For as much as I celebrate movie monsters, killer robots, video games and all things nerdy, I can't begin to tell you how many horror and sci-fi conventions and events that I've had to miss due to time constraints and financial reasons. Even events that are held in my figurative backyard happen at times that I can't fit into my schedule and/or at prices that I can't cover. Hence, when JawsFest happened back in the summer of 2005 at Martha's Vineyard to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Steven Spielberg's classic monster shark movie, there was no way that I could make it to this event due to previously scheduled commitments. I'm sure that I'm not the only Jaws "finatic" who had this problem; thankfully, Lou and Yana's JawsFest DVDs provide a solution for those of us who couldn't make it this incredible and unique event.
The JawsFest DVDs are made by Lou and Dianna "Yana" Pisano, a couple of die-hard Jaws fans who took it upon themselves to record their experiences at JawsFest, Martha's Vineyard, and beyond and make them available in a way that's almost as good as being there. The closest I've ever got to an authentic piece of Jaws history was seeing one of the mechanical sharks on display in Philadelphia back in '88, so having the Pisanos making their Jaws tours available on DVD is a real treat for me. There's a lot more to these videos than someone just putting some home movies on a DVD for mass distribution--much, much more. Read on for a full review of the Lou and Yana's JawsFest DVDs.
Before I heard about the JawsFest DVDs by the Pisanos, the only places I could find that featured any coverage of JawsFest were a handful of Web sites and a chapter in Patrick Jankiewicz's book, Just When You Thought It Was Safe: A Jaws Companion. In contrast, the Pisanos' videos provide a very detailed look at both JawsFest and Martha's Vineyard's involvement in the Jaws movies. While the JawsFest DVDs are not documentaries, they provide a geographic and cultural context for Jaws and its sequels that fans--particularly fans who are interested in the films' production--will thoroughly enjoy.
One of the creative public displays from JawsFest '05.
So far, there are two JawsFest DVDs. The first DVD, Lou and Yana's JawsFest '05, is a travelogue devoted to the 2005 JawsFest and specific locations in Martha's Vineyard where particular scenes were shot for Jaws, as well as scenes shot for Jaws 2 and Jaws: The Revenge. Other highlights of the first JawsFest DVD are shots of Martha's Vineyard where local businesses changed their names to feature the word "Amity" as part of the festival, footage from the outdoor beach screening of Jaws (which included a few words from the late Jaws author Peter Benchley and a pre-recorded message from Spielberg himself), and some footage of a 1:1 scale, detail-accurate replica of the original mechanical shark's head, which was crafted by special effects wizard Greg Nicotero. The Pisanos also include footage they shot during a previous visit to Martha's Vineyard in 2000 of the remains of "Orca II", the boat that was specially designed for the scenes towards the end of Jaws where the Orca is sinking.
The second DVD, Lou and Yana's JawsFest 2: The Return to Amity, chronicles the Pisanos' return to Martha's Vineyard in 2007 with a group of other Jaws fans. (In fact, this group's tour guide was none other than Jim "Jimmy Jawz" Beller, operator of the ever-awesome Jaws Collector site and co-author of the upcoming Jaws: Memories From Martha's Vineyard book.) In the second JawsFest DVD, the Pisanos go to locations where Jaws and Jaws 2 were shot that they didn't feature in their first DVD. Other highlights include a brief interview with Edith Blake, author of On Location. . .On Martha's Vineyard: The Making of the Movie "Jaws", a close look at props from the first Jaws movie (Quint's fishing chair and rod from the Orca and one of the dorsal fins used for the pond attack scene), and anecdotes provided by Martha Vineyard's locals about their experiences during the first JawsFest, particularly encounters with Jaws fans from around the world.
A wonderful feature in both of these DVDs is that when the Pisanos present their footage of a particular location, they then present a clip from the Jaws movie that features the same location for direct comparison. It's like having a guided tour of Martha's Vineyard exclusively for Jaws fans--that by itself is a great fan service, especially for those of us who may never get to Martha's Vineyard, let alone a JawsFest event.
A third DVD, Lou and Yana's JawsFest 3: The Invasion Of JawsFest '10, is currently slated for completion sometime in 2011 and as the title explicitly suggests, it promises to focus on JawsFest 2010. By the looks of the teaser clip provided on the second DVD, it looks like JawsFest 3 is going to be a must-see addition to the Lou and Yana's JawsFest series.
The only problem I noticed in the videos was the uneven audio quality of some outdoor shots in the first DVD (apparently, Martha's Vineyard can be a very windy place) and some indoor shots in the second DVD due to background noise, but this is a minor issue. The JawsFest videos are edited with great care, and both use John Williams' work from the first two Jaws movies as background music to add to the atmosphere of the videos. Lou and Yana's JawsFest DVDs are clearly labors of monster shark love, and they are great additions to the DVD collections of any devout Jaws fan. Order your copies here.
(That said, if the Pisanos were to do a fourth JawsFest DVD where they take behind-the-scenes tours of each of Universal Studio's Jaws theme park rides, and maybe throw in some visits with the folks at Shark City Ozark and "Junkyard Bruce", I would be more than happy to pony up the cash for it. Just saying.)