The Graduate appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. While not without concerns, this transfer offered a satisfying experience.
My only complaints stemmed from some softness at times. A few shots displayed moderate edge haloes, and these resulted in less than stellar definition for some images. Nonetheless, the vast majority of the movie offered nice delineation and seemed well-defined. I noticed no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, and source flaws were essentially absent. I detected a speck or two but otherwise this was a clean presentation.
The film went with a subdued but natural palette that the DVD replicated well. The colors consistently seemed concise and smoothly developed, without any excessive muddiness or heaviness. Blacks were deep and dark, while shadows seemed clear and concise. Without the occasional example of softness, this would’ve developed into an “A”-level transfer. As it stood, it remained quite good.
In a case of apparent overkill, this version of The Graduate came with not one but two separate multi-channel remixes. It presented Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 tracks. One of these would’ve been enough, especially since they sounded virtually identical.
The 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 remixes were subdued enough to complement the material in a satisfying manner.
How did the picture and audio of this 40th Anniversary Edition compare to those of the old release from 1999? Both demonstrated improvements. The picture seemed cleaner, clearer and better defined, while similar thoughts came for the audio. Neither disc presented a great soundfield, but this one appeared more dynamic and less shrill and strident. The new DVD provided a good upgrade.
In terms of extras, the 40th Anniversary set includes the materials from the old release along with some new elements. For 40th Anniversary exclusives, we start with two 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.
For the second commentary, we hear from actors Dustin Hoffman and Katharine Ross. Both sit together for their own running, screen-specific chat. They touch on a few technical issues, but mostly they cover performances, rehearsals, working with Nichols and shot details. Hoffman dominates but that makes sense since his character appears onscreen much more often than does Ross’s role.
At the start, I feared this track would be a dud. For the first few minutes, Hoffman tells us more about what he doesn’t remember than what he does. However, the fog lifts before long and we get a lot of fun notes about the flick. The pair interact well to make this a warm, enjoyable chat, even if Hoffman declares his apparently-continuing crush on Ross too many times. It’s not nearly as dynamic and informative as the Nichols/Soderbergh commentary, but it contains more than enough good material to keep up interested.
Next we find two new featurettes. Students of The Graduate runs 25 minutes, 56 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.
The Seduction goes for eight minutes, 49 seconds and includes comments from Ansen, Ramis, Russell, Sobchack, Block, Faris, Dayton, Forster, Rollins, and relationship therapist Dr. Deborah Cooper. “Seduction” follows the same lines as “Students” except it focuses on the character relationships. Expect the same plusses and minuses as its predecessor.
Repeats from the old disc come next. The Graduate At 25 runs 22 minutes, 38 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.
Another section of the DVD expands on this project by providing additional interview clips from Hoffman. These are from the same 1992 sessions that gave the documentary its snippets, and we actually hear some of Hoffman's comments from “25” repeat here. However, this 22-minute and 40-second piece features a lot of additional details from Hoffman and is quite entertaining. He's quite blunt and candid and it's good to hear the minutia that didn't make the cut for the more general documentary. Again, more than a few redundant elements occur, but it's still a very interesting and compelling piece.
Finally, the DVD includes two theatrical trailers. We find the film’s original ad along with one that came for a re-release of the flick. We also get a fine booklet that offers some fun and revealing facts and production notes about The Graduate.
A second disc offers a CD Soundtrack Sampler. This includes four songs: “The Sound of Silence”, “Mrs. Robinson”, “Scarborough Fair/Canticle”, and “April Come She Will”. It seems like a shame that this doesn’t provide a complete soundtrack album, but as a sampler, it’s a decent addition.
Lastly, we get an six-page booklet. It presents some trivia about the flick and a few production notes. It adds a little meat to the package.
The Graduate is an absolutely terrific film that definitely merits its status as a classic. Despite the many years since its release, the movie holds up well - I wish I could say the same for myself. Both picture and sound quality seem quite good, and the set includes a very nice mix of extras highlighted by a truly stellar audio commentary.
I definitely recommend this 40th Anniversary DVD of The Graduate, and that goes for folks who already own the original disc. This one improves upon it in every way and is a very worthy “double dip”.