All the President's Men: Special Edition (1976)

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Released 1-Mar-2006

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio & Animation
Audio Commentary-Robert Redford
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Rollover
Featurette-Making Of-Telling The Truth About Lies
Featurette-Woodward And Bernstein: Lighting The Fire
Featurette-Out Of The Shadows: The Man Who Was Deep Throat
Featurette-Making Of-Pressure And The Press
Featurette-5/27/1976 Dinah! With Jason Robards
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1976
Running Time 132:33
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (55:24)
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Alan J. Pakula
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Dustin Hoffman
Robert Redford
Jack Warden
Martin Balsam
Hal Holbrook
Jason Robards
Jane Alexander
Meredith Baxter
Ned Beatty
Stephen Collins
Penny Fuller
John McMartin
Robert Walden
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music David Shire


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Hungarian Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Hungarian
Spanish
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

  "Just follow the money . . . "

    As someone with a long interest in journalism (I studied it at university and was employed as a lowly paid hack for a short time a while back), documentaries, television programs and films featuring the fourth estate always pique my interest. Whether it be satirical efforts such as Australia's Frontline, quality British drama such as 2003's State Of Play, or documentaries such as WMD or Outfoxed - Rupert Murdoch's War On Journalism, I always find these sorts of programs highly entertaining and almost always thought-provoking, initiating much discussion in my household - much to my wife's chagrin. There is something about seeing the way the mass media operates, whether it be the dubious manner in which they obtain information, the way they often exploit their position or the passion that some journalists display in tracking down a breaking story that is ultimately fascinating. Heck I'd probably even watch a compilation DVD of Media Watch episodes if they were available.

    This interest in the media brings me to a startling admission. I had never seen the doyen of all journalism films, All The President's Men, until I sat down to review this DVD. This is a film that is often shown as part of journalism courses in universities around the world (I must have been ill that day) such is the esteem in which it and its subject is held. It is a film that deals with the Watergate scandal in America in the early to mid 1970s and the dogged investigative reporting that finally broke the story and which ultimately brought about the proposed impeachment and eventual resignation of President Richard Nixon.

    Based on the book of the same name, the film doesn't try to capture the whole Watergate scandal and aftermath but rather details the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporting of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. They were the authors of the original book and also the two relatively lowly paid hacks with the Washington Post newspaper who first stumbled on the story and followed it right through until the end of the Nixon Presidency. As a result they are probably the most famous journalists in the world (yes they are even more famous than Eddie McGuire).

    The saga starts so seemingly innocently. A break in is reported at the offices of the Democratic National Offices in the Watergate Building in Washington DC, where five men in suits are caught red handed rummaging inside in the early hours of the morning. The Washington Post sends a young and slightly naive reporter, Bob Woodward (Robert Redford), down to court early on a Saturday morning to find out more about the burglars and the case. Woodward soon realises there may be more to this story than first appearances would suggest and together with another Post reporter, Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman), the two set about digging a little deeper. Forced to work together despite their initial distaste for each other and seeming to have nothing in common, they form a formidable team. When Woodward makes contact with a highly credentialed source who provides some decisive deep background information about FBI cover-ups and secret slush funds used to help re-elect the current Republican President, the pair of intrepid reporters know they are on to something. This anonymous source would provide crucial information to the stories written by Woodward and Bernstein and would go down in history as the most famous of all journalist sources, the famous Deep Throat (who incidentally was finally revealed last year as FBI Associate Director Mark Felt).

    It is Deep Throat who first tells Woodward to just follow the money trail and pretty soon, despite the initial hesitation  from their editors (including Jason Robards in a best Supporting Actor Oscar winning performance as Executive Editor Ben Bradlee), the Watergate stories move from buried deep inside the Washington Post to being front page material every day. The rest as they say is history.

    This is a film that has been made with some flair by Alan J Pakula, director of films such as Klute and Presumed Innocent. He took what could ultimately be a very boring topic - there are dozens of lengthy phone conversations in this film, something screenwriters and directors like to avoid as much as possible - and lots of information that can at times be very confusing, but he has turned it into a gripping thriller. Despite everyone already knowing how it all ends this is still a great story that will have you enthralled from the opening salvo featuring the typewriter bursting across the screen to the closing credits where the fate of all the participants is laid out.

   All The President's Men won Academy Awards for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Jason Robards, plus Best Art Direction - Set Decoration, Best Sound and Best Adapted Screenplay.

    Previously released as a bare-bones disc way back at the dawn of DVD in 1998, All The President's Men has now been released as a two-disc special edition to celebrate its 30th anniversary.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    For a film made in 1976 the video transfer offered here is really quite good with few major problems to report, though this is hardly surprising as the original Region 4 disc was also pretty decent. Comparing the image on this new Special Edition to that original release would lead me to suspect it is the same transfer on offer here.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, which is almost the same as the film's original theatrical aspect of 1.85:1. The transfer is 16x9 enhanced.

