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WARNER

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Sidney Lumet
Cast:
Faye Dunaway, William Holden, Peter Finch, Robert Duvall, Wesley Addy, Ned Beatty, Arthur Burghardt, Bill Burrows, John Carpenter, Jordan Charney, Kathy Cronkite
Writing Credits:
Paddy Chayefsky

Tagline:
Television will never be the same!

Synopsis:
Even more compelling today than when it was first released, Network is a wickedly funny, dead-on indictment of the TV news media. Winner of four Academy Awards it pulses with "vitality and a provocative excitement that is forever rare." Many talented stars are in this searing portrait of television exploitation. When longtime news anchor Howard Beale id fired, he suffers a violent, on-air breakdown. But when his sagging rating are boosted by his angry ratings, he's subsequently rehired and reinvented as the "mad prophet of the airwaves." Of course, when the "prophet" ceases to be profitable, something has to be done about Beale, preferably on camera, before a live studio audience….

Box Office:
Budget
$3.8 million.
Domestic Gross
$23.689 million.

MPAA:
Rated R

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio:
English Monaural
French Monaural
Spanish Monaural
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
French
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
English

Runtime: 121 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 2/15/2011

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Director Sidney Lumet
• “The Making of Network” Documentary
• “Dinah! with Paddy Chayefsky”
• “Private Screenings with Sidney Lumet” Documentary
• Trailer


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Network [Blu-Ray] (1976)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 3, 2011)

If nothing else, 1976’s Network accurately predicted the existence of the Fox TV network. 30 years ago, who thought that we’d really come to a day when programs of real-life attacking animals and fleeing criminals would become successful and commonplace? Paddy Chayefsky knew, apparently, as his prescient script tells the tale of a foundering network that takes advantage of radicals and the insane to boost ratings.

At the start of the film, long-time UBS news anchor Howard Beale (Peter Finch) is being forced to retire due to sagging viewership. Due to a number of personal concerns, his job was all he had, so he announces on the air that he plans to kill himself. Rather than seek counseling or support for the clearly-troubled man, the higher-ups - mainly boss Frank Hackett (Robert Duvall) - decide to keep Beale on the air since his stunt sparked ratings.

This starts an escalating cycle of outrageous stunts and events designed to keep viewers glued to their screens. Beale gets his own “last angry man” show through which to preach his doctrine, while other seemingly-absurd programs also hit the air. Entertainment programmer Diana Christensen (Faye Dunaway) is given the reins of the news division after throwback Max Schumacher (William Holden) is fired. She adopts a tone of outrageousness that brings droves of new eyes to the network.

All of this activity begs the question: how far will the TV folks go to maintain ratings? As given in Network, the answer seems to be “exceedingly far”, and frankly, it’s hard to dispute the film’s hypothesis. On one hand, much of the action seems absurd and is the kind of programming one would not expect to ever see hit the airwaves. The network’s solution to Beale’s declining ratings makes its point but seems ever so slightly ridiculous.

However, in this day and age, it’s tough to say where the line will be drawn. How unbelievable would many of today’s shows have seemed 35 years ago? Keep in mind that Network appeared not very long after a show like All in the Family could cause a stir because it allowed us to hear the flush of a toilet - how could they have foreseen what we now watch regularly?

As a satire and a prophecy, Network works well. In the former category, the best elements are those that concern a radical group who film their crimes as the basis for a weekly program. Some of Network’s most incisive moments come from the scenes in which we watch them become increasingly caught up in the world of high-stakes TV and learn how to “talk the talk”.

Network also boasts pretty solid acting. Most of the performers verge on being over the top. Dunaway always was a camp queen, and she can’t resist chewing a little scenery. However, those tendencies seem fairly appropriate for power-hungry Diana, one of the toughest women ever to grace a movie screen. She’s a vicious piece of work who won’t let anyone stand in her way, but Dunaway keeps her from becoming a simple mannish stereotype.

Dunaway won the Oscar for her work, as did Finch. In doing so, he became a famous piece of Academy Award trivia as the first actor to grab a prize posthumously; Finch died in early 1977 before the ceremony in the spring. He offers a nice turn as Beale. I’m not sure I ever bought him as a TV anchor, as there’s something slightly off-kilter about him that makes him appear wrong for that task, but he’s quite able to portray Beale’s changing moods and levels of sanity. He makes these variations seem natural and organic without becoming forced or staged.

Holden’s Max is nominally the movie’s lead, but in retrospect, he doesn’t seem to have much to do. He tries to assist Howard, and he eventually beds Diana, but otherwise he’s left without a lot of work. However, I suppose Max acts as the film’s symbolic center and stands in for the viewers through his affair with Diana. He’s tempted by her flashy and tawdry appeal but eventually realizes the emptiness and returns to the stability of his old life. There’s a not-too-subtle message made even more explicit by a monologue in which Max compares Diana to TV itself.

Probably the greatest flaw of Network is that it often comes across as heavy-handed and preachy. This seems especially problematic because TV is such an easy target. It’s not as though many support the small screen as a bastion of high-class intellectualism, so attempts to knock its frequent stupidity appear somewhat pointless and arrogant.

If Network was a call to people to wake up and stop accepting whatever the tube spoon feeds to them, it went unheeded. As a film, it suffers from some of the forced social commentary typical for works of its era, but it remains an interesting and provocative piece.


