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All The President's Men: Two-Disc Special Edition

Warner Bros. // R // November 12, 2013
List Price: $19.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Randy Miller III | posted November 25, 2013 | E-mail the Author

Regardless of your age or level of political interest, the Watergate scandal remains a frustrating, flagrant and fascinating period of American history. A 1972 break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters was thwarted, preventing information theft and attempted wiretapping. Eventually, all five burglars were connected to President Nixon's re-election committee; naturally, Nixon denied any knowledge (even after their conviction the following year). Yet in the months and years to come, an investigation led to the conviction of Nixon's top aides and mounting suspicion of the President's criminal involvement. Soon enough, his impeachment was called for but Nixon resigned first.

All The President's Men (1976) neatly summarizes the efforts of Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein as they gradually uncover the truth about Watergate. Based on Woodward and Bernstein's eponymous 1974 book, we're quickly introduced to these journalists (Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman, respectively) from the initial break-in coverage to their final draft of the story as Nixon is sworn in for the second time. It's a period of just over six months: the book and scandal are obviously more detailed as the scandal continued to snowball for months and years afterwards, but this "tip of the iceberg" approach gives All The President's Men a tight, invigorating quality that feels exhaustive but not exhausting. Surviving a number of script rewrites, a hasty newsroom set reproduction (after The Washington Post refused to allow camera access) and, of course, the hot-button nature of a controversial current event that hadn't quite settled down yet, All The President's Men set the bar high for docudrama filmmaking.

Nominated for eight Academy Awards that year (including Best Picture along with Bound For Glory, Network and Taxi Driver, all of which lost to Rocky), All The President's Men remains effective due to the dedication of cast and crew, its authentic production design and, of course, the political source material that continues to draw in curious citizens...even those who weren't alive at the time. Whether you saw it theatrically or you're new to the picture, the accessible structure, tone and hard-hitting approach makes All The President's Men an impossible film to forget.

Originally released in 2011 on Blu-ray, it's taken a whopping two years for All The President's Men to get reissued on the same format. Not surprisingly, this two-disc Special Edition---hastily titled as the "40th Anniversary of Watergate", which marks the year when The Washington Post printed the full story and public interest exploded---pairs the previous disc with a brand new Blu-ray featuring "'All The President's Men Revisited", a worthwhile full-length retrospective documentary featuring Redford, Woodward, Bernstein and more. Owners of the initial 2011 edition have every right to grumble, while more casual fans might just want to wait another three years for the actual 40th anniversary.

NOTE: Disc 1 of this two-disc Special Edition is exactly the same as Warner Bros.' 2011 Blu-ray.

Typical for a Warner Bros. release, the film's original 1.85:1 aspect ratio has been ever-so-slightly opened up to 1.78:1. The film's distinct mid-1970s pedigree is evident almost every step of the way: grain is abundant, blacks are a little troublesome and the color palette leans towards orange/yellow at times. For most, this is how All The President's Men has always looked, but this film is obviously in need of a facelift. Many were disappointed with its appearance the first time around and the lack of a fresh remaster is definitely a letdown...though not surprising, given the studio's track record. What's here is largely watchable but scenes filmed in low light are flat and tough to follow, while outdoor sequences and close-ups fare the best. Overall, though, this is a sub-par effort by 2011 standards, let alone 2013.

DISCLAIMER: The screen captures featured in this review are strictly decorative and do not represent Blu-ray's native 1080p image resolution.

The audio isn't quite as disappointing. The DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio thankfully avoids faux-surround trickery, as this dialogue-driven production doesn't really need any additional help to capture your attention. Sound effects and David Shire's music cues are crisp and dynamic without fighting for attention. Optional Dolby Digital 1.0 dubs have been provided in French, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, German and Italian. Optional subtitles are also offered in English (SDH), French, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, German, Italian, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish.

Warner Bros.' typical barebones interface is used; the sub-menus are cumbersome to navigate but at least everything's organized nicely on both discs. This two-disc release is housed in a silly eco-friendly keepcase and both Blu-rays have been locked for Region "A" playback only. No slipcover, insert or digital copy have been included, surprisingly enough.

Disc 1 (again, identical to Warner Bros.' 2011 Blu-ray) recycles all the extras created for the studio's own 2006 Special Edition DVD. These include an Audio Commentary with Robert Redford, a trio of short Featurettes ("Telling The Truth About Lies", "Woodward and Bernstein: Lighting the Fire" and "Out of the Shadows: The Man Who Was 'Deep Throat'"), a vintage Behind-the-Scenes Featurette, a short 1976 Interview with Jason Robards and the film's Theatrical Trailer.

Disc 2 is the real draw: it's a feature-length documentary entitled "'All The President's Men Revisited" (88 minutes). This recent production includes participation from Redford, Woodward and Bernstein as well as Tom Brokaw, Jon Stewart, Rachel Maddow, Joe Scarborough, Nixon-era White House assistant Alexander Butterfield and more. Largely focusing on the Watergate scandal and how journalism has changed during the last 40 years, "Revisited" offers a welcome "where are they now?" snapshot and, more importantly, a pretty solid entry-level introduction to specific events that shaped the original film. Originally airing on The Discovery Channel back in April, the home video release of this documentary appears to be exclusive to this release...and though I doubt many existing fans will find it "worth the upgrade" on its own terms, it does make this edition more appealing to those who don't own All The President's Men on Blu-ray yet.

For obvious reasons, All The President's Men continues to leave an impression almost 40 years after its original release: this focused exploration of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein's relentless Watergate journalism is a fine example of the docudrama done right. Warner Bros.' Special Edition combines the 2011 Blu-ray with a bonus disc containing "'All The President's Men Revisited", a worthwhile feature-length retrospective documentary. Those who already own the previous disc probably won't be eager to "upgrade" this quickly (especially with the film's 40th anniversary just a few years away), but those who don't own All The President's Men on Blu-ray may want to indulge. Mildly Recommended.

Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs and writing in third person.
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