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All The President’s Men: Two-Disc Special Edition (Blu-ray Review)

All-The-President's-MenHere’s a weird thing to celebrate and commemorate.  While I understand we SHOULD award and appreciate the journalism and work done to uncover the Watergate scandal, its still a very dark spot in American history.  Its something I do think is good to look back on and learn from but an All The President’s Men “Yay! ‘40th Anniversary Of This Horrible Event Edition!” is a little odd, but Warner Bros wants a way to repackage this movie and sell a documentary, so here we go.  They’re also “celebrating” JFK’s assassination later this month with a new edition of JFK, but that’s another thing.  Anyway, the good thing is a I got to review one of the greatest thrillers in film history for Why So Blu.  So, if odd circumstances grant me that high honor and privilege, then thank you, Warner Bros!

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Film     

This film chronicles the uncovering of the entire Richard Nixon presidential scandal beginning with the burglars caught breaking into the Watergate building.  The story is told from the eye of two rookie reporters as they start with something little and wind up with one of the biggest discoveries of corruption in US history.  The film deals with shady characters, intimidating persons and possibly life threatening scenarios.  Not only is this a great film chronicling an event in American history, it’s also one of the finest displays of American cinema.

All The President’s Men was well represented at the Academy Awards for films released in 1976, nominated 8 times and winning 4 of those nominations.  It was nominated for Best Picture, but that year had steep competition of films that are still quite notable even today.  A lot of times, looking back on the nominations one might say “What film?” The others nominated in 1976 were Rocky (the winner), Taxi Driver, Network and Bound For Glory.  So, as you can see, it was amongst other legends.  It did win half of its nominations, so it did its fair share of trophy taking.

Surprisingly of those not nominated was cinematographer Gordon Willis.  He almost is the star of the film.  Through his tones and carefully stages shots, he is able to give this story even more life.  His moving pictures take on a life of their own and tell the story itself.  I make no secrets that the 70s is probably my favorite era of cinema and Willis’ work is a prime example as to why and also a type of film we don’t get anymore.  It’s a patient, expertly crafted film.  We get to sit and enjoy what we’re looking at.  Every frame counts and means something.  The camera moves with purpose.  A shot itself lends itself to storytelling.  Had this been made today, it would try to intensify everything with quick, flashy, super lit shots instead of letting the script, actors, director and cinematography create it themselves.

Robert Redford is responsible for this film becoming the juggernaut that it was.  He took an interest early on and changed even the book from which it was based during the writing stage.  He felt the story was with the reporters when telling it, prompting the real life Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein to change the focus of their novel.  Redford not only found a history lesson but something that would make for great cinema.  And he was right on the money.  He wasn’t planning to star in the film, but in order to get it done proper, her agreed to star.  And from the sounds of it, everything fell into place just as planned.

Like a lot of 70s thrillers and dramas, performances are huge and legendary.  This film is no different.  Redford and Dustin Hoffman are a perfect pairing.  The two apparent not only learned their own lines, but each others.  It creates for an incredible and absolutely believable dynamic between the two actors as if we’re watching real people perform investigative journalism.  Jason Robards won an Academy award for his role here, and while it’s not as colorful as some of his competition was, it’s incredibly grounded and ultimately deserving.  He’s got a couple scenes that are just kinda “wow” once they finish.  I also really enjoyed Hal Holbrook as “Deep Throat”.  The man could have hammed and done his best to steal scenes, but he never tries to rise above the film or material, but by just becoming one with it he enhances the few scenes he’s in. There’s not enough space to mention everyone, but all performers from one line to hundreds brings their A game and intensity.

All The President’s Men is the seminal political thriller.  All films tackling politics and thrillers should use this movie as a reference point.  It’s crazy the way the film plays out with you knowing the outcome, yet still puts you on the edge of your seat and biting your nails.  That’s the sign of a remarkable achievement.  Young audiences today might be even more captivated (granted they enjoy vintage cinema first) as the subject is now 40 years distanced from the American conscious so they might not be as deeply informed.  Recently, the Ben Affleck directed Argo was able to pull off many of the same feats as All The President’s Men.  Affleck was clearly inspired and devoted this film to work success into his.  All The President’s Men should be a mandatory film for those who love cinema, thrillers, politics, journalism and history.  Hell, just watch it, it’s a fantastic movie.

