DVD Review HTF REVIEW: Network Two-Disc Special Edition (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED).

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Herb Kane, Feb 19, 2006.

Tags:
  1. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

    Joined:
    May 7, 2001
    Messages:
    1,342
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    [​IMG]
    Network
    Two-Disc Special Edition





    Studio: Warner Brothers
    Year: 1976
    Rated: R
    Film Length: 121 Minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Enhanced Widescreen
    Audio: DD Monaural
    Color/B&W: Color
    Languages: English & French
    Subtitles: English, French & Spanish
    MSRP: $26.98
    Package: Two discs/Double Keepcase



    I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore…!

    The Feature:
    Unlike last year’s inaugural installment of Warner’s Controversial Classics Collection, Volume Two includes three new Special Editions of previously released films – all of which deal which controversial issues relating to the media. Included in the collection are: All The President’s Men (1976), Dog Day Afternoon (1975) and the feature film, Network (1976). Each of the titles list individually for $26.98 or the entire Collection can be had which lists for $59.98.

    The television news industry has been well represented on screen with one example being Broadcast News, starring William Hurt, Holly Hunter, and Albert Brooks, and directed by James L. Brooks, which takes an affectionate-but-pointed look at what goes on behind-the-scenes. Network, director Sidney Lumet's contribution, goes much farther. It's a drama – perhaps even a dark, dark comedy that ruthlessly skewers the news industry then serves it on a silver platter. The irony to Network is that it is perhaps much more profound now than when it debuted thirty years earlier at least in terms of how it deals with the trash that now permeates television – sadly, it’s no longer a novelty.

    Network is brilliant, but it's not very funny in the conventional sense. Those looking for a bellyful of laughs will be better served elsewhere. This movie has its share of amusing moments, but the comedy is so bleak that it's best appreciated on the intellectual level. I can envision a viewer chuckling grimly and nodding his or her head at some of Network’s nastiest barbs – particularly as they think of what modern-day trash-filled hour they’re reminded of while watching this film. Network is best enjoyed for what it is - a blistering social commentary that uses exaggeration to make its point.

    The story takes place in the news room of UBS-TV, (FOX must have purchased this station somewhere along the line…) a fictional, last-place network. The UBS Evening News, anchored by veteran Howard Beale (played by Peter Finch) is struggling, coming in way behind ABC, NBC, and CBS. In an attempt to reverse its fortunes, UBS decides to fire Beale and bring in someone new. The night after Beale is told of his firing, he announces on-air that not only has his contract been terminated, but that he will kill himself during his final broadcast in one week. "I'm going to blow my brains out right here on this program," he states. The network is flooded with calls of protest.

    After a discussion with UBS' news director, Max Schumacher (played by William Holden), Beale agrees to rectify the situation and wants to end his career with a note of dignity and to not go out “like a clown”. So, that night, the anchor states that he has decided not to go ahead with the suicide, then proceeds to deliver a blistering attack on life in America, calling it "bullshit". Schumacher is fired for allowing the broadcast to go out, but, when the overnight ratings indicate that Beale's tirade was a huge hit, he discovers that he still has a job. Meanwhile, a programming executive at the network, Diana Christensen (played by Faye Dunaway), pleads with the new head of UBS, Frank Hackett (played by Robert Duvall), for control of the news division. She claims she can make UBS News the most watched newscast in the country. When she's given the opportunity, she revamps the broadcast, turning it into a cross between a variety show and an evangelical program, with Howard Beale, the "Mad Prophet of the Airwaves" as the centerpiece. Therein lies the irony; in many ways, the show is a forerunner of today's tabloid gossip dreck that’s shown continually around the dial.

    Absolutely unaffected or concerned about his lack of integrity, Beale is all-too-happy to be a part of Christensen's vision, Schumacher, an old-school proponent of the "hard news" approach, is less thrilled. To pacify him, Christensen begins an affair with him - one that causes Max to leave his wife, Louise (played by Beatrice Straight). Meanwhile, on the air, things are good, with Beale turning into a national phenomenon. Then, inevitably, ratings begin to drop. Beale's message becomes too depressing for the public. Drastic measures are called for.

