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Secret Honor (The Criterion Collection)

27 customer reviews

Additional DVD options Edition Discs
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(Oct 19, 2004)
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The Criterion Collection
$25.32 $19.12
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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

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

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 (27 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005JNG8
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #113,789 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Secret Honor (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Todd Altman on September 27, 2002
Format: VHS Tape Verified Purchase
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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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Steven Hellerstedt on July 16, 2005
Format: DVD
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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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Michael E. Kreca on March 4, 2005
Format: DVD
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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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By xxgrendelxx on 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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