"The Graduate" Special Edition standard DVD - Home Theater Forum and Systems - HomeTheaterShack.com

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post #1 of 3 Old 06-10-08, 07:25 AM Thread Starter
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"The Graduate" Special Edition standard DVD

I bought this movie in a package deal at Barnes and Noble as mentioned in my previous review of "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid".

I guess I'll start off by saying that if you haven't seen "The Graduate" yet, by all means screen this special edition version. If you have seen it in it's early transfer, get this one because it's a major improvement. However, it's not the definitive edition of the picture. While it's a good copy and anamorphically enhanced unlike the previous letterbox DVD, the color and sharpness are not as vibrant as they were in the original Technicolor prints which I saw in the 1971 re-issue and at The Elgin in the late seventies in revivals. Perhaps they didn't derive it from the original negative but rather from a color internegative. Or, the negative deteriorated a bit. The color is okay but the contrast is weak in some scenes if not a bit murky. I know there's a French HD DVD of the film that's supposed to look better but has more wear and is only in mono.

The 5.1 remix is fair. At least you can hear the songs in stereo. Not much going on audio-wise outside of that but this movie is a dialogue driven narrative so it is an improvement. Don't expect much of a sound field though.

The movie is still a very funny comedy with a witty screenplay and excellent performances from the leads to the bit players but it's no longer shocking or controversial as it was back in 1967. It's tamer than episodes of "Sex in the City" or "Desperate Housewives" which either shows how cinema has grown up sexually or shows our cultural decline, depending on your perspective. This movie was released within the Production Code guidelines and received a seal which does indicate how lenient it was by that year. That means anyone could attend the theater. Only
two years later, the Production Code was abandoned and the film was rated PG which meant children might have a tougher time getting in to a cinema without an adult. There were five frame flashes of nudity in it (they used a stand in for Anne Bancroft) and a rather sleazy storyline for the time.

I guess what makes the movie so unique is that Nichols was able to make the character of Benjamin (played by Dustin Hoffman) likeable rather than reprehensable. Today he would be classified as a 'stalker' and it's not entirely
clear why Katherine Ross runs off with him at the end since he doesn't seem to have much of a future and behaves like an irresponsible lunatic most of the time. The only other plot point I thought was lacking was the reaction of Benjamin's parents when they find out about his affair with his father's business partner's wife.
How did they react? We never find out. That aside, there are many memorable scenes including the hysterical graduation party, birthday where he's coerced into a scuba suit and the bedroom scenes where Hoffman is a complete clod. Laugh out loud dialogue and performances. Hoffman was completely miscast in the role (at least compared to the WASP person detailed in the book) but once you get past that, it's a real star making performance. The late Anne Bancroft (Mel Brooks wife) acquired her 'definitive role' in this movie which is important for any actor
who wants to be fondly remembered. She's also miscast since she's far too young for the role but she acts like a preditory middle aged woman and pulls it off. Katherine Ross is a bit plastic looking but she was in all of her roles leading up
to "The Stepford Wives". Maybe that was part of the inside joke. "Plastics, Benjamin". She looks too perfect which is why Hoffman stalks her image rather than her personality which is bland. The 'ideal' woman for the Benjamin character. It reminded me of Jimmy Stewart's character in "Vertigo" who also stalks his concept of an ideal woman and there too, it's an illusion. The movie is dated but in an enjoyable way. This picture does illustrate the 'sixties' or at least one part of the era which was a split decade for movies. The first half displayed the remnants of the studio system at it's peak ("Lawrence of Arabia", the Bond films) and the second half the counter-culture influence ("Easy Rider", "Woodstock"). By 1970 the industry was in a culture war as movies like "Airport" vs. "MASH" competed for boxoffice revenue and audiences. By 1975, the culture war was over for the time being and mainstream movies made a comeback with pictures like "Jaws",
"The Sting", "Superman" and "Star Wars". By 1980 there were very few counter-culture films released and the earlier ones seemed hopelessly dated. Try sitting through "Putney Swope" or "The Strawberry Statement" today. In hindsight, the cinematic counter-culture was a flash in the pan. Fortunately, for "The Graduate",
the acting and screenplay are so good, it doesn't matter and some of the cultural references seem quaint and nostalgic now. The theme of a graduate unsure of his future and wanting something 'different' for his life is still a universal concept although few people would opt for Benjamin's choices. The last shot of the film in the bus was very poignant as Hoffman and Ross suddenly consider what they've just done and realize it isn't going to work.