    The final scene of Network is intended to be frankly shocking. And, when the movie was released in 1976, it was. Since then, however, television in general, and the news in particular, has become so openly grotesque and sensationalistic that Network’s finale seems more credible than appalling. In fact, you’ll find yourself sitting and thinking about the various encounters that have been broadcast over the past 10 years – incidents so graphic and fantastic, they would never have even been considered for regular broadcast 30 years earlier.

    Network’s point is, of course, that ratings drive everything. Everyone in the broadcast industry recognizes this, and so does most of the public, so it's not exactly a revolutionary concept. What's unique is the film's outrageous approach to the subject and it’s seemingly ability to predict what would prevail. And Network doesn't just stop with the numbers - it delves into the reasons why certain programs do better than others and what the viewing public really wants (which is often very different from what they say they want with an unblinking frankness that is sometimes uncomfortable). More than 30 years ago, director Sidney Lumet and writer Paddy Chayefsky possessed a prophetic vision - it's almost as if they saw Jerry Springer, Jenny Jones and Dr. Phil coming – what a vision…!

    Network was brought to the screen by a film maker with a tremendous track record, and this was undoubtedly one of his greatest success stories. It earned Sidney Lumet, the director of 12 Angry Men, Serpico, Murder on the Orient Express, Dog Day Afternoon, and The Verdict, one of his four Best Director Oscar nominations. Though he didn’t win any, he was the recipient of last year’s Academy Honorary Award. While I won't go so far as to claim that Network is Lumet's best effort, (this reviewer feels that 12 Angry Men holds that particular title), it ranks alongside Dog Day Afternoon (also about the corruption of the media) as one of his most pointed social commentaries.

    The cast, which earned five acting nominations (and won three), is stellar. The best-known member of the ensemble group is William Holden and is a top 5 favorite of mine starring in such personal favorites as: Picnic, The Turning Point, Union Station and The Dark Past. An Oscar-winner for Stalag 17, Holden’s more memorable films would include Sunset Boulevard, Bridge on the River Kwai, and The Wild Bunch. Here, as the morally-burdened Max Schumacher, Holden brings depth and life experiences to a crucial role. Schumacher is the character in Network that the audience most identifies with, and Holden's brilliant performance is the reason why.

    As Diana Christensen, Faye Dunaway won an Oscar for her work here. Her character is smart, manipulative, cold, and sexy. Clearly, she isn’t above using her sex-appeal for advantage. Schumacher offers this pointed description of his lover: "I'm not sure she's capable of any real feelings. She's televisions generation. She learned life from Bugs Bunny." Alongside roles in Bonnie & Clyde and Chinatown, Dunaway's performance in Network remains among her most accomplished.
    The third member of the main trio is Peter Finch, who was given a posthumous Oscar for the part of Howard Beale. Finch died some two months before the Awards ceremony. It was his second nomination (the other being for Sunday Bloody Sunday) and only victory. The actor's performance is masterful, as he essays a man on the cusp of desperation and madness. Finch gives Beale his power and charisma, making it possible to understand how a nationwide audience could be captivated by this latter-day evangelist.

    The supporting cast is no less impressive. Robert Duvall plays the ruthless and calculating head of UBS - a man determined to lift the struggling network from the mire it has slipped into. Ned Beatty received an Oscar nomination for his performance as a businessman who warns Beale about whom he can and can't insult during his "sermons." And Beatrice Straight won a Supporting Actress statuette for portraying Schumacher's long-suffering wife, Louise, who is deeply hurt by her husband's rejection of their 25 year marriage in favor of an affair with Christensen.

