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Secret Honor (The Criterion Collection) (1984)

Philip Baker Hall , Robert Altman  |  Unrated |  DVD
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Philip Baker Hall
  • Directors: Robert Altman
  • Writers: Arnold M. Stone, Donald Freed
  • Producers: Robert Altman, Scott Bushnell
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, Full Screen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: October 19, 2004
  • Run Time: 90 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005JNG8
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #146,529 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Secret Honor (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Special Features

  • New digital transfer with restored image and sound plus new subtitle translation
  • New video interview with actor Philip Baker Hall (22 mins.)
  • Excerpts from archival films documenting key events in President Richard M. Nixon's political career (81 mins.)
  • Essay by film critic Michael Wilmington

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Sequestered in his home, a disgraced President Richard Millhouse Nixon arms himself with a bottle of Scotch and a gun to record memoirs that no one will hear. Surrounded by the silent portraits of Lincoln, Eisenhower, Kissinger, and his mother, Nixon resurrects his past in a passionate attempt to reconcile his failed political career. Based on the original play by Donald Freed and Arnold M. Stone, and starring Philip Baker Hall in a tour de force solo performance, Robert Altman’s Secret Honor is a searing interrogation of the Nixon mystique and an audacious depiction of unchecked paranoia.

A bravura performance by Philip Baker Hall and the probing eye of Robert Altman make Secret Honor a provocative--even haunting--speculation on history. The project originated as a one-man play, a fictional look at Richard Nixon dictating a lengthy monologue to a tape machine. The script offers some wild possibilities for explaining Watergate, but more importantly it attempts to understand Nixon the man (and succeeds far better than Oliver Stone's factual Nixon). Hall's flabbergasting performance, though it holds nothing back in its picture of a boozing, paranoid self-dramatist, manages to humanize Nixon. Altman's low-budget filming of the play tinkered little with the text or with Hall's performance, but the gliding camera, always picking out the telling angle or detail, is pure Altman. It received a tiny release in 1984, but Secret Honor now looks like a key American political fantasia, like The Manchurian Candidate wrought on a single set. --Robert Horton

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterful one-man performance September 27, 2002
Format:VHS Tape
I saw this movie on cable the year it came out. Although I was only 16 at the time and knew almost nothing about Watergate, I was absolutely awe-struck by Philip Baker Hall's riveting portrayal of Richard Nixon. There are no car chases, no love scenes, no special effects -- just one actor relying solely on raw acting talent to tell a complicated story in a way that is so powerful, so multilayered, that it holds your attention for over an hour.
Now that I have a fuller knowledge and understanding of political scandals in general, I'm equally impressed with the alarming depth and accuracy of this movie's "fictional" script writing. The writers obviously had inside knowledge of the plutocratic string pulling that goes on in Washington.
It is puzzling, to say the least, why a movie this good is so hard to come by, especially when one considers how well-known the director is.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I am the American dream. July 16, 2005
SECRET HONOR invites us to spend an intimate evening alone with the only man ever to resign the presidency, Richard Nixon. The Criterion disk contains a bunch of extras, including an hour and twenty-some minutes worth of Nixon, the real Nixon, on videotape and kinescope. It surveys a number of his speeches, beginning with the Fund Crisis (`Checkers') Speech in 1952 and ending with his August 9, 1974 Farewell Speech to the White House Staff. Also included is a newspaper managing editors' question and answer session, from 1973, in which Nixon first told us "I am not a crook." If you're new to Nixon, or need a refresher course in Nixonia, I strongly suggest you watch these before watching the movie. A few politicians are, maybe once in their career, forced to make an embarrassing speech confessing a personal weakness or transgression. Nixon seemed to have made a career out of such speeches, and this tip-of-the-iceberg special feature gives a good sense of Nixon's personal debasement style. SECRET HONOR takes place sometime in the late 1970s, and is an intimate, post-resignation evening spent with Richard Nixon. Philip Baker Hall put his star on the map with his interpretation of the ex-president. He begins the evening with a glass of sherry, which isn't quite Nixon's style. Scotch, and then more scotch, puts slick in his lick and leads to a fascinating, free-ranging, ninety-minute rant against the world.

One man shows can be bad enough on stage. When made into movies even the good ones can be nearly unbearable. SECRET HONOR avoids all the pitfalls. For one thing, Robert Altman is a canny enough director to devise ways to keep us visually interested in what's going on.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An American Archetype? March 4, 2005
I just finished viewing this incredible, astoundingly intense motion picture for the very first time after hearing about it for 20 years. Philip Baker Hall (who played the character of "Library Cop" on "Seinfeld") essays the part of Richard Nixon in an unforgettable one actor performance. The film had been shot at the Univ. of Michigan, the crew composed largely of UM students, while director Robert Altman was doing a short hitch as filmmaker-in-residence there and has the interesting, "you are there" immediacy and intimacy of a filmed stage play or TV show.

