Network appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This will never be a movie that looks great, but the Blu-ray serves it pretty well.
Sharpness seemed decent to good. Sporadic examples of softness occurred, but these appeared to stem from the source photography; as I alluded, this was simply never a particularly dynamic presentation. The image looked reasonably concise. No issues with jaggies or moiré effects occurred, and I noticed no edge haloes or issues with noise reduction. Occasional small specks cropped up, but the majority of the movie seemed clean.
Network went with a subdued palette, and the tones tended to look a little drab at times. However, this seemed connected largely to the visual design; when the movie invested in brighter colors, they seemed accurate and lively. Hues appeared fine given the constraints of the design. Blacks were acceptably deep, and shadows showed adequate to good clarity. This wasn’t a showcase image, but it worked about as well I could imagine given the movie’s age and design.
The film’s monaural soundtrack didn’t excel but it worked fine. The mix consisted almost entirely of dialogue. Effects were minor considerations; they seemed acceptably clear but played such a small role that unless they displayed serious distortion, they rarely mattered. The film also featured virtually no score. The most prominent music heard came from the Howard Beale Show theme. It sounded pretty clear and bold, as it included some nice low-end punch as well.
Dialogue was pretty good. A few reedy lines emerged, but most of the dialogue was reasonably natural and concise. No issues with edginess occurred, and I felt the speech held up fairly nicely. This was a more than adequate track for a chatty movie.
How did the picture and audio of this special edition compare to those of the 2006 Special Edition DVD? Both showed improvements, and that was a surprise in the auditory domain. I figured that we’d get virtually the same erratic mono mix from the DVD, but the Blu-ray’s sound was notably clearer and more natural.
The image was also a step up, though not an extreme one. The Blu-ray was a bit tighter and cleaner, but it didn’t blow away the DVD. Still, it did look better, and this turned into the film’s best representation on home video to date.
The DVD’s extras repeat here. We open with an audio commentary from director Sidney Lumet. He offers a running, screen-specific chat. Lumet looks at the film’s themes, tone and visual style, cast, characters and performances, his background in live TV and the flick’s prescient elements, locations and sets, and a few production notes. We get a decent commentary but not one that stands out as particularly memorable.
The best moments come from Lumet’s memories of the early days of TV. I like his remembrances and think these become illuminating. He also tosses out some nice insights into the performances and other nuances. Unfortunately, there’s too much dead air, and at times Lumet offers basics that don’t really tell us much. He comes across as a curmudgeon when he berates the lousy state of modern TV. (Yeah, he’s correct, but that doesn’t make him sound like less of a sourpuss.) Lumet’s commentary has enough to make it worth a listen, though.
Next comes a modern documentary called The Making of Network. This one-hour, 25-minute and 28-second program mixes movie clips, archival materials, and interviews. We hear from Lumet, producer Howard Gottfried, editor Alan Heim, production designer Philip Rosenberg, director of photography Owen Roizman, newscaster/reporter Walter Cronkite, and actors Lance Henriksen, Faye Dunaway, Ned Beatty, and Kathy Cronkite.
The show covers writer Paddy Chayefsky and the script’s development, Chayefsky’s history with Lumet and how the director came onto the project, and Chayefsky’s vision for the story. From there we go through cast and characters, a spotlight on the movie’s signature “I’m mad as hell” scene, rehearsals and shooting the film, and many anecdotes from the production. We also learn about editing, reactions to the film and its legacy, the movie’s visual style and set design, and general thoughts. Finally, the piece includes notes from Walter Cronkite about his relationship with Lumet, a few comments about the early days of TV news and its development, and reactions to the film.
While “Making” covers a lot of good subjects, I can’t say I care for its disjointed presentation. Some of that stems from the fact it really exists as six featurettes connected together. Nonetheless, I’ve seen that format many times and think it works better elsewhere. Here it comes across as a bit scattered.
Still, we get more than a few nice tidbits about the film. Despite the somewhat less than coherent presentation, the show goes over the requisite subjects well. Some of this repeats from the commentary, but there’s plenty of new information to pique our interest.
Next comes Dinah! with Paddy Chayefsky. We find a 14-minute and two-second snippet from Dinah Shore’s old show during which she and guests like Steve Lawrence chat with Chayefsky. He discusses a little about the movie but mostly gets into his feelings about TV and where it’ll go. It’s good to see the late writer and also relate to how his thoughts have and haven’t come true.
Finally, the disc includes the film’s trailer and Private Screenings with Sidney Lumet. Originally broadcast on the Turner Classic Movies network, this 54-minute and 25-second show presents an interview between Lumet and host Robert Osborne. They chat about Lumet’s career. They start with his origins as an actor, his move into TV and directing, and progress through thoughts about many of his films.
Obviously the show’s too short to dig into these with much depth, but “Screenings” makes for a terrific overview. Lumet proves consistently sharp and engaging as he discusses his work, and Osborne manages to prompt him well. I enjoyed this informative and well-paced program.
At this point, Network seems better remembered as a catch phrase than as a film, which is an ironic fate for a picture determined to knock such simpleminded behaviors. I found the movie to be a flawed but compelling work that had enough strengths to merit a viewing. The Blu-ray provides restricted but good picture and audio along with a fairly positive set of extras. Network remains an involving flick, and this Blu-ray presents it well.
To rate this film please visit the Special Edition review of NETWORK