    The Feature: 5/5
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]



    Video:
    So this might very well be the paragraph that many readers start with wanting to know immediately whether they should run out and replace their existing version with the new Two-Disc Special Version. I’m not a huge proponent of double dipping, especially when there are no improvements to the presentation, however, such is not the case with Network. In fact, all three of the new Controversial Classic releases have been cleaned up and improved upon enough to allow a pass for a double dip, if you’re so inclined. What struck me with the previous releases was how dull and tired everything looked. Skin tones were pasty and the films lacked any texture whatsoever. In this case, skin tones looked real – Holden’s swarthy look appears real and genuine and Duvall looks like he’s alive again. All colors in fact, are vibrant with nice saturation. Contrast and shadow detail is excellent.

    Image definition was downright amazing – for the most part. There were a few scenes that bordered on being just slightly blurry, but I was mostly impressed with the newer version. While there is still a hint of fine film grain present, the overall look of the film is less grainy than the previous version but without question, offers a much greater sense of depth and texture.

    There were instances of dirt or slight scratches but far less than the previous version. There were also instances of slight light shimmer but they were infrequent and not at all bothersome. Compression seems to have been handled with perfection.

    A very nice effort.

    Video: 4/5
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]



    Audio:
    Not really much to speak of here with this DD monaural encoded track. The entire film is virtually dialogue driven and for the most part does everything well. Regular dialogue is always bold and intelligible. There are a few scenes when things get heated and the shouting becomes edgy. The “mad as hell” scene where Beale suggests everyone yells from the windows (combined with a thunderstorm) is another scene which has a difficult time with edginess. This only pops up a couple of times and really isn’t that big of a deal.

    Tonality is mostly natural and the track is basically clean and free of any popping or other noisy distractions. There is the slightest hint of hiss that can be heard throughout but I’m really nitpicking here. Other than the incredibly corny music that is used to open Beale’s new show, there is virtually no music present at all.

    Although I was unable to tell any difference from the original release, this is a decent track that does what it needs to.

    Audio: 3/5
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]



    Special Features:
    As we have come to expect with Warner’s Two-Disc Special Editions, this set is loaded with quality supplemental material starting with:


    Disc One:
    [*] First up is a Commentary with Sidney Lumet. Needless to say this commentary is terrific. Mr. Lumet does an outstanding job at taking us through the film from concept to finish product. He expresses a great deal of respect for Paddy Chayefsky and his ability for foresee the future. He offers up a number of interested tidbits relating to all of the performers and delivers at a reasonable pace. It’s clear Mr. Lumet doesn’t have much use for today’s television… can you blame him…? Very interesting.
    [*] The Theatrical Trailer is the only other feature that appears on the first disc and it is in reasonably good shape. Duration: 2:59 minutes.


    Disc Two:
    [*] The second disc starts off with a new documentary called The Making of Network, written, directed and produced by Laurent Bouzereau. The feature is comprised of a number of individual segments – or can be viewed with a play-all option. The individual segments look like this:

    - Network: The World and Words of Paddy Chayefsky
    - Network: The Cast & Characters
    - Network: Made as Hell! The Creation of a Movie Movement
    - Network: The Experience
    - Network: The Style
    - Network: By Walter Cronkite

    Included in the documentary is Lumet as he discusses his relationship with Chayefsky. Perhaps most importantly, the special also covers Chayefsky’s script and its development. Other participants include, Howard Gottfried, Philip Rosenberg, Alan Heim, D.P. Owen Roizman, Lance Henriksen, Faye Dunaway and Ned Beatty. Perhaps my favorite segment includes Walter Cronkite as it is interesting to hear his take on the film from the anchorman who might very well have been the most respected man to ever deliver the news. His comments relating to the film 30 years ago contrast with the film – present day. Some repetition occurs here with the commentary but there is enough to keep fans interested. Total duration: 85:22 minutes.
    [*] Dinah! With Paddy Chayefsky is a terrifically candid interview where Mr. Chayefsky discusses his feelings on society and how they relate to the film (his script). This is an interesting little interview in which he bears great passion for the new film. Duration: 14:02 minutes.
    [*] And finally, we have Private Screenings with Sidney Lumet. Hosted by Robert Osborne, this is the original feature which aired on Turner Classic Movies. This clearly follows the interview format with Mr. Lumet and host Robert Osborne. Following through his work in chronological order, a number of topics are discussed including Lumet’s early roots on stage up to and including his recent Honorary Academy Award. I always enjoy Mr. Osborne and his “screenings” and this is another terrific installment. Duration: 54:28 minutes.

