The Graduate: Criterion Collection (Blu-ray)

February 12, 2016 11 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton and Christopher Bligh

Plot: What’s it about?

The end of the sixties brought along a lot of new kinds of filmmaking inspired by the European filmmakers who were making a killing on films earlier in the decade with their unique visions and alternative narratives. Out of one such unique vision, there lied a director who’s first film had an impact both with audiences and critics and in black and white raised a lot of eyebrows with Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. That director is Mike Nichols and for his next film, he tells a tale in living blushing color about a love triangle that tells the tale of a past. present and future of The Graduate.

Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) has just graduated and has absolutely no idea what the future may hold. Although many give him suggestions, he takes them and passes along the time not thinking too much about them. One night after a party at his parents house, a family friend Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft) needs a ride home but not before long a few minutes turns into a lot longer as when Benjamin brings her home, there’s a lot more in store for him and her and the effects there after will change Benjamin for the rest of his life.

This was an early memory of mine especially the promos on Channel 11 in New York where the climax would be featured many times and with those memories and as I got older I got to understand the movie better and with that being said, The Graduate is a film that grows on all with its unique editing that got shunned at the Oscars along with the vivid palette the film brings in darker and lighter moments but a most unique tone that many films have tried to duplicate but in the end could not come close to having the same impact as this film.

The film keeps things going thanks to a snappy script by the great Buck Henry and with the acting by all, The Graduate makes one question what to do with ones life when many try to rush you through to their fast track but realize if a few steps are taken back and the big picture is revealed, the future looks like a much further thing than one possibly can imagine. It’s a film that warrants multiple views for its laughs, its serious moments and reliving the experience which are three things that signify any great movie with many viewers and does one thing a lot of movies fail to do today, balance comedy and tragedy with just the right elements without diminishing its effect.

Video: How’s it look?

Good lord – The Graudate is nearly fifty years old. Fifty! I want to ask how something like that happens, but we know it all too well. Suffice it to say that this film has seen every incarnation of home video from VHS tapes to LaserDisc to DVD and now Criterion’s Blu-ray offering. Right out of the gate, we know that this is one of America’s most beloved films and we know that Criterion’s track record is nothing short of stellar. That being said, I was nearly giddy with anticipation when I put the disc in my player. As we might expect, a new 4K master was created a couple of years ago and approved by Director Mike Nichols. As we all know, Nichols passed away in late 2014 so although this isn’t a brand new 4K restoration, it still got the job done. Having seen the film in nearly every format, I dove right into some choice scenes that looked simply amazing. I’d wanted to see the underwater scene where Benjamin was pondering his life. The scenes in which little beads of sweat cling to his face and the texture in Katherine Ross’ hair. Criterion’s 2.35:1 AVC HD image isn’t perfect, there are still a few things here and there, but they image is so improved over any other version I’ve seen my jaw was on the floor. I don’t know why, Criterion continues to do this with nearly every film they put out, so the fact that I’m actually surprised at how good this looks shouldn’t be a surprise at all. As I’m sure anyone reading this will know, this is as good as the film has ever looked and viewers shall not be disappointed.

Audio: How’s it sound?

Nearly as important as the film itself is the iconic soundtrack by Simon and Garfunkel. Their songs are littered throughout the movie, but feel as they’re present from beginning to end. There are two tracks to choose from here, a restored Mono track as well as a DTS HD Master Audio mix. I listened to several scenes with both options and I have to say that I was fairly impressed by the DTS track.Yes, it does lack the depth that today’s modern soundtracks possess, but the guitars seem to jump back and forth from the front two channels. Vocals seem to have an improved quality to them, losing some of that distortion that was present in earlier versions. For purists, the Mono soundtrack obviously lacks the range of the 5.1 track, but still sounds pretty darn good. I know there are those out there that won’t/don’t want to watch a movie like this with a full 5.1 track, so it’s a good thing that Criterion provided this additional track.  Whatever version is chosen delivers.

Supplements: What are the extras?

I haven’t checked all of the previous versions, but I do know that Criterion had a LaserDisc version of this a while back. I’m willing to bet that a number of those supplements, if not all of them, have made the cut here. Nevertheless, there are a couple of newly-produced features for this Blu-ray, so let’s dive right in and check out all of the supplements.

  • Audio Commentary – Originally recorded in 2007, Mike Nichols and fellow Director/Writer Steven Soderbergh collaborate on a very unique and informative track. The two discuss the films rich history, some of the shooing choices (which I studied frame by frame in my film classes) as well as some comments on the cast in general.
  • Audio Commentary – Going back a long ways, we get UCLA film scholar Howard Suber as he discusses some of the more subtle tones in the film. This, I believe, was on the original Criterion LaserDisc released back in the early 90’s. Nevertheless, its a great track from a slightly different perspective.
  • Buck Henry and Lawrence Turman – New to this Blu-ray is a segment featuring screenwriter Buck Henry and producer Lawrence Turman. The two comment on the film, the director’s choice as well as some of the overtones of the movie and Nichols in general.
  • Dustin Hoffman – Also new to this Blu-ray is an interview with Dustin Hoffman as recounts the movie that made him a star and discusses everything and anything about the movie. Running nearly 40 minutes it’s nice to see things like this added to a classic film.
  • Paul Simon and Dick Cavett – An episode of The Dick Cavett Show featuring Paul Simon as he discusses his involvement with the movie.
  • Mike Nichols and Barbara Walters – Director Mike Nichols is interviewed by a very young (circa 1966) Barbara Walters and discusses the film, its reception and some of the political tones involved within.
  • The Graduate at 25 – Some of the main players from the film are present in this feature that was obviously made in 1992 of the film’s 25th anniversary. Not a lot is learned here that we didn’t already know, but it’s nice to see some of these people discuss the film that even then meant to much to the film community.
  • Students of The Graduate – Originally produced in 2007, this documentary has interviews with many Directors who pay tribute to Mike Nichols. Interviews with the late Harold Raims, David O. Russell and Jonathan Dayton are included.
  • Sam and Mike – Film historian Bobbie O’Steen discusses her late husband who served as the film’s editor.
  • Screen Tests – We get a look at some of the other “would be” Benjamin and Elaine’s.
      Tony Bill and Jennifer Leak

      Robert Lipton and Cathy Carpenter

      Dustin Hoffman and Katharine Ross

  • Theatrical Trailer – In case you forgot how trailers used to look and sound…
  • Leaflet – Journalist and critic Frank Rich puts his .02 in on the movie.

The Bottom Line

The Graduate is one of America’s favorite movies for a reason – it’s timeless. It’s a timestamp in an era of political upheaval and features some amazing performances by all involved. The icing on the cake is that this is being released by Criterion and it goes without saying that the movie both looks and sound as good as it ever has. Add to that the plethora of supplements, some newly-produced, and you’ve got a winner in every sense of the word. This should be on every movie-lovers’ shelf.

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