The Graduate Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review
“Ben, what are you doing?”
“Well, I would say that I’m just drifting.”
Benjamin Braddock has just graduated college. He should be celebrating downstairs with his parents’ guests, but instead sits alone in his room. He reasons with his father that he would rather be alone. In the background, fish float in a tank.
Benjamin (Dustin Hoffman in a breakthrough performance which earned him his first of seven Oscar nominations) is worried about what his future will hold. He’s not quite sure what he will do, but he knows it won’t involve plastics. It will, however, involve Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft, 1962’s THE MIRACLE WORKER; Bancroft, like Hoffman, earned an Oscar nod here), a longtime family friend and certainly the most attractive. She doesn’t pester him about his future at his party and instead just asks for a ride home. That should be a simple enough task for Ben, or at least an excuse to get out of the house. It’s not like she’s trying to seduce him…is she?
Through boredom and misdirection, the seduction turns into an affair, with multiple trysts at a nearby hotel. Then comes the introduction of Mrs. Robinson’s daughter, Elaine (Katharine Ross, who would soon appear in BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID; she, like Hoffman and Bancroft, took home an Oscar nomination), a student at Berkeley who is introduced as the third corner of the love triangle. And like that, Benjamin’s present is just as uncertain as his future.
It is difficult to determine where to start when discussing THE GRADUATE. Some will begin with Hoffman’s understated and yet complex performance of the simultaneously inept, lonely and passionate title character. Others will go to the wickedly intelligent screenplay by Calder Willingham and Buck Henry (adapting Charles Webb’s 1963 novel), which brings forth dialogue and scenarios that play out as balanced comedies and tragedies. Others will leap to the soundtrack by Simon and Garfunkel, headlined by the iconic “Mrs. Robinson.”
Others perhaps the groundbreaking editing (by Sam O’Steen, who earned a BAFTA for his work), which hurls Benjamin from a pool float to a hotel bed in one splice. Others still will observe the symbolism, which (although often heavy-handed) frequently drowns Benjamin in his pool and his problems. There is also the ending, which initially comes off hokey but soon reveals itself as a level-headed parody of the last-minute happy endings Hollywood so adored.
Directed by Mike Nichols (1966’s WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF, his debut)—who earned the film’s sole Oscar win—1967’s THE GRADUATE is one of those treasured classic films that holds up and is a rich experience on each viewing and in each decade since its release 50 years ago. THE GRADUATE has proved to be an essential, the sort of picture that has earned its place as one of the finest in American cinema.
Video: 2.35:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. “This new digital transfer was created in 4K resolution on a Scanity film scanner from the 35 mm original camera negative. The color timing was done by referencing a high-definition master supervised by Grover Crisp at Sony Pictures and approved by director Mike Nichols. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, and warps were manually removed using MTI’s DRS, while Digital Vision’s Phoenix was used for small dirt.”
THE GRADUATE has been given a stellar high-definition transfer, with excellent clarity, strong details and textures, accurate colors and an overall healthy image, especially considering the film is now nearly 50 years old. This is the best THE GRADUATE has looked on home video.
Audio: English Mono. “The original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the original 35 mm magnetic audio tracks. The 5.1 surround remix, approved by the director, was created from the 35 mm magnetic tracks and the original soundtrack recordings. Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum, and crackle were manually removed from both soundtracks using Pro Tools HD, AudioCube’s integrated workstation, and iZotope RX 4.”
The audio transfer is also without flaw, boasting clean dialogue and a wonderful-sounding Simon & Garfunkel soundtrack
Commentary 1: Mike Nichols and Steven Soderbergh: In this 2007 track, Nichols and Soderbergh discuss the production, style, casting, characters, symbolism and much more of THE GRADUATE.
Commentary 2: Howard Suber: In this 1987 commentary, UCLA film scholar Suber offers an analysis of THE GRADUATE.
Buck Henry and Lawrence Turman (24:56): Screenwriter Henry and producer Turman reflect on the making of THE GRADUATE in this 2015 conversation.
Dustin Hoffman (37:50): In this new interview, Hoffman discusses how he came to star in the film, testing for and working with Nichols, the lengthy shoot, his early days in acting and much more.
Sam and Mike (26:13): Bobbie O’Steen, widow of editor Sam O’Steen, discusses her late husband’s work with Nichols on THE GRADUATE, with focus on certain scenes in the film.
Students of THE GRADUATE (25:58): Notable names such as Harold Ramis, Marc Forster, Valerie Faris & Jonathan Dayton and David O. Russell share their admiration for the film.
THE GRADUATE at 25 (22:40): This 1992 featurette includes interviews with Hoffman, Henry, Turman and actress Katharine Ross.
Mike Nichols and Barbara Walters (15:34): In this interview from a 1966 episode of NBC’s TODAY, Nichols touches on his career.
Paul Simon and Dick Cavett (5:29): This excerpt features Simon on a 1970 episode of THE DICK CAVETT SHOW.
Screen Tests (13:18): There are three here for the roles of Benjamin and Elaine, which can be viewed separately or as a whole. They are: “Tony Bill and Jennifer Leak,” “Robert Lipton and Cathy Carpenter” and “Dustin Hoffman and “Katharine Ross.”
Also included with this Criterion Collection release is an essay by journalist and critic Frank Rich.