This week we’re plunged back into the seventies with Network, a satire on the ruthlessness of TV executives. Anchorman Howard Beale (Peter Finch) is unceremoniously ‘retired’ after the ratings on his news show dip, then threatens to kill himself live on air. After an unexpected rise in Howard’s ratings, the ruthless TV bosses decide to capitalise on his breakdown by giving him a new show…
I’d never even heard of Network before Ian suggested we do it for the podcast a few weeks back. In the way of these things though, as soon as I found out about it I started seeing references to it everywhere – it’s even referenced in the new Alan Partridge film. It was also a massive deal when it was released – Network was a huge hit in 1976 and won an unprecedented 3 out of the 4 Oscars for acting (and it was only pipped to the post for Best Picture by Rocky).
So why had I never heard of it until now? Well, for a start, it rarely gets shown on TV (unlike its rival Rocky), and in some ways it’s aged badly. The film couldn’t be more seventies if it tried – all wide lapels and even wider trousers, set against a background of current affairs stories such as the oil crisis and the Patty Hearst kidnapping. It dates the film a little, but it also gives you a great feel for the seventies as a period, highlighting the important stories of the time and the frazzled mood of the US nation. (We watched Kentucky Fried Movie the other day and that also provided a brilliant snapshot of life in the seventies, but in a much more boob-and-kung-fu-heavy kind of way).
Despite its seventiesness though, Network is remarkably current in terms of its themes, and prescient in terms of its depiction of manipulation by the mass media. As Ian points out in the podcast, the film’s only mistake is that it thinks TV audiences only want to watch ordinary people if they’re terrorists or oddjobs, when in fact reality TV has shown that people will happily watch pretty much anyone doing anything.
All in all Network is a pretty decent film that’s buoyed by stunning performances from its all-star cast of Peter Finch, Faye Dunaway, William Holden and Robert Duvall, but it’s slightly let down by uneven tone and pacing, and a slightly garbled denouement.
Last but not least, our Secret Sponsor for this week is Get Reel (@GetReel) – check out their fantastic website over at http://www.get-reel.net.
If our review has piqued your interest in the film, you can buy the Network DVD from Amazon by clicking here (and we get a little bit of cash if you do – thanks in advance).
Anyway, without further ado, let us present our feature presentation:
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Director: Sidney Lumet Year of release: 1976 Studio/Distributor: MGM/United Artists Country: USA