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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Dog Day Afternoon 40th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray)
Dog Day Afternoon 40th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray)
Warner Bros. // R // September 21, 2015 // Region A
List Price: $24.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Randy Miller III | posted September 18, 2015 | E-mail the Author

I've lost track of how many times I've seen Sidney Lumet's Dog Day Afternoon (1975), but it's still a film that sucks me in every time. Maybe it's because I'm a sucker for small, insular settings that aren't overcrowded with dozens of characters to keep track of. Maybe it's because I have a soft spot for movies that take place during the course of a single, unforgettable day. Or maybe it's just because Dog Day Afternoon is loaded with terrific performances, refuses to sit still as the story progresses, and captures a specific point in time that still feels relevant 40 years later.

Either way, it's as flawless as crime dramas get. Our story follows de facto leader Sonny Wortzik (Al Pacino) and his enigmatic associate Salvatore "Sal" Naturale (John Cazale) who, along with a reluctant third party, decide to rob Brooklyn's First Savings Bank one hot Tuesday afternoon. Sal seems to have some experience, but the plan falls apart immediately: their third party bails, the safe is nearly empty...and they're quickly surrounded by police and curious onlookers who have them boxed in with no chance of an easy escape. Sonny and Sal's only leverage is the bank employees they're holding hostage, including a rowdy group of female tellers (played by Carol Kane, Penelope Allen, and Marcia Jean Kurtz, among others), their manager (Sully Boyar), and an asthmatic guard (John Marriott), although the hostage situation shifts toward Stockholm Syndrome as hours pass in the small, stifling bank.

From start to finish, Dog Day Afternoon keeps us on our toes; lesser films would be running on fumes after 125 minutes that take place in only half a dozen locations, but the story's refusal to be pinned down---much like Sonny and Sal---is what keeps the momentum rolling. From dealings with Sergeant Moretti (Charles Durning) to their duel with calm, collected FBI Agent Sheldon (James Broderick) and electric interactions with the vocal mob of onlookers, there's almost never a dull moment. Of course, Dog Day Afternoon's claim to fame is that it's based on a true story that took place on August 22, 1972; though it takes a few liberties along the way, this is a largely accurate presentation of non-fiction events that surprises at every turn and feels like the cinematic equivalent of a pipe bomb.

The lead and supporting performances are top-tier (none more than Pacino and Cazale, who play flawlessly together but would soon be separated by Cazale's death in 1978), the editing and direction crackle with energy, and its coarse, rugged dialogue suits this material perfectly. But it's the timeless statements about fame, authority, and our media's shift towards sensationalism that give Dog Day Afternoon most of its considerable, enduring spark.

Dog Day Afternoon's last appearances on home video included three separate releases in just over a year: the Special Edition DVD in 2006, followed by dual Blu-ray and HD DVD (never forget) packages in 2007. Eight years is ample time for upgrades in the home video world, but this new 40th Anniversary Edition offers only a few improvements in less noticeable areas. This two-disc package opens with Warner Bros.' plain-wrap interface, which includes plenty of audio/subtitle options and region-free playback; it's packaged in a cheap dual-hubbed eco keepcase with eye-catching but ultimately generic artwork that doesn't reproduce any of the film's iconic poster designs.

Much like other Warner Bros.' "Anniversary Editions" (All The President's Men, Deliverance, Unforgiven, etc.), Dog Day Afternoon does not feature a new transfer. That's especially disappointing here, as the 2007 Blu-ray was also sourced from an old DVD-era master and encoded with the now-defunct VC-1 codec. The only difference is that it's now on a dual-layer disc with a higher bit rate, which only yields a cursory improvement that most viewers probably won't even notice. The bottom line: this is a watchable 1.78:1, 1080p presentation and obviously a step up from the DVD, but there's still a good amount of room for improvement here. It's perhaps this release's only genuine drawback...and not necessarily a deal-breaker, but I wouldn't blame frugal fans for holding off another five years.

DISCLAIMER: The screen captures featured on this page are strictly decorative and do not represent the Blu-ray under review.

Thankfully, the audio gets an upgrade. This DTS-HD 1.0 Master Audio track may not sound like much of an improvement over the old Blu-ray and DVD's Dolby Digital 1.0 on paper...but trust me, it is. From the opening bars of Elton John's "Amoreena" onward, everything has a slightly fuller and more robust presence that only falters during a few stray moments during what are likely source material issues or on-location recording limitations. Effects and sparse music cues are balanced well and don't fight for attention. Either way, I'm just glad that Dog Day Afternoon avoided a faux-surround mix, as this dialogue-driven production doesn't really need any additional help to capture your attention. Optional Dolby Digital 1.0 dubs and subtitles are offered in French, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, German, Italian, and several other languages, which are also new and exclusive to this region-free disc.

Disc 1 (much like Warner Bros.' 2007 Blu-ray) simply recycles all the extras created for the studio's own 2006 Special Edition DVD. These include an Audio Commentary with director Sidney Lumet, the four-part "Making of Dog Day Afternoon" documentary, a vintage promotional piece entitled "Lumet: Filmmaker", and the Theatrical Trailer.

Disc 2, by default, is the real draw for those who own the 2007 Blu-ray...but there's still nothing technically "new" here. It's simply a re-labeled DVD copy of I Knew It Was You: Rediscovering John Cazale, originally released by Oscilloscope in 2010 and still very much in print. Don't get me wrong: this is a fantastic documentary (39:31, above) with an all-star cast including Al Pacino, Francis Ford Coppola, Meryl Streep, Gene Hackman, Robert De Niro, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Sidney Lumet, Richard Dreyfuss, and Steve Buscemi. It's essentially a tour of the late actor's bulletproof filmography, peppered with personal anecdotes and rare photos. This DVD also includes the original extras from Oscilloscope's disc including an Audio Commentary with director Richard Shepard, two extended Interviews with Al Pacino (19:49) and Israel Horevitz (22:29), plus the Short Films "The American Way" (10:10, a 1962 dialogue-free short staring Cazale) and 1969's "The Box" (9:47, in which Cazale served as director of photography).

It's 40 years later and Dog Day Afternoon is still as timeless, captivating, and relevant as ever; this still an easy film to get caught up in, whether you've only seen it a handful of times or know it by heart. Sidney Lumet's strong direction influenced countless films in the years and decades to come, while the lead and supporting performances remain terrific across the board. Unfortunately, Warner Bros.' 40th Anniversary Edition isn't exactly a definitive release, mainly because it recycles the same transfer used for their 2007 Blu-ray. The lossless audio and inclusion of Oscilloscope's I Knew It Was You: Rediscovering John Cazale is appreciated...but honestly, only die-hard fans of Dog Day Afternoon (and those who don't own it on Blu-ray yet) should bother with this one. Mildly Recommended.

Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs and writing in third person.
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