    Special Features: 4/5
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    **Special Features rated for the quality of supplements, not the quantity**



    Final Thoughts:
    Network garnered 10 Oscar nominations and walked away with four wins (Actor - Finch, Actress - Dunaway, Supporting Actress - Straight, and Screenplay - Paddy Chayefsky). Yet, Network’s strength as a film centers around the realities of television and the so-called relationship between news and entertainment. Though many people refer to the film as a satire, interestingly enough, Lumet himself calls it “sheer reportage”.

    As Beale says in his most inspired speech:

    "Television is not the truth… Television is a circus, a carnival, a traveling troupe of acrobats, storytellers, dancers, singers, jugglers, sideshow freaks, lion tamers, and football players. We're in the boredom-killing business."

    This is Lumet's message to the audience, and it, like Network, is just as pertinent today as it was in 1976. In fact, a case could be made that the movie works better when viewed in present day, because things that seemed far-fetched 30 years ago aren't nearly as unbelievable today. One wonders if a future generation will look back at this film and wonder if it was "based on a true story."

    So the majority of readers are wondering whether or not to upgrade from the original release…? In a word; absolutely. The film has been handled with care and is trimmed with a healthy assortment of informative supplemental material. Most importantly, it is a film that deserves to be in any serious library.

    Overall Rating: 4.5/5 (not an average)
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    Highly Recommended…!!!



    Release Date: February 28th, 2006
     
  2. TonyD

    TonyD Who do we think I am?
    Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 1999
    Messages:
    17,395
    Likes Received:
    519
    Trophy Points:
    9,110
    Location:
    Gulf Coast
    Real Name:
    Tony D.
    i cant wait to see it again.
    i havent watched the furst dvd in years.

    those docs look lke they'll be a great watch.
     
  3. Ric Easton

    Ric Easton Cinematographer

    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2001
    Messages:
    2,822
    Likes Received:
    86
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Thanks for the review! I am greatly looking forward to this along with the rest of the boxset. Fortunately the only double dip for me will be Dog Day Afternoon.
     
  4. Russell G

    Russell G Fake Shemp

    Joined:
    Sep 20, 2002
    Messages:
    11,441
    Likes Received:
    672
    Trophy Points:
    9,110
    Location:
    Deadmonton
    Real Name:
    Russell
    I'm blind buying the boxset, with all three films being ones I wanted to watch but never got around to. Looks like it's going to be worth it!!
     
  5. oscar_merkx

    oscar_merkx Lead Actor

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2002
    Messages:
    7,626
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    0
    a must buy as usual
     
  6. Bob Turnbull

    Bob Turnbull Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    Dec 2, 2001
    Messages:
    840
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Network was one of the first films to really make me go "Wow!". I saw it for the first time when I was 17 in a Media and Communications class and it remains one of my all time favourite films. "I'm mad as hell..." is almost an overused cliche at this point, but when Finch delivers the monologue that contains this passage, it's riveting.

    The supplements look tremendous. I would've double dipped on this even with just the commentary and improved image. Thanks for the great review Herb!

    Russell, I'm slightly envious of you being able to see this for the first time. Hope you enjoy it.
     
  7. Bradley-E

    Bradley-E Screenwriter

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2003
    Messages:
    1,019
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    I can't wait! This is may 2nd favorite movie of all time! It is just brilliant.
     
