“I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” are the famous words echoed by troubled Howard Beale throughout ‘Network’ (1976: AFI 1998, #66, 2007 #64) the movie I watched this weekend as part of my challenge to watch all films featured on the American Film Institute top 100 movies of all time. The quote is so iconic that after more than 40years it is still being used; most recently for an advert on UK television – I forgot what to promote (it must be one of those ‘wacky’ phone providers) but I remember asking my brother and sister; Sati and Nicky ”Do you know where this line is from?” Obviously they looked at me as if I was the insane Howard Beatle, but terrifically honest (“Life is bullshit!”) and said “What film?”
Iconic scene from ‘Network’
It a shame that a movie as great as ‘Network’ isn’t remembered as well as other iconic 1970s films like ‘The Godfather’ (1972: 1998 #3, 2007 #2), ‘Taxi Driver’(1976: 1998 #47, 2007 #52) or ‘The Deer Hunter’ (1978: 1998 #79, 2007 #53) but it is definitely just as good. It is probably the only movie on the list that deals that takes place in a newsroom and highlights how fickle the broadcasting industry is – I should know, I’ve done my fair share of volunteering and work experience in TV and radio newsrooms across the UK to know that no one really gives a rat’s ass about you, not even your mates (get the violins out). This what poor anchor man Howard Beale played by Peter Finch discovers when he is told he only has two-weeks left on air as he is being cut for low ratings. Rather than bow out gracefully he tells his audience he will commit suicide live in air- ironically this gives him a ratings boost and network executives exploit the broadcaster who is obviously mentally unstable by giving him his own show where he vents his anger to a cult following.
Icy Faye Dunaway and William Holden
The film stars the crème de la crème of 70s A-listers; legendary William Holden in his last memorable role plays Max Schumacher the Head Of News who faces a moral dilemma whether to help his friend who clearly needs medical attention or keep him on air to attract more viewers. Matters are made worse when he becomes involved with cold hearted Diana Christensen who is head of programming and is played by the top notch Faye Dunaway who was as big and perhaps more talented than Meryl Streep in the 70s (definitely better looking) but failed to maintain the legendary status of the three time Oscar winner. I hear that when she portrayed Joan Crawford in an unfavourable light in the camp cult favourite and winner of the Golden Raspberries ‘Worst film’ award ‘Mommie Dearest’ (1981), friends and colleagues of the 1940s star vowed to destroy her career. Nevertheless actress won a much deserved Academy award for Best Actress, but the real star of the movie was obviously Peter Finch who also nabbed the Best Actor award but unfortunately died of a heart attack before he was given the accolade.
Peter Finch was the only posthumous winner of an Oscar in an acting category until Heath Ledger won for Best Supporting Actor in 2009
From the moment the movie begins you are gripped in; the eerie narration reminded me of Wilder’s classic ‘Sunset Boulevard’(1950: 2007 #12, 2007 #16) which also starred Holden and the subject matter of the movie like ‘All about Eve’ (1950: 1998 #16, 2007 #28) is just as timeless and relevant today as it was four decades ago. One could say the movie is one of the first to touch on the idea of reality TV that has plagued our television over the last fifteen or so years – but obviously in a much more classy and thought provoking manner then ‘Big Brother’ or ‘Googlebox’. 5 out of 5 for me