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Warner Home Video presents
Network (1976)

"I want you to get mad! I don't want you to protest. I don't want you to riot, I don't want you to write to your congressman because I wouldn't know what to tell you to write. I don't know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street. All I know is that first you've got to get mad."
- Howard Beale (Peter Finch)

Review By: Dan Heaton   
Published: February 27, 2006

Stars: Faye Dunaway, William Holden, Peter Finch, Robert Duvall
Other Stars: Wesley Addy, Ned Beatty, Arthur Burghardt, Bill Burrows, John Carpenter, Jordan Charney, Kathy Cronkite, Ed Crowley
Director: Sidney Lumet

MPAA Rating: R for (includes language and adult situations)
Run Time: 02h:21m:00s
Release Date: February 28, 2006
UPC: 012569764392
Genre: drama


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- A-B+B+ B+

DVD Review

In this modern era of sensational news, celebrity obsession, and outlandish reality series, it feels refreshing to watch a 30-year-old film that covers nearly all of the same concerns. The Internet age has moved these topics to another echelon, but the overall point of intelligent substance being engulfed by nonsense was just as relevant in 1975. While television executives might not hire the contract hit of a low-rated newsman, they do tirelessly search for new avenues (Are You Hot?, So You Think You Can Dance?) to exploit and gain higher ratings.

Network provides a clever mix between personal drama and outright satire to make a direct point about the television medium's unfortunate direction. Peter Finch stars as Howard Beale, the primary network news anchor for UBS, a fictional network trying to make its name against the big guns. Tiring of the low ratings from their newscast, the profit-hungry executives fire Howard from his longtime job. Getting drunk that night with his boss and good friend Max Schumacher (William Holden), he jokes about his meaningless life. Howard even jokes that he's going to kill himself on live television, which draws a laugh but might not be far from the truth.

The story begins fairly slowly and concentrates on the increasing pressure from the bigwigs towards the news division. Then Howard cracks on the air, and all hell breaks loose. Incensed with his bosses' poor treatment of him, Max allows his friend to spout obscenities and speak much too frankly for a generally stern broadcaster. If this were real life, everyone would probably be fired, and that would be the end of the story. But now the satire takes over, and power-hungry Diana Christensen (Faye Dunaway) enters the picture and seizes her opportunity to make a name. Convincing fiery boss Frank Hackett (Robert Duvall) to keep Howard on the air, she sets the unpredictable plot in motion and uses Howard's personal meltdown for her own selfish goals. And the story is just beginning.

Utilizing the bitter tone of Paddy Chayefsky's (Marty) words, the script provides numerous memorable lines that hit home about television. Howard's classic "I'm mad as hell" speech is known for the often-quoted line, but it also showcases a hopeless take on the world's overall direction. Chayefsky wisely turns it into a punchline, a change that would happen today, and purposely removes the sting from the clear statements of a man hovering near insanity. His observations concerning the industry are dead-on, particularly involving Frank's obsession with profits and Diane's willingness to do anything to further her career.

Unfortunately, the script also includes several tiresome subplots that lessen the satire and belong in a dull television movie. The forced affair between the much-older Max and Diane deftly reveals their generation's differences, but it also suffers from a complete lack of chemistry between the leads. Holden is especially good throughout the film, but he appears to lose his way when faced with a less-than-exciting romantic subplot. The only real emotion comes from Beatrice Straight as Max's wife, whose believable response to his affair won her an Oscar. The other problematic element is the inclusion of the ridiculous Communist group led by the Great Ahmed Khan (Arthur Burghardt), who Diane contacts about a possible series. While obviously played for laughs, their scenes do not age well and appear trapped in the Ď70s. These drawbacks do not ruin the film, but they slightly lessen its impact and lack the power of the primary storyline.

