The Great White Blu-Ray Hunt

Today is the day. The day JAWS came out on Blu-Ray. On my late and dearly missed Mom’s birthday, no less. And I had a solid plan to get it in my grubby hands.

It’s here…

Could I have ordered it online on Amazon? Sure. But when I saw this past Sunday there was a Best Buy exclusive coming out with 40 pages of stuff that I probably didn’t need but wanted, I decided that was the one to get. So I dropped Mrs. Von Luger off at Port Authority in NYC for a trip to sunny Mt. Pocono, PA and headed over to Best Buy on 44th and 5th. But first I killed some time at a Barnes and Noble two blocks down. Big mistake? Maybe…cause there were no more Collector’s Series copies of JAWS left when I got to Best Buy!

The back…

After mulling over my options and maybe buying the regular Blu-Ray, I made the choice to head down to 23rd and 6th to another Manhattan Best Buy. But this time I would be smart and call first to see if they had any left! Oh no – on hold for five minutes! Screw that! As I neared 34th Street I changed course and headed to Penn Station. Made a train by literally one minute, then headed East to Little Neck and the Von Luger Mobile. Then I set out to my “local” Best Buy in Carle Place, NY, deftly avoiding any sight of the office where I work a half a mile or so west of Best Buy (since today was a day off for yours truly).

Aaaaaannnndddd…..They didn’t have any copies of the Collector’s Series Digibook either. Ugh…. What to do? I stalled, looking blindly and punch-drunkedly for other stuff I couldn’t find anyway, while holding in my paws a copy of one of the few regular Blu-Ray copies left. I checked the Customer Kiosk for stock, to no avail. I asked Mike, the guy patrolling the movie/games sections, to no avail. I got on line to pay. I got off the line, hemming and hawing. I decided to look up on my phone just what the heck is in the Digibook and is it worth it, and found a video review which I watched in the store. That’s when I decided to have them order me a copy. Screw it. So I don’t have it today, no biggie.

Meantime, Mike the movies/games guy was looking behind the register to see if there were any regular copies left for a customer that asked him. Aaaaaannnndddd….. Someone left behind a copy of the Collector’s Series Digibook Thingie and my hero Mike saw me and handed it over, then I handed the other customer my regular copy (hopefully not too sweaty by now) and all was good in the ocean! Hurray for me! No waiting! Hemming and hawing paid off for the first time ever!

Now, the smattering of faithful VLB readers know how feel about JAWS. Truth be told, it’s my second favorite film behind The Great Escape, but it’s rapidly becoming 1 and 1A. Now, how is the Blu-Ray you ask? (OK, maybe you don’t give a crap, but I’m telling you anyway!)

First, the packaging is pretty sweet. 42 pages of stuff in the BB exclusive Digibook (boy, that word sounds silly when you keep saying it). Notes on the production, the cast and crew, the film’s influence and legacy, storyboards, a couple of script pages, great photos, etc.

Inside Front Cover

The Intro by Richard Zanuck

Benchley novel

Roy Scheider

Storyboards

Ah, but let’s pop that sucker in the old Blu-Ray player. Man, it looks amazing. Fantastic digital restoration. Crystal clear, but not to the point of looking fake. Depth and detail is fabulous. And it sounds terrific. John Williams’ masterful score is better than ever.

Blu-Ray Main Menu

“It’s a Digibook.” “A wha??”

“Hey, thanks for breakfast!”

For some reason, this made me think of Mummenschanz

Fast fish! One of my Dad’s favorite scenes.

But the real pull for me, in addition to the great extras from previous versions, which include an awesome 2-hour Making of JAWS documentary that first showed up on the super Laserdisc edition, is the inclusion of The Shark Is Still Working: The Impact & Legacy of Jaws, which I heard about 5 years ago and finally got to see. Great clips and interviews! Narrated by Roy Scheider! Richard Dreyfuss mimicking the shark! Three uses of the word “recalcitrant” in one minute! Schweet…..The only bad thing is it’s not in full HD. What’s up with that? Eh, no matter. Just wish my Dad was around to share this with. It was his second favorite movie also.

