All the President’s Men appears in both an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 and in a fullscreen version on this double-sided, single-layered DVD; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only the letterboxed picture was reviewed for this article. Men came from Ye Olden Dayes of DVD and looked like it, as the disc offered a poor transfer.
Very little went right with the image. Sharpness occasionally looked decent, particularly in outdoors shots. Those were the only scenes that almost became highlights. Everything else varied from drab to almost unwatchable. Only rare scenes demonstrated truly poor sharpness, but most looked a bit ill-defined. The movie usually stayed passably concise but that was it, as it generally seemed a little fuzzy. No issues with jagged edges occurred, and I only saw a smidgen of shimmering. However, edge enhancement was a significant concern, as the film suffered from a lot of haloes.
Digital problems popped up through the flick. Watch the opening credits and you’ll see them waver and jitter. Similar issues appeared often. For another example, go to the one-hour, 27-minute and 23-second mark and look at the tree in the background. It shimmered and strobed. The movie consistently suffered from this form of instability, and it also demonstrated a lot of artifacting. The image took on a very grainy appearance due to the poor digital mastering.
Many more concerns stemmed from source flaws. I noticed quite a few examples of specks, marks, grit, blotches, and nicks. Some scenes looked worse than others, but few parts of the movie escaped unscathed.
While I didn’t expect a vivid palette from Men, I thought the colors would look more dynamic than they did. The tones were consistently flat and drab. They tended to seem runny and messy, with little life or range. Blacks were too dark, and shadows followed suit. Low-light shots came across as dense and moderately impenetrable. Put simply, this was a dreadful image.
The film’s monaural soundtrack was better but still had some concerns. Dialogue was a bit thin and brittle but usually remained clear and intelligible. I heard a little edginess at most. Effects were a minor concern in this chatty film. In fact, I find it hard to recall anything more than general ambience. These elements were lackluster but perfectly acceptable given the track’s vintage.
Men also featured very little score. Unfortunately, the rare musical elements didn’t sound very good. They displayed flat highs and heavy bass. Low-end was too prominent and overwhelmed the score. This gave it a muddy sound. I also noticed some interference in my subwoofer, as it occasionally emitted a sputtering hum. Given the movie’s distinct lack of sonic ambition, the audio remained good enough for a “C-“, but it certainly never displayed many positives.
Most 1997 DVDs lacked substantial extras, so I wasn’t surprised to find the minor roster offered on this DVD. All the supplements come from text elements. Cast and Crew provided short biographies of director Alan J. Pakula, screenwriter William Goldman, authors Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, and actors Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman, Jack Warden, Martin Balsam, Hal Holbrook and Jason Robards. Casting digs into a few minor issues connected to the actors and their portrayals, while On Location provides a few tidbits about shooting in DC.
Rendered moot in the summer of 2005, Who Was Deep Throat? looks at that personality and a few possibilities. (To their credit, the authors included Mark Felt on a short list.) The best component, Chronology of Watergate goes through the most significant dates and events. Finally, Awards simply lists the prizes garnered by the film. All of these pieces are perfectly fine, but they don’t tell us a whole lot.
Understated but still dynamic, All the President’s Men holds up well after three decades. The movie benefits from its subtle tone and focuses on the story instead of melodrama or silliness. Unfortunately, this is a terrible DVD. It provides awful picture and audio along with no substantial extras. Despite my admiration for the film, I can’t recommend this dreadful DVD.