Sidney Lumet film about a fictional American TV network, UBS, struggling in the ratings war. The prime-time evening newscaster, Howard Beale (Peter Finch), is sacked, and then announces on air that he will commit suidice, which gives a huge boost to the ratings. An ambitious programmes developer, Diana Christensen (Faye Dunaway), wants to exploit Beale's sudden popularity; but the head of the news, Max Schumacher (William Holden), is unhappy about compromising his standards. The news division is being put under pressure to become more profitable by the owning corporation, led by Frank Hackett (Robert Duvall).
The satire of crass TV is done with a straight face. There's a hilarious contract negotiation between lawyers, agents, and the radical Communist terrorists, the Ecumenical Liberation Army, whom Diana has commissioned as the basis of her Mao Tse Tung Hour. In an amazing late scene, Hackett and Diana discuss the need to murder Howard Beale to win their corporate power struggle. The narrator, Lee Richardson, tells the story with all the pomp of an NFL Films production.
It's a very self-aware film, becoming self-reflexive in the implausible and doomed affair between Schumacher and Diana, who keep wondering how their "plot" will turn out.
Beale becomes an American icon, famed for his manic outbursts: "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore," he screams, encouraging his viewers to shout out of their windows in a hair-raising scene of movie magic.
Nugget: a classic, hard-hitting film: slick, tightly written, and prophetic.