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Book Review: Mad As Hell


 Shrewsbury, Massachusetts- “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” It is one of the most well-known quotes in film history, yet many people haven’t seen the film that immortal line comes from, Network. Released in 1976, the film was hailed as an acerbic piece of satire against television. Little did anyone realize that the film more or less predicted what would television would end up like today. The New York Times’s Dave Itzkoff has crafted a biography of the film and its mad creator. 

In the 1976 Paddy Chayefsky was still considered to be one of the film (and theatre) industry’s greatest writers. With two Oscars under his belt for Marty and The Hospital, Chayefsky’s career seemed to have hit its peak. That is, until he started working on a story of a mad prophet of the airwaves and the network executives that decide to exploit his madness. It would be a tumultuous journey from script to screen, but the result would be one of the great films ever made.

Mad As Hell: The Making of Network and the Fateful Vision of the Angriest Man in Movies is a bitingly addictive film biography. From start to finish Itzkoff draws you into the story of Network and Chayefsky. From its original inception, to the tough casting process, to the critical success, Mad As Hell is an exciting ride. Itzkoff presents a nice overview of the culture of the 70’s while still keeping focus on Network and Chayefsky.

The most interesting bits of Mad As Hell are not the ones focused on Finch’s unfortunate death or its role in resurging Faye Dunaway’s career, but the ones focused on its writer. Itzkoff not only crafts a biography of the film, but also a memoir of Paddy Chayefsky. Chayefsky was sick of all the BS that was happening in his country and he sought to channel it through his work. He would butt heads with folks in Hollywood, but he never faltered in his work. The work he made and the legacy he left behind lies at the heart of Mad As Hell.

Mad As Hell is a wonderful film biography that offers an in depth look into one of the best movies ever made. Dave Itzkoff has built an engrossing account of the making of Network and the impact it had long after it was released. Network serves as a satirical look at television that became eerily true a few decades later. If you’ve never seen Network, give it a look and then pick up Mad As Hell.

Mad As Hell: The Making of Network and the Fateful Vision of the Angriest Man in Movies by Dave Itzkoff is available wherever books are sold and Network is available at the Shrewsbury Public Library. Or if you know me and see me, ask to borrow it, I’ll gladly give it to you. 


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