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DVD Reviews

HTF MINI-REVIEW: Dog Day Afternoon Two-Disc Special Edition (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED)

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#1 of 49 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted March 01 2006 - 12:12 AM

Posted Image

Dog Day Afternoon
Two-Disc Special Edition

Studio: Warner Brothers
Year: 1975
Rated: R
Film Length: 124 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (1.85:1)
Subtitles: English, French & Spanish

Attica! Attica! Attica!

It was important that I had something to
say about Dog Day Afternoon. From the first
time I watched it some 26 years ago, it has remained
within my top 3 all-time favorite films.

In fact, I'll go on record and say that Dog Day
is one of the greatest films ever made!
It's a brilliantly executed film for the fact that
it contains an amazing ensemble of cast and crew.
It started with an oscar-winning screenplay by Frank
Pierson, based on a magazine article about a bank
robbery that actually took place in August 1972.
You then have the talents of director Sidney Lumet,
a director renowned for his his skill of pushing
hard to get top-notch performances from the actors
he works with. In the forefront, there was an amazing
line-up of actors such as Al Pacino, John Cazale
and Charles Durning, all giving what may be
considered the finest performances of their careers.
Take all of this and put it in the very capable hands
of film editor Dede Allen, and you come out with a
tragically funny, highly energetic, and brilliantly
acted masterpiece.

Posted Image

As I mentioned above, the film is based on a true
story. On a hot Brooklyn afternoon in August 1972,
two amateurs, Sonny (Al Pacino) and Sal (John Cazale),
set out to rob a bank. They both expected that the
robbery would be over in a few minutes. What ensued
was a totally botched attempt that brought hundreds
of police offers and the creation of a media circus
to a small NY street. It was unlike anything anyone
had seen before.

The situation goes from bad to worse as the robbery
turns into a hostage situation. Inside the bank, there's
the bank manager, security guard and an assortment of
female tellers. Outside the bank is Detective Sergeant
Moretti (Charles Durning), trying to negotiate the
terms of release amongst the hundreds of Brooklyn
natives cheering Sonny on behind the barricades.

How does it look and sound?

I have to be honest -- I have watched Dog Day
so many times during my life that I
had no intention of watching it nor even posting a
review. Blame it all on curiosity. I was curious
to see how well Warner Brothers restored this copy,
wondering if they did any extensive restoration at all.

Well, I popped the movie in rather late last evening
and ended up watching it all the way through.

Posted Image

I was captured by the brilliance of the transfer.
I have seen this film countless times on VHS, laserdisc
and even the initial non-anamorphic DVD release. I
know this transfer inside and out. I can tell you
where all the print scratches are supposed to be, and
I can tell you exactly how the film is supposed to sound.

What I watched last evening was a totally different
film, highly evident from the opening shot of the
camera pulling away from the Manhattan Circle Liner.
What should have been there were an assortment of
scratches and other abrasions. Instead, for the first
time in my life, I was seeing a sequence almost totally
free of debris. Take a look at the first photo I posted
of Pacino inside the bank waving the gun. Though the
image is compressed, it does faithfully represent how
clean and accurate the transfer is.

Something else occurred to me, too. Though the mono
audio soundtrack didn't exhibit a noticeable amount
of overall fidelity, I was actually hearing sounds I
never noticed before. During the film's opening
montage, I heard clanging garbage cans and other
punctuated background noises. This tells me that
great care was given to cleaning up the film's
soundtrack to bring out these effects. Even Elton
John's wonderful "Amoreena" sounds slightly more
vibrant than it previously had.

Posted Image

The video presentation brings Dog Day Afternoon
to a brand-new level. This is the first time since
owning a widescreen display I have seen the film in
its enhanced for anamorphic presentation. It is
being presented in a "matted" widescreen format that
preserves the original theatrical ratio. I am not sure
we are actually seeing any more picture information than
we have before, but I have to say, seeing this on a 57"
widescreen television with a highly improved transfer,
really drew me into the action, making me feel as if
I was experiencing the film for the very first time.

