Just when you thought it was safe to go back in your home cinema…
In the mid-'70s Hollywood sequels were far less prevalent than they are today. But with Steven Spielberg's Jaws breaking box office records and endless knock-offs (Grizzly, Orca, Piranha, et al) crawling out of the woodwork, it's understandable that Universal Studios would want its own shot at cashing-in on the success of its aquatic smash hit.
As with the original film, production on Jaws 2 (1978) was anything but smooth. After toying with several different concepts (including the sinking of the USS Indianapolis), the producers opted for a return to Amity Island to pit Police Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) against another great white shark. Even with this settled there were still plenty of problems, not least director John D. Hancock being replaced by Jeannot Szwarc after several weeks of shooting, prompting yet another script rewrite.
Add to this all of the usual issues with shooting at sea and it's a miracle we even got a finished film, let alone one as enjoyable as Jaws 2 turned out to be. Okay, so comparisons with Spielberg's film do this one no favours whatsoever, but judged on its own terms it's one of the better 'revenge of nature' movies of the era. The plot is culled from the in-fashion slasher genre (a group of teens are stalked and killed), but the quality of the cast and the time spent developing characters helps elevate Jaws 2 to something pretty good.
Swimming into cinemas in 1983, Jaws 3 (aka Jaws 3-D) saw production designer Joe Alves promoted to director. This time around the shark(s) turn up at the SeaWorld water park where the now adult Michael Brody (Dennis Quaid) just happens to work. Well, what are the odds of that?
From the time of its release, Jaws 3 has been rightfully lambasted for its not-so-special effects and relentless stupidity. But that's precisely what makes it so much fun – if nothing else, you could never call Jaws 3 boring.
This is more than you can say about 1987's Jaws: The Revenge, a franchise-killing yawn-fest that's so far off the quality of the original it's painful. Back in Jaws 2 Chief Brody was told that 'Sharks don't take things personally.' Maybe somebody should have mentioned that to the masterminds behind this epic turkey. Not only does the film find a great white setting a trap(!) for Sean Brody, the beastie then follows Ellen Brody (a returning Lorraine Gary) to the Bahamas. Annoyingly, once the shark gets there it doesn't really do much of anything, only chowing down on a couple of people across the entire film.
And that is Jaws: The Revenge's biggest sin (beyond the abundant filmmaking gaffs). It's just so unforgivably dull that no amount of stupidity – or Michael Caine – can keep you interested.
Picture: Jaws 2 sports what appears to be an older off-the-shelf 2.35:1 HD master. Colours are fairly striking, while clarity and detailing are strong. Best of all, there's no obvious print damage or signs of any digital tinkering.
Jaws 3 is harder to rate from a visual standpoint because the 2D and 3D 2.40:1-framed encodes look so different. The 2D transfer appears especially soft and suffers from some distracting registration issues on the left-hand side of the screen. The 3D version looks much more refined and sharp. As befits an exploitation film of this ilk, it's also one of the most eye-popping 3D films we've ever come across, poking things out of the screen at every opportunity. Some instances of negative parallax push things too far, but overall it's a very impressive 3D image.
That just leaves us with Jaws: The Revenge. Sadly, as woeful as the movie is, it doesn't deserve to be treated as badly as it is here. While colours are accurate, the 2.40:1 image shows clear signs of digital noise reduction throughout, wiping out grain and fine detail in equal measure. Boo!
Picture rating: 3.5/5
Audio: Jaws 2 features a nicely rendered LPCM mono soundtrack. Jaws 3 upgrades to a DTS-HD MA stereo mix that creates a pleasingly wide soundstage. Taking things a step further, Jaws: The Revenge delivers a DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix that lifts the (all-too-infrequent) action with effective panning effects and modest LFE support.
Audio rating: 4/5
Extras: All three discs include trailers for the film in question. On top of this, Jaws: The Revenge adds the original ending (in 1080p) that was changed after audience testing, but which has turned up on some TV prints over the years.
Jaws 2 fares best of all, though, with the Blu-ray porting over all of the old DVD extras. These include four deleted scenes, a 45-minute Making of…, two interviews and storyboards for three scenes.
Extras rating: 2/5
We say: Uneven presentation and extras for a similarly uneven collection of sequels. It’s still wonderful to finally have Jaws 3 in 3D though…
Jaws 2, 3, The Revenge, Universal Pictures, All-region BD, £25 Approx
HCC VERDICT: 2.5/5
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