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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Alan J. Pakula
Cast:
Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford, Jack Warden, Martin Balsam, Hal Holbrook, Jason Robards, Jane Alexander, Meredith Baxter, Ned Beatty
Writing Credits:
Carl Bernstein (book), Bob Woodward (book), William Goldman

Tagline:
The most devastating detective story of the century!

Synopsis:
In the run-up to the 1972 elections, Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward covers what seems to be a minor break-in at the Democratic Party National headquarters. He is surprised to find top lawyers already on the defence case, and the discovery of names and addresses of Republican fund organisers on the accused further arouses his suspicions. The editor of the Post is prepared to run with the story and assigns Woodward and Carl Bernstein to it. They find the trail leading higher and higher in the Republican Party, and eventually into the White House itself.

Box Office:
Budget
$8.5 million.
Domestic Gross
$70.600 million.

MPAA:
Rated R

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
Audio:
English Monaural
French Monaural
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
French
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 139 min.
Price: $26.99
Release Date: 2/21/2006

Bonus:
Disc One
• Audio Commentary with Actor/Producer Robert Redford
• Alan J. Pakula Trailer Gallery
Disc Two
• “Telling the Truth About Lies: The Making of All the President’s Men” Documentary
• “Woodward and Bernstein: Lighting the Fire” Featurette
• “Out of the Shadows: The Man Who Was Deep Throat” Featurette
• “Pressure and the Press: The Making of All the President’s Men” Featurette
• 5/27/1976 Dinah! with Jason Robards


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RELATED REVIEWS


All The President's Men: Special Edition (1976)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 7, 2006)

Since we finally learned the identity of Deep Throat in the summer of 2005, interest in the Watergate scandal went through a quick resurgence. Given all the problems experienced by presidents since Nixon, it can be easy to forget what a big deal Watergate was, so it’s interesting to watch the 1976 film adaptation of All the President’s Men for a primer in the subject.

On the evening of June 17 1972, burglars break into the Democratic National Committee offices in the Watergate Hotel. The police apprehend them and the Washington Post sends reporter Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) to cover the story. Fellow journalist Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) smells fresh ink as well, so he horns his way in to the situation as well. At the arraignment, Woodward learns that these are no ordinary crooks, since they have unusually sophisticated backgrounds. They also receive support from high places.

Woodward and Bernstein get stuck together to investigate, and what they find slowly unravels to become more and more intriguing. The film follows their path as they dig deeper into the events and find additional links within the White House.

That’s a simple plot synopsis for a complicated film. To its credit, Men takes a convoluted situation with scads of parties involved and makes it clear. This story easily could have turned confusing, but the movie manages to ensure that we always clearly understand what’s happening despite all the characters and situations.

It helps that Men features a wonderfully cool, understated tone. Even with all the drama onscreen, it avoids the expected melodrama and theatrics. We get a natural “fly on the wall” feeling here, as the film takes on a helpful documentary style. Crisp and subtle, the story unfolds in concise manner.

Although Men features a limited roster of settings, it never becomes weighed down in visual tedium. Face it – this is a movie packed with meetings and phone conversations. Director Alan J. Pakula doesn’t attempt to make these wild or stimulating, and that’s a good thing. Showy stabs at visual flair would seem out of place, so his choice to let the material carry the day is a good one.

Much credit for the film’s success has to go to the excellent cast as well. Redford and Hoffman excel as the leads. Their relationship grows gradually as they get used to each other and start to rub off on each other. There’s no massive bonding here, and they don’t turn into best buddies by the end. Instead, we see a believable sense of respect that emerges via the naturalistic, minimal performances. The actors lack excess emotion or theatrics and instead pull off their roles from the inside.

Tight and intelligent, All the President’s Men really is a film I find it hard to imagine could be made today – or at least made this well. It can be a product of its paranoid times, but that benefits the movie, as it fits the story. This is a concise, involving tale.


The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio C/ Bonus B+

All the President’s Men appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. While not a slam-dunk, the new transfer offered a substantial improvement over the one found on the original 1997 DVD.

Sharpness was pretty positive. Occasionally the movie looked a bit soft and tentative, but it usually depicted good definition. The majority of the flick came across as reasonably concise and accurate. No issues with jagged edges and shimmering occurred, and I noticed only minor edge enhancement at most. As for source flaws, the image remained fairly grainy at times, something I chalked up to the original photography. Otherwise, a couple specks appeared, but the movie otherwise seemed clean.

I didn’t expect a vivid palette from Men, but the colors seemed fine. They stayed somewhat cold and clinical, a tone that made sense for a serious, no-nonsense movie. The hues weren’t dynamic but they seemed to represent the original image. Blacks were reasonably tight and firm. Low-light shots occasionally appeared a bit dense, but they seemed acceptably smooth and visible. I thought most of the issues with sharpness, grain and other distractions stemmed from the source material. This was a good-looking image given the problems with the original photography.

