Remember the good old days (i.e., two years ago) when Criterion would create its own uniquely designed covers for Bluray/DVDs of classic films? Compare their 2014 On The Waterfront cover art to the jacket cover for their upcoming Bluray of Mike Nichols‘ The Graduate, which will pop on 2.23.16. I don’t think I need to point anything out here. Okay, I’ll point something out. Criterion has gone totally generic here. Teenage movie buffs in Pakistan and Manchuria are bored to death by this crusty, age-old shot of a barefooted Dustin Hoffman regarding Anne Bancroft‘s stockinged calf, but Criterion used it anyway.
The Graduate Bluray is worth the purchase price, however, because it contains one of the finest, most richly observed analytical commentary tracks about a classic film ever recorded. I’m referring to UCLA film professor Howard Suber‘s observations about The Graduate, which were included on Criterion’s original 1987 Graduate laser disc. Suber’s commentary was briefly available on a YouTube posting a year ago but was taken down for some reason, but it’ll be fully and legally available on the new Bluray — the first time in a new format in 28 years.
Here’s what I wrote a year ago: “I’ve been susceptible to the perceptions of Howard Suber since the mid ’90s, which is when I first listened to his smooth, buttery commentaries on the Criterion Collection laser discs of Mike Nichols‘ The Graduate, Fred Zinneman‘s High Noon and Billy Wilder‘s Some Like It Hot.
“If you love and value The Graduate, this version will add to your appreciation of the film in ways you never quite gathered on your own, I swear.
“Yes, Suber’s commentary is an academic analysis, a bit dry and professorial, a formal instruction…but it’s very wise and knowledgable, and ripe with all kinds of allusions and connections. Suber gently explains how there’s a lot more to this 1967 classic than just story, dialogue and performances. It’s really quite an integrated audio-visual tour de force.
“For one thing he points out the highly significant contributions of The Graduate‘s production designer Richard Sylbert with the black-and-white wardrobes and interior designs, and how the leopard-skin prints suggest the jungle domain and primal instincts contained in a certain predator played by Anne Bancroft.
“As with Some Like It Hot, Suber also mentions his belief in the journey of most lead protagonists in most good comedies — desire, deception and discovery. The discovery phase, mind, is not just about the main character realizing what he/she truly wants but who he/she really is in the eyes of others. It happens when Dustin Hoffman‘s Benjamin Braddock, after an hour of uncertain, anxious behavior, finally stops reacting and makes a decisive move on his own. Suber calls it the ‘one-hour pivot point.'”
From a Cinearchive post: “This is the commentary that all other commentaries should be measured by. Oh dear Lord, what a commentary! This track is on par with the Michael Jeck commentary for Seven Samurai, but it’s only available on Criterion’s LaserDisc. The film’s scholar, Howard Suber, takes you through all aspects of the production and script, from the significances of harsh and soft lighting, to the elements which are NOT in focus, to the overall arc of Benjamin’s character. This is an absolute must-listen for any student of film.”