Graduate, The (UK - DVD R2)
Reviewer Marcus Doidge is not seduced by The Graduate on Optimum's DVD...
The 1967 classic directed by Mike Nichols gets another release on DVD and gets another chance to give us UK residents a decent special edition. We all know the story by now, whether it’s in our affections for the movie itself or through the countless spoofs, nods or homages that just seem to pop up on a regular basis. Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) has graduated and begins the story as the talk of the town amongst his parents' friends. Obviously uncomfortable with the accolades and attention, Ben tries to escape the crowds but is approached by Mrs Robinson (Jesus loves you more than you will know) (Anne Bancroft), the wife of his father's business partner.
Taking Mrs Robinson (Heaven holds a place for those who pray) home, Benjamin is soon cornered by Mrs Robinson (Jotting Joe has left and gone away, Hey hey hey) who offers herself on a plate (not literally). Not long after delivering the classic line ‘Mrs. Robinson, you're trying to seduce me’, Benjamin flees but after a few days calls Mrs Robinson (Hey hey hey—Okay, I’ll stop) and the affair begins.
All seems to be going well for a couple of weeks until Benjamin’s father (William Daniels) begins hounding his son about having a lack of direction and what’s worse, both of his parents are constantly trying to convince him to go out on a date with Elaine Robinson (Katharine Ross), the daughter of the cougar in Benjamin’s life, Mrs Robinson. After a series of events the date happens and try as he might to provide a terrible time for Elaine, such as taking her to a strip club and ignoring her—classy—Benjamin falls for the young Miss Robinson and then the problems really begin.
The Graduate is one of those classics I have a great deal of respect for. For starters, considering it’s a movie made in the late sixties it feels incredibly modern. It’s handled in a way that almost feels as if it metamorphosises from being a fairly standard sixties set up into a full blown piece of modern cinema or I guess at the time, the next wave of cinema. At the centre of all of this, is Dustin Hoffman. His performance is way ahead of its time. In the opening scenes he feels so ridiculously out of place in amongst the group of very sixties performances that you initially aren’t sure how to read him at all. He’s uncomfortable, he mumbles, he feels out of his depth and his little nuances are just Hoffman at his best. All of this is what makes Benjamin Braddock so damn interesting and well... brilliant.
As the movie moves on you suddenly get this realisation that Hoffman's performance and the general feel of this character's world is still being copied today. Benjamin Braddock is sort of the blueprint for all of these quirky indie coming of age movies that we’ve seen so much of over the years. These characters that have no control over their lives and have no real direction. They get themselves in almost ridiculously silly scenarios only to find love right in the one place that will blow their entire lives wide open and force them to start over.
I suppose, it can also be said, that many of the glossy romantic comedies that appeared after The Graduate also took similar scenarios and in turn took them their absolute breaking point in regards to the sillies, but The Graduate has so much more to offer than just that. It's got class. It’s focused and takes its lead character on a genuine journey. From bumbling sixties humdrum to banging on the window at the woman he loves' wedding to escaping on a bus to who knows where, with what seems little clue as to what he’ll do next. The Graduate broke a mould and embraced a generation of young adults who connected to Benjamin Braddock and for better or worse, filmmakers have been catering to that crowd ever since.
What a mixed bag this was. Aside from the sixties softness that comes with the style of the movie, the image is generally good. Colours are bright and in some cases even vivid. Some of the interior backgrounds look fantastic due to the movie's lighting and there are even some exterior scenes that really show off the transfer. Unfortunately underpinning all of this is the one huge problem this transfer has—blacks are terrible. They are rarely even black. Everything dark is a noticeable dark green tinted fuzziness. Benjamin’s suit for example, is about three different colours depending on the lighting in the movie's first act.
Once I’d noticed how the transfer was suffering in the dark, the more it continued to bug me as the movie travelled on. The hotel scene where Benjamin talks to Mrs Robinson about how she got together with Mr Robinson was a real show stopper. Every time either one of the characters turns the lights off, there’s this bizarre blue tint to their silhouettes. I also noticed a lot of surface marks that showed the movies lack of restoration. I don’t know how much better this is in other editions or if it suffers quite as much on the HD DVD release, but I’d hope there’s been more love and attention to this movie elsewhere because if there hasn’t been, it’s screaming for some.
Presented here in Dolby 2.0 Stereo, The Graduate does very little to impress. The fantastic Simon and Garfunkel tracks sounds great, even though it has to be said that the annoying overuse of Scarborough Fair has always bugged me. Everything else is bog standard. Dialogue is clear enough, but atmospherics are lazy (except the great sounding fish tank in the Ben’s bedroom). There’s no range in the dynamics, noises off camera are merely plonked in the right or left speaker rather than given any sense of their actual placement in the scene and all in all outside of the high points of the great songs, this mix is forgettable.
Now here’s where I totally don’t get what’s going on with the release. Recently released on R1 was the 40th Anniversary edition, (remember 40th—this will be important later) which had a healthy set of features, commentaries and even an added CD with the Simon and Garfunkel songs from the soundtrack. Brilliant right?! So why is it on this R2 release, we get none of that? We get ‘The Graduate at 25’ documentary (22:30). At 25! Not 40—at 25! Now I’m all for archival features showing us the anniversaries of yesteryear. In fact, I almost insist they do it on the classics (I’m looking at you George Lucas—take the hint) but only when they are an additional feature to back up a new modern one or maybe even a bigger one that has some historical significance (like the one on Jaws). I mean, this ain’t even a documentary from the last five years. This was fifteen years ago and it’s only a twenty-odd minute TV special really, and however good it might be (which it actually turns out it is) knowing what else is on offer makes this feel a bit of a cop out.
In addition to this, there’s an interview with Dustin Hoffman (4:30) from the same twenty-five year anniversary, which is too short for its own good, despite talking about The Graduate sequel ideas and other little stories.
There’s the weirdly included four ‘Original Widescreen Excerpts’ (5:08), which are presented in 4:3 showing the film in widescreen (?) and of course a trailer(3:39).
The Graduate is an undeniable classic thats influence just seems to run and run. It has a fantastic lead performance and a great little soundtrack. Unfortunately for this DVD re-release, it just doesn’t have the goods that the R1 release has in quality extras. Even if the R1 has the same video and audio transfer as this, which I'd hope it doesn't (feedbackers let us all know for sure), I really don’t see why anyone would opt for this release out of the two options. In fact the only reason I could ever imagine anyone wanting to get their hands on this, is if you wanted the fifteen year old TV documentary in your collection for nostalgic or completist reasons, or if the R1 wasn’t an option for you.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 15th September 2008
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo English
Extras: The Graduate at 25 Documentary, Dustin Hoffman Interview, 4 x Original Widescreen Excerpts, Trailer
Easter Egg: No
Director: Mike Nichols
Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft, Katharine Ross
Genre: Comedy, Drama and Romance
Length: 101 minutes
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