Dog Day Afternoon (1975)

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Released 7-Oct-1998

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Biographies-Cast & Crew
Notes-Awards, Reel Recommendations
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1975
Running Time 119:20
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 4 Directed By Sidney Lumet
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Al Pacino
John Cazale
James Broderick
Charles Durning
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $24.95 Music None Given


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Arabic
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Sydney Lumet almost, but not quite joined the ranks of the great directors with films like The Verdict, Network and Serpico. Unfortunately, his career stalled, and he hasn't made a decent movie in over 10 years. He did, however, make some great movies, and Dog Day Afternoon is one of them. Nominated for six Oscars (including a fourth consecutive nomination for Al Pacino) and taking home the statue for Best Original Screenplay, Dog Day Afternoon is set in a New York bank over the course of one day and evening. Sonny (Pacino) and Sal (John Cazale) are left at the starting gate by their third accomplice to carry out their plan of robbing the bank. Things go downhill from there as the armoured truck spied by the robbers was on a mission to pick up, not drop off, and before they know it, the bank is surrounded by cops, media and an enthusiastic crowd, with Sonny having to make good on his promise to Sal to make it away clean or kill themselves.

    As the kind-natured but bumbling robber, the audience develops a bond with Sonny. This is helped by the barracking of the crowd: kind of like a precursor to cheering OJ's white Ford Bronco along the freeway. As more is revealed about the character of those involved in this tense stand-off:, including an equally good-natured cop (Charles Durning) trying to get everyone including Sonny and Sal out alive, and an FBI agent (James Broderick) wanting to end the siege in any way possible, sympathies shift and the viewer is compelled to reconsider their feelings for the characters as some very prejudicial matters come to light.

    Lumet plays expertly with the tensions and the dynamics of the hostage situation in light of the shifting perceptions of Sonny. We only ever find out anything about Sonny's background, but despite the fact that we are told nothing of the other characters, you feel as if you know them due to the emotional journey that you have travelled with them. Lumet almost constantly uses a hand-held camera, giving the movie a docu-drama type feel and placing the style of the movie quite firmly in the New York street movie genre engineered by Scorsese and others in the early 70s as a direct response to French New Wave directors such as Godard. Accenting the gritty feel is the fact that there is absolutely no musical score accompanying this movie, also making the skill of the director and the actors in setting the tone of each scene all the more apparent

    Although John Cazale only had the opportunity to make four other movies, two were the first two of The Godfather trilogy, and the other two were the brilliant The Deer Hunter and The Conversation. He plays Sal, the butt of much of the humour arising from the absurdity of the situation. However, Al Pacino in a performance that can only be described as brilliant is the center of this movie, and he takes his partner, hostages, the police, both of his wives, the media, and the crowd of onlookers on an odyssey which shows us the true natures of the personalities involved and that of the society in which they live.

    Supporting performances are also excellent across the board. Sully Boyar (Prizzi's Honor) and Penelope Allen (Scarecrow) provide some personality for the hostages, whilst outside the bank law enforcement officers Charles Durning (To Be Or Not To Be) and James Broderick (father of Matthew) engage in their own personal conflict. Chris Sarandon (The Princess Bride) is also notable in a small but vital performance, and the conversation between his Leon and Sonny (largely improvised and providing no real plot information) is one of the best scenes of the movie. Look for early, small roles from Carol Kane (Annie Hall) as a hostage, and Lance Henriksen (Aliens) as a G-man.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The transfer is presented at a measured aspect ratio of 1.80:1, is 16x9 enhanced, and is reasonably good in light of the fact that the 25 year old source material does not appear to have been restored at all.

    My main concern was a distinct lack of sharpness and detail throughout the feature. This was especially apparent in the backgrounds and in the shadows, where there was little definition to speak of. One saving grace was that the lack of detail did not drive me to distraction, and there was no low level noise to complain of. There was also some concern with grain in the interiors shot with low light, but I suspect that this was a problem with the source material generated by the new, rough guerilla-style location filming methods popularized at the time.

    This is a classic example of the somewhat muted colours of the film stocks of the 70s which occasionally comes back into vogue - see the director's commentary on Detroit Rock City. As a result, there isn't too much in the way of vibrant colour (with the browns and creams of the time dominating in any event), and skin tones are a little pale. As black level is reasonably good, though, I'm led to believe that the transfer has only suffered a little from the effects of age-related degradation of the source material.

    Somewhat surprisingly, there was only one real film-to-video artefact that I could see: one instance of aliasing on some brickwork at around 31:53 - 31:57. I also couldn't pick any MPEG artefacts, but film artefacts, including reel change markings, were out in force in various shapes, sizes, colour and texture throughout the entirety of the feature with a particularly huge number appearing at 16:31. Again, this is fairly well in line with a movie of this age, and never bothered me too much.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    I listened to the sole audio track available, being an English Dolby Digital 1.0 soundtrack. In light of the age of the movie, there wasn't really too much to complain about. Generally speaking, this is a good transfer from mono source material. There were a few times that I bemoaned the lack of a 5.1 remix, especially in the closing scenes where helicopters get involved, but otherwise, there wouldn't have been too much action for the surrounds or the subwoofer had a remix been done.

    Being a stagey, talky movie, dialogue is almost always the focus of this soundtrack. Thankfully, it is always clear and easy to understand, subject to some thick New York accents, however, a little hiss crept into some of the quieter moments. There were no real specific faults to speak of other than a barely noticeable fluctuation of volume level between 2:48 and 3:10as the opening song faded. Audio sync was spot on.

    As stated previously, absolutely no musical score accompanies this film, and the only music is Elton John's Amoreena which plays over the start of the movie.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    Not much here at all.

Menu

    The menu is static and silent, featuring a still from the movie.

Cast and Crew

    Brief biographies and film highlights of Pacino, Cazale, Broderick, Durning, screenwriter Frank Pierson and producers Martin Bregman and Martin Elfand.

Awards

    Just what it says.

Reel Recommendations

    A few cover shots from the Warners catalogue of the time.

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;     The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;     The two versions appear to be almost identical with the exception of the superior PAL formatting of the R4 release, giving it a slight edge, unless of course you have a burning desire to see this film in Pan-and-Scan.

Summary

    Dog Day Afternoon is a classic movie from an era when both Sydney Lumet and Al Pacino were on fire. I felt that the the transfer faults and the lack of extras did not do justice to the stature of the film, however leaving that aside, it is passable in light of the age of the movie and the fact that a Dolby Digital 1.0 soundtrack is utilized. This is a merely adequate presentation of a classic film, and I'm glad to have added it to my collection.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Anthony Curulli (read my bio)
Saturday, October 14, 2000
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba 2109, using S-Video output
DisplaySony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-D608
SpeakersFront: Yamaha NS10M, Rear: Wharfedale Diamond 7.1, Center: Wharfedale Sapphire, Sub: Aaron 120W

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Comments (Add)
An Underrated Classic -