20th Mar2015

‘Network’ Blu-ray Review (Arrow Academy)

by Paul Metcalf

Stars: Faye Dunaway, William Holden, Peter Finch, Robert Duvall, Wesley Addy, Ned Beatty | Written by Paddy Chayefsky | Directed by Sidney Lumet


In the cynical age of the Internet we’ve grown to understand how the news works and how the networks manipulate information into a form that will try to persuade the people watching just what the truth is (in a totally biased way of course).  If you’ve not worked it out yet, then maybe you need to take a few notes from Arrow Academy’s latest release, Sidney Lumet’s Network.

When Howard Beale (Peter Finch) the news anchor for the UBS Television Network finds he is losing his job because he no longer pulls in the ratings he announces live on television he will commit suicide live on television next week.  Causing controversy the network give him another chance, only to lead him to yet another rant to the audience.  When this causes a ratings spike though the Network notices this and they devise a plan to use him for their own gain, with no thought for the affects not only on his health, but Network and the people around him.

Network is a satirical look at how the television networks work, but even though it was released in 1976 it feels strangely relatable to the way we are fed news today, even on the internet.  We see the importance terrorism becomes to the news, and the Network even manipulates a terrorist group to create footage for them.  Everything on television is ratings driven just like in Network, but the difference now of course is we have the internet where ratings are clicks, unique users and the all-important viewer count on YouTube.  Beale is a victim of the system we see in Network, even before the film even stars, his life has little meaning and the sacking pushing him over the edge.  The fact the Network decide to cynically use him, not caring about his health shows the cold-hearted and cynical nature of business.  This is further driven into the audience’s conscience by the conclusion of the movie which shows just how extreme the Network becomes.

What makes Network spectacular is the writing of Paddy Chayefsky and Sidney Lumet’s direction.  Whether it’s Beale’s rantings to the camera, the news style in which the narrator converses with the audience or the stand-out monologues from the likes of Ned Beatty you can’t help but be captivated by the performances that you see on screen.  It’s no wonder that the movie won Oscars for the actors, writing.  Just a shame it narrowly missed out on best picture (it was beaten by Rocky).

When it comes to the acting in Network the fact I’ve already mentioned the Oscars shows the quality on show.  Whether it’s Peter Finch himself, Fay Dunaway, William Holden, Robert Duvall or countless others all are on top of their game.  There is a message that Network wants to convey to the audience and the actors fully understand what is required of them.  This is especially the case for Faye Dunaway with her character Diana Christensen.  Her whole focus is on television and making sure that she gets her ratings, even her life is scripted out like a show.  In scenes where we see the development of her love life, her words of romance are all about the success of her show.

The most praise has to be given to Peter Finch though whose performance as Howard Beale was to be his last, and earned him the first posthumous Best Actor award from the Academy.  The fact that he struggled through the making of the film adds a little sadness to the movie, if you are aware of the fact and it really is a shame that he didn’t live to get the Oscar that he very much deserved.

Looking behind the camera Arrow Academy have provided special features for Network that provide the viewers with plenty of details about the production, though there is no commentary which is a shame.  The picture quality of the film is of a high quality, which is to be expected from Arrow and the work that they have put into the release shows the respect that the film rightly deserves.

Satirically dark and very relevant to the world we live in now, Network is one of those movies that you just have to see.  Arrow have given us a release that shows the film at its best, and gives us features that take us behind the scenes, giving us a view of just what it took to get the film in the form we have it now.  Full of memorable scenes and an obvious inspiration to Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom, Network is cinema gold.

***** 5/5

Network is available on Blu-ray in the UK from March 23rd., courtesy of Arrow.

Review originally posted on PissedOffGeek

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