The transfer is beautiful. It doesn't match the look
of what we would expect from modern film -- and that's
a good thing. The film still looks like something
out of the '70s era which is important to preserving
the gritty look of New York City during that period.
The extremely accurate earthy colors give the film a
very warm feel. I was amazed by how good the colors
and flesh tones are represented here. This was
obviously a transfer that was given a lot of time to
be done RIGHT. This is the best the film has ever

If you want to give me something to actually
complain about, I can do it. There's something
very cruel that Warner Brothers did here that is
something outside of the transfer itself. It is
replacing the original opening Warner Brothers logo
(which I believe was their special 70s "W" logo)
with their brand new studio logo. While I know
how proud Warner is of their new logo, I feel the
studio is destroying the historical value of this
film by replacing the original. The studio needs
to understand that purists want to see the film
exactly as it was seen in 1975.


Posted Image

The Making of Dog Day Afternoon is a very
enjoyable, highly informable one-hour documentary
that features (amongst others) new interviews with
director Sidney Lumet, producer Martin Bregman and
editor Dede Allen. Additionally, you will be thrilled
to know about new interviews with (amongst others) Al
Pacino, Chris Sarandon and Charles Durning. There
is much that is covered here ranging from the magazine
article that started it all, to the casting, filming
and popularity that followed after the film's release.
Some of the most revealing stories is that the film
was actually filmed in the Fall, and ice had to be
placed in the actors mouths in order to hide their
breathe in the cold air. It's also amazing to learn
that John Casale was the most unlikely choice for the
film, that is, until his audition.

What I am very disappointed isn't included anywhere
here is footage of the actual events this film is
based on. Maybe I am expecting too much, but with
all the media surrounding this event, I am surprised
that there is no news footage of the real Sonny
parading in front of the crowd. It would have been
very interesting to see how close this film came to
portraying the actual events.

Posted Image

What I also enjoyed was a brief vintage featurette
on director Sidney Lumet that was fascinating to
watch for the fact that it was the only footage
included anywhere on this entire DVD that actually
took you out on the set and behind-the-scenes of
what was being filmed. Frankly, I wish there was
more of this included in the documentary, but I am
guessing that perhaps such footage no longer exists.

Final Thoughts

It occurs to me that there are possibly many readers
of this forum much younger than myself who probably
never watched Dog Day Afternoon. To those
readers I suggest going out and purchasing this DVD
blindly. For most everyone else, there is no need
for persuasion. Warner Brothers has done a sensational
job restoring this film and giving it a much needed
anamorphic presentation. Watching it now is like
viewing the film for the very first time.

Available: NOW

All screen captures have been further compressed.
They are for illustrative purposes only and do not
represent actual picture quality

In case anyone asks based on comments made in the review....

My Top 4 Favorite Films of All Time (In no particular order)

Glory (Columbia)
1776 (Columbia)
Dog Day Afternoon (Warner)
Braveheart (Paramount)


Ronald J Epstein
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#2 of 49 OFFLINE   Al.Anderson



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Posted March 01 2006 - 12:57 AM

Alright Ron, you've got one taker. I haven't seen this film in years. When I saw it was out this week I toyed with getting it and passed. Your mini-review swung me back!

#3 of 49 OFFLINE   Mike Frezon

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Posted March 01 2006 - 01:22 AM

Somebody's got the jones to be writin' reviews again! Posted Image

Thanks, Ron! I had absolutely no inclination to upgrade my original copy of DDA. Now I'm thinking I might be looking a little harder for the Controversial Classics #2 box at my local wholesale club. Since I haven't opened my copy of All the President's Men yet--this remains a viable option. Posted Image

Too bad about the logo...but you make the transfer sound terrific. I had screened my old copy not that long ago and had noticed all those scatches and problems that are committed to Ron's memory.

