Frost/Nixon, starring Frank Langella as Richard Nixon and Michael Sheen as David Frost, Universal productions, 2008
Markin comment: after viewing the Hollywood Ron Howard production of "Frost/Nixon" I have decided to stick with my review of the original truly scary interviews. With the addition of kudos for Frank Langella's performance as Nixon and a nod for the good sense of dramatic timing for a fairly mundane subject I will stand by the comments there.
"*The Original Frost/Nixon Watergate Interviews- Parental Guidance Advised
Frost/Nixon: The Original Watergate Interview, David Frost, Richard Milhous Nixon, 1977
Apparently some things will not remain in the bottle. That appears to be the case with one Richard Milhous Nixon, one time President of the United States, certified demon and off-handedly a common criminal. Just when you though it was safe to go outdoors to get a little fresh air here he rises again to scare the bejesus out of another generation of idealistic young people and send his old time political opponents, including this reviewer, screaming in the night. What has brought on the fear?
Well, for one the recent notoriety around the movie "Frost/Nixon", the "story" behind the celebrated attempt by Nixon to `help' rewrite the second draft of history on his presidency and for Frost to leap-frog to the front of the journalist pantheon. That is what I thought I had bargained for when I ordered up what I assumed was a copy of the movie. What I got was far, far worst, a copy of the original Watergate segments of the original Frost/Nixon television interviews from 1977. I will, eventually, after my pulse returns to normal, get a copy of the movie and review that in this space but for now I will make a few comments on this little documentary gem.
As fate would have it I have recently been reading (or rather re-re-reading) "Dr. Gonzo" journalist Hunter S. Thompson's compilation volume entitled "The Great Shark Hunt". Included in the selections were a series of articles that Thompson did for "Rolling Stone" magazine from his "mythical" National Affairs Desk at the time of the Nixon-era Watergate hearings in 1974. Thompson, not afraid to deride Nixon when he was riding high was more than willing to skewer him on his way down. To give a flavor of the times, of Thompson's appreciation of what the name Nixon meant to our generation and the importance of exposing that little crook to the clear light of day (something that, unfortunately, never really happened as he ran down some rat hole) I am reposting the concluding paragraph from a review I did of his "Songs Of The Doomed" in 2006:
"As a member of the generation of 1968 I would note that this was a period of particular importance which won Hunter his spurs as a journalist. Hunter, like many of us, cut his political teeth on one Richard Milhous Nixon, at one time President of the United States and all- around political chameleon. Thompson went way out of his way, and with pleasure, skewering that man when he was riding high. He was moreover just as happy to kick him when he was down, just for good measure. Nixon represented the `dark side' of the American spirit- the side that appears today as the bully boy of the world and as craven brute. If for nothing else Brother Thompson deserves a place in the pantheon of journalistic heroes for this exercise in elementary political hygiene. Anyone who wants to rehabilitate THAT man before history please consult Thompson's work. Hunter, I hope you find the Brown Buffalo wherever you are. Read this book. Read all his books."
And that last sentence kind of says it all. Probably from the minute that he resigned in disgrace in August 1974 Nixon began his little campaign to "rehabilitate" himself and move up in the presidential pecking order from dead last to at least beat the likes of James Buchanan and Millard Fillmore. He should not have bothered. His grilling by the well-prepared Frost (who had his own personal agenda in getting involved in this project) was as full of self-justifications, obfuscations, down right balderdash and melodramatic nonsense as one could take in an hour and one half presentation.
Even three years later he still didn't get it. The basic premise that Nixon and his staff worked under while president was that of the "divine right of kings" a theory discredited a couple of centuries ago. But why go on. Whether you want to view this little film as horror, humor or hubris do not, and I repeat do not, do it while you are depressed about the state of the world. As noted above- Be forewarned this film is not for the faint-hearted. Parental Guidance is very definitely suggested for all concerned."