    While a little flat and dull at times, the image is at least sharp and quite clear. Shadow detail is a little lacking at times, most obviously in the night time scenes in the almost black car park where Deep Throat is usually lurking, but is certainly not the worst I have ever seen. The lack of lighting of the faces of the actors is also understandable when you learn the cinematographer was Gordon Willis of The Godfather fame, a DP who often used as little light as possible to illuminate a scene. There is no low level noise evident in the transfer.

    Colours are consistent if perhaps a little pale and washed out for much of the film. Skin tones are realistic. It really has that 1970s look to it as one would expect.

    There are no compression artefacts and while some minor film artefacts can be seen throughout, they never reach any real level of annoyance. An acceptable level of film grain is also visible, but it is really nothing to get bothered about.

    English, Hungarian and Spanish subtitles are provided and they are excellent (well the English variety is anyway - I'm not familiar with Spanish or Hungarian). They are well-placed on screen in a typeface that is perfectly legible and easy to read.

    The film is contained solely on disc one, which is a dual-layered effort. The layer change occurs at 55:24.



Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are a total of four soundtracks on this disc with the film's original mono recording preserved just as it would have originally sounded at the cinema on release. Joining the English Dolby Digital mono 1.0 soundtrack are similarly specified soundtracks in Hungarian and Spanish. Rounding out the selection is an English commentary track (see extras for more detail). All four tracks are encoded at the low bitrate of 192Kb/s.

    This is a fairly flat and sometimes harsh sounding soundtrack with little fidelity and not a lot of punch at either end. The dialogue is at least clear and easily understood, but it all comes across just a little too mundane and similar sounding for my liking. There is simply not enough dynamic range in the soundtrack to make this a compelling or highly enjoyable experience. Having said that, the dialogue is very important to the plot development and there are no complaints with how that is actually mixed in the soundtrack.

    The score is fairly basic and there is obviously no surround or subwoofer activity to report.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    If ever there was a film or a subject that deserved a decent collection of extras then All The President's Men and the Watergate scandal is it. While the collection here is not as in-depth as I probably expected it to be, it's a fair collection and a vast improvement on the original bare-bones Region 4 release.

Main Menu Audio & Animation

Audio Commentary - Robert Redford

    This is a pretty good commentary track from actor and producer Robert Redford. He is passionate and articulate about a subject that obviously meant a great deal to him at the time. He recounts plenty of stories and anecdotes about the production and you will definitely learn something from listening to this.

Theatrical Trailer

Trailer - Rollover

Featurette - Making Of: Telling The Truth About Lies

    Running for a decent 28:21, this appears to be a relatively new featurette based on how stars Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman look and the mention of Deep Throat's true identity. In addition to those two there are interviews with Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, plus a few other important players such as cinematographer Gordon Willis and screenwriter William Goldman. A decent look at how the book and then the film came into being.

Featurette - Woodward And Bernstein: Lighting The Fire

    This is a 17:53 look at the work of the doyens of investigative journalism, Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the men responsible for first uncovering the Watergate story. In addition to interviews with the two, there are also plenty of interviews with modern-day media commentators and journalists. Their discussion centres on just what the work of Woodward and Bernstein did for the profession of journalism and where it is headed today in these days of dumbed-down mass media and Internet blogs.

Featurette - Out Of The Shadows: The Man Who Was Deep Throat

    Running for 16:20 this is a featurette that could have only been made recently after last year's revealing after nearly 30 years of the true identity of the most famous of journalistic sources - Deep Throat. This featurette looks at the life of former CIA deputy director Mark Felt (AKA Deep Throat), his relationship with the only man who knew who he was, Bob Woodward, and muses on some of his reasons for leaking the information he did. Sadly there is no interview with the man himself.

Featurette-Making Of - Pressure And The Press

    This is a brief making-of featurette made for the release of the film in 1976. It runs for 10:04 and features interviews with the key players including a youthful Robert Redford and director Alan Pakula.

Featurette - 5/27/1976 Dinah! With Jason Robards

    Running for 7:08 this is an interview for a US television chat show featuring Jason Robards who played Washington Post Editor Ben Bradlee in the film.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The new Region 1 Special Edition of All The President's Men appears to feature the exact same content as the Region 4 two-disc set except for a couple of different trailers. As a result there is no real reason to favour one over the other and I recommend picking it up wherever you can get the best deal.

Summary

    All The President's Men is certainly a gripping film and well worth a look. Dealing with the Watergate scandal and focusing on the investigative work by award-winning journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein it captures a time in America when all was not well with the political system and when journalists actually did some real leg-work in obtaining an exclusive story. Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman are at their very best in this political thriller from director Alan J. Pakula.

    This new Special Edition DVD features the same transfer as the old Region 4 release, but adds a few new extras on a second disc, most notably the featurette about the revealing of the identity of the most famous of anonymous sources - Deep Throat.

    This two disc set is worth adding to your collection and at a retail price point of less than 20 bucks it should be hard to resist.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Darren Walters (It's . . . just the vibe . . . of my bio)
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-3910, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Calida (84cm). Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL).
AmplificationHarmon/Kardon AVR7000.
SpeakersFront - B&W 602S2, Centre - B&W CC6S2, Rear - B&W 601S2, Sub - Energy E:xl S10

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