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DVD Reviews

HTF DVD REVIEW: The Graduate: 40th Anniversary Edition (Recommended)



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#1 of 4 OFFLINE   Cameron Yee

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Posted September 19 2007 - 02:46 PM

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The Graduate
40th Anniversary Edition

Release Date: Available now (original release date September 11, 2007)
Studio: MGM
Packaging/Materials: Two-disc Amaray with cardstock slipcover; trifold brochure about the film
Year: 1967
Rating: PG
Running Time: 1h46m
Video (Feature): 2.35:1 anamorphic
Audio (Feature): English Dolby Digital 5.1 , English DTS 5.1 , English Mono, French Mono
Video (Special Features): Mix of 1.78:1 anamorphic and 1.33:1 standard
Audio (Special Features): Stereo
Subtitles/Captioning: English, Spanish subtitles; English closed captioned
MSRP: $24.98

The Feature: 5/5
In another kind of movie, a name as alliterative and robust as "Benjamin Braddock
As a newly minted college diplomate, Braddock (Dustin Hoffman in his feature film debut) is lost in a sea of parental, personal and societal expectations. He's worried about his future, as any college graduate tends to be, but he finds himself particularly unprepared and unequipped to face real life. Sensing his vulnerability (not unlike a predator singling out the weakest in the herd), family friend Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft) tries to seduce him, propositioning him in the bedroom of her off-at-Berkeley daughter, Elaine (Katharine Ross). With one part desperation and one part nothing better to do, Braddock takes her up on the offer.

Their affair is short-lived, an inevitability accelerated by the fact Braddock finds someone he actually connects with, who becomes a sort of anchor for him. Unfortunately it's the daughter Elaine. Their relationship is also short-lived once the truth comes out, but Braddock now has a purpose and he's determined not to lose it. And he may ultimately become a person befitting his name.

Watching "The Graduate" 40 years after it was made, it's easy to take certain things for granted, elements which have become part and parcel of today's "youth film." The use of popular music in the soundtrack, for instance, and the montage of love and/or angst which always seems to accompany it. But other aspects are as remarkable now as they were then - editing style, actor blocking, and cinematography...the film remains a worthy specimen to be dissected in film production courses. And showering praise would be incomplete without mentioning the script's phenomenal dialogue and the actors giving those words life. Hoffman and Bancroft are particularly noteworthy, playing characters nowhere close to their respective ages when character age and life experience are so central. An all-around classic, "The Graduate" belongs in every collector's library and is highly recommended.


Video Quality: 5/5
The film is correctly framed at 2.35:1 and free of dust, dirt, print damage and edge halos. Though not a particularly colorful film with the neutral tones of suburbia dominating most scenes, the selective moments of color are deep and beautiful. Satisfying black levels and contrast range are ultimately what stand out most, the chiaroscuro-like cinematography coming across wonderfully. The image is also nicely sharp and detailed, with some wide angle shots less so. But this I only noticed a few times and would not consider it a consistent issue. First-time viewers may be unsettled by the opening shot of Braddock that looks out of focus. Be assured this is in the source material and most likely a limitation of the lens being used given how things sharpen up dramatically as the frame widens out. Mrs. Robinson gets a similar shot later in the film.


Audio Quality: 5/5
Though the inclusion of three English audio track options is impressive, I ultimately found the mono track preferable. The surround options certainly have some nice bass, which comes through nicely with the opening Simon and Garfunkle song, but the surround mix feels forced and abrupt and the dialogue on the hollow side. By comparison the mono track sounds natural, with satisfying dynamic range and no signs of hiss or strain.


Special Features: 5/5

Audio Commentary with Dustin Hoffman and Katharine Ross: Hoffman and Ross have plenty to share about their work on this iconic film, from on-set anecdotes to interpretations of character and story.

Audio Commentary with Mike Nichols and Steven Soderbergh: Soderbergh serves as a sort of an interviewer and professional sounding board for Nichols as he shares stories from production, technical information and what it takes to be a director. Another great audio commentary and a perfect companion to the Hoffman-Ross track.

Students of "The Graduate" (25m56s): Film directors, academics and other professionals discuss the significance of the film and its influence on their work.

The Seduction (8m49s): Some of the interviewees from the previous featurette discuss the particulars of the film's characters and their motivations.

One on One with Dustin Hoffman (22m40s): 1992 interview clips with Hoffman, who shares his memories of being cast in and working on the film.

The Graduate at 25 (22m39s): 1992 documentary celebrating the 25th anniversary of the film. Much of the information will be familiar after the preceding commentaries and featurettes, though writer Buck Henry and Katharine Ross get some interview time in this one.

Original Theatrical Trailer (3m28s):

Academy Awards Trailer (1m16s): Promotional for MGM Academy Award winning films.

Soundtrack CD: The second disc in the set includes four Simon and Garfunkle songs used in the film - "The Sound of Silence," "Mrs. Robinson," "Scarborough Fair/Canticle," and "April Come She Will." Comparing it to the official soundtrack, the sampler has the majority of the songs from it, leaving out the David Grusin film compositions.


Recap

The Feature: 5/5
Video Quality: 5/5
Audio Quality: 5/5
Special Features: 5/5
Overall Score (not an average): 5/5

A classic film gets great audio and video transfers, a couple excellent audio commentaries and some respectable video featurettes. By all accounts the 40th anniversary edition improves on the previous release's technical features while throwing in some nice additional items. Recommended for the double dip and for first time purchase.

#2 of 4 OFFLINE   Scott Merryfield

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Posted September 20 2007 - 01:02 AM

Thanks for the review, Cameron. I finally had time to watch the DVD last night, and I am very pleased with the new transfer compared with the old non-anamorphic one.

One minor question -- since you rate all aspects of this release 5/5, shouldn't the title be "highly recommended"?

#3 of 4 OFFLINE   Cameron Yee

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Posted September 20 2007 - 02:43 AM

Quote:
One minor question -- since you rate all aspects of this release 5/5, shouldn't the title be "highly recommended"?

Good point. Moderator, can you change the title please?

#4 of 4 OFFLINE   Patrick McCart

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Posted September 20 2007 - 05:16 AM

This is great film and I didn't see it until this new special edition. Every aspect is perfect... it's funny how the S&G songs were considered to be quickly dated, yet they fit in with the film. Besides being incredibly well written, the cinematography and editing really stand out. This is an excellent example of how a Panavision film absolutely requires widescreen presentation. I can't imagine how it would work in pan & scan because there's so many shots that depend on the viewer to see the far edges of both sides of the frame.

I haven't listened to the commentaries yet, but the inteview with Dustin Hoffman (from the old DVD) was fun to watch. It's funny to find out that many of the most memorable stuff was spur of the moment stuff (like Hoffman's hilarious whimper). The new transfer looks fantastic, too.