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Dog Day Afternoon (SE)
DVD disk
02.28.2006 By: Jason Coleman
Dog Day Afternoon (SE) order
Sidney Lumet

Al Pacino
John Cazale
Charles Durning


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On one hot day in New York, two armed men attempt to rob a bank, with less then spectacular results. They find themselves trapped inside with hostages, while police, the FBI and hundreds of screaming onlookers turn a simple event into an all out media circus. Based on a true story.
Creating tangible tension in a dramatic film is not an easy task. It may look simple – just throw in a quiet moment here, an extreme close-up there – but it requires a director who can get it in every frame of film. Sidney Lumet, the director of this classic, is that kind of filmmaker. He has an eye for creating tension out of moments that lesser directors would simply ignore. And his brilliant work here has a lot to do with what makes DOG DAY AFTERNOON such an iconic film that holds up even today. Lumet uses many tactics to enhance the tension. He uses one location in an original way, making the audience feel both familiar and claustrophobic at the same time. He makes the key decision to use no score for the film, preserving a realistic, almost documentary feel. And he uses unapologetic editing, which is fast but never afraid to take a moment for its weary characters - all of this makes the film a unique cinematic experience. And make no mistake, DOG DAY AFTERNOON can only be described as an experience, as Lumet is in top form here (although he came close with films like THE VERDICT and THE MORNING AFTER) and his 1976 Oscar nomination for Best Director for this film was no surprise. He is definitely an actor’s director, as a film of this type could’ve been fodder in the hands of someone without his vision. (See PHONE BOOTH!) Though one must mention the amazing script, which won the Oscar for Frank Pierson’s screenplay - a very layered and intelligent piece. The fact that it’s based on a real event, doesn’t diminish the power it has – its great work.

In the end, of course, the performances are what people remember the most and DOG DAY has so many great ones. Al “Attica” Pacino as the young and tightly wound Sonny, the late, great John Cazale as the understated Sal, Chris Sarandon (who went on to do great roles in Tom Holland’s FRIGHT NIGHT and CHILD’S PLAY) in his first and most powerful role as the sensitive Leon and Charles During as the bumbling policeman Moretti. The list just goes on and on, and it’s again, a credit to Lumet for handpicking such an intense and bold group of actors. And while ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST beat out DOG DAY for the Best Picture Oscar in 1976, my pick would definitely been the later. CUCKOO is a good film, but DOG DAY created something special. It’s the kind of film that doesn’t come around too often, a film that lingers with you long after you’ve left the theatre - an experience. What do you get when you mix superb directing, with flawless acting, and skin tight editing? One afternoon you’ll never forget.
I have a finger up for Warner Bros. for making this 2 disc Special Edition of DOG DAY AFTERNOON and it’s not the one you think. It’s a total thumbs up for a job well done and for giving a great living legacy to an unforgettable film. Thanks guys!

Disc 1:

Commentary (with Director Sidney Lumet): While there are some things said both here and in the later features, this commentary is still worth a listen. Would have loved to have heard more about the technical process or specifics of working with the actors, but Lumet comes from the old school of keeping your secrets. All in all, a decent conversation for fans of DOG DAY, but the average Joe might not dig it. Easy fix – skip to the Making-Of Featurette on Disc 2.

Plus there is also the original Theatrical Trailer.

Disc 2:

The Making Of Dog Day Afternoon (57:46): Man, this is one damn fine Featurette. (Reminded me of the long and brilliant documentary for THE DEVIL’S REJECTS!) Long, thorough, and completely engaging. I have to give props to writer/producer/director Laurent Bouzereau for putting together such a stunning documentary for fans. All other studios take note – Bouzereau knows how to make a DVD extra! This one also has the ability of either using the play all feature or seeing it in four distinctive sections. Total class!

The Story (11:53): Academy Award winning screenwriter Frank Pierson has most of the focus (and our attention as well!) in this part, talking about the origins of the story. An amazing script since he never actually got to meet the real life bank robber that Pacino played in the film! But love hearing the process and Pierson is very insightful.

Casting The Controversy (13:28): Love hearing anything about the late John Cazale and this one has some great words about him. And a shout out again to creator of this doc Bouzereau for getting so many of the films heavies on board to talk. (Hate when a mini-doc only gets interviews from sound editors!) Pacino, Durning, Sarandon, even Lance Henriksen, the whole gang is here and talking up a storm. Fascinating.

Recreating The Facts (21:09): All about the look of the film. Talking with the cinematographer, editor and others about how they created such a raw and gritty look for the movie. Love’n it!

After The Filming (11:16): A nice end look and wrap up, with Pacino saying his favorite moment in the film is when the pizza man, who delivers pies to Al, turns to the hyped up crowd and says “I’m a star!”, saying “That says it all.” It does indeed Al, it does indeed.

Lumet: Film Maker (10:00): An old reel, that must have been produced way back in 1976, follows Director Lumet through the making of DOG DAY. Not a lot of insight from the man himself, mostly just people talking about him and giving him props. This one is worth a viewing just to see all the behind the scenes stuff from the film. A great inside peek at a great movie.
Warner Bros. has given a classy and deluxe star treatment to this version of DOG DAY AFTERNOON. The film still looks great and the second disc has a Making Of that will knock your socks off. Worth every penny. As far as the film goes, some of the newer filmmakers of today could learn something from the palpable tension that master director Lumet creates here; it’s a very visceral experience watching DOG DAY AFTERNOON and shows that you can do so much with so little. Pacino at his peak, Lumet in top form, Cazale's star shining bright, and we are all along for the ride – makes you wish every day was a dog day.
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