Someday very soon I've got to get off my duff (or, rather, ON my duff) to watch Braveheart. Of Ron's Top 4, that's one that keeps getting pushed to the bottom of my must-view list. I've had it on my shelf too long for it to remain unviewed. :b

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#4 of 49 OFFLINE   Dion C

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Posted March 01 2006 - 01:53 AM

I can second Ron's blind-buy recommendation for this film. It truly is one of the greats. Pacino is at the absolute top of his game here, and Cazale is just as good. The script is enthralling. The filmmaking is electric. The energy just leaps out at you from the first five minutes on. In my opinion, it is a nearly perfect film. I saw DDA as a young kid. I had been a growing film buff, being enamored by movies that would normally be considered a bit too "mature" for a kid my age. (That's what happens when some of your earliest exposures is to such films as "Bonnie & Clyde" and "The Wild Bunch.") My father, bless him, recognized my budding movie passion and said yes when I asked him to take me to see this one -- an R-rated movie that warranted its "R." Like Ron, it has remained one of my fondest movie memories. (Plus the added bonus of being a nice father-son memory for me too.) For those who might have been too young or not even around when this was released, or simply have never had a chance to see it, you will not be disappointed. It's one of the great ones.
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#5 of 49 OFFLINE   Brett_M



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Posted March 01 2006 - 02:05 AM

Great review, Ron. I whole-heartedly agree -- it's one of the best films ever made. I haven't watched it yet but your review made me move it to the top of my watch list. If there are any hold-outs for the Controversial Classics Vol. 2 box set, let this review and the replies that are sure to follow get you to your nearest DVD store to purchase the set. 3 of the best films ever made. They are mandatory for any movie lover's library. (Less than $50 at Best Buy and Costco has it for less than $40.)
Many Shubs and Zuuls knew what it meant to roast in the depths of the Sloar that day I can tell you.

#6 of 49 OFFLINE   Steve Christou

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Posted March 01 2006 - 02:06 AM

Exactly how I felt when I picked up the dvd recently on region 2. I love the movie but I was looking forward to seeing at least a few clips from the actual event considering the so-called 'media circus' that surrounded it, nothing, nada, I don't even think they showed a photo of the real 'Sonny'. And I don't know why. So I was disappointed in that, but the film itself has probably never looked better, fantastic transfer, crisp clear mono sound. A must buy for Pacino fans and collectors of great movies from arguably cinema's greatest ever decade.

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#7 of 49 OFFLINE   MarkHarrison


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Posted March 01 2006 - 05:45 AM

I mentioned in a thread yesterday that I never double dip. The only exception I make is when I'm not really "buying" the movie. Since I want the other two movies in the set and buying the box works out to about the same price and picking up two single releases, I can get Dog Day Afternoon for free esentially. Gotta love loopholes. Posted Image

#8 of 49 OFFLINE   Dave Mack

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Posted March 01 2006 - 06:10 AM

Nice review, Ron! Good to see you back at it! I'm VERY excited to pick this up.
One thing though. I watched the original dvd last year and I'm pretty sure the WS version was anamorphic.

Posted Image d

#9 of 49 OFFLINE   Andrew Bunk

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Posted March 01 2006 - 06:17 AM

I bought the Controversial Classics Volume 2 boxset for $45. I've seen Network and All The Presiden't Men before, but I think I am most looking forward to seeing DDA for the first time. I had a feeling a better DVD would be coming so I've put it off until now. Thanks for the review Ron!
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#10 of 49 OFFLINE   Russell G

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Posted March 01 2006 - 07:37 AM

Man, "CC2" is looking to be the best blind buy of this year for me, having seen none of the films before, much like Controversal Classics was last year! I can't wait to get this!

#11 of 49 OFFLINE   Sam Favate

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Posted March 01 2006 - 08:03 AM

Having not had this one on DVD (I know, I know, shame on me), I am looking forward to my copy of CC2, which should arrive today. If you haven't seen DDA (or Network or ATPM), let me add my voice to Ron's and the others here and say you can't go wrong with a blind buy. If you are a fan of movies, period, you will be happy to have any of these in your collection.

#12 of 49 OFFLINE   JohnMor



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Posted March 01 2006 - 08:41 AM

Definitely my favorite of the 3 films in the boxset, and the other 2 are terrific films as well! Posted Image

#13 of 49 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted March 01 2006 - 08:55 AM

Hi Dave!