The doc is worth the price of admission

My favorite part of the new doc is Spielberg watching the Oscar nominations…with Joe Spinell (!) who exclaims about the non-nod for Steve: “Who made the picture,  somebody’s muthah?” Or maybe my favorite part is how they talk about the Signature Collection Laserdisc and how people bought Laserdisc players just to get this set, which included one of the best docs ever made, the famous Laurent Bouzerau one which is more of a must-see than this new guy. (They’re both on the new disc!) Well, what are you waiting for? Get thee to a Blu-Ray store!

Here’s another GREAT article about the restoration, and the film, courtesy of The New Yorker. (Thanks to Drax for sharing!)

Images from the Blu-Ray © Universal Studios.

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Published in: on August 14, 2012 at 9:17 pm  Comments (9)  
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The Fabulous Richard Z

Movie producer-filmmaker-mogul Richard Zanuck (1934-2012) passed away on July 13 (yes, as usual I’m behind the times), leaving behind a damn good resume. Of course, it starts with Jaws. No, that’s not where he started, but for me, it’s his most important film. But that’s not the whole story by any stretch.

Surfer dude RZ? Looks like it to the Jaws crew!

Zanuck’s father was legendary figure Daryl F. Zanuck, who actually put Richard in the prestigious position of head of production at Fox Studios at the ripe old age of 28 (!). The story goes Daryl was rehired by struggling Fox in 1962, but since he was not willing to give up his Parisian mistresses, he asked Richard to give him a list of candidates to run the studio, and the answer was a piece of paper with the word “Me.” Kinda ballsy, and it payed off. Fox earned over 150 Oscar® nominations during the younger Zanuck’s reign, including three Best Picture wins (The Sound of Music, Patton, The French Connection).

However, when the studios started to struggle, son took the fall and was dismissed by father, which set off a long period of animosity (which was thankfully forgiven  before Daryl’s passing). And the rest is kinda history because Richard teamed with David Brown to form The Zanuck/Brown Company based at Universal, and the hit parade began to march, including The Sugarland Express (directed by some kid named Spielberg), 1973 Best Picture winner The Sting (although they’re not mentioned in the credits from what I understand), The Eiger Sanction, a small movie named Jaws, Jaws 2 (watch out for that cable!), The IslandNeighborsThe Verdict, Cocoon, and Oscar winner Driving Miss Daisy. Heck, they even won the 1991 Irving Thalberg Award, one of the most prestigious honors in Hollywood.

Zanuck went on solo, or co-producer with third wife Lili Fini Zanuck (second wife was Linda Harrison aka smokin hot Nova from the first two Planet of the Apes movies), to produce a slew of good films, which include RushWild BillMulholland FallsDeep Impact,  the underrated Clint Eastwood thriller True Crime, the fun Reign of Fire, and the awesome and supremely overlooked masterpiece Road to Perdition.

In recent years, Zanuck was Tim Burton’s producer of choice, paving the way for such hits and misfires (you decide) as the Planet of the Apes remake (OK, I’ll decide on that one–it stinks!), Big FishCharlie and the Chocolate Factory (much better than it should have been but still no Willy Wonka), Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (bloody good!), the over-ambitious Alice in Wonderland, and Dark Shadows.

But ultimately, for me, any Zanuck mention can’t leave out Jaws. Merely the second greatest movie of all time. The best story I read in some of Zanuck’s obits was this one, where hands-on producer Zanuck was on set on day, on a boat off of Mah-tha’s Vineyard with Spielberg, and as the two were lucky enough to see the famous mechanical shark sink, Mr. Z said to Mr. S: “Gee, I hope that’s not a sign.”

RIP, Richard Zanuck. Thank you for your contributions to the world of cinema. And mostly for contributing to a movie that means so much to me, and instantly fills me with memories of my late father, Thaddeus J. Tura (1933-1996).

Thanks also to The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly for some of the facts/stories which I will admit I had not heard before Zanuck’s unfortunate passing.

Published in: on August 9, 2012 at 10:56 pm  Comments (3)  
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Fast Fish

Last Saturday, June 20th, was not only Father’s Day, and the birthday of one of my oldest and closest friends, but also the 35th anniversary of the release of JAWS, otherwise known as the second greatest movie ever made.

