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Mike Nichols
Anne Bancroft, Dustin Hoffman, Katharine Ross, William Daniels, Murray Hamilton, Elizabeth Wilson
Writing Credits:
Charles Webb (novel), Calder Willingham, Buck Henry

This is Benjamin. He's a little worried about his future.

Nominated for seven Academy Awards in 1967 and winner for Best Director, this "delightful, satirical comedy-drama" (Variety) is "wildly hilarious" (Boston Globe). Written by Calder Willingham and Buck Henry, the film launched the career of two-time Oscar winner Dustin Hoffman and cemented the stellar reputation of director Mike Nichols. Pulsating with the rebellious spirit of a generation and haunting songs composed by Paul Simon and Dave Grusin and performed by Simon and Garfunkel, The Graduate is truly a "landmark film" (Leonard Maltin).

Shy Ben Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) is home from college with a degree in hand and an uncertain future in mind. Add to his confusion the aggressive advances by the wife of his father's business partner, the sexy Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft), and poor Ben is completely lost. That is until, he meets the girl of his dreams Elaine (Katharine Ross). One problem: Elaine is Mrs. Robinson's daughter! And she'll stop at nothing to ensure that these two lovers remain separated forever!

Box Office:
$3 million.

Rated R

Widescreen 2.35:1
English Dolby Surround 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 106 min.
Price: $29.98
Release Date: 12/7/1999

• “The Graduate At 25” Documentary
• Interview with Dustin Hoffman
• Trailer


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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The Graduate (1967)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 11, 2007)

1967 was an amazing year, mainly because that's when I was born. However, I hear that a few other things happened as well, not the least of which seems to be that it was a fine year in movies.

Many years the race for the Best Picture Academy Award is a fairly tepid affair because none of the nominees appear terribly compelling. For example, after a fantastic 1994 battle - during which the victorious Forrest Gump was arguably the worst of the nominees - we saw pretty lackluster picks the next couple of years. (Before you send me any hate mail, yes, I'm well aware of the followings that Braveheart and Fargo maintain, but I feel that neither year had even one killer film, much less a few.)

1967 seemed to be one of those years like 1994 or 1939 where a bunch of standouts made hit the screens. Of the five Oscar nominees, only one - Dr. Dolittle - looks like a mistake. The others were tremendously solid films. While I won't strongly argue against the selection of In the Heat of the Night as the winner, I do feel that it probably wasn't the best of the bunch. The strongest and almost certainly most influential and enduring of 1967's picks was Mike Nichols' The Graduate.

Its failure to win Best Picture seems like no surprise because it was such a small, personal film. It was one of those "coming of age" movies but without the beer and nudity that genre appears to require these days. Okay, there was alcohol and nudity in the film, but not in the Porky's sense. In the Heat of the Night gave the Academy one of their beloved "social cause" movies, so for it to win during those "progressive" times seemed virtually inevitable.

But The Graduate remains the big hit from that year, both financially and historically. In regard to the former, it was the top box office draw for the year. As for the latter, it launched Dustin Hoffman's career. Would we ever have heard from that unusual little man had he not appeared here as Benjamin Braddock? Probably, but maybe not.

It's a tribute to Hoffman's later success that we don't reflexively think of him as Ben. Actors often get stuck with that one persona, especially when they hit it big like this. While he has demonstrated obvious staying power and talent, I don't think he's ever surpassed his work in The Graduate. Hoffman's portrayal of Ben reached a level of perfection I don't think he's been able to equal in the years since then. Oh, he's often been excellent. Although I think he's overrated and tends to rely too heavily on gimmicks, I can't deny his overall talent. But Ben was not just a well-executed performance, it was also a very natural one, which is an area that has often been weak for Hoffman. He tends to seem much more concerned with various mechanics than he is feeling; I think Hoffman over-intellectualizes his work.

That isn’t the case with Ben. As played by Hoffman, he comes across exactly as he should at virtually all times. Hoffman never hits a wrong note or falters in the least. It's an absolutely stunning performance, so strong that it's a tribute to Hoffman's drive that he didn't just coast on its success for a number of years. To his credit, Hoffman has often shown a proclivity for roles in challenging films; he would develop a new "signature character" just two years later in Midnight Cowboy.

Of course, Hoffman didn't perform in a vacuum, and the supporting case also seemed excellent. The Graduate was a tremendously well-cast film, as not a single part appears to offer the wrong person. Anne Bancroft was only six years older than Hoffman when she played Mrs. Robinson, which is a stark contrast to the decades that are supposed to separate them. As such, while Hoffman had to play about a decade younger than his actual age, she had to go a decade older, and she did so wonderfully. For the most part, Mrs. Robinson is a limited role - Bancroft receives little opportunity to provide any kind of emotion other than anger or bitterness - but Bancroft nonetheless makes her seem real and full.

