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Mike Nichols
Anne Bancroft, Dustin Hoffman, Katharine Ross, William Daniels, Murray Hamilton, Elizabeth Wilson
Writing Credits:
Calder Willingham, Buck Henry

A disillusioned college graduate finds himself torn between his older lover and her daughter.

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English LPCM Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 106 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 2/23/2016

• Audio Commentary with Director Mike Nichols and Filmmaker Steven Soderbergh
• Audio Commentary with UCLA Film Scholar Howard Suber
• “Buck Henry and Lawrence Turman” Featurette
• “Students of The Graduate” Featurette
• “The Graduate At 25” Documentary
• Interview with Dustin Hoffman
• “Sam and Mike” Featurette
• “Mike Nichols and Barbara Walters” Clip
• “Paul Simon and Dick Cavett” Clip
• Screen Tests
• Trailers
• Booklet


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


The Graduate: Criterion Collection [Blu-Ray] (1967)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 8, 2016)

1967 qualifies as an amazing year, mainly because that's when I was born. However, I hear that a few other things happened as well, not the least of which seems to be that it was a fine time for movies.

Often the race for the Best Picture Academy Award becomes a fairly tepid affair because none of the nominees appear terribly compelling. However, 1967 seemed to be one of those years like 1994 or 1939 where a bunch of standouts hit the screens.

Of the five Oscar nominees, only one - Dr. Dolittle - looks like a mistake, as the others remain solid films. While I won't strongly argue against the selection of In the Heat of the Night as the winner, I do feel that it probably wasn't the best of the bunch. The strongest and almost certainly most influential and enduring of 1967's picks was Mike Nichols' The Graduate.

Its failure to win Best Picture seems like no surprise because it was such a small, personal film. It was one of those "coming of age" movies but without the beer and nudity that genre appears to require these days. Okay, there was alcohol and nudity in The Graduate, but not in the Porky's sense. In the Heat of the Night gave the Academy one of their beloved "social cause" movies, so its win during those "progressive" times seemed virtually inevitable.

Nonetheless, The Graduate remains the big hit from that year, both financially and historically. In regard to the former, it was the top box office draw for the year, and as for the latter, it launched Dustin Hoffman's career. Would we ever have heard from that unusual little man had he not appeared here as Benjamin Braddock? Probably, but it still acted as his first prominent role.

It's a tribute to Hoffman's later success that we don't reflexively think of him as Ben. Actors often get stuck with one persona, especially when they hit it big like this.

While he has demonstrated obvious staying power and talent, I don't think Hoffman ever surpassed his work in The Graduate. Hoffman's portrayal of Ben reached a level of perfection I don't think he's been able to equal in the years since then.

Although I think he tends to rely too heavily on gimmicks, I can't deny Hoffman’s overall talent. But Ben was not just a well-executed performance, it was also a very natural one, which is an area that has often been weak for Hoffman. He tends to favor mechanics over emotion; I think Hoffman over-intellectualizes his work.

That isn’t the case with Ben. As played by Hoffman, he comes across exactly as he should at virtually all times. Hoffman never hits a wrong note or falters in the least. It's an absolutely stunning performance, so strong that it's a tribute to Hoffman's drive that he didn't just coast on its success for a number of years. To his credit, Hoffman has often shown a proclivity for roles in challenging films; he would develop a new "signature character" just two years later in Midnight Cowboy.

Of course, Hoffman didn't perform in a vacuum, and the supporting cast also seems excellent. The Graduate was a well-cast film, as not a single part appears to offer the wrong person. Anne Bancroft was only six years older than Hoffman when she played Mrs. Robinson, which is a stark contrast to the decades that are supposed to separate them.

As such, while Hoffman had to play about a decade younger than his actual age, Bancroft had to go a decade older, and she did so wonderfully. For the most part, Mrs. Robinson is a limited role - Bancroft receives little opportunity to provide any kind of emotion other than anger or bitterness - but Bancroft nonetheless makes her seem real and full.

