By 1975, John Wayne’s illustrious four and a half decade career as a film star had begun to wind down. Advancing years, added girth, and health concerns made the kinds of films he excelled at, action films and westerns, rather difficult for the once-robust actor to tackle, and 1975 was the first time his name had not appeared among the top ten box-office stars since 1958 (and he had headed the list in which he first appeared in 1949 on four separate occasions). Brannigan, one of two films he made in 1975, is an average-level crime drama with some fish-out-of-water twists for the legendary star but on the whole is one of the lesser pictures from his last decade of work.
Distributed By: Twilight Time
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: English 1.0 DTS-HDMA (