Network is one of those classic films I haven’t seen until now, this one being centered around Howard Beale (Peter Finch), a fantastically successful newscaster whose luck started to change in 1969 when his ratings declined and he suffers the loss of his wife, leading to alcoholism and then losing his job.
With two weeks notice left to go before they give him his P45 (or whatever they used to give in the US, in 1976), he announces, live on air, that he’s going to blow his brains out on national TV a week from now….
On hearing this, you’d expect everyone in the control room to start doing their fruit, but… not a blip! Why? Because they’re not paying a blind bit of attention to him. And when it’s pointed out to them, panic stations ensue. However, surely something that’s even more shocking is some of the male haircuts in 1976!
Meanwhile, Diana Christensen (Faye Dunaway) wants to turn the news show into something more entertainment-based in order to help the news network turn a profit for a change. And given his Howard’s bizarre behaviour and apparent prophecies, the network turn his ranting into a ratings hit, even though it’s more of a circus sideshow with the main man clearly suffering a mental breakdown, including the moment when he declares “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more!!”
In fact, it’s the same kind of ranting you’d get if Russell Brand was put in front of a live camera every night at 7pm. If he took over Channel 4 News, for example. Can you imagine that? Horrific…
The film slows down a fair bit when Peter Finch isn’t onscreen, even though there’s some great talent on display including William Holden, Faye Dunaway and Robert Duvall, the first two having been nominated as Best Actor and Actress, respectively of course, with Dunaway winning, but Holden losing out to Finch, who certainly gives what I’d consider a career best performance even though, I’m ashamed to say, I think this is the first film of his I’ve ever seen (I have a lot of catching up to do).
And I’m sure that that’s Tim Robbins making a cameo appearance in this film, a couple of times, but he has publicly stated that he did not appear in the film.
I don’t fully understand the talk of ratings and shares in the terms they use in this film, as their process is not quite how it’s done in the UK, but I can gather when one is falling.
As for the main man, Peter Finch is an absolute powerhouse, here. I hadn’t seen this film before now, and didn’t initially realise that the Finch died so soon after it was released, in fact it was even before the 1977 Oscars ceremony. Finch was planning to come out of self-imposed exile to Jamaica after the success of a film. I need to catch up with his body of work, and would’ve loved to have seen the films he would’ve made beyond Network.
The film is presented in its original 1.85:1 theatrical ratio and in 1080p high definition. For a near-40-year-old film, the print looks absolutely incredible. Sure, it’s a bit soft overall, but that’s down to the original print and if you do spot any minor defect, again that’s been filmed at the time and is no fault of Arrow’s. This picture looks amazing for its age. For the record, I’m watching on a Panasonic 50″ Plasma TV with a Samsung BD-P1500 Blu-ray player.
As for the audio, it’s in mono. It would make little sense for anyone to try and make a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack out of it because it’s mostly dialogue from some of Hollywood’s greats, and the dialogue is best left alone.
There’s some occasional bizarre noises heard from the soundtrack when dialogue, which sounds a bit like someone’s been messing with an equaliser. It’s clear that this is from the original recording and nothing at Arrow’s end and, as such, although it only happens a handful of times, it gives off a nostalgic feel as a result.
The extras are mostly made up of a couple of superb in-depth pieces, starting with…
- The Directors: Sidney Lumet (59:38): This is a 1999 episode of the series, which contains interviews with luminaries such as Jack Lemmon, Rod Steiger and Christopher Walken, plus Lumet, himself, and despite running for an hour it only has 4 chapters to break it up, the last one only lasting a minute or two to wrap up the show.
- Tune In Next Tuesday: The Making of Network (47:06): Dave Itzkoff takes us through the film being put together, including the conception, the script, sellingit to TV stations, the casting, filming it, its release, the awards and covering the death of its lead actor.
Itzkoff also wrote Mad As Hell: The Making of Network, and the Fateful Vision of the Angriest Man in Movies.
- Theatrical trailer (3:17): A very long trailer in 16:9.
- Collector’s booklet: A booklet featuring new writing on the film by Mike Sutton (“A Very Humane Manifesto“), plus an American Cinematographer article by director of photography Owen Roizman, illustrated with original stills and artwork, and a brief summary of the American TV ratings system, which told me everything I needed to know in a nutshell. How does it work? You’ll have to buy this to find out!
As you put the disc in, you get part of Finch’s famous rant. There are subtitles in English, but when it comes to the chaptering, I feel one should come every five minutes on average. Arrow, like many other distributors, go for a low 12 however long the film. I would like them to increase that number. Subtitles are in English.
Network is out now on Blu-ray, and check out the full-size cover by clicking on the packshot.
Running time: 121 minutes
Distributor: Arrow Films
Released: March 23rd 2015
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: PCM Uncompressed mono
Disc Format: BD50
Director: Sidney Lumet
Producer: Howard Gottfried
Screenplay: Paddy Chayefsky
Music: Elliot Lawrence
Howard Beale: Peter Finch
Diana Christensen: Faye Dunaway
Max Schumacher: William Holden
Frank Hackett: Robert Duvall
Nelson Chaney: Wesley Addy
Arthur Jensen: Ned Beatty
Great Ahmed Kahn: Arthur Burghardt
TV Director: Bill Burrows
George Bosch: John Carpenter
Harry Hunter: Jordan Charney
Mary Ann Gifford: Kathy Cronkite
Joe Donnelly: Ed Crowley
Walter C Amundsen: Jerome Dempsey
Barbara Schlesinger: Conchata Ferrell
Milton K Steinman: Gene Gross
Jack Snowden: Stanley Grover
Caroline Schumacher: Cindy Grover
Bill Herron: Darryl Hickman
Arthur Zangwill: Mitchell Jason
TV Stage Manager: Paul Jenkins
Merrill Grant: Ken Kercheval
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.