Network 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. The picture started as mediocre but improved as it progressed.
Oddly, the image got much better right around the halfway mark. For the first hour or so, I noticed a moderate amount of source flaws. The movie showed quite a few examples of specks, marks and blemishes. Happily, however, these essentially vanished after that point. The film’s second hour showed occasional specks but these were substantially less prevalent.
The image also looked a bit tighter and more dynamic. Overall sharpness was adequate to good. Some interiors tended toward minor fuzziness, but they were usually fine, and most of the film seemed clear and acceptably defined. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I noticed no edge enhancement.
Network went with a very 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 remained somewhat erratic, but they were decent as a whole. Blacks also could be slightly inky, but those elements generally featured reasonable depth, and low-light shots were fairly smooth and clear.
Again, all these issues improved during the movie’s second half. The changes were most prominent in regard to the source flaws, but everything else got better as well. The image was sharper, brighter and more dynamic. Some of this came from the movie’s style, as the filmmakers intentionally made the flick less murky as it progressed. That didn’t explain why I saw fewer source flaws in the second half, though. This mix of highs and lows left the transfer with a “B-“.
The film’s monaural soundtrack seemed less satisfying, as it did nothing to distinguish itself. 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 somewhat shrill and harsh when played, though it demonstrated decent range.
Dialogue was always intelligible, but the lines could sound rough. Quieter lines were acceptable though somewhat stiff and thin. Louder elements seemed brittle and displayed slight crackling. These problems weren’t bad enough to make the mix poor, but they led me to give it a “C-“.
How did the picture and audio of this special edition compare to those of the original DVD? Both offered improvements. The new disc’s audio was only slightly better, as it seemed a little brighter. Otherwise I felt it was very similar to the prior mix.
Picture showed much more substantial growth, however. It cleaned up the messier image of the previous DVD and also was better defined. It definitely displayed stronger colors. The prior disc was saddled with an anemic tone that made everyone look ill. Despite the problems I continued to see with the transfer, it clearly showed growth over the earlier DVD’s image.
More improvements come from the Special Edition’s extras. On DVD One, we find both the movie’s trailer - which also appeared on the prior disc – and 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.
Moving to DVD Two, we begin with a new documentary called The Making of Network. This one-hour, 25-minute and 21-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 uses separate chapters and 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 one-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 DVD includes 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 DVD suffers from somewhat weak audio, but it offers decent to good visuals along with a fairly positive set of extras.
This DVD is a good one to add to your collection, and that goes for all those who own the original disc. The new one substantially improves on the old one’s picture quality and it adds many new extras. It’s a solid upgrade.