Lumet's underrated media satire now viewed as a visionary work
“I want you to get up right now and go to the window, stick your head out and yell, ‘I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this any more!'”
Many, in 1976, decried Sidney Lumet’s satire of the media, from Paddy Chayefsky’s script, as overcooked, preachy and ludicrous. Now, it seems visionary and perhaps even understated. News commentator Howard Beale (Peter Finch) begins to ripple the television airwaves by?radically?saying what he really thinks, and threatening suicide. His bosses and their sponsors are horrified, until they realise he’s becoming something of a messiah figure to viewers, and ratings are rocketing. William Holden tells a heartless Faye Dunaway, “You’re television incarnate?indifferent to suffering, insensitive to joy.”
It won four Oscars (from nine nominations) and spawned a host of spin-offs and copycats, most of which stalled. But in recent years its influence and prescience have been explicit. It’s a mad-as-hell world.