Everyone knows this poster

Of course when JAWS was released in the summer of 1975, my family saw it in the theaters, Dad being an avid fisherman as well as a movie buff. It seemed like the perfect movie for him. We even had the Peter Benchley novel the movie was based on, which my Mom liked but I never read until later in life after getting the laserdisc set as a gift (more on that later). Seeing the movie with another family that lived around the corner from us in scenic Maspeth, NY, I vividly remember ducking under the seat when Alex Kintner was killed on the raft, something I would never do today. I guess seeing The Omen at the ripe old age of 9 the following year cured me of that kind of reaction.

Later in the summer I saw JAWS again with my Dad, this time double billed with the Robert Redford drama The Great Waldo Pepper, a good little time-killer. But obviously we weren’t there to see Mr. Redford fly a biplane.

Mmmmm....Chum.....

So many memories and impressions of JAWS….To me, it’s still Steven Spielberg’s best film. I love the tracking shot where Quint is “introduced” during the town meeting, panning up to him at the chalkboard. Subtle, yet classic.

So many terrific lines, from the overly-quoted “You’re gonna need a bigger boat” to the TV sign off “That’s some bad hat, Harry” to the ominous “I’ll never put on a life jacket again”. But my fave (which my daughter and I like to do every once in a while) is “It’s a Tiger shark.” “A whuuuut?” “Tiger shark.”

So many great performances, most notably the incredibly underrated performance from Roy Scheider as Brody. Underrated in that it’s not as showy as Robert Shaw’s Quint or as loud as Richard Drefyuss’ Hooper, but at times, is twice as effective. (“It’s in the yahd, not too fah from the cah.”) The scene at the dinner table, right before Hooper arrives, with the younger Brody son (cue soft John Williams music…), is a particular fave, and is one of the first “cute kid” scenes in Spielberg’s directorial career.

Whatdya mean you don't like JAWS?

Speaking of John Williams, is there any doubt this is one of his best scores? I mean, the JAWS theme is easily one of the most iconic pieces of film music ever. And you could argue that Williams’ Star Wars, Superman, Indiana Jones, and possibly even Harry Potter themes deserve a spot in the Top Ten.

Williams deservedly earned an Oscar for his Score (JAWS also won well-deserved Oscars for Best Sound and Best Editing for Verna Fields). My favorite part of the score is “One Barrel Chase”, which turns a suspense movie into a rollicking sea adventure for a minute or two. I remember it was my Dad’s favorite also, and he even went so far as to record some of the music cues on cassette when JAWS was shown on TV.

All the cool kids still have Laserdiscs

I always had a fondness for JAWS, but didn’t truly appreciate its greatness until receiving the Limited Edition Universal Signature Collection Laserdisc as a gift from a dear friend who to this day knows me better than just about anyone. It’s still one of the best gifts I’ve ever received. It contains a fabulously remastered edition of the movie in THX and CAV (you laserdisc geeks know what that is), as well as a nifty, must-see two hour documentary by famed documentarian Laurent Bouzereau, plus a copy of the Benchley novel and a soundtrack CD. Yowza!

Watching this masterpiece again on laserdisc, probably in early 1996, in widescreen/letterboxed format instead of pan-and-scan (yuck) for the first time since 1975, on a 26-inch TV (hey, back then that was a decent size) vaulted it immediately to the second spot in my list of favorite movies. And it ain’t movin’ from that spot. I only wish I could have dragged my Dad over to the apartment to check it out before he passed away in November of that year.

In addition to JAWS being back in the news lately among film nuts because of the 35th anniversary, I’m also eagerly awaiting the eventual DVD/Blu-Ray release of a JAWS documentary that I’ve been hearing about for nearly two years called The Shark Is Still Working. It supposedly runs three hours….three hours on JAWS! Sign me up!

OK, I have to go, and grab my JAWS DVD from the shelf. You see, I’m in the mood for a little boat trip….

For more on this pivotal anniversary in the history of film, go here, or here, or even here, or any of the hundreds of other sites smart enough to mark the occasion.

