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All the President's Men(1976)
In the Watergate Building, lights go on and four burglars are caught in the act. That night triggered revelations that drive a U.S. President from office. Washington reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein grabbed the story and stayed with it through doubts, denials and discouragement. All the Presidentís Men is their story.
For more about All the President's Men and the All the President's Men Blu-ray release, see All the President's Men Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on February 15, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford, Jack Warden, Martin Balsam, Hal Holbrook, Jane Alexander
Director: Alan J. Pakula
» See full cast & crew
All the President's Men Blu-ray Review
Guess what? He actually was a crook.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, February 15, 2011
Many national calamities are a relatively instantaneous affair. A horde of bombs fall on an island paradise in December, 1941. A series of terrifying shots ring out in Dallas in November, 1963. The shock is immediate, though the repercussions can last for literally generations. Unlike those two singular events of Pearl Harbor and the assassination of President Kennedy, however, Watergate unfolded not in a lightning flash of trauma and horror, but slowly and laboriously over the course of two years. The initial break-in at the hotel complex was on June 17, 1972 (some allege there was an earlier break-in which was not discovered). Nevertheless, Richard Nixon still easily managed a landslide reelection in November 1972 and then clung tenuously to power until August 1974 as the scandal unfolded and slowly grew on his Presidency like, in the inimitable words of White House Counsel John Dean, a cancer. It's hard perhaps to realize there was a time when the press was seen as a heroic David to President Nixon's Goliath, though as All the President's Men makes abundantly clear, that vision wasn't a foregone conclusion. Washington Post news reporters Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) and Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) were thought by many (including their own colleagues and editors) to be absolute nuts to believe there was a major conspiracy surrounding what seemed like a "second rate burglary" at the Democratic National Committee's headquarters in the Watergate Hotel complex in Washington, D.C. Only though a sort of dogged perseverance did the two finally manage to get close to the truth, in the process bringing down a presidency with a crushing finality that proved nobody was above the law.
There's a reason why Ben Bradlee, Editor of the Washington Post, and other news editors at the paper, had a hard time believing that President Nixon would get involved with a patently ridiculous break-in at his rival's party's headquarters. There was little doubt that Nixon was going to be re-elected, probably in a landslide, in November, 1972. While he had proven to be polarizing, as so many presidents usually are, he actually wasn't as polarizing as many had feared, and he seemed to appeal to that "silent majority" for whom he allegedly spoke. And yet very quickly after the initial June, 1972 break-in, newbie reporter Woodward and his assigned co-hort Bernstein figured out something was stinking to high heaven about this caper. Why would a bunch of ex-CIA operatives be doing something like this? Why was there almost immediately a connection to those within the President's inner circle, including several within the hilariously ineptly acronymed CREEP (the Committee to Re-elect the President)?
As Dinah Shore admits to Jason Robards in her interview of the Oscar winner in one of the supplements on this Blu-ray, though she knew exactly how the story was going to turn out, it didn't make the film any less suspenseful or involving. And in fact that's one of the great triumphs of screenwriter William Goldman and director Alan J. Pakula. Even though many viewers will either personally remember the Watergate affair or at least have a passing acquaintance with the general outlines of the case, the film wraps up the proceedings in a really artful, quasi-thriller package, complete with undercover informants ("Deep Throat," played by Hal Holbrook).
Part of the film's impact comes from its low key but very effective recreation of a working newsroom, back in the days when the clatter of typewriters filled the echoing cavernous reporters' dens. Robards is perfectly cast as the crusty but ultimately no-nonsense Bradlee, a man who can't quite believe what his junior reporters have uncovered and what that could mean for his paper. (It of course meant a Pulitzer Prize, but that came later). The entire supporting cast is marvelous, though, including everyone from stalwarts like Ned Beatty to recognizable, though lesser known, actors like Broadway regular and occasional film supporting player John McMartin. (Watch closely for a nice cameo by Meredith Baxter, toward the end of the film). Redford and Hoffman work surprisingly well together, eschewing the usual "buddy" routines and never letting the underlying tension between the two reporters devolve into low comedy.
What is probably most amazing about the film, taken with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, is just how sanguine so many people were about what was going on. Goldman adapts the bare bones news elements of the original book with gusto and flair, showing the many dead ends the reporters encountered, and not all of them due to a "vast right wing conspiracy." People just didn't seem to care very much, or if they did, they didn't think the break-in and resultant cover-up was any big deal. In fact, Woodward and Bernstein strike most of these people as pesky annoyances, rather than dogged pursuers of The Truth.
It's inarguable that Woodward and Bernstein helped remold public consciousness of news reporters. While iconic figures like Walter Cronkite and Huntley and Brinkley were highly esteemed by the public at large, working class reporters were often seen as the news equivalents of used car salesmen. The uncovering of the Watergate saga by Woodward and Bernstein suddenly recast the reporter as modern day hero, and that image lasted for several years afterward, spawning everything from crusading local muckrakers to the long running spin-off of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Lou Grant, which obviously owes a lot of its ambience to All the President's Men. Somewhere along the line, that heroic image got blurred and dirty again, and reporters are once again seen with less than approving eyes most of the time nowadays. This film helps us to realize what an important part a free press plays in a vibrant democracy, especially when those at the apex of that very democracy are involved in a series of clandestine, illegal activities.
All the President's Men Blu-ray, Video Quality
Much like Network, the other Warner catalog title released at the same time on Blu-ray as All the President's Men, this film has the soft, grainy look so endemic of mid-1970's film in general. Unfortunately, this AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.78:1 lacks some of Network's relative sharpness and color accuracy. All the President's Men looks noticeably darker, with an odd, often orange-tinged tilt in the color (especially with regard to flesh tones) that may be bothersome to some viewers. Contrast is rather low, making the many dark shots (all of the Deep Throat footage, for example) victim of some pretty serious crushing. Grain is natural here, so DNR-phobes have nothing to worry about, but at the same time it gives the film an overly grimy and gritty look a lot of the time, especially in those selfsame darker passages. This is a decent enough upgrade from the SD-DVD, but those without any prior experience with this film may be shocked at just how soft and dark this BD looks.
All the President's Men Blu-ray, Audio Quality
All the President's Men's lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix is surprisingly robust for film not re-purposed with a faux surround mix, and one now approaching its 35th anniversary. In fact, you may jump a little out of your seat at those opening strikes of the typewriter letters against the page. Fidelity here is excellent throughout, delivering clear and precise dialogue and a very nice representation of David Shire's beautifully understated score. The film obviously operates on a narrow soundfield, and some of the newsroom segments in particular may in fact have benefited from a surround mix, but overall, the film sound spry and active, with no damage, hiss or other annoyances to report.
All the President's Men Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
All the President's Men offers some nice supplements:
All the President's Men Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
You may have lived through Watergate yourself, or have learned about it in school, but All the President's Men makes it all come alive in a thrillingly visceral way. One of the best ever films about what the day to day grind of a newsroom is all about, even in an epochal story like Watergate, All the President's Men is probably Pakula's all around finest film, and it features a bevy of knockout performances. This Blu-ray's image quality leaves something to be desired, but otherwise this is an excellent release. Highly recommended.
All the President's Men: Other Editions
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All the President's Men Blu-ray, News and Updates
• All the President's Men and Network Announced on Blu-ray - October 26, 2010
Warner Home Video has announced two Oscar-winning media-themed films from the 1970s for Blu-ray release on February 15, 2011: All the President's Men, a retelling of the Watergate burglary investigation that ultimately brought down Richard Nixon's administration; ...
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