The set is a large, wood paneled office, apparently in Nixon's home in San Clemente, a few months after his August 1974 resignation from the Presidency. An angry and restless Nixon nervously paces back and forth with a glass of scotch whiskey in one hand and a loaded revolver lying on his desk, yelling angrily into a running tape recorder about the details of his childhood, adult life, controversial political career, his deep and unhealed resentments and miseries, repeatedly hurling a stream of caustic invective at portraits of Dwight Eisenhower, Jack Kennedy and Henry Kissinger, reserving most of his vitriolic (yet fascinating and perceptive) bile for Kissinger, rarely (typically) blaming himself for his own misdeeds, all the while intermittently and nervously scanning a battery of CCTV monitors whose cameras are already observing and recording him. Nixon on several occasions mentions the mysterious "Bohemian Grove" located in rural northern California (a subject of much "conspiracy theorizing" in recent years.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Secret Honor" - best kept secret in Nixon films! April 21, 2002
Format:VHS Tape
Philip Baker Hall's performance as Richard Milhous Nixon rates as my favorite among Nixon films. His portrayal of Nixon covers all the bases, from quiet obedience to his beloved mother to the snarling, foul mouthed paranoiac we've all come to love (or hate). The film is riveting as Hall's Nixon drags the audience deeper and deeper into his harsh world view and finally brings us to the very edge of his despair. The end will have you laughing, cringing or both. Brings into sharp relief the concept that we are all heroes in our own mind, and it will make you wonder what sort of spirit dwells in the leaders we currently elect if a man this twisted with hate, self loathing and paranoia could be elected president twice. Just an amazing film. Even if you don't subscribe to Hall's portrayal as reality you can't deny that this a talented and powerful performance. This film should be a must have among the "conspiracy" minded.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars terrific
A tour de force performance by Philip Baker Hall makes this fascinating to watch. It's all fantasy but in some respects, Hall's portrayal of Nixon is probably closer to the Nixon... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Will o' the Wisp
5.0 out of 5 stars Theme: Nixon nobly resigned in order to forestall a coup by movers &...
This is a profoundly thoughtful profile of the complex man. It's a one-man show and a masterpiece. All who are hooked on Nixon will find it electrifying. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Ronald Haak
3.0 out of 5 stars Ranting, Rambling and Raving: Altman's Ode To Nixon Is A Great Film...
Note: 5 Star Quality, but this one man performance piece is not for everyone.

Before his resurgence with "The Player," there was a time when Robert Altman was out of... Read more
Published 16 months ago by K. Harris
5.0 out of 5 stars Who IS Phillip Baker Hall?
I saw this movie when it premiered on HBO in the 80's. I was riveted by Hall's performance. I soon believed I was looking at and into the REAL Richard Nixon. Read more
Published on August 4, 2012 by Charles Cusumano
5.0 out of 5 stars 3 Stars? Whats your problem?
This film is extraordinary - why would you bother to give it 3 stars? Seriously, what flaw is there? Read more
Published on April 8, 2011 by Dan Greene
3.0 out of 5 stars Nixon Was a Moderate
Secret Honor might have caused a storm in 1984 when it was released, but today it appears tame when compared to the likes of Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, the Tea Partiers, the... Read more
Published on May 12, 2010 by Zarathustra
4.0 out of 5 stars A Very Big Secret
SECRET HONOR is sort of a stream of consciousness representaion of the contents of Richard Nixon's tortured psyche as his drunken mind tries to come to terms with his betrayal of... Read more
Published on March 26, 2009 by Karen Shaub
5.0 out of 5 stars Testing 1, 2, 3, uh, 4
About 15 minutes into Philip Baker Hall's tour de force performance I was reminded of another filmed one-man show that resonates with me to this day. Spike Lee's Huey P. Read more
Published on December 9, 2007 by Aco
5.0 out of 5 stars Secret Honor
A filmed adaptation of Philip Baker Hall's tour de force one-man show, Altman's "Secret Honor" presents Nixon as a blustering paranoid-obsessive consumed by rage and a crippling... Read more
Published on July 9, 2007 by John Farr
4.0 out of 5 stars Robert Altman's "Sympathy for the Devil"
directed by Robert Altman
approx 90 minutes

Richard Nixon got us out of Vietnam, bombed a neutral country, was an early proponent of civil... Read more
Published on March 23, 2007 by
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