Length: 99 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Languages: English (Dolby Digital 1.0), French
Subtitles: English, French
Ubiquitous video surveillance, warrantless wiretaps, tracking devices installed in vehicles – these and other methods of intruding into the lives of others are on display in The Anderson Tapes, which is being released on DVD for the first time. One might think that the film was inspired by recent controversies about invasion of privacy, but in fact The Anderson Tapes was released 37 years ago, in 1971. It is another entry in Sony’s new series called “Martini Movies,” which consists of films from the fifties, sixties and seventies that have not previously been released on DVD. In addition to The Anderson Tapes, the series includes Affair in Trinidad, $(Dollars), The New Centurions, and The Garment Jungle. As I mentioned in my review of The Garment Jungle, these films have very little in common, but it is good to see them get the DVD treatment.
In The Anderson Tapes Sean Connery stars as Duke Anderson, a convicted burglar who is just completing a ten-year sentence in prison. Every movement that he has made while incarcerated has been observed by others, and little does he know that not much will change in that regard after he is released. During his prison term, advances in technology have allowed surveillance equipment to be installed almost anywhere. Whether Duke is sitting in a bus terminal or opening a checking account in a bank, his actions and words are being recorded. It is not that anyone has any particular interest in Duke - it is just that seemingly everyone he comes into contact with is being spied upon by someone.
Duke heads to New York City to meet up with his old girlfriend, Ingrid (Dyan Cannon), a high-class call girl who has been set up in a swanky apartment building on the upper east side of Manhattan by a “sugar daddy,” Werner Gottlieb (Richard B. Shull). Unbeknownst to Ingrid, Gottlieb has bugged her apartment and has a private detective set up in the basement of the building, recording every sound. When Ingrid tells Duke that the building is full of wealthy tenants, Duke decides that he can make a huge score by burglarizing the entire building on a holiday weekend. He then assembles his team of accomplices, unaware that all of them are under surveillance for one reason or another by such agencies as the F.B.I., the I.R.S., and the New York City Police Department. The catch is that none of the agencies know what the others are up to, and none of them are able to put together the pieces of the puzzle that they obtain. Sound familiar?
Sean Connery’s co-stars include Alan King, Martin Balsam, Ralph Meeker, and a very young Christopher Walken. Garrett Morris appears as a police officer, and Margaret Hamilton gives a memorable performance as an elderly tenant of the building which is being robbed. Sidney Lumet’s innovative direction and the location filming on the streets of New York City add to the enjoyment. The Anderson Tapes is a clever and exciting caper film which is sure to delight fans of the genre.
This release of The Anderson Tapes is said to be mastered in high definition, and it certainly looks very good. The anamorphic 1.85:1 framing appears to be accurate and the picture is stable and sharp throughout. Primary colors are very strong, with no bleeding or shimmering. Contrasts are excellent, black levels are strong, and shadow detail is very good. A moderate amount of grain is present and there is no evidence of excessive digital processing. Overall the film is in very good shape and is free of dirt, scratches and other blemishes. Unless Sony decides to release it in Blu-ray, this likely is as good as The Anderson Tapes will ever look.
As far as I can determine, The Anderson Tapes was recorded in mono, so Sony has appropriately released it in Dolby Digital 1.0 rather than creating a faux stereo soundtrack. The audio is strong enough, given its inherent limitations. The dialogue is always clear and intelligible. The score by Quincy Jones is very nice and is reproduced without any noise or distortion.
The only real supplement is the film’s original trailer, which also is shown in anamorphic widescreen and is in great shape. Two short featurettes, called “How To Play the Leading Man” and “How To Hold Your Liquor,” are really just promos for the other films in the series.
You will not find this information on the DVD, but readers who are familiar with New York City may be interested in some of the film’s locations. The luxury apartment building is a mansion at the corner of Fifth Avenue and E. 91st Street which is now the Convent of the Sacred Heart. The climactic scene was shot on the streets at that very intersection. The opening prison scene was shot at Rikers Island. Alan King’s private home on Long Island was used to film the scene of his character conferring with an elderly mob boss. Many of the interior scenes also were shot on location in New York City rather than in a studio.
The Anderson Tapes comes in a standard keep case, with no inserts.
The Final Analysis
The Anderson Tapes is an original and surprisingly timely caper film, featuring an attractive cast and imaginative direction. Although the DVD is light on extras, at a street price of $12.99 it costs less than half of what I paid for the laserdisc twelve years ago! Fans of Sean Connery and aficianados of the genre should have no hesitation about getting this DVD.
Equipment used for this review:
Toshiba HD-XA2 DVD player
Sharp LC-42D62U LCD display
Yamaha HTR-5890 THX Surround Receiver
BIC Acoustech speakers
Interconnects: Monster Cable
Release Date: September 23, 2008