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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 2.35:1/16X9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English DTS 5.1
English Monaural
French Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 106 min.
Price: $24.98
Release Date: 9/11/2007

• Audio Commentary with Director Mike Nichols and Filmmaker Steven Soderbergh
• Audio Commentary with Actors Dustin Hoffman and Katharine Ross
• “Students of The Graduate” Featurette
• “The Seduction” Featurette
• “The Graduate At 25” Documentary
• Interview with Dustin Hoffman
• Trailers
• Booklet
• Bonus Soundtrack CD


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: 40th Anniversary Edition (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 B+/ Audio B/ Bonus A-

The Graduate appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. While not without concerns, this transfer offered a satisfying experience.

My only complaints stemmed from some softness at times. A few shots displayed moderate edge haloes, and these resulted in less than stellar definition for some images. Nonetheless, the vast majority of the movie offered nice delineation and seemed well-defined. I noticed no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, and source flaws were essentially absent. I detected a speck or two but otherwise this was a clean presentation.

The film went with a subdued but natural palette that the DVD replicated well. The colors consistently seemed concise and smoothly developed, without any excessive muddiness or heaviness. Blacks were deep and dark, while shadows seemed clear and concise. Without the occasional example of softness, this would’ve developed into an “A”-level transfer. As it stood, it remained quite good.

In a case of apparent overkill, this version of The Graduate came with not one but two separate multi-channel remixes. It presented Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 tracks. One of these would’ve been enough, especially since they sounded virtually identical.

The 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 remixes were subdued enough to complement the material in a satisfying manner.

How did the picture and audio of this 40th Anniversary Edition compare to those of the old release from 1999? Both demonstrated improvements. The picture seemed cleaner, clearer and better defined, while similar thoughts came for the audio. Neither disc presented a great soundfield, but this one appeared more dynamic and less shrill and strident. The new DVD provided a good upgrade.

In terms of extras, the 40th Anniversary set includes the materials from the old release along with some new elements. For 40th Anniversary exclusives, we start with two 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.

For the second commentary, we hear from actors Dustin Hoffman and Katharine Ross. Both sit together for their own running, screen-specific chat. They touch on a few technical issues, but mostly they cover performances, rehearsals, working with Nichols and shot details. Hoffman dominates but that makes sense since his character appears onscreen much more often than does Ross’s role.

At the start, I feared this track would be a dud. For the first few minutes, Hoffman tells us more about what he doesn’t remember than what he does. However, the fog lifts before long and we get a lot of fun notes about the flick. The pair interact well to make this a warm, enjoyable chat, even if Hoffman declares his apparently-continuing crush on Ross too many times. It’s not nearly as dynamic and informative as the Nichols/Soderbergh commentary, but it contains more than enough good material to keep up interested.

Next we find two new featurettes. Students of The Graduate runs 25 minutes, 56 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.

The Seduction goes for eight minutes, 49 seconds and includes comments from Ansen, Ramis, Russell, Sobchack, Block, Faris, Dayton, Forster, Rollins, and relationship therapist Dr. Deborah Cooper. “Seduction” follows the same lines as “Students” except it focuses on the character relationships. Expect the same plusses and minuses as its predecessor.

Repeats from the old disc come next. The Graduate At 25 runs 22 minutes, 38 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.

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 “25” repeat here. However, this 22-minute and 40-second 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. Again, more than a few redundant elements occur, but it's still a very interesting and compelling piece.

Finally, the DVD includes two theatrical trailers. We find the film’s original ad along with one that came for a re-release of the flick. We also get a fine booklet that offers some fun and revealing facts and production notes about The Graduate.

A second disc offers a CD Soundtrack Sampler. This includes four songs: “The Sound of Silence”, “Mrs. Robinson”, “Scarborough Fair/Canticle”, and “April Come She Will”. It seems like a shame that this doesn’t provide a complete soundtrack album, but as a sampler, it’s a decent addition.

Lastly, we get an six-page booklet. It presents some trivia about the flick and a few production notes. It adds a little meat to the package.

The Graduate is 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. Both picture and sound quality seem quite good, and the set includes a very nice mix of extras highlighted by a truly stellar audio commentary.

I definitely recommend this 40th Anniversary DVD of The Graduate, and that goes for folks who already own the original disc. This one improves upon it in every way and is a very worthy “double dip”.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.4339 Stars Number of Votes: 53
7 3:
View Averages for all rated titles.

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