Dog Day Afternoon: Special Edition

January 28, 2012 8 Min Read

Review by: Christopher Bligh

Plot: What’s it about?

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?

For years seeing this film on regular syndicated television (which most of the news crews in this film are from) when the time came to show this movie, it always looked grainy and in not the best condition. In it’s second incarnation on DVD, the 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer takes care of that giving what is the best transfer this film has ever gotten even though it would never look like a movie with today’s picture quality, it certainly holds its own without the cigarette burns in the corner and without the previous grain and bleeding colors the previous DVD had included.

Audio: How does it sound?

The Dolby Digital Mono track 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. This disc also has a French Mono track along with English, French and Spanish subtitles.

Supplements: What are the extras?

For this 2 Disc Special Edition, on disc one, we’re treated to an audio commentary by director Sidney Lumet and 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. Rounding out disc one is the film’s theatrical trailer.

On disc two, there is 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.

Finally, there is a featurette from the time of the making of the film called Lumet: Film Maker which is 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.

With all of the film having a mix of a little bit of everything, Dog Day Afternoon is given an improved 2 Disc Special Edition treatment with more extras and a worthwhile lesson into the making of the film that comes very well recommended and should be in any worthy DVD collection.

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