Guerrilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst (2004)

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Released 23-Nov-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Main Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-Robert Stone (Director)
Audio-Only Track-The Patty Hearst Tapes
Featurette-Footage - Hibernia Bank Robbery
Deleted Scenes-Sacramento Courthouse
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Autumn Spring, The Boy Who Plays On The Buddhas Of Bamiyan
Trailer-Life & Debt
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2004
Running Time 85:32 (Case: 120)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (49:11) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Robert Stone
Gil Scrine Films
Madman Entertainment
Starring Michael Bortin
Timothy Findley
Marcus Foster
Catherine Hearst
Patricia Hearst
Randolph Hearst
Russ Little
Ronald Reagan
Evelle Younger
Spiro Agnew
Warren Burger
Henry Kissinger
Pat Nixon
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music Gary Lionelli

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    The term Stockholm Syndrome was first used by criminologist Nils Bejerot to describe the sympathetic reaction of hostages to their captors in the Norrmalmstorg robbery of 1973. Numerous cases have been documented since, but by far the most bizarre and ambiguous case yet arose from the 1974 kidnapping of Californian socialite Patty Hearst by the radical guerrilla group, the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA). Vowing to tear down American "concentration camps" and to bring "death to the fascist insect that preys upon the life of the people," Hearst's kidnapping was undertaken as part of a planned prisoner swap with members arrested for the assassination of Dr Marcus Foster. Taped messages from Patty were sent to the Hearst family, detailing the SLA's demands and her condition. The Hearst ordeal quickly became a media sensation. SLA demands received live coverage and the small group (13 members at one time) suddenly had the power of the Hearst empire in their hands.

    When the prisoner exchange demands could not be met, the SLA demanded that a food distribution program for the poor be set up at Hearst's expense, asking for food to the value of $400 million. A program was set in motion but fell apart as the recipients began to riot. Meanwhile, Patty's recorded messages began to express sympathy for the SLA and their aims and in a final bizarre twist, given the choice to go free or join her captors, chose to reject her family and fiancée and become an armed member of the SLA, taking on the new name of Tania.

    The SLA's first misstep came with their robbery of the Hibernia. Security footage shows Patty Hearst's active and armed participation, yelling "up against the wall motherf***ers." A warrant was issued for her arrest. After a shootout in which most SLA members died, Patty Hearst was eventually apprehended in 1975. She was tried for her part in the Hibernia robbery and sentenced to seven years, always claiming that she had been drugged and forced to participate in the SLA's crimes, that she in fact had suffered from Stockholm syndrome. Her sentence was later commuted by President Jimmy Carter and she received a full pardon from Bill Clinton on his last day in office.

    Was she an innocent kidnap victim or an opportunist with all the right connections? Director Robert Stone's documentary Guerrilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst takes a somewhat balanced perspective but leans ultimately toward the conclusion of opportunism. Mixing recent interviews with journalists, investigators, and one of the men at the centre of the planned prisoner exchange with abundant archive footage, Stone lets the story unfold itself in all its riveting, over-the-top detail. The viewer is ultimately allowed to reach her own conclusions about the SLA and Patty Hearst, but enough evidence is on offer to suggest that the case is by no means cut and dry and that some level of backstage political manoeuvring had a hand in Hearst's release from prison.

    Stone's film, in reality, is more interested in the SLA and their motivations than Patty Hearst: the group's history is relevant to today's political climate and raises many important issues. The widening gap between the wealthy and the poor, media bias, presidential rights and powers, the right to bear arms, and political violence remain topical issues today. Particularly, Stone makes a critique of journalism as entertainment, of America's obsession with watching events unfold live and the bias and tragedy event journalism can conceal. By drawing out these important questions from such a sensationalist story, Stone manages to elevate his film beyond New Idea journalism to a cogent engagement with important and relevant issues. An utterly surprising and thought-provoking documentary.

    (And if you're wondering where Patty Hearst is today, keep an eye on the talkshow circuit or buy her book. Better yet, rent any number of John Waters films to enjoy her burgeoning acting career - the rest of the SLA are dead or in jail).

