Warner Home Video presents
All The President's Men (1976)
"Follow the money."- Deep Throat (Hal Holbrook), offering sage advice to Bob Woodward
Stars: Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman
Other Stars: Jason Robards, Hal Holbrook, Martin Balsam, Ned Beatty, Polly Holliday, Jack Warden
Director: Alan J. Pakula
MPAA Rating: PGRun Time: 02h:18m:05s
Release Date: 2006-02-21
DVD ReviewIt's hard to overstate just how extraordinarily good this movie is, and watching it makes you wistful not just for another era of filmmaking, but of journalism. Making it even more remarkable is that it came out just a few years after the historical circumstances it relates, and at a time when everyone must have been sick to death of the topic—and yet All The President's Men is gripping, even if you know exactly how things are going to end. It belongs on any respectable short list of the greatest films of the 1970s, or of movies about reporters, and I wouldn't have any quarrel with putting this in the team picture of greatest movies, period.
The broad strokes of Watergate are familiar enough: a "third-rate burglary" of Democratic national headquarters and the subsequent cover-up of White House participation in the planning of the crime led to the resignation of Richard Nixon, and the conviction on a whole spate of crimes of many of his top advisors. And Washington Post reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, a pair of young, previously unknown reporters, in dogged pursuit of the story, were as responsible as anyone for the uncovering of this hornet's nest of corruption at the highest levels of government. But this movie takes none of that for granted—the danger in the project had to have been a gee whiz, How I Got That Story sense creeping in, but director Alan J. Pakula carefully rides herd over the material, making the film of a piece with the best political thrillers of the period. Woodward is the new guy on the city desk, and the break-in is a police story; it starts out as run of the mill, but soon it's clear that it's a story with tentacles, leading all over the place. Bernstein is a hustler and, to some extent, a self-promoter—he's got the proverbial nose for news, he smells a good one here, and he wants in.
The media has become so widely reviled in recent years—be it for ideological bias, or simply for operating as Establishment lapdogs—that it's kind of amazing to recall that the tale of Woodstein was so inspiring that it swelled the ranks of journalism schools, and gave investigative reporters the kind of social cachet that's now the exclusive province of film directors or rappers or hedge fund managers. And Pakula is very much interested in process—the assembling of notes, the working over of sources, the unglamorous but necessary business that goes into a well-reported story, not about hitting your mark or having enough foundation on your nose or throwing it back to you in the studio. Of course the movie is also very much of its time—if names like Jeb Stuart Magruder and H. R. Haldeman don't bring you back, you'll be situated in the period by the sideburns, the rotary phones, the wide lapels and collars, the typewriters in the newsroom, and the abundance of cigarettes in same.
And on both sides of the camera, gifted filmmakers are working at the top of their craft. Working both sides of the aisle is Robert Redford, who's both a dogged and earnest Woodward, and one of the producers on the film; he and Dustin Hoffman as Bernstein make for one of the great on-screen pairings, and it's a much more flattering portrait of the man than you'll find in the thinly veiled portrait of him by his ex-wife, Nora Ephron, in Heartburn. (Woodward comes off less well in the less well made Wired, based on the reporter's book about John Belushi.) Jason Robards, as legendary Post executive editor Ben Bradlee, is anybody's dream boss: charismatic, deeply principled, demanding everything from his reporters and prepared to give the same himself, and going to the mat for his boys if necessary. Hal Holbrook, as Deep Throat, is a tremendous combination of paranoia and righteousness; Jane Alexander, as a bookkeeper at the Committee to Re-Elect the President who wants to tell what she knows, but is afraid to, is the very picture of the terror that the powerful can exact if they've lost their moral compass.
William Goldman's script is marvelous—rich with character detail and necessary exposition, providing each of the many good actors with signature moments, and always keeping us guessing, even though the ending isn't really in doubt. And particularly fine is the work of cinematographer Gordon Willis. His signature style on The Godfather established him as one of the great cameramen; that status is ratified here, as he finds the perfect visual style to tell a story of danger coming from high places, and of truth coming out of the darkness. It's a movie to make you giddy, as a film fan and as an American, no matter which side of the aisle you sit on.
Rating for Style: A+
Rating for Substance: A+
|Aspect Ratio||1.85:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: Willis's work looks very sharp in this transfer, though some of the colors have faded, and it appears as if the source material is occasionally a little blotchy. Also, the clarity of the transfer makes some of the projection shots, especially when the guys are driving, look a little too fake.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: Good thing it's a good transfer, because so much of the movie is nothing but exchanging information, and frequently on the phone. It all sounds clear on this mono track.
Audio Transfer Grade: A-
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 32 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Klute, Rollover, Presumed Innocent, The Pelican Brief
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Robert Redford
Packaging: Gladiator style 2-pack
Extras Review: A bare-bones, single-disc edition of this title came out when the format was in its infancy, but this set is clearly the version of choice. And so without burying the lead: Robert Redford recorded a commentary track, his first, for this release, and as you might expect, he's engaging and charming. The emphasis is more on his role as producer than as performer, and he's gracious about praising his colleagues on the project. He talks about following the early Woodward/Bernstein stories, buried in the paper, while doing press for The Candidate, which led him to contact the reporters—it was his interest in their behind-the-scenes story, and not just in the facts coming out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, that gave their book much of its shape. Appropriately enough, Redford stayed at the Watergate while shooting the movie, and he's got especially kind words for Robards, with whom he appeared years before in The Iceman Cometh. Disc One also included a gallery of trailers for films directed by Pakula.
The star wattage continues on the second disc, with some of the brightest lights from Washington and Hollywood. Deep Throat himself, Hal Holbrook, narrates three new documentaries. In the first, Telling The Truth About Lies: The Making of All The President's Men (28m:19s), there's new interview footage with Redford, Hoffman, Woodward, Bernstein, Bradlee, Goldman, Willis and Alexander, discussing the evolution of the project, from newspaper clippings to Nixon's resignation to Oscar night. The emphasis is on the journalism in Woodward and Bernstein: Lighting the Fire (17m:51s), in which the reporters' work and their role as an inspiration to a new generation of journalists is discussed by them, Walter Cronkite, Linda Ellerbee, Jonathan Alter of Newsweek, and, for reasons that remain unclear, Oliver Stone. One of the best-kept secrets in American history was revealed in 2005, when Mark Felt stepped forward as Woodward's garage freak of a source, and he's the subject of Out of the Shadows: The Man Who Was Deep Throat (16m:20s), in which former Watergate prosecutor Richard Ben-Veniste, among others, discusses the significance of the revelations, and of the confidentiality of sources.
Two older pieces round out the disc. Pressure and the Press: The Making of All The President's Men (10m:04s) was made when the film itself was produced, and includes interviews from the set with Hoffman, from the editing suite with a mustachioed Redford, with Bradlee, and with Pakula, who unfortunately died in an awful car accident in 1998. Finally, there's a vintage clip (07m:09s) of Robards promoting the picture on Dinah!, with the actor in a magnificent purple double-breasted jacket, and the host insisting throughout the interview that she knows the true identity of Deep Throat.
Extras Grade: B+
Final CommentsYeah, he really said that about Mrs. Graham. One of the great American films gets its rightful special edition from Warner Bros.—Robert Redford could not have picked a more appropriate picture for which to record his first commentary track, and thirty years after the fact the movie remains the very emblem of journalistic integrity, and of socially conscious storytelling. I couldn't recommend it more highly.
Jon Danziger 2006-02-20