  8. Richard Matich

    Richard Matich Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2001
    Messages:
    121
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Thanks for the review Herb. I bought the box set yesterday. The picture quality on all three are jaw dropping. The doc where Robert Osborne sits down with Sidney Lumet was fantastic. Another great job from Warners. Wow! [​IMG] They told in the chat that it would rock. They were not kidding! THANK YOU WARNER BROTHERS HOME VIDEO!!!! [​IMG]
     
  9. Paul_Scott

    Paul_Scott Lead Actor

    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2002
    Messages:
    6,546
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    0
    imo, this set is the first ESSENTIAL purchase of 2006.
    i watched Network again last night and was floored- the transfer is good- certainly much better than the earlier disc (which i sold off after one veiwing because the image was sub par and i knew there just had to be a better version somewhere down the line for this). Was surprised at how sibilant the audio was though. There is a LOT of shouting going on in this film and it gets shrill and distorted- something i don't recall noticing in the earlier disc (although that could be because i was so distracted by all the artifacts in the video).

    that aside the film is bloody amazing. I honestly think this is the best film i've seen in the last 5 years or so (probably longer) and has to be one of the greatest films ever made. Everything, and i mean EVERYTHING, clicks here- the thing just crackles with brains and heart. It's a masterpiece.

    and i laughed my ass off.

    i was on the fence about this set, thinking i would try to put off all things like this until a DDD sale, but i caved and am glad i did. Even the $42 i paid from Amazon for this was a steal.
     
  10. Sam Favate

    Sam Favate Lead Actor

    Joined:
    Feb 3, 2004
    Messages:
    6,706
    Likes Received:
    1,435
    Trophy Points:
    9,110
    Real Name:
    Sam Favate
    The other day I was reading some of the dialogue from Network on a web site, and it made the hair on the back of neck stand up. I haven't watched the movie in about 2 years, but I am anxious as hell to get the 2-disc edition.

    Say it with me: I'm an anxious as hell and I'm not going to wait for very long!
     
  11. Bradley-E

    Bradley-E Screenwriter

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2003
    Messages:
    1,019
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Amazing that Lumet made this film right after DOG DAY AFTERNOON. A director making 2 great films a year apart from eachother does not happen anymore. The 70's is still the best decade for film.
     
  12. ted:r

    ted:r Second Unit

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2005
    Messages:
    336
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    I can't wait to watch this and all the supplements. "Network" is easily in my top ten films of all time and every time I watch it (must be more than 20 by now) my jaw drops at the absolute brilliance of everthing: performance, script, direction. What was thought of as exaggeration back then is horrendously close to the truth now. Just simply, one of the most brilliant films I have ever seen.

    "You can blow the seminal prisoner class infrastructure out your ass! I'm not knockin' down my goddamn distribution charges!"
     
  13. Sam Favate

    Sam Favate Lead Actor

    Joined:
    Feb 3, 2004
    Messages:
    6,706
    Likes Received:
    1,435
    Trophy Points:
    9,110
    Real Name:
    Sam Favate
    Very disappointed. My CC2 copy of Network won't play in either of my DVD players. It's going to have to go back. Do you recommend sending the whole CC2 box back to Amazon, or calling Warner and trying to just get a replacement for Network? Anyone have a number for Warner?
     
  14. Doug_B

    Doug_B Screenwriter

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2001
    Messages:
    1,081
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Tough call. Absolutely love the movie, and think that Faye elevates herself above any of her other performances (that I've seen), but I reside near the no-double-dip extreme of the spectrum. Maybe the extras will do it for me.

    Doug
     
  15. BarryS

    BarryS Second Unit

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2002
    Messages:
    424
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Brilliant, brilliant movie. Probably one of the best screenplays ever written by Mr. Paddy Chayefsky. Every performance is stunning and the film is superlative in every way. An absolute knockout. Anyone who hasn't seen Network should do so immediately. Excellent DVD too.

    I can't believe Network lost Best Picture to bloody Rocky!!
     

Share This Page