Universal Home Video has done a crackerjack job with its DVD collector's editions of such films as "Frankenstein," "Out of Africa" and "Fast Times at Ridgemont High." But its 25th anniversary collector's edition of Steven Spielberg's classic shark-on-the-rampage thriller, "Jaws" ($27), comes up short.
There is no audio commentary. There isn't an isolated track featuring John Williams' Oscar-winning score.
Fans of the blockbuster, which stars Richard Dreyfuss, Robert Shaw and Roy Scheider, will probably enjoy the disc but will walk away wanting more.
The digital version includes a new, crisp digital transfer in wide screen, a slew of production photos, a fun trivia contest, storyboards and production drawings, a look at sharks, 10 minutes of deleted scenes (which cry out for commentary) and two measly outtakes.
A lengthy "making of" documentary, though not new, is still terrific, filled to the brim with behind-the-scenes and historical footage as well as informative interviews with Peter Benchley, who wrote the novel, Spielberg, Dreyfuss, Scheider, actress Lorraine Gary, producers Richard D. Zanuck and David Brown, and Carl Gottlieb, who co-wrote the script and also appears in the movie.
Universal is also offering a double video cassette of "Jaws" ($20) in the pan-and-scan format. One tape contains the film; the other has the documentary, deleted scenes, outtakes and the trailer.
Also new from Universal is the digital edition of the drama "The Hurricane" ($27), starring Denzel Washington in his Oscar-nominated and Golden Globe Award-winning performance as Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, the champion boxer unjustly imprisoned for 20 years for murders he didn't commit.
The collector's edition includes a crisp wide-screen transfer and a compelling "making of" documentary that features interviews with Carter, Washington, director Norman Jewison and actress Deborah Kara Unger.
Jewison presents a series of deleted scenes, explaining why he needed to cut each one. Most ended up on the cutting-room floor because of time constraints, he says, explaining that the first cut of the film clocked in at more than three hours. He confesses, though, that he wishes now he'd kept most of them in, including a scene in which three Canadians (Unger, John Hannah and Liev Schreiber) who helped prove Carter's innocence begin to get frustrated in their search for the truth.
Jewison also supplies the intelligent audio commentary, in which he talks about how long it took to get the film made and how they shot the murder sequence in the same bar in Paterson, N.J., where the actual crime was committed.
Criterion has delivered a lovely DVD of David Lean's haunting 1945 romance, "Brief Encounter" ($40). Noel Coward penned this adaptation of his one-act "Still Life," about a doomed love affair between a married doctor (Trevor Howard) and a housewife (Celia Johnson, in her Oscar-nominated role). It's old-fashioned but wonderfully acted and terribly romantic. The disc includes the original trailer and a beautiful digital transfer with restored image and sound. There's even a look at how scratches, dirt and grit were removed from the print. Also included is audio commentary from film historian Bruce Eder, which is a bit dry at times but offers insight into the Lean and Coward collaboration and the film's brilliant use of sound.
Broadway buffs will get a kick out of Docurama's DVD of "Moon Over Broadway" ($40), the 1998 documentary by D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus that examines the trials and tribulations of putting together the Broadway comedy "Moon Over Buffalo," starring Philip Bosco and Carol Burnett. The digital edition includes fascinating and often brutally honest commentary from the filmmakers, Bosco and Burnett, playwright Ken Ludwig, director Tom Moore and producers Elizabeth Williams, Rocco Landesman and Heidi Ettinger.
Home Vision is offering a real treat for fans of the late great Japanese director Akira Kurosawa. "Rare Kurosawa" features three of the master's early films ($50 for the video set; $20 each), all starring his favorite leading man, Toshiro Mifune. Included in the collection is Kurosawa's first important movie, 1948's "Drunken Angel." Part Neo-Realist, part '30s American gangster flick, "Drunken Angel" examines the relationship between an alcoholic doctor (a terrific Takashi Shimura) and a young gangster (a dazzling Mifune) with tuberculosis. Mifune, who was astonishingly beautiful as a young man, became a star after this film.
Also featured in the collection are 1955's "I Live in Fear" and 1950's "Scandal."
This week, First Look is releasing on video "Quiet Days in Hollywood," a 1997 film starring Oscar winner Hilary Swank, her real-life hubby, Chad Lowe, Peter Dobson, Daryl Mitchell and Natasha Gregson Wagner. This R-rated flick, which is actually a German production filmed in Hollywood and in English, is pretty dreadful.
The Wood Man has arrived on DVD, courtesy of MGM's "Woody Allen Collection" ($100 for VHS set, $15 each; $135 for DVD set, $20 each). The titles are "Bananas," "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex but Were Afraid to Ask," "Sleeper," "Love and Death," "Annie Hall," "Interiors," "Manhattan" and "Stardust Memories."