The Graduate appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became a strong presentation.
Sharpness seemed positive. Any softness resulted from the source material, and the majority of the movie looked accurate and concise. I saw no jaggies or shimmering, but edge haloes cropped up at times. Given the level of detail in the image, though, I’ve begun to suspect these were part of the original photography, as they didn’t seem to represent attempts at artificial sharpness.
Print flaws were absent, and colors looked vivid. The movie had a mild browning feel at times typical of the film stock, but the hues were otherwise lively and full. Blacks looked deep and dark, while shadows appeared clear and well-developed. This became an impressive image.
The film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundfield opened up the image in a minor way. The forward spectrum dominated, as the sides broadened to give us occasional examples of effects and localized speech. I wasn’t wild about the latter, as the lines tended to bleed a bit, but the dialogue popped up from the sides infrequently enough that it wasn’t a big distraction.
Music also spread to the sides, though not with great stereo imaging. Surround usage was minimal, as the back speakers offered minor reinforcement of the front and that was about it. This wasn’t a particularly ambitious soundfield.
Audio quality seemed good given the age of the material. Speech could be a little thin but the lines appeared natural most of the time. Music displayed nice delineation, with reasonably clear highs and some good range.
Effects didn’t play a major role, but they appeared acceptably accurate and well-defined. I’m not sure The Graduate needed one 5.1 remix much less two, as the original mono material should suit it just fine. In any case, the remix was subdued enough to complement the material in a satisfying manner.
How did the Criterion Blu-ray compare to the Blu-ray from 2011? Audio seemed to be virtually identical, but the Criterion Blu-ray offered a considerable step up in visual quality. The 2016 disc looked better defined, cleaner and more natural.
The Criterion release mixes old and new extras, and we start with two previously-released audio commentaries. The first comes from director Mike Nichols and filmmaker Steven Soderbergh, both of whom sit together for this running, screen-specific piece. They discuss how Nichols came onto the project and script development, casting, rehearsals and performances, themes and symbolism, influences and cinematography, production and costume design, the use of music, editing, characters and subtext, locations, reactions to the film, and various scene specifics.
Soderbergh and Nichols have done commentaries before, so they’re clearly comfortable with each other. Soderbergh acts more as a facilitator than as an interviewer. He helps prompt various concepts from Nichols and also digs into the film from a deeper point of view than usually found from this kind of piece.
This works exceedingly well. Occasional dead spots materialize, but those are minor and non-intrusive. Instead, Nichols proves very chatty and engaging as he delves into his movie. We learn a ton about the creation of the flick as well as introspective thoughts. This is an excellent commentary that may be the best I’ve heard so far this year.
From the 1987 Criterion laserdisc, the second commentary features UCLA film scholar Howard Suber. He discusses a few facts about cast/crew as well as deleted scenes, but mostly Suber touches on interpretation. He goes over a variety of filmmaking techniques and how they impact the viewer.
I thought I’d prefer a track with a heavier dose of production nuts and bolts, but Suber offers such a good appraisal of the movie’s methods that I don’t mind the essential absence of those elements. Suber gives a slew of insights and makes this a strong, insightful piece.
Created for the 2007 DVD, Students of The Graduate runs 25 minutes, 58 seconds as it presents notes from producer Lawrence Turman, screenwriter Buck Henry, editor’s wife Bobbie O’Steen, filmmakers Harold Ramis, Marc Forster, Valerie Faris, Jonathan Dayton, and David O. Russell, USC film professor Bruce Block, critics David Ansen and Owen Gleiberman, UCLA film professor Vivian Sobchack, film music historian Jon Burlingame, LA Times chief pop critic Ann Powers, and IFC’s Henry Rollins. “Students” gives us a few basics about the production but mostly acts as an appreciation of the film. The participants provide interpretation of various movie elements and breakdown those components.
This varies between general praise and good insight. At its best, “Students” digs into the filmmaking processes, but it also can just blather about wonderful the flick is. Nonetheless, it’s reasonably interesting and informative.
A carryover from an older release, The Graduate At 25 fills 22 minutes, 40 seconds. 1992 interviews with Hoffman, Ross, Henry and Turman appear and are intercut with production stills and scenes from the film. Nichols and Bancroft are notable in their absence.
“25” is too short and actually feels 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 about the production and grants us some useful insight. However, “25” does become somewhat redundant when viewed along with the other extras. It still maintains some pleasures and unique information, but it’s not a fresh program.
After this we get a 2015 chat between screenwriter Buck Henry and producer Lawrence Turman. This conversation lasts 24 minutes, 56 seconds and includes their thoughts about the project’s origins and path to the screen, the novel and its adaptation, cast and performances, Nichols’ impact on the production, camerawork, and related areas. Henry and Turman interact in a charming manner and give us a fun look at the film.
Another new interview features actor Dustin Hoffman. In his 37-minute, 50-second interview, Hoffman discusses his audition and how he got the part, his character and performance, working with Nichols and his co-stars, and connected film-related elements. Hoffman brings us a lively, informative chat.
With Sam and Mike, we get a 26-minute, 13-second piece with editor Sam O’Steen’s widow Bobbie. An editor/writer/historian herself, she reflects on various filmmaking techniques involved in The Graduate. O’Steen touches on the same kinds of subjects found in Suber’s commentary, and she adds more valuable interpretation.
Archival pieces follow. From July 29, 1966, Mike Nichols and Barbara Walters occupies 15 minutes, 34 seconds and provides a Today Show segment. Nichols talks about how he reacts to reviews, working with actors, future projects and aspects of his life. I wouldn’t call this a hard-hitting chat, but it comes with a good view of Nichols at a certain place in his career – a place right before the casting of The Graduate, a chronological factor that makes it more intriguing.
From April 9, 1970, Paul Simon and Dick Cavett goes for five minutes, 29 seconds. A snippet from Cavett’s talk show, Simon discusses his music, with an emphasis on The Graduate. The interview is too short to offer great substance, but it’s still a nice addition.
Under Screen Tests, we get three segments, all of which show actors who tried out for Benjamin and Elaine. These pair “Tony Bill and Jennifer Leak” (3:53), “Robert Lipton and Cathy Carpenter” (2:06) and “Dustin Hoffman and Katharine Ross” (7:18). These become a cool extra, as it’s fun to see alternate stabs at Ben/Elaine as well as the first glimpse of Hoffman and Ross in the roles.
In addition to the film’s trailer, we get a 12-page booklet. It presents photos, credits and an essay from critic Frank Rich. The booklet finishes the package well.
Note that while the prior Blu-ray included almost no extras, the 2007 40th Anniversary DVD came with plenty of materials. Some of those repeat here, but a few remain absent. The main loss comes from a Dustin Hoffman/Katharine Ross audio commentary that remains absent on the Criterion Blu-ray.
A terrific film, The Graduate merits its status as a classic. Despite the many years since its release, the movie holds up well and qualifies as timeless. The Blu-ray provides strong audio, satisfactory audio and an informative collection of supplements. Overall, this brings us the finest home video version of The Graduate to date.
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