As does Katharine Ross as Elaine Robinson. Again, this character gets only a limited emotional range from the script; Elaine enjoys a bit more leeway than does her mother, but still seems mainly required to look beautiful, virginal and pure. However, Ross is able to convey a wide variety of feelings and thoughts via her limited part. Elaine seems believable and realistic throughout the film.

Director Mike Nichols paces the film wonderfully and maintains an exquisite balance between comedy and drama. The Graduate offers quite a few terrific laughs and remains funny through repeated viewings, mainly because many of the amusing bits result from the nuanced performances. The jokes themselves don't seem that funny, but the way they're acted does.

Also, the sense of realism that pervades the movie helps keep it fresh and compelling. If one closely examines the film, one could easily pick it apart for various overly stylized parts and other aspects that could detract from its truth, but the picture flows and holds together so well as a whole that such criticisms are largely rendered meaningless. I don't think The Graduate is the best and most enduring film of the Sixties, but it's pretty high on that list.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B/ Bonus B+

The Graduate appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became a strong presentation.

Sharpness seemed positive. Any softness resulted from the source material, and the majority of the movie looked accurate and concise. I saw no jaggies or shimmering, but edge haloes cropped up at times. Given the level of detail in the image, though, I’ve begun to suspect these were part of the original photography, as they didn’t seem to represent attempts at artificial sharpness.

Print flaws were absent, and colors looked vivid. The movie had a mild browning feel at times typical of the film stock, but the hues were otherwise lively and full. Blacks looked deep and dark, while shadows appeared clear and well-developed. This became an impressive image.

The film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundfield opened up the image in a minor way. The forward spectrum dominated, as the sides broadened to give us occasional examples of effects and localized speech. I wasn’t wild about the latter, as the lines tended to bleed a bit, but the dialogue popped up from the sides infrequently enough that it wasn’t a big distraction.

Music also spread to the sides, though not with great stereo imaging. Surround usage was minimal, as the back speakers offered minor reinforcement of the front and that was about it. This wasn’t a particularly ambitious soundfield.

Audio quality seemed good given the age of the material. Speech could be a little thin but the lines appeared natural most of the time. Music displayed nice delineation, with reasonably clear highs and some good range.

Effects didn’t play a major role, but they appeared acceptably accurate and well-defined. I’m not sure The Graduate needed one 5.1 remix much less two, as the original mono material should suit it just fine. In any case, the remix was subdued enough to complement the material in a satisfying manner.

How did the Criterion Blu-ray compare to the Blu-ray from 2011? Audio seemed to be virtually identical, but the Criterion Blu-ray offered a considerable step up in visual quality. The 2016 disc looked better defined, cleaner and more natural.

The Criterion release mixes old and new extras, and we start with two previously-released audio commentaries. The first comes from director Mike Nichols and filmmaker Steven Soderbergh, both of whom sit together for this running, screen-specific piece. They discuss how Nichols came onto the project and script development, casting, rehearsals and performances, themes and symbolism, influences and cinematography, production and costume design, the use of music, editing, characters and subtext, locations, reactions to the film, and various scene specifics.

Soderbergh and Nichols have done commentaries before, so they’re clearly comfortable with each other. Soderbergh acts more as a facilitator than as an interviewer. He helps prompt various concepts from Nichols and also digs into the film from a deeper point of view than usually found from this kind of piece.

This works exceedingly well. Occasional dead spots materialize, but those are minor and non-intrusive. Instead, Nichols proves very chatty and engaging as he delves into his movie. We learn a ton about the creation of the flick as well as introspective thoughts. This is an excellent commentary that may be the best I’ve heard so far this year.

From the 1987 Criterion laserdisc, the second commentary features UCLA film scholar Howard Suber. He discusses a few facts about cast/crew as well as deleted scenes, but mostly Suber touches on interpretation. He goes over a variety of filmmaking techniques and how they impact the viewer.

I thought I’d prefer a track with a heavier dose of production nuts and bolts, but Suber offers such a good appraisal of the movie’s methods that I don’t mind the essential absence of those elements. Suber gives a slew of insights and makes this a strong, insightful piece.