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Transfer Quality


    Taking into account that most of the film consists of archive footage, Guerrilla's transfer is very good. The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. I have not found any definitive information on the original aspect ratio, but framing would indicate that 1.78:1 is close to, if not the original.

    Sharpness varies between different sources of footage. The new interviews are sharp but exhibit a little noise and pixelization in the backgrounds. Detail is good in these segments, but runs the gamut of atrocious to excellent in archival footage. Colours are likewise fine in the interviews but variable in non-original footage.

    Aliasing is present in many shots (see especially 21:50). Filmed photographs tend to appear blocky, but this does not appear to be an artefact introduced in the transfer process. Pixelization is visible at times. Film artefacts of every sort are present in archival footage, including scratches, dirt, hairs, emulsion damage, tracking errors, and so on. The video transfer itself has been performed admirably and the quality of the source material should be take into account when referring to quality ratings (all ratings except film artefacts refer to interview footage only).

    No subtitles are included. The film is divided into 13 chapters and the layer change occurs at 49:11, interrupting audio in a fade to black.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    Audio is generally very good, again taking into consideration the state of archive material. Three tracks are provided: English Dolby Digital 5.1, English Dolby Digital 2.0, and a Dolby Digital 2.0 commentary track. I listened to the 5.1 track and sampled the 2.0.

    Interview dialogue is clear and audible. Archival audio exhibits variable hiss and crackle and is occasionally muffled. Interview audio, naturally, sounds more dynamic than archival. Audio sync is accurate during interviews but often poor in non-original footage. All dialogue is directed to the centre speaker, but is not stable: audio bleeds in and out of the front left and right speakers in both archival and interview segments. The issue is persistent for the entire running time and occurs on three different player I have tested it on.

    The music is composed by Gary Lionelli and conveys an exotic sound suitable to the revolutionary nature of the SLA. At other times, electric guitar and bass are used to build excitement but also - perhaps - to parody sensationalist journalism. The score is designed to avoid nostalgia, to emphasise the story's timeless quality.

     Both feature tracks use the surrounds and subwoofer to support the score. Directional effects are practically absent (unless you count the shifting centre speaker audio!).

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Main Menu Audio

Audio Commentary

    Robert Stone discusses the making of Guerrilla, explaining his goals and aims for the film, his rationale for filmmaking choices, and helpfully fills in a few gaps in SLA history. Quite a good commentary, with just a few silences here and there: definitely worth a listen.

Audio-Only Track - The Patty Hearst Tapes

    Six unedited audio recordings of Patty Hearst speaking from captivity chart her progress from kidnap victim to revolutionary. Most of the audio can be heard within the feature.

Featurette - Hibernia Bank Robbery (6:44).

    Complete security footage of the robbery for which Hearst was ultimately arrested. Silent footage and very eerie viewing.

Deleted Scenes - Sacramento Courthouse (25:09).

    Several SLA members shot a bystander while robbing the Crocker Bank. They were finally arrested and sentenced in 2003. Their response to their sentences and apologies to their victim's family.


    11 images of mugshots and wanted posters of SLA members and Hearst.

Theatrical Trailer (2:05)

    4x3 trailer. Catches the feel of the documentary well.


    Everyone's favourite Piracy ad, plus three other 4x3 trailers.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 release from Docurama is very similar to ours, boasting what appears to be an identical transfer. The commentary, audio tapes, courtroom footage and security tape footage are the same. Different trailers are included plus cast and crew biographies. There's no real reason to favour either release.


    The unbelievable and very true history of the Symbionese Liberation Army and the infamous Patty Hearst. A well-made documentary very relevant today.

    Video is well transferred, but archival footage shows a lot of damage.

    Archival footage sounds damaged and the audio transfer exhibits some instability.

    Extras are historically interesting but are already incorporated into the documentary.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Adam Atkinson (read my bio)
Sunday, March 05, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDSony DVP-S336, using Component output
DisplayLG Flatron Widescreen RT-28FZ85RX. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationYamaha RX-V357
SpeakersDB Dynamics Belmont Series: Fronts: B50F, Centre: B50C, Rears: B50S, Sub: SW8BR

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