Screw any introduction of myself (that will come later). I’m just going to leap into this blog thing. My first post is both praise for my favorite film and an indictment of a drop in standards. When Jaws came out on DVD in 2000, I was understandably thrilled. Pretty quickly, however, I was appalled to see—hear—that the sound was quite different than I had remembered…
How did this happen? How did the sound of a three-ton shark crashing through the side of a boat go from sounding like a ’73 Buick Riviera driving into your living room to Zelda Rubenstein dropping a champagne glass in your kitchen? I can only speculate.
Y’see, Jaws was originally mixed in (glorious) mono, and, naturally, that doesn’t sit right with the present-day sound-crazed home-theater owners. So when it was time to make the DVD, Universal did what was necessary to make a 5.1 mix for the film, which included re-recording several sound effects. And whoever was hired to do that phoned it in. (The whole film is missing chunks of great sound FX.) And someone (Universal? Spielberg?) gave it a stamp of approval. And this new mix was the only soundtrack available on the DVD!
And so here I was, a sound editor buying his All-Time Favorite Film, cringing at a desecration and daydreaming of the day when the word “blog” would be invented. I should be clear that I wasn’t the only one to think the sound FX work for Jaws was amazing: this film won only three Oscars, and one of those was for its Sound.
Gratefully, when Universal did its money-grubbing 30th Anniversary Edition DVD in 2005, the mono track was included—though it defaults to the 5.1 mix, which I think (as I’ve made perfectly clear) sounds like shit. And as I note in the clip, if you’re lucky enough to see a new print of Jaws (which looks gorgeous, BTW) in a movie theater, it will have this less-than-thrilling soundtrack.
One of these days I’ll post more examples of the tremendous inadequacy of the new soundtrack. Laughable and sad.
And yes, I welcome—encourage—anyone who was responsible for the sound FX on the remixed Jaws to drop me a line. I’d love to hear what you have to say to a fellow sound editor.