On June 17, 1972, a team of burglars broke into the Democratic National Committee Headquarters that was housed in the Watergate office building. After the crooks were caught red-handed, a cover up operation began that triggered an FBI investigation. Eventually, due in large part to some incredible investigative journalism, a cash trail emerged that went directly back to the Committee to Reelect the President (CREEP). Ultimately, a Congressional hearing turned up secret recordings that the President had made in his office and that implicated Nixon in the covert operation. As they say, the rest is history.
All The President’s Men is the screen adaptation of the documentary book by junior Washington Post reporters, Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) and Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffmann) who doggedly pursued this story behind these events. The film opens with the Watergate break-in as Woodward and Bernstein begin to gather their evidence for senior staffers Harry M. Rosenfeld (Jack Warden) and Howard Simons (Martin Balsam). The young reporters convince the Post management to let them cover the Watergate story.
What follows is hard-driven step-by-step investigative reporting that connects the dots and eventually links the break-in to the highest office in the land. Along the way, the reporter team gets the attention of the Post’s executive editor, Ben Bradlee (Jason Robards). A series of parking deck meetings begin between Woodward and “Deep Throat” informant (Hal Holbrook), a highly placed federal employee, who tells the reporter to “follow the money.” This is exactly what Woodward and Bernstein do and, in the best tradition of mystery thrillers, they gather clue after clue, tightening the connection between the CREEP and the “creeps”. As the investigation gathers momentum, the highest echelon at the Post worries that this story could backfire and, in Bradlee’s own words “sink the goddam paper.”
When Bernstein tracks down the CREEP’s bookkeeper (Jane Alexander), the pair strike journalistic gold. Now, the reporters have the names to go with the money trail and the noose begins to tighten around the necks of the co-conspirators. As the story is about to go to press, Bradlee still hesitates to print it without more confirmation but once he gives the green llight, the White House immediately goes on full counter attack. Although we know how this one turns out, I want viewers to see for themselves how the “boys,” dueling typewriters and all, justify their editor’s confidence and change the course of American history.
For the most part, the film’s remastering yields decent if not outstanding picture quality. There is liberal use of on-location shots and occasional documentary film clips that add to the realism of this film. A fair amount of residual grain gets into nearly every scene and some of the indoor scenes are surprisingly soft-edged. Colors are decent. Close ups lack much of the crispness of current films or even some of the better restorations of films of this same era.
There is a English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 soundtrack is clear and somewhat flat. David Shire’s score, when it enters the action, is engaging and well presented. This is a quintessential dialogue-driven film and we do get good voice reproduction.
In addition to audio commentary by Robert Redford, we get an embarrassment of riches in terms of film extras:
- Telling The Truth About Lies: The Making of All The President’s Men (1:12:44) (English Dolby Digital Stereo 48kHz/24-bit): A documentary that is every bit as interesting as the main feature that includes most of the principals who were involved in the creation of this film.
- Woodward and Bernstein: Lighting the Fire (17:54) (English Dolby Digital Stereo 48kHz/24-bit): A short featurette on the two journalists involved in the true story.
- Out of the Shadows: The Man Who Was Deep Throat: (16:21) (English Dolby Digital Stereo 48kHz/24-bit). The story of the highly placed source that fueled the investigation and supplied vital information to Bob Woodward, Mark Felt, deputy director of the FBI.
- Pressure and the Press:The Making of All The President’s Men: (10:05) (English Dolby Digital Stereo 48kHz/24-bit). A short background piece on how Robert Redford convinced the protagonists to assist in the creation of this film.
- All The President’s Men Revisited: (1:27:46) (English Dolby Digital Stereo 48kHz/24-bit). This is a fascinating documentary that begins with the Nixon resignation and features commentary by Woodward, Bernstein, other print and media journalists, and participants in the story who weigh in on the events that were portrayed in the film. Most enlightening are clips from the actual Nixon tapes and the hearings that addressed the Watergate scandal.
- Theatrical Trailer: 2:34 (English Dolby Digital Stereo 48kHz/24-bit)
The Definitive Word
With a strong cast from top to bottom, taut direction by Alan J. Pakula, a sensational script by William Goldman, and judicious mix of documentary footage throughout the film, this is a movie that the American Film Institute agrees is one for the ages. Nominated for eight Academy Awards, this picture took home honors for Best Supporting Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Art Direction, and Best Sound. Whether you were around during this particularly dark period in American political history or read about it in school, All The President’s Men remains one of the most compelling accounts of real events to have appeared on the silver screen in the last half century.
Additional Screen Captures