've already seen this movie, and I'll no doubt watch it countless times more. Knowing that this is what it's going to look like from here on out is a pretty great feeling.

Special features-wise, most of what's on these discs has been on previous DVD releases—which is fine, since those releases were pretty solid. There are, however, two big exceptions/additions: Total Recall features a new interview with Paul Verhoeven, who is exactly as exuberant and batshit and wide-eyed and proud of his pulpy creation as you want him to be, while Jaws boasts a whole new, feature-length documentary, The Shark Is Still Working: The Impact and Legacy of Jaws. Verhoeven's interview is a huge amount of fun—for example, it begins with this image—but The Shark Is Still Working is a disappointment: Fanboyish and fawning, it's stuffed with interviews with everyone from Spielberg to the guy who shows up for four frames as Quint's gimpy sidekick (along with an infuriatingly obnoxious interview with Richard Dreyfuss), but it substitutes enthusiasm for insight. (A few other segments—both the two-hour doc from the DVD, The Making of Jaws, and a far shorter segment, "From the Set," a British TV interview with then-26-year-old Spielberg in the early days of Jaws' shoot—are more enlightening and entertaining.)

There's other stuff, too—Jaws has a promo piece/featurette about its restoration, Total Recall has a restoration comparison; Jaws has deleted scenes and advertising and production images, Total Recall has a photo gallery and some looks at the film's special effects—but the reason I'm not spending much time on 'em is because they pale in comparison to the films themselves. Jaws is as good of a movie as has ever been made; Total Recall is a strange, underrated blockbuster that isn't anywhere close to Jaws in quality but is still a solid addition to anybody's movie collection. Jaws is currently $20 on Amazon and worth every penny. Total Recall: Mind Bending Edition is going for $10 and is worth... well, yeah, that sounds about right. If only to see Verhoeven get all flail-y and giddy in his interview.

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