Network received 10 Oscar nominations and earned three acting awards for Finch, Dunaway, and Straight. It lost the Best Picture Oscar to Rocky, which offered a down-to-earth human story of triumph that differed tremendously from this film. Certain elements may feel dated 30 years later, but the television satire remains strong and poignant today. I can imagine powerful executives still giving emotionally charged speeches similar to Ned Beatty's crazed presentation. Placing the needs of the company onto a god-like pedestal still drives leaders from all types of corporations to do anything to succeed. This activity goes well beyond the television industry and offers another fine example of Chayefsky's remarkable creation.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.66:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: This release offers a digitally enhanced 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that gives only a few indications that it appeared 30 years ago. A few defects and specks of dirt do exist on the print, however, and some grain does show up within the darker scenes. Considering the technological limitations, however, this transfer does provide a solid viewing experience.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, Frenchyes


Audio Transfer Review: Network is heavy with dialogue and avoids the loud music cues that would shine within a complex 5.1-channel transfer. This disc offers a 2.0-channel Dolby Surround track that presents the lengthy, energetic conversations in clear fashion. The centralized audio works acceptably for this type of picture and fails to detract significanly from the final presentation.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 32 cues
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
2 Documentaries
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Director Sidney Lumet
Packaging: generic plastic two-disc keepc
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Dinah! with Paddy Chayefsky
Extras Review: This special two-disc edition of Network offers a nice collection of brand-new features and easily surpasses the original bare-bones release. The individual extras are described in the sections below:

Commentary with Director Sidney Lumet
Sidney Lumetís film career has crossed several generations, and this wealth of film knowledge serves him well in this feature-length commentary. He speaks with a warm, amiable manner and never conveys any arrogance about his accomplishments. The discussion covers all the key points and includes few breaks, though some of Lumetís observations are fairly obvious.

The Making of Network (1:25:21)
The most prominent feature on the second disc is this six-part documentary, which covers all of the important aspects. Some of the segments do lose focus at times, but the overall presentation is enjoyable. You may choose the "Play All" option or view each piece individually. Details about each specific entry are described in the sections below:

The World and Works of Paddy Chayefsky (11:53)
Producer Howard Gottlieb describes the origins of the story, which began when news appeared about a large corporation attempting to buy ABC. This segment also covers writer Paddy Chayefsky, who shunned studio influence while crafting the film. He died in 1981, so his influence is missed, but the other speakers offer some interesting material.

The Cast, the Characters (13:29)
This feature covers the casting process and all the primary actors who appeared in the film. Lumet discusses the difficulty in making the final choices and gives his opinion on each individual. This piece suffers from including too many film clips instead of interviews, but the conversations do provide some nice information.

Mad as Hell: The Creation of a Movie Moment (7:36)
Howard Beale's famous line was voted as #19 on the greatest all-time movie quotes, and this shorter featurette gives background on that scene. Lumet tried to keep running and do a second take, but Peter Finch was too exhausted to finish it. The final scene contains clips from both takes.

The Experience (25:12)
This meandering feature is the documentaryís longest segment, but the transitions between each point are awkward. The first item is the extensive rehearsal process, which actually took place on the film sets. Faye Dunaway, Ned Beatty, and Lumet all appear to speak about various aspect of the experience.

The Style(17:24)
The shooting style of Network is very deliberate, with the unmoving camera and specific lighting schemes reflecting a specific tone. This worthwhile piece covers the filming and set creation for the nine-week shoot, which is surprisingly short for a Hollywood feature.

By Walter Cronkite (9:47)
Legendary television newsman Walter Cronkite worked with Lumet on the You Are There series in the '50s. He shares his opinions about the film in this final segment, and while he admires the movie considerably, he regards it as a comedy. Cronkite does recognize the dangers of media consolidation and offers interesting comments on the subject.

Dinah! With Paddy Chayefsky (14:02)
This vintage interview with Paddy Chayefsky comes from Dinah! and covers the filmís basic storyline. The writer sits on the couch with a big cigar and looks very odd within the daytime talk show setting. His statement that the story is true is a bit over the top, but his basic point is accurate.

Private Screenings with Sidney Lumet (54:28)
This episode of the Turner Classic Movies series covers his entire career and includes interesting reflections from the accomplished director. Host Robert Osborn talks to Lumet in chronological order, beginning with Lumetís acting career as a kid. Clips appear from all his classic films, including Network which appears well into the feature.

Extras Grade: B+

 

Final Comments

Nearly lost within the discussion of Paddy Chayefsky's caustic writing and numerous fine acting performances is director Sidney Lumet, who enjoyed a remarkable string of classics in the 1970s that included Serpico, Murder on the Orient Express, and Dog Day Afternoon. His considerable skills bring everything together in Network and help to deliver a thought-provoking, entertaining picture.

 


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