The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio B-/ Bonus B+

Network appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This will never be a movie that looks great, but the Blu-ray serves it pretty well.

Sharpness seemed decent to good. Sporadic examples of softness occurred, but these appeared to stem from the source photography; as I alluded, this was simply never a particularly dynamic presentation. The image looked reasonably concise. No issues with jaggies or moiré effects occurred, and I noticed no edge haloes or issues with noise reduction. Occasional small specks cropped up, but the majority of the movie seemed clean.

Network went with a subdued palette, and the tones tended to look a little drab at times. However, this seemed connected largely to the visual design; when the movie invested in brighter colors, they seemed accurate and lively. Hues appeared fine given the constraints of the design. Blacks were acceptably deep, and shadows showed adequate to good clarity. This wasn’t a showcase image, but it worked about as well I could imagine given the movie’s age and design.

The film’s monaural soundtrack didn’t excel but it worked fine. The mix consisted almost entirely of dialogue. Effects were minor considerations; they seemed acceptably clear but played such a small role that unless they displayed serious distortion, they rarely mattered. The film also featured virtually no score. The most prominent music heard came from the Howard Beale Show theme. It sounded pretty clear and bold, as it included some nice low-end punch as well.

Dialogue was pretty good. A few reedy lines emerged, but most of the dialogue was reasonably natural and concise. No issues with edginess occurred, and I felt the speech held up fairly nicely. This was a more than adequate track for a chatty movie.

How did the picture and audio of this special edition compare to those of the 2006 Special Edition DVD? Both showed improvements, and that was a surprise in the auditory domain. I figured that we’d get virtually the same erratic mono mix from the DVD, but the Blu-ray’s sound was notably clearer and more natural.

The image was also a step up, though not an extreme one. The Blu-ray was a bit tighter and cleaner, but it didn’t blow away the DVD. Still, it did look better, and this turned into the film’s best representation on home video to date.

The DVD’s extras repeat here. We open with an audio commentary from director Sidney Lumet. He offers a running, screen-specific chat. Lumet looks at the film’s themes, tone and visual style, cast, characters and performances, his background in live TV and the flick’s prescient elements, locations and sets, and a few production notes. We get a decent commentary but not one that stands out as particularly memorable.

The best moments come from Lumet’s memories of the early days of TV. I like his remembrances and think these become illuminating. He also tosses out some nice insights into the performances and other nuances. Unfortunately, there’s too much dead air, and at times Lumet offers basics that don’t really tell us much. He comes across as a curmudgeon when he berates the lousy state of modern TV. (Yeah, he’s correct, but that doesn’t make him sound like less of a sourpuss.) Lumet’s commentary has enough to make it worth a listen, though.

Next comes a modern documentary called The Making of Network. This one-hour, 25-minute and 28-second program mixes movie clips, archival materials, and interviews. We hear from Lumet, producer Howard Gottfried, editor Alan Heim, production designer Philip Rosenberg, director of photography Owen Roizman, newscaster/reporter Walter Cronkite, and actors Lance Henriksen, Faye Dunaway, Ned Beatty, and Kathy Cronkite.

The show covers writer Paddy Chayefsky and the script’s development, Chayefsky’s history with Lumet and how the director came onto the project, and Chayefsky’s vision for the story. From there we go through cast and characters, a spotlight on the movie’s signature “I’m mad as hell” scene, rehearsals and shooting the film, and many anecdotes from the production. We also learn about editing, reactions to the film and its legacy, the movie’s visual style and set design, and general thoughts. Finally, the piece includes notes from Walter Cronkite about his relationship with Lumet, a few comments about the early days of TV news and its development, and reactions to the film.

While “Making” covers a lot of good subjects, I can’t say I care for its disjointed presentation. Some of that stems from the fact it really exists as six featurettes connected together. Nonetheless, I’ve seen that format many times and think it works better elsewhere. Here it comes across as a bit scattered.

Still, we get more than a few nice tidbits about the film. Despite the somewhat less than coherent presentation, the show goes over the requisite subjects well. Some of this repeats from the commentary, but there’s plenty of new information to pique our interest.

Next comes Dinah! with Paddy Chayefsky. We find a 14-minute and two-second snippet from Dinah Shore’s old show during which she and guests like Steve Lawrence chat with Chayefsky. He discusses a little about the movie but mostly gets into his feelings about TV and where it’ll go. It’s good to see the late writer and also relate to how his thoughts have and haven’t come true.

Finally, the disc includes the film’s trailer and Private Screenings with Sidney Lumet. Originally broadcast on the Turner Classic Movies network, this 54-minute and 25-second show presents an interview between Lumet and host Robert Osborne. They chat about Lumet’s career. They start with his origins as an actor, his move into TV and directing, and progress through thoughts about many of his films.

Obviously the show’s too short to dig into these with much depth, but “Screenings” makes for a terrific overview. Lumet proves consistently sharp and engaging as he discusses his work, and Osborne manages to prompt him well. I enjoyed this informative and well-paced program.

At this point, Network seems better remembered as a catch phrase than as a film, which is an ironic fate for a picture determined to knock such simpleminded behaviors. I found the movie to be a flawed but compelling work that had enough strengths to merit a viewing. The Blu-ray provides restricted but good picture and audio along with a fairly positive set of extras. Network remains an involving flick, and this Blu-ray presents it well.

To rate this film please visit the Special Edition review of NETWORK

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