I gave away my original copy weeks ago in anticipation
of this new release.

If the old DVD was indeed anamorphic I apologize for
the misinformation. Realize that at the time I wrote
the review, I did go on-line to double-check the specs
of that original disc here and found that the original
version was listed as being "non-anamorphic."


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#14 of 49 OFFLINE   Bradley-E



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Posted March 01 2006 - 09:07 AM

Great boxset. The documentaries were wonderful. I liked (in DDA) how they tackled the Gay issue back then. Lumet, Pacino and Sarandon wanted the relationship to not get laughs and feel believable. It paid off very well for them and the film. NETWORK is my 2nd all-time favorite film and I think it is STILL FLAWLESS. The documentaries for PRESIDENT'S MEN were interesting but not as good as the ones for NETWORK and DDA.

#15 of 49 OFFLINE   Paul_Scott


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Posted March 01 2006 - 09:10 AM

which is odd because the old logo is there for ATPM (Network was an MGM production). i agree, its a small detail, but it does help set the mood for the next couple hours. of all three in the box, the image on this one looks the most pleasing, the most glossy- which did surprise me a little. this title, although i have always liked the film, was actually the one in the box i was least anxious to watch again, but i'll probably watch it tonight and put off ATPM for a while. Network struck me like a bolt of lightning last night- i remember it being a good movie, i had forgotten it was a brilliant one as well. when i first heard about this set, the inclusion of only three films seemed very underwhelming considering the 7 or so we got in the first collection. After watching Network and antincipating these next two- i finally 'get' it. it's only the beinging of March and we've already seen one of the greatest sets of the year, and one of the best collections ever released on this medium. Echoing Sam and others sentiments, if you consider yourself a film lover, this set is a no-brainer.

#16 of 49 OFFLINE   Ryan L. Bisasky

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Posted March 01 2006 - 10:08 AM

i watched the movie for the first time (it was a rented copy of the old dvd). they sure don't make em like they used to. For a 90's remake (and not nearly as good, and poorly acted version) try to hunt down a copy of a movie called "pups". for you sopranos buffs, the guy who plays uncle junior on the show, is sonny's father. also, not really being around in the 70's, can someone explain the signifcance of the "Attica, Attica" speech. now i have network to look forward to on my dvr.
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#17 of 49 OFFLINE   Brett_M



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Posted March 01 2006 - 11:37 AM

Sonny shouts "Attica, Attica!"' to insight the crowd because earlier that year, there was a prison riot in Attica, NY put down with violence and many people died (several prsoners and a guard or two).
Many Shubs and Zuuls knew what it meant to roast in the depths of the Sloar that day I can tell you.

#18 of 49 OFFLINE   ChristopherDAC



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Posted March 01 2006 - 01:06 PM

At the Modern Art Museum here in Fort Worth last year, they had a fascinating exhibit by an artist whose medium was film/video. One of the pieces was a documentary, about 15 minutes long, combining clips from "Dog Day Afternoon" with news footage of the actual events, and an interview with the survivor of the pair of bank-robbers held on a set recreating the bank lobby. The whole thing was projected Cinerama-fashion using two DLP units side-by-side, frequently providing comparisons between parallel records of the event. Pure genius if you ask me, and too bad it's not on this disc!

#19 of 49 OFFLINE   JohnMor



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Posted March 01 2006 - 01:26 PM

Great review, Ron. Thanks! The original disc was indeed anamorphic; a flipper with the Full Screen on one side, and the Widescreen on the other, "Enhanced for Widescreen TV's" as WB likes to phrase it. Another thing I've loved about Warners was how many of their early releases were anamorphic. My boxset hasn't shipped yet, but I can't wait to get this and watch these films again.

#20 of 49 OFFLINE   Justin W

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Posted March 01 2006 - 02:29 PM

i can't wait to get this set. not really a big fan of network. but DDA is fantastic. and all the president's men is one of my all time top ten.

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