The film’s monaural soundtrack improved on what I heard on the original DVD, but it still had some concerns. Dialogue was a bit thin but was clear and intelligible. Unlike the prior mix, I didn’t notice any edginess. 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.

In addition to the improvements in picture and audio, the 2006 DVD offered many supplements that the original disc didn’t include. On Disc One, the main attraction comes from an audio commentary with actor/producer Robert Redford. He provides a running, screen-specific chat. I can attach only one negative to this discussion: dead air. Redford leaves more than a few gaps during the piece. Otherwise, he gives us a lot to like.

Redford covers a broad mix of subjects. He talks about cast, characters and performances, interacting with Dustin Hoffman and improvisation, the genesis of his interest in the story, sets, locations and shooting in Washington, impressions of the real-life participants, and various production issues like cinematography and the lack of score.

Redford digs into these topics well. He offers good insight and detail as he goes through them. I especially like his comments about the way his work on The Candidate led to his interest in Watergate. Again, the dead air gets a little annoying, but the level of material makes this a winning and informative commentary.

DVD One also presents an Alan J. Pakuka Trailer Gallery. This includes ads for All the President’s Men, Klute, Presumed Innocent, Rollover and The Pelican Brief.

Over on DVD Two, we begin with a new documentary called Telling the Truth About Lies: The Making of All the President’s Men. The 28-minute and 15-second piece mixes movie shots, archival materials, and interviews. We find notes from Redford, screenwriter William Goldman, authors Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, former executive editor of the Washington Post Ben Bradlee, cinematographer Gordon Willis, and actors Dustin Hoffman and Jane Alexander. The show looks at Redford’s initial interest in the project and its development, the interaction between Hollywood and the real participants, the adaptation of the story and attempts to retain truthfulness, casting and performances, finding a director and his work, cinematography and lighting, sets meant to recreate the Post, and the movie’s impact.

Inevitably, a little of Redford’s commentary repeats here. However, this doesn’t happen much, so “Lies” offers a lot of fresh information. I particularly like the notes about the interaction among the actors as well as Willis’s work. This isn’t an extraordinary documentary, but it becomes efficient and informative.

We follow this with three featurettes. Woodward and Bernstein: Lighting the Fire runs 17 minutes, 50 seconds as it presents notes from Woodward, Bernstein, Bradlee, Redford, reporter Greg Krikorian, journalist Linda Ellerbee, former CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite, Center for Media and Public Affairs media director Matthew Felling, author Peter Schweizer, director Oliver Stone, and Newsweek senior editor Jonathan Alter. It covers the impact Woodward and Bernstein had on journalism as well as what’s happened in the field over the last 30 years. The program gets a little smoochy at times as we hear praise for “Woodstein”, but since much of it’s deserved, I won’t complain. We find a decent examination of journalism and the challenges its faces in this intriguing piece.

Next we get a featurette that wouldn’t have been possible to do only one year ago: Out of the Shadows: The Man Who Was Deep Throat. This 16-minute and 20-second piece features Woodward, Goldman, Bernstein, Ellerbee, Stone, Bradlee, Schweizer, Alter, Krikorian, Felling, Cronkite, and former Watergate prosecutor Richard Ben-Veniste. The program covers the fascination with the identity of Deep Throat and lets us know biographical info about Mark Felt, the guy who was DT. We also hear about Woodward’s relationship with him, Felt’s motives and thoughts about other options he might have had, and issues related to anonymous sources.

I’d have liked more direct info about Felt here, but I think “Shadows” remains intelligent and compelling. It offers enough biographical data to suffice and digs into rich issues like ethics and motives. This makes it worthwhile and interesting.

For the final featurette, we discover a vintage program. Created for the movie’s original release, Pressure and the Press: The Making of All the President’s Men goes for 10 minutes, three seconds. It features Redford, Bernstein, Woodward, Hoffman, Bradlee, and director Alan J. Pakula.

Although I expected a cheesy puff piece, “Press” actually is quite good. It focuses mostly on some details of the facts behind the film, though we do get notes about photography and adaptation. It’s a surprisingly meaty little show, and the shots from the set are nice. This one’s an unexpected winner.

Lastly, we get a snippet from a 5/27/1976 episode of Dinah! with Jason Robards. It runs seven minutes and eight seconds as Dinah Shore chats with actor Robards about the film. While it’s nice to see Robards here, the clip is little more than fluff. We get some minor insights into Robards’ interactions with Bradlee, but we don’t really learn much. However, I will admit I would love to know Dinah’s choice for the identity of Deep Throat; she claims she’s sure she knows, but she never tells us her pick.

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. The DVD offers good picture and extras along with adequate audio.

I strongly recommend the Men DVD, and that goes for folks who own the original movie-only release. It’s a superb movie, and the new disc improves on the prior edition to a substantial degree. It’d make a fine addition to your collection.

To rate this film visit the Widescreen Edition review of ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN