In the mid-seventies the films that were turning out as award candidates was one of the best selections any year can ask for. From Nashville to Jaws to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, 1975 was certainly a year well represented and out of this such year came another contender that told the story of a robbery, two people and one day of chaos all happening in Brooklyn, NY from a sunny morning right down to a Dog Day Afternoon.
It’s August, and winding down to an average hot day and waiting around the corner are a few guys parked outside a bank a few minutes to closing time. Before the security guard locks the door to the last customer, guns are drawn and the bank is in the process of being robbed. There’s only one problem. A truck already came for the majority of the money and there’s very little left in the drawers. With the finishing touches comes the burning of an item in the bank and it’s smoke that comes out the back way. Little do the robbers realize with this smoke that the first moment they can escape their botched attempt they have the cops, onlookers, and a wide array of TV coverage covering this unaware of the robbers life or intentions on why he wanted to do such a thing.
On all meters shooting, acting and writing, Dog Day Afternoon starts off with the audience not knowing what to expect but it’s when our main character starts in the bank that things take off quick and with the wise disclusion of a score capture the tension between the robbers and the arriving police as well as all the moments in between. The time goes by very surely and with all that can get serious there’s a bit of flawed lightness from the characters in between.
The performances right down the line hit the right notes as Pacino plays the robber seeing himself in quite a mess both in front of the cameras and inside the bank. He calms and is a decent person to the others in the bank but the outside authority have second thoughts on what to make of him and most especially his partner played with calm and nervous energy by John Cazale.
Nothing can sum up one signature shot than the one scene where Sonny is asked to come out and see what’s surrounded around him along with some of the outsiders trying to make a quick end to it when it’s escalating into a bigger problem than the robbery itself. It’s well edited, well put together and there are many more in this film (but I’ll let the audience realize the rest)
It’s a shame that it had to go to one movie that year, because every movie that was nominated in 1975 was worthy of contention and a multi tie would’ve been nice, and this viewer is sure Dog Day Afternoon would’ve been included in that mix.
Video: How does it look?
This isn’t the first incarnation of the film on Blu-ray. There was an edition that came out in 2007 and this 40th Anniversary edition uses the same VC-1 encode as that disc. Now this isn’t totally a bad thing. While the image certainly could have benefitted from a new 4K remaster, this doesn’t exactly look bad. Granted, the early 70’s film stock is a bit gritty and we don’t get the polished, razor sharp details that today’s films have, but by and large this is a very good-looking picture. The 1.85:1 aspect ratio fills the screen to its entirety, blacks are deep and dark while contrast is steady and solid. While some errors persist like a bit of motion in some of the background scenes and a fine layer of grain for the duration of the film. Don’t let any of this throw you though, it’s still a nice-looking transfer.
Audio: How does it sound?
The included DTS HD Master Audio track is a mouthful, but it’s still a 1.0 track. So…we’ll call it mono – with a twist. It does capture the sound quality nicely and even though this is mostly a dialogue driven piece without a score, everything comes out fine even though there were very little effects with all the activity in the bank and outside, they made for a decent track that sounded better than most of the movies of that time that haven’t gotten the remastered treatment. There’s not a lot of dynamic range to be heard, but it does improve upon the previous Mono track.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This is kind of strange as this new two disc edition does actually have a new feature, but it’s on the DVD (disc two) and not the Blu-ray. I guess this was easier to produce a new DVD for the set and leave the Blu-ray (from the previously-released version) intact. Whatever the case, all of the supplements from the previous edition have been ported over as well.
Disc One (Blu-ray)
Audio Commentary – Director Sidney Lumet, with all his informative comments and little vignettes in between, it’s good to hear that he has a genuinely good time chatting on while the film is going on whether its going into the casting of the film of some of the background people or his choice to have no musical score throughout the majority of the film (with the exception of the very beginning that is). It’s a great commentary and one worth a listen or three.
Vintage Featurette – The Making of Dog Day Afternoon – A four part documentary speaking about just that and each one can be watched individually or the “Play All” option. With each part it goes into the origin of the story that was true along with how everything came together in the casting and the way the actors felt while making the picture. We hear from many of the major players including director Sidney Lumet, writer Frank Pierson, actor Al Pacino and Chris Sarandon, editor Dede Allen and lots more. It’s also an interesting inclusion that this is a first movie for a good amount of the people involved in this picture and in the entire almost one hour documentary, not only do we hear info we’ve heard before, there’s a lot more spread around and it makes for a very entertaining making of the film.
Casting the Controversy
Recreating the Facts
After the Filming
Vintage Featurette – Lumet: Film Maker – A basic vintage short depicting the making of the film in it’s own short promotional way and is a fun look back at how they did makings of at that time.
Disc Two (DVD)
I Knew It Was You: Rediscovering John Cazale – Cazale, who died of Cancer at the age of 42, was only in a handful of films, but each of them were memorable. This new documentary pays tribute and homage to the late actor and as the only “new” feature (this was circa 2009) on the set, it’s up to you if it’s worth the upgrade.
Extended Interview: Al Pacino – Pacino reflects on his role and his work with Cazele and shares some anecdotes about the two in their early years in the business.
Extended Interview: Israel Horovitz – Horowitz mainly reflects on the work of John Cazele, his commitment to acting and how he made others around him excel in their respective parts.
The American Way – A rare, offbeat short film tweaking American institutions and starring a young John Cazale
The Box – Cazale, who had an interest in photography, is featured behind the camera as director of photography in this early short film.
The Bottom Line
Several decades before the internet, Facebook and Twitter, we see the sensationalism of the media in all its glory. Dog Day Afternoon is one of those films that has actually improved with age and remains one of Al Pacino’s better roles (up there with The Godfather films). This new 40th edition is a bit of a head-scratcher when it comes to the upgrade. Warner left the video intact while improving the audio and added a new feature but put it on the DVD and not the Blu-ray. If you don’t already own the disc, this is the one to get, but recommending an upgrade isn’t recommended.