Published in: on June 25, 2010 at 10:00 pm  Comments (9)  
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The list is almost endless

OK, let’s get crackin. I’m not the type of guy who is going to get into scholarly discussions about film. (For something like that, done much better than I ever could, check out the awesome Bradley On Film) Or the type who is creative with a lot of uber-cool graphics (for that, see Ichiban Weapon Ready: The Simon Drax Blog and don’t miss Drax’s terrific DOOMTROOPERS). But I’m passionate about a lot of things, mostly film (and TV and books, but one thing at a time), which I owe mostly thanks to my late Dad, who didn’t talk much had great taste in movies. I’m also big on lists about film. Top Ten Best, Worst, the Oscars(r), etc. Here’s one for you that may explain a lot about me. Or maybe not.

Turafish’s Top Ten Movies of All Time

1. The Great Escape. Thank you, 4:30 Movie! That was the first time I saw this underrated WWII classic, as a pre-teen, and was instantly hooked. Spent a lot of time writing down the nicknames to the POWs at the end credits, and reading the Paul Brickhill book at the library, and later in life getting my hands on as much stuff as possible–books, CDs, a poster, but missed the boat on the Steve McQueen action figure with motorcycle. Besides the all-star cast (McQueen, Garner, Attenborough, Coburn, Pleasance, Bronson, etc, etc), it boasts one of the greatest scores ever written (the prolific Elmer Bernstein), terrific direction by John Sturges, and being based on a true story it never fails to disappoint. It’s da best I tells ya!

2. Jaws. Saw this when it first came out in the summer of 75 and ducked under the seat during the scene where the Kintner kid is killed on his rubber raft. Saw it again later in the year with my Dad at the Arion in Queens on a double bill with The Great Waldo Pepper. Dad loved this one, and even (before the days of CDs or iTunes…duh) taped snippets of the movie that featured his favorite John Williams bits the old-fashioned way with a boom box and cassette tape next to the TV. Years later, I had the good fortune of receiving the Laserdisc set from a bestest friend as a gift and came to fully realize how brilliant Jaws really is. So much great great stuff, from the most underrated acting performance possibly of all time by Roy Scheider to that wonderful pan shot during Quint’s intro scene to the by-play between the three mains on the Orca to “One Barrel Chase” (“Fast fish…”) to…well you get the point. Much more than a “popcorn movie” and the finest “blockbuster” of all time.

3. Hard-Boiled. Most action directors of the past 20 or so years claim John Woo as an influence. Watch this balls-to-the-wall gem and you’ll know why. His last movie made in Hong Kong before being Van-Dammed by Hollywood, Woo goes all out in set pieces like the teahouse, the warehouse and the hospital. Teamed with the coolest cat this side of McQueen, Chow Yun-Fat, he creates a classic that broke the mold if you ask me. Can’t get my hands on the damn soundtrack though, but I keep trying.

4. Alien. Another one I didn’t truly appreciate until later in life. Brilliant, brilliant work put in by Ridley Scott, Jerry Goldsmith, the cast (Harry Dean Stanton and Yaphet Kotto are my faves here), the alien, Jonsey the cat, man I could go on all day. But let me just say the first trailer that came out for Alien gave you little to no clues about the movie. Saw it with my Dad on TV and he paused to say “That’s gonna be great” and we went the first weekend (back in the days when it was EASY to see a movie on opening weekend). Boy, was he right.

5. The Taking of Pelham One Two Three. Incredible score. Incredible screenplay filled with yuks. Incredible turn by Walter Matthau, his best if you ask me. Incredible movie, period. Please don’t see the crappy remake. Do yourself a favor and see this 1974 masterpiece instead.

6. The Wild Bunch. Love Sam Peckinpah. Love the book “Bloody Sam” spanning his ill-fated career packed with excess of all kinds. Love this film, packed with superlative performances from a veteran cast, more rounds of ammo fired than three John Woo movies (or so it seems), blood, violence, sex, and fun all around. Poor Sam made lots of cool flicks (Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, Ride the High Country, Cross of Iron, Straw Dogs) and some disasters (Convoy, The Osterman Weekend, that Julian Lennon video), but all in all he’s one of the best, most interesting directors ever.

7. Raising Arizona. The brilliant Coen Brothers. One of the most quotable screenplays ever written. Yodeling. Yelling. Running. “The Wacky-Cam.” Oddballs by the dozens. My favorite movie comedy.

