Jimmy Cobb (Lee Marvin) is an American gangster who lives in France. He's currently hiding out from authorities with a whole lot of stolen cash on his person, hoping to keep it for himself and not get banned. See, just a little while ago Jimmy gave his girlfriend a goodbye kiss and left to take care of a little business… which involved robbing a bank truck. What Jimmy didn't realize before he left on this endeavor was that the cops were one step ahead of him, awaiting his arrival at the bank. Jimmy, however, was undeterred by this and, with some help from a rocket launcher, managed get the cash and make it out alive.
Jimmy then steals a car and heads out into the rural Beauce region in hopes of lying low until this all blows over a bit. What he doesn't count on is a pair of farmers figuring out what he's up to and hatching a scheme to get what he's got, all while his former criminal associates and the police alike close in on him, the hoods wanting the money and the cops wanting Jimmy behind bars or six feet under, leading Cobb to a take solace at a nearby farmhouse, where things get decidedly…. Odd.
Based on the novel by Jean Herman (the author of Farewell, Friend) and directed by Yves Boisset, Dog Day (or, Canicule as it is known in its French homeland) was one of Lee Marvin's final films. The actor passed away less than three years after this movie was made and you can tell he's not in the greatest shape of his career in this picture, but he's still got that steely-eyed screen presence and bad ass demeanor. He looks tired here, and it isn't his best work, but it's still Lee Marvin and that still counts for a whole lot of something. The film also stars French actress Miou-Miou and Gilligan's Island heartthrob Tina Louise, which is kind of strange, but Marvin gets most of the screen time here. He lacks chemistry with the French performers, perhaps there was a language barrier at play. Juliette Mills also has a supporting role.
Production values are very strong. The cinematography is often excellent and the score top-notch. The locations are well-chosen and the action set pieces are nicely choreographed. The story, however, is a fairly ‘by the numbers' gangster on the run picture, at least on the surface. If there aren't a lot of twists and turns here, it is interesting how Marvin's character is placed amongst those just as, if not more, immoral than he is. Once he gets involved in the drama at the farmhouse, the characters that populate it turn out to be pretty messed up and are prone to doing messed up things. The movie gets strange in spots due to their behavior, and it's here that the picture gets to be surprising in spot. It goes into very dark, nihilistic places and it gets increasingly sleazy as the story plays out, throwing in racism, rape, incest and plenty of strong violence.
Dog Day is a strange picture, very much ‘by the books' in some ways and completely out there in others. If the story doesn't break new ground, the characters that populate definitely set this apart from pretty much anything else Marvin was ever involved with. It has a strong ‘Euro-sleaze'
Kino Lorber, using a master supplied by Studio Canal (assuming the SC logo opening the presentation is anything to go by) brings Dog Day to Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 2.35.1 widescreen. The picture quality here is quite good, showing nice detail, depth and texture. The image is also quite clean, there isn't much in the way of print damage aside from a few odd white specks here and there. Colors are handled well and black levels look good as well, and the disc is free of any noise reduction, edge enhancement or compression issues.
English and French language audio tracks are provided in DTS-HD 2.0 format with optional subtitles provided in English only. The audio is clean and nicely balanced and the dialogue is always easy enough to understand. No problems with any hiss or distortion to report.
The main extra on the disc is an audio commentary track from writer/'all around film kind of guy' Howard S. Berger and Steve Mitchell (the director of King Cohen. They start off by comparing the similarities of the opening credits to Prime Cut, and then go on to discuss the credits of the crew, talk about Yves Boisset, the appeal of Lee Marvin's films to him, the strong violence in the film right from the opening robbery, the way that Marvin's character is depicted in the film, the bleak style of the film, how Tina Louise wound up in this picture, how Marvin got along with Jean Carmet during the production (which, of course, led to drinking), the ‘moral malfunction' that certain characters experience in the film, the camerawork employed in the film and quite a bit more. These guys have a good rapport, and the track is never dry. They're clearly having a good time dissecting the film and there's a lot of good information in the track, which makes it worth listening to.
Additionally, the disc includes a theatrical trailer, bonus trailers for other Kino Lorber properties, menus and chapter selection.
Dog Day is no unsung masterpiece but it's definitely strange enough that it works as a true cinematic oddity. Marvin is not at his best but he's still got that presence and the supporting cast all deliver good work here. The film is stylish and surprisingly sleazy, and nothing if not entertaining. Kino's Blu-ray release is a good one, presenting the film with both French and English language options, a nice transfer and a good commentary as its main extra feature. Recommended.