Network: Special Edition

January 28, 2012 10 Min Read

Review by: Christopher Bligh

Plot: What’s it about?

If there was any director in any decade that was the definition of a hot streak with many consecutive films going for much acclaim and awards one of them would be Sidney Lumet as the mid-1970s proved not only award viable but also extremely varied whether it came to a bank robbery gone wrong, a Victorian whodunnit aboard a train or Sean Connery and his band of merry men robbing a building on Labor Day weekend only to discover surveillance following him everywhere he goes. When it came to the bicentennial year, the film that came out of him was simply about television and a figure of television that would go one step further while the others tried to find a way to protect him or exploit him. After all, it’s all in a normal period of seasons in this television Network.

UBS, the fourth channel on the television dial, has been the laughing stock of television. Its programming has always gotten killed in the ratings and there seems to be no hope in site when a corporation is in negotiations of buying UBS and finding ways to profit off it, particularly in the news division. At the same time, newsman Howard Beale (Peter Finch) has been going through trouble professionally and personally and one night in front of a live news audience after hearing that he’ll be let go proposes to kill himself on the air one week from the day. This causes immediate panic amongst particularly with his boss Schumacher (William Holden) who’s own grief with his news division getting cut causes him to leave Howard on the following night in a more outrageous message to the audience from him. With that the ratings are high and now UBS and their main programming boss, Diana Christensen (Faye Dunaway) will do anything they can to boost up the news with him leading with his rants while unknown to them, he’s suffering as it is and its only a matter of time when it’ll all become madness.

This is one of the most unique films to come out of that great era of film where the characters and the writing were at top form. It boasts a wonderful cast with the well deserved nominees and winners along with a few on the outside that did solid work that weren’t honored like Robert Duvall who seems to have something up his sleeve every time as the corporate representative. With every bit of dialogue and with every bit of scene, it’s almost like a very good play translated into a great motion picture and many are given speeches but with every bit of conviction and strength that we the audience can just feel the edge coming so close that the tension can be felt and that’s without using a gun or any violence.

It remains one of the most hookable screenplays with quotable lines and a feeling of “I wonder what’s gonna happen next” with this insane network of crazies. It never goes over the top and keeps a reserve that is saved for the quiet moments away from UBS even though there are some that have their own share of insanity as well. It’s amazing how it foresaw a lot of what we see in today’s television right down to the ones grounded to reality.

Once again, another one of Lumet’s touches works out extremely well for this film, the absence of an original score but rather in its place, a narrator that we never see documenting all that is happening throughout (voiced by Lee Richardson). Through everything, Network makes what could be easily campy and over the top into something more than managable with a serious film with comic overtones.

Video: How does it look?

This is the second go around for Network on DVD and in comparison with the previous DVD, the 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer is a decent one. Network is mostly an interior movie rather than an exterior movie where a lot takes place inside so there are a lot of dark scenes and a lot of drab colors and the transfer benefits slightly from it although some of the brighter scenes have their share of specklage but not as often as one viewer would think. It does have some improvements here and there but overall the film’s visual quality is good but not great.

Audio: How does it sound?

The Dolby Digital Mono track doesn’t have much to demonstrate one’s home theater system as this being mostly a dialogue driven film and the lack of a musical score doesn’t help the outer channels in much use either. Most of the sound comes from the center channels and the dialogue can be heard there along with an effect or two but the film does suffer from the sound of that time having a touch of muteness and the dialogue comes out clear and the shouting comes out loud but not booming or as echoing. It’s up there but it’s got limitations. This disc also has a French Mono track along with English, Spanish and French subtitles.

Supplements: What are the extras?

With this Two Disc Special Edition of Network, gone is the previous Nielsen extra and in it’s place is a lot more. Along with the films theatrical trailer on disc one, there is an audio commentary by director Sidney Lumet and it goes into little details in the making of the film along with a look back to the director’s early days behind the camera in television. It provides a well informed anectdotal track that stands along the other fine Lumet tracks, as always, worth a listen.

On disc 2, there is The Making of Network, a multi part documentary covering all the bases from the writer Paddy Chayefsky and his development of the script to the casting and the little side comments here and there from many of the films players living presently along with the producer and director Lumet putting in his two cents and making for an almost ninety minute look of the film that takes the format of the film and applies it to the documentary in a most different fashion. Nevertheless the time goes by rather quickly during this entertaining documentary that can be viewed in the different parts individually.

Also is a clip from the talk show Dinah! with Paddy Chayefsky and it’s a reminder to this viewer how much this kind of talk show is missed in television where sometimes it wasn’t so much what you plugged but what you were willing to bring to the show and anything more is always welcomed and to see any clips of Paddy and any kind of representation from him other than stories and pictures is worth a watch anytime.

Finally, there is Private Screenings: Sidney Lumet, an hour focusing on director Sidney Lumet with TCM host Robert Osborne going over the majority of his films and his thoughts on them. This also was a great reminder to me with the films that Sidney’s done along with the ones this viewer didn’t know he did and a few have made it to the wish list so with the chatting up which went by wonderfully it is a great show on the channel and this episode is a great example of how good the show is and that it can fit so much in that one hour and should get most of you to watch it when it is on.

Ending on a great note on disc two and earning the title of Special Edition, Network provides its share of valuable extras and still one of the most solid dialogue driven films to come out of any decade that not surprisingly is required viewing material in communications classes around the country to show the inner workings of television and on DVD it comes very well recommended as it is an improvement in most ways from the previous single disc release.

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