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All the President's Men: Special Edition

The Watergate scandal that led to President Richard Nixon's resignation in 1974 was not only a pivotal moment in American political history, but also a key moment in the course of U.S. journalism. Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman star in All the President's Men (1976) as Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein as they "follow the money" from the suspiciously connected Watergate burglars to top White House officials. On the way they encounter false starts, red herrings, dead ends, fearful sources, powerful resistance, and the constant, ass-tight scrutiny and support of iconoclastic Post editor Ben Bradlee (the fantastic Jason Robards, Jr.). All the President's Men is sharp and vivid and never wastes time or energy on the dull moralizing that characterizes most movies with political subjects. Director Alan J. Pakula and screenwriter William Goldman smartly focus the story away from the distractions of politics and polemic and firmly on the "detective story" at its core. Redford and Hoffman are perfect as the straight-laced, fact-hungry Woodward and the impulsive, passionate Bernstein, who work their conflicting approaches into an effective tag team. The film is full of scintillating details, including questionable reporting practices (such as digging into library records, hectoring and lying to frightened sources, and combating frustrating "non-denial denials" with equally questionable non-confirmation confirmations), the swaggering stupidity of corruption, the unending research behind the big story, and the unavoidably incestuous relationship between politicians and journalists in D.C. social circles. All the President's Men is a thrill for political junkies, but the esoteric concepts at stake — "the first amendment to the Constitution, freedom of the press, and maybe the future of the country" — don't really resonate the way murder and mayhem do, and the Nixon cover-up is ultimately more bureaucratic than sinister, dampening the tension. Jack Warden, Martin Balsam, Stephen Collins, Hal Holbrook, Jane Alexander, Meredith Baxter, Ned Beatty, Lindsay Crouse, and Robert Walden all appear in small, selfless, and excellent supporting roles. Warner Home Video's two-disc All The President's Men: Special Edition is presented in a good anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) that is an improvement over the initial 1999 DVD release, while audio is presented in Dolby Digital 1.0. The feature film is accompanied on Disc One by an interesting, low-key commentary from producer Redford. Disc Two includes the featurettes "Telling the Truth About Lies: The Making of All the President's Men" (28 min.), "Woodward and Bernstein: Lighting the Fire" (17 min.), "Out of the Shadows: The Man Who Was Deep Throat" about the identity of Woodward's well-concealed source (16 min.), the 1975 featurette "Pressure and the Press: The Making of All the President's Men" (10 min.) and a 1976 Jason Robards interview by Dinah Shore (7 min.). Dual-DVD slimline keep-case.
—Gregory P. Dorr

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