As does Katharine Ross as Elaine Robinson. Again, this character receives only a limited emotional range from the script; Elaine gets a bit more leeway than does her mother, but still seems mainly required to look beautiful, virginal and pure. However, Ross is able to convey a wide variety of feelings and thoughts via her limited part. Elaine seems quite believable and realistic throughout the film.

Director Mike Nichols paces the film wonderfully and maintains an exquisite balance between comedy and drama. The Graduate offers quite a few terrific laughs and remains funny through repeated viewings, mainly because many of the amusing bits result from the nuanced performances. The jokes themselves don't seem that funny, but the way they're acted does.

Also, the sense of realism that pervades the movie helps keep it fresh and compelling. If one closely examines the film, one could easily pick it apart for various overly stylized parts and other aspects that could detract from its truth, but the picture flows and holds together so well as a whole that such criticisms are largely rendered meaningless. I don't think The Graduate is the best and most enduring film of the Sixties, but it's pretty high on that list.

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

The Graduate appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. This was an erratic picture. At times, it could appear good, but at others it looked like a blurry, blotchy mess.

As you've undoubtedly already deduced, sharpness was an issue for this DVD. In general, it's pretty good, but the many scenes that appeared fuzzy and soft balanced those instances. Moiré effects were minimal, at least; the only major example I noted stemmed from the jagged edges of William Daniels' hat when he was by the poolside. Edge enhancement was a more consistent problem, though. The movie showed a lot of intrusive haloes.

Print flaws were moderate. Scratches, spots, speckles and marks definitely appeared, but not with tremendous frequency. Much of the movie passed without problems.

Colors were a mixed bag. They usually looked decent but never great. Flesh tones particularly seemed muddled, and the entire palette took on a bland, desaturated appearance. Black levels were fair, while shadows seemed acceptably well-defined. This transfer lacked many strengths as it ended with a “C-“.

The Dolby Surround 2.0 audio of The Graduate seemed similarly lackluster. The audio tended to appear rather thin and strident in all areas. There's never any depth to it and it sometimes seemed distorted. It lacks realism or any natural tones. However, it generally seemed acceptably clear, and the dialogue was usually easily understood.

Although The Graduate was billed as featuring a surround mix, that's a little misleading. What we heard was essentially "localized mono”. The audio came from all three front channels, but it tended to stick pretty closely to only one of those speakers at a time. Sometimes we heard sound from more than one channel, but a lot of the time it appeared pretty tightly focused in that central place. You could occasionally hear some bleeding between channels when the audio image moved from one spot to another. For example, if a performer is on the right but then someone on the left talks, the last syllable from the right-hand person would briefly travel with the audio as we went to the new dialogue.

Surround usage was tremendously minimal. We occasionally heard some effects back there - such as one scene where Ben dove into the pool - and a tiny amount of musical filler occurred. However, the latter was so slight that I had to put my head up to the rear speaker to discern if anything was happening. While the audio of The Graduate wasn't terrible for its age, the quality of the sound seemed fairly weak nonetheless. The "localized mono" created a partially successful front soundstage, but the overall mix wasn't too strong.

This “Special Edition” of The Graduate provides us with a smattering of extras. Note that these pieces are not new; they all seem to come from a 1993 laserdisc release.

Knowing that fact will help blunt the impact of the name of the DVD's 22-minute documentary, The Graduate At 25. Overall, this is a good piece. It was too short and actually felt like an edited version of a longer program, but it nonetheless covers a lot of significant and interesting facts. The show gives us rudimentary details and grants us some useful insight. New (as of 1992) interviews with Hoffman, Ross, co-writer Buck Henry and producer Lawrence Turman appear and are intercut with production stills and scenes from the film. Notable in their mysterious absence are Nichols and Bancroft, but while I missed their inclusion, the program works well anyway.

Another section of the DVD expands on this project by providing additional interview clips from Hoffman. These are from the same 1992 sessions that gave the documentary its snippets, and we actually hear some of Hoffman's comments from that show included here. However, this 23-minute piece features a lot of additional details from Hoffman and is quite entertaining. He's quite blunt and candid and it's good to hear the minutia that didn't make the cut for the more general documentary. All in all, it's a very interesting and compelling piece.

Finally, the DVD includes a theatrical trailer, one that actually was for a re-release of the film, as noted by the fact it mentions Nichols' Best Director Oscar. We also get a fine booklet that offers some fun and revealing facts and production notes about The Graduate.

The Graduate is a rather erratic DVD but one that likely deserves purchase nonetheless. It's an absolutely terrific film that definitely merits its status as a classic. Despite the many years since its release, the movie holds up well - I wish I could say the same for myself. Overall picture and sound quality are average at best, but some decent extras add value to the package. This DVD isn't the slam-dunk it could be if the image and audio problems were fixed, but it's good enough to be worth owning.

To rate this film, visit the 40th Anniversary Edition review of THE GRADUATE

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main