1976’s All the President’s Men dramatizes the Watergate scandal that had unfolded just a couple of years before. As with the book of the same name, the film witnesses the events through the eyes of young Washington Post reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward who broke, and doggedly investigated the story. What initially seemed like a small time break in at Democratic National Committee headquarters in 1972, eventually led to the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon on August 9, 1974.
Written for the screen by William Goldman, and directed by Alan J. Pakula, Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford star as the two young reporters. Its 1972, both men are still looking to make their mark in the field. Woodward had only been with the paper for nine months, and Bernstein was on the verge of being fired. The film begins with the break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate Office Building. The police caught and arrested five men trying to bug the offices. The Post dispatches Bob Woodward (Redford) to cover the arraignment of the burglars, not thought to be much of an assignment at the time. Woodward quickly thinks there’s more to the story when the burglars show up with their own defense counsel without so much as a phone call. They also identify themselves oddly in front of the judge. With a bit of research, Woodward discovers that the men have CIA ties. Givn that information, Woodward’s editors decide to pair him with Carl Bernstein (Hoffman) for further investigation.
As the two men dig, they discover a plot by the Republican Committee to Re-elect the President (known as “CREEP”) to illegally use campaign funds to put the Democrats at a significant disadvantage. It became clear that these activities went far beyond a simple burglary, and likely had its roots deep within the White House. Possibly, the President himself was somehow behind the operation.
Along with simply knocking on doors, the telephone proves to be a powerful tool for both journalists. Many of the people involved we never see, only hear through numerous phone conversations. We learn about Bernstein and Woodward’s techniques to gain credible information, yet keep the identities of their sources safe. It’s also interesting to experience the journalistic process before the age of the internet and cell phones. The newsroom is a bundle of nervous energy, the constant click-clack of typewriters, and reporters running back and forth. Gordon Willis’ camera follows the characters across the expansive room, moving through cubicles deliberately.
Across the board, the actor’s performances are splendid. Redford’s charm, good looks, and pleasant manner allow him to get right to the point with interviewees and others. In contrast, Hoffman’s Bernstein is a bull in a china shop, determined to get the necessary information, no matter what it takes. The great character actor, Jack Warden, brings working-class humor to his role as their department head, and Jason Robards is perfect as the consummate editor-in-chief, who supports his staff to the end, but from whom he demands the best work.
A taut thriller with no physical action or death, All the President’s Men breaks the rules of the genre. It doesn’t matter though, because the story and performances are so engaging from beginning to end.
This is the exact same transfer that appears on the previous digibook release of All the President’s Men, and it’s a good one. Presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, there are no scratches or other noticeable defects. While the overall image does look just a bit faded, contrast is even. Skintones look a bit flushed, but black levels are solid. Outdoor scenes appear far more impressive, with nice shadow delineation. Grain is noticeable throughout, providing a nice filmic appearance. This is a very natural looking transfer.
The audio is also identical to the previous release. Warner provides a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track that makes up in clarity what it lacks in multi-channel activity. Dialogue is always easy to understand, and David Shire’s music score enjoys fine presence and tonal depth. While bass isn’t really a factor, we are treated to good dynamic range throughout, and effects have notable presence.
English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, German, Italian, Danish, Finnish, and Swedish subtitles are available.
All of the material from the 2006 special edition DVD, with the exception of the Alan J. Pakula trailer gallery, has been ported over to this Blu-ray release:
- Audio Commentary: Producer/actor Robert Redford offers an informative commentary that covers both the film’s production and his interactions with the actual personality’s portrayed on screen. Redford talks about the real-life tensions that existed between Woodward and Bernstein, the difficulties he faced in trying to get a handle on Woodward’s character and his personal relationships with Hoffman, Robards, and Pakula. He also discusses the struggle to get the film made, and various creative decisions.
- Telling the Truth About Lies: The Making of All the President’s Men (SD, 28:22) A look at the film’s journey from book to screen. Things start with Redford’s fascination with Woodward and Bernstein’s work, and screenwriter William Goldman’s concern over the potential “Hollywood-ization” of the story. Casting, script changes, cinematography, and actor’s approaches to their parts are discussed.
- Woodward and Bernstein: Lighting the Fire (SD, 17:54) Presents several journalists, including Linda Ellerbee, Walter Cronkite and Jonathan Alter along with director Oliver Stone, discussing the impact of Woodward and Bernstein.
- Out of the Shadows: The Man Who Was Deep Throat (SD. 16:21) Bob Woodward, William Goldman, Carl Bernstein, Ben Bradlee and others discuss the motivations of Mark Felt, the man eventually revealed to be ‘Deep Throat.’
- Pressure and the Press: The Making of All the President’s Men (SD, 10:05) Made during the film’s original release, we get behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with cast, crew, Woodward, Bernstein, and Bradlee.
- May 27, 1976 Dinah! with Jason Robards (SD, 7:12) in this interview from Dinah!, Robards offers some brief thoughts on the film.
- Theatrical Trailer (SD) A trailer for the film. Released after the Oscar nominations were announced.
- All the President’s Men Revisited (HD, 1:27:46) On a separate disc, this documentary produced in 2013 is directed by Peter Schnall and narrated by Robert Redford. It investigates the entire Watergate scandal from beginning to end. Revisited looks at the event from almost every angle, from the perspective of those involved, Various Nixon associates, those that worked in the prosecutor’s office, and journalists are interviewed. The documentary examines Nixon’s character, and his infamous tapes. Along the way, Redford and Hoffman discus how they crafted their characters for the film. This documentary is excellent stuff, and compliments the film perfectly.
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