Created for the 2007 DVD, Students of The Graduate runs 25 minutes, 58 seconds as it presents notes from producer Lawrence Turman, screenwriter Buck Henry, editor’s wife Bobbie O’Steen, filmmakers Harold Ramis, Marc Forster, Valerie Faris, Jonathan Dayton, and David O. Russell, USC film professor Bruce Block, critics David Ansen and Owen Gleiberman, UCLA film professor Vivian Sobchack, film music historian Jon Burlingame, LA Times chief pop critic Ann Powers, and IFC’s Henry Rollins. “Students” gives us a few basics about the production but mostly acts as an appreciation of the film. The participants provide interpretation of various movie elements and breakdown those components.

This varies between general praise and good insight. At its best, “Students” digs into the filmmaking processes, but it also can just blather about wonderful the flick is. Nonetheless, it’s reasonably interesting and informative.

A carryover from an older release, The Graduate At 25 fills 22 minutes, 40 seconds. 1992 interviews with Hoffman, Ross, Henry and Turman appear and are intercut with production stills and scenes from the film. Nichols and Bancroft are notable in their absence.

“25” is too short and actually feels like an edited version of a longer program, but it nonetheless covers a lot of significant and interesting facts. The show gives us rudimentary details about the production and grants us some useful insight. However, “25” does become somewhat redundant when viewed along with the other extras. It still maintains some pleasures and unique information, but it’s not a fresh program.

After this we get a 2015 chat between screenwriter Buck Henry and producer Lawrence Turman. This conversation lasts 24 minutes, 56 seconds and includes their thoughts about the project’s origins and path to the screen, the novel and its adaptation, cast and performances, Nichols’ impact on the production, camerawork, and related areas. Henry and Turman interact in a charming manner and give us a fun look at the film.

Another new interview features actor Dustin Hoffman. In his 37-minute, 50-second interview, Hoffman discusses his audition and how he got the part, his character and performance, working with Nichols and his co-stars, and connected film-related elements. Hoffman brings us a lively, informative chat.

With Sam and Mike, we get a 26-minute, 13-second piece with editor Sam O’Steen’s widow Bobbie. An editor/writer/historian herself, she reflects on various filmmaking techniques involved in The Graduate. O’Steen touches on the same kinds of subjects found in Suber’s commentary, and she adds more valuable interpretation.

Archival pieces follow. From July 29, 1966, Mike Nichols and Barbara Walters occupies 15 minutes, 34 seconds and provides a Today Show segment. Nichols talks about how he reacts to reviews, working with actors, future projects and aspects of his life. I wouldn’t call this a hard-hitting chat, but it comes with a good view of Nichols at a certain place in his career – a place right before the casting of The Graduate, a chronological factor that makes it more intriguing.

From April 9, 1970, Paul Simon and Dick Cavett goes for five minutes, 29 seconds. A snippet from Cavett’s talk show, Simon discusses his music, with an emphasis on The Graduate. The interview is too short to offer great substance, but it’s still a nice addition.

Under Screen Tests, we get three segments, all of which show actors who tried out for Benjamin and Elaine. These pair “Tony Bill and Jennifer Leak” (3:53), “Robert Lipton and Cathy Carpenter” (2:06) and “Dustin Hoffman and Katharine Ross” (7:18). These become a cool extra, as it’s fun to see alternate stabs at Ben/Elaine as well as the first glimpse of Hoffman and Ross in the roles.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we get a 12-page booklet. It presents photos, credits and an essay from critic Frank Rich. The booklet finishes the package well.

Note that while the prior Blu-ray included almost no extras, the 2007 40th Anniversary DVD came with plenty of materials. Some of those repeat here, but a few remain absent. The main loss comes from a Dustin Hoffman/Katharine Ross audio commentary that remains absent on the Criterion Blu-ray.

A terrific film, The Graduate merits its status as a classic. Despite the many years since its release, the movie holds up well and qualifies as timeless. The Blu-ray provides strong audio, satisfactory audio and an informative collection of supplements. Overall, this brings us the finest home video version of The Graduate to date.

To rate this film visit the DVD review of THE GRADUATE

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