The second disc in this special edition contains a CD of the four songs by Simon and Garfunkel. I was surprised that's all that was contained in the feature but they set the mood for the movie and are among the best tunes by that duo. Garfunkel went on to have short lived movie career beginning with "Carnal Knowledge" in 1970 and he was pretty good actor. Simon attempted a starring feature film role in "One
Trick Pony" but didn't register at all. He was an excellent composer (like John Lennon) but wasn't able to capture a viable screen persona.

The most disappointing aspect of this special edition are the suppliments. The few documentaries included are very repetitive containing the same clips and pieces of interviews and could've easily been edited into one. The audio commentaries by Nichols and Hoffman are also less than thrilling. The production history of this movie is quite fascinating but little of it is contained in the discussion. For example, the script was floating around Hollywood for years without any studio interest. The
person who ended up producing it was Joseph Levine who was an exploitation distributor of badly dubbed sword and sandal films like "Hercules Unchained". How did they persuade him to distribute it since it was far out of his league and he
was considered a schlock meister in the industry along the lines of K. Gordon
Murray? This picture legitimized him and he later went onto produce another
controversial film, "Carnal Knowledge". That's a real story for film buffs. Nichols had been criticized for his stagey direction of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf" but this movie is very stylish. How did he develop such a unique editing and cinematraphy method from one film to the next? His first movie was in B&W and this was in Technicolor and Panavision. No details on that either. How did he circumvent the production code restrictions about showing nudity? Screenwriter, Buck Henry, was simultaneously writing for the TV shows "Get Smart" and "Captain Nice". He brought in William Daniels and Alice Ghostly from
the latter into this movie. No discussion of that either or how he moved from sitcoms to feature film production. All we get are puff pieces with everyone complementing each other years after the fact with little background on the movie itself. I always found the butt kissing commentaries pretty tiresome. I prefer it when they really give the flavor of what it was like making movies in the era which was so different that it is today. This was the decade of the 'auteur' rather
than the corporate style of movie making. I got no sense of that from the suppliments. Perhaps a future blu-ray release of this classic will correct this along with getting better materials to master from. Levine's Embassy pictures went bust
long ago. Who physically has the camera negative now and what condition is
it in? Has it been restored and preserved? I guess time will tell.

Last edited by Richard W. Haines; 06-10-08 at 07:50 AM.
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post #2 of 3 Old 06-11-08, 10:21 PM
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Re: "The Graduate" Special Edition standard DVD

Ummm,... guilty. Never seen it,... not even bits and pieces here and there.

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post #3 of 3 Old 06-12-08, 03:56 AM Thread Starter
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Posts: 792
Re: "The Graduate" Special Edition standard DVD


Then check it out. The dialogue and performances are very funny. It won't seem
like 'the most significant film of the sixties' which is how critics described it back then but it's still an entertaining picture.

There is a follow up film called, "Rumor Has It", where Jennifer Aniston discovers
her family was the inspiration for the novel and movie which is mildly amusing. Kevin
Costner plays the Dustin Hoffman character and looks more along the lines of how the book describes Benjamin and a very old Shirley MacLaine plays the Anne Bancroft role. The joke is Benjamin not only sleeps with the grandmother (Mrs. Robinson) but Elaine (the daughter) and Elaine's daughter too. In short, he does every female member of the family.
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