8. Young Frankenstein. Saw this Mel Brooks classic when it came out in 1974 with Dad. Mom and my sister had no interest. Theater was not too crowded and we had PB&J sammiches that we snuck in (back when you could sneak food in and no one cared). I think we laughed from the first second all the way to the end. When we got home, Mom had opened the gates to the driveway and Dad paused while pulling the car in, looked out the window and said “You should have gone.” A year or so ago, my daughter decided she had to watch it after hearing this story, and it’s now one of her favorite movies. Dad would be proud.

9. The Magnificent Seven. John Sturges put together an awesome cast for this update of Seven Samurai, and it delivers the goods. Best of all, as the cast tries to all outdo each other on-screen and off, is the performance by Eli Wallach as the slimy Calvera and the Elmer Bernstein score that was so iconic they used it for all the sequels too.

10. Apocalypse Now. Another memorable movie-going experience. Imagine seeing this one as a 12-year-old. Geez. Still haven’t watched AN Redux all the way through, but how could it be better? Not as polished as Coppola’s Godfather masterpieces (the first two, the third was only good for a memorable date, but that’s another story), but definitely more daring and certainly cooler. (I’m big on the cool, kinda like Fonzie without the jacket or motorcycle or garage apartment).

If I could drone on to a top 20, I could list many more (Ken Branagh’s Henry V, It’s a Gift, The Producers, The Lord of The Rings: Return of the King, The Empire Strikes Back, etc), but let’s just say since you’re asking, I’ll list some more favorites:

Favorite Guilty Pleasure: Godzilla movies. Yes, I own every one in some form (VHS, Laserdisc, DVD). Yes, it’s mostly thanks to Monster Week on The 4:30 Movie. Yes, they’re dumb fun. Yes, Destroy All Monsters is not as good as I remembered it as a 9-year-old. Yes, my daughter loves Godzilla movies too. Yes, I’m ecstatic about that fact.

Favorite Directors: John Woo, Steven Spielberg, Stanley Kubrick, Sam Peckinpah, John Sturges, Kenneth Branagh, The Coen Brothers

Favorite Actors: Chow Yun-Fat, Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, Tom Hanks, Daniel Day-Lewis, Marlon Brando

Favorite Actresses: Next question (the last one was dumb enough)

Favorite DVD Audio Commentary: Ah-nuld and John Milius for Conan The Barbarian. Oh man, Arnold is hilarious without trying to be. Kind of like his movies come to think of it.

Favorite Guy Movie: There are lots to choose from–Old School, Tapeheads, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Animal House, The Blues Brothers–but I’m going to say the criminally underrated Brute Force.

Favorite Chick Flick: When Harry Met Sally.

Favorite Musical: West Side Story.

Favorite Dad’s Favorite Movie: Zulu. Finally watched my Laserdisc of this a month or so ago, and it kicks ass in all facets. Close second is Being There.

Favorite Last Movie I Ever Saw With Dad: Star Trek: Generations, two days before he passed. Sigh….

Favorite Movie Experience I Never Got To Talk To Dad About: Seeing The Exorcist at Radio City, with appearances by Friedkin and Burstyn. Forget the scares, it’s just a fantastic movie.

Favorite Movie-Going Experience: The Omen, 1976. 9 years old. Dad takes me and my 15-year-old cousin to the Continental in Forest Hills and the ticket woman says “He can’t see this” “He’ll be fine” says Dad. We loved it–the Rottweilers, the head-rolling scene that produced laughter, and my “sick” cousin on the way home.

Favorite Movie Mag: I miss Movieline and Premiere terribly, but I’d have to say now it’s Cinema Retro, which focuses on the 60s and 70s.

Favorite Movie “TV Show”: The 4:30 Movie on WABC-TV. Like having a free film school. With commercials.

Favorite TV Movie: You can’t beat Bad Ronald. Well, you easily could, but the fun memories of this one make it my fave. Although Killdozer was pretty good too…love the 70s.

Favorite Decade of Movies: 1970s. Duh. (Also features my favorite Yankee team of all time, 1977)

Favorite Movie Book: Easy Riders, Raging Bulls. That reminds me, have to finished watching the DVD again before the wife gets home from Tiger Schulmann’s, so that’s all for today, kids.

Published in: on February 6, 2010 at 1:19 pm  Comments (10)  
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