Saturday, 5 December 2015

Review: Dog Day Afternoon

I can't believe I haven't seen…

Dog Day Afternoon Poster

Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
Cert: 15 / 124 mins / Dir. Sidney Lumet / Trailer
WoB Rating: 5/7

Sydney Lumet's retelling of an actual bungled bank robbery in 1972 New York might just be the perfect example of a stripped-down 1970s crime thriller; stiflingly grim but with a relentless energy, the film eschews the orchestral scores of the genre and opts instead for Elton John performing 'Amoreena' over the lengthy opening-credit sequence. Once this becomes an 'in-movie' track, the car radio playing it is switched off and the film's soundtrack ends there. Lumet's documentary-approach is assisted by hand-held cameras, on-set audio (including the scrapes and scuffles of everyday movement), and minimal titles and credits.

Of course, the realism would be nothing without the recurring realisation that for all the film's dips into the borderline-absurd private life of the robbery's ringleader John Wojtowicz (Al Pacino), those parts are pretty much true, too (although Wojtowicz contested some of the details, they were the more mundane ones, oddly).

What's even more bizarre is that Wojtowicz had watched The Godfather on the day of the robbery, partly for inspiration, obviously unaware than he and his partner in crime would be played by Pacino and John Cazale, both of whom star in that film.

But those are trifling details; Pacino is quite superb in this movie as a man at the end of several tethers (the most I've enjoyed him outside of Scarface), and while he's supported by an admirable cast, it's really Al's show. Watching Dog Day Afternoon at this stage, I can also see the massive influence it had on Reservoir Dogs (although the script is the polar opposite of Tarantino's slick dialogue).

In fact, Dog Day Afternoon would be a masterpiece if veteran thesp Charles Durning didn't pantomime his way through the middle-act as beleaguered detective, Moretti ;)

Have you really never seen this before?
Yeah, really.

So are you glad you've finally have?
I am.

And would you recommend it, now?
More as a study in film-making than an evening's entertainment, but yes.

Oh, and is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
Not that I heard.

…but what's the Star Wars connection?
Dog Day Afternoon stars Lance Henriksen, who appeared in horror-threequel Scream 3, as did Carrie 'Leia' Fisher.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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