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Video     

This is the same transfer used in the previous release of All The President’s Men.  The 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encoding provides an extremely detailed gorgeous picture at times and then others a bit soft or lacking.  There’s a nice layer of grain present throughout to tickle the vintage junkie like myself in the 1:78.1 frame.  Detail is high when the film is lit proper.  The close-ups on paper in typewriters show you every little bit of its texture.  Also Robert Redford’s hair looks quite pretty here.  The problem spots come in scenes in the dark.  The black in the film is just black.  There are no discerning levels of shade.  Part of that is intentional however.  There is a scene in a car with the two leads that you really can only see just shadows.  It could be bothersome to some viewers, but this reviewer was okay with it.  When the movie is well lit(primarily in the Washington Post office), the film just sparkles and looks to be a fantastic transfer.  I guess that’s what it is, it’s just inconsistent.

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Audio     

Don’t be disappointed by the lack of a refurbished 5.1 track, folks.  This movie doesn’t really call for it.  The DTS-HD MA 2.0 track is more than plenty.  As a matter of fact it’s quite stellar.  This is a dialogue driven film and it captures it perfectly as if you’re in a room involved in the conversation.  This track doesn’t even sound dated at all.  It’s really clean and crisp.  Sometimes older films tend to show a little of there analog origin, but this one has zero sign of it.  The audio is almost as any modern drama would be in a 2.0 setting.  Please note, just like the video transfer, the audio track is also from the previous release of this movie.

Additional Audio Tracks – French Mono, German Mono, Italian Mono, Spanish Mono, Spanish (Spain) Mono, Portuguese Mono, Japanese Mono

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Extras     

This is a 2 Blu-ray set.  The first disc with the feature is the exact same disc that is already available.  The second disc is the only thing with new content, providing a feature length documentary.

Disc 1

Behind The Story

  • Telling The Truth About Lies: The Making Of All The President’s Men (HD, 28:22) – The actors, crew and real people involved discuss getting the film from events to book to the screen.
  • Woodward And Berstein: Lighting The Fire (HD, 17:54) – Woodward, Bernstein and other journalists discuss the importance of their work and the influence it’s had since.
  • Out Of The Shadows: The Man Who Was Deep Throat (HD, 16:21) – A little piece on the man known as “Deep Throat”.  His life and his work on unraveling the Watergate scandal.
  • Pressure And The Press: The Making Of All The President’s Men (HD, 10:05) – A vintage making of feature from around the time of the film.

 Extras

  • 5/27/1976: Dinah! With Jason Robards (HD, 7:10) – A vintage talk show appearance with actor Jason Robards.

 Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:51)

 Disc 2

All The President’s Men Revisited (HD, 1:27:46) – A feature length documentary (made recently by Redford) that goes back and looks over the whole agenda leading up to making the film.  Features the cast, crew, people involved and journalists weighing in on this piece of history.  This is the ULTIMATE feature that could have ever been included for this movie and is a big time recommend.

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Summary     

I don’t think I need to tell you if you’ve somehow never seen All The President’s Men that you need to see it.  Its one of the greatest thrillers ever made.  It’s masterfully crafted and brilliantly performed.  Filmmakers old and new would do good by returning to the well dug by this movie to grab inspiration or to look for what works when making a thriller.  What this review comes down to is whether or not this release is worthy.  This is the best version ever released of the film.  That’s easy.  The question you’re going to have to ask yourself is, if you already own it, is it worth this upgrade.  Like The Exorcist 40th Anniversary last month, it’s really hard for me to recommend it based on a smaller addition and the same video transfer of the film.  Unlike that release, I think the addition is far more significant and worthwhile for the fan, that I do recommend it more than that one.  However, if you’re able to see the documentary by other means, then no its probably not worth the hassle of double dipping.  That said, this is a fantastic catalog release.


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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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