Two 1970s American classics get a spiffy update on Blu-ray.
In 1976, America was swept up in a tizzy of Bicentennial fever. Red, white, and blue bunting was everywhere you looked. The government reissued the two-dollar bill. Paul Anka hosted an NBC special called Happy Birthday, America. But underneath all of the shiny, happy jingoism were the still-fresh scabs of our messy exit from Vietnam and the recent resignation of Richard Nixon. The country was sick. And Hollywood became our national shrink, serving up a double-dose look at what was ailing us in Network (1976, R, 2 hrs., 1 min.) and All the President's Men (1976, PG, 2 hrs., 18 mins.). Commemorating their 35th anniversaries, both films have gotten flashy new Blu-ray releases packed with Extras like juicy commentaries, vintage interviews, and rich making-of featurettes that give us a peek behind the celluloid curtain. When Sidney Lumet adapted Paddy Chayefsky's scathing satire Network, we were all still at the mercy of three TV networks, whose trusted nightly news anchors were the stentorian voices of God. There was no Fox News, no Daily Show, and carny-barking reality TV freak shows were still a couple of decades off. But somehow Network saw them all coming. Craven TV execs like Faye Dunaway's may have seemed harmlessly cartoonish then, but now they feel like a dangerous prophecy come true. It's only a matter of time before some on-air Tea Party type has a Howard Beale-style meltdown, urging us to go to our windows and shout, “I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!'' The film's never been more timely. Ditto for Alan J. Pakula's All the President's Men. Based on Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein's best-seller about cracking the byzantine Watergate cover-up, the movie is a victory lap for American journalism the triumphant flip side to Network's self-loathing take on the media. It also anticipated our current WikiLeaks era, with Robert Redford (Woodward) and Dustin Hoffman (Bernstein) milking anonymous sources and burning shoe leather to speak truth to power. These films are timeless and essential, raising thorny questions we're still struggling to answer 35 years later. That must have been heavy stuff to be hit with at the multiplex in 1976. Maybe that's why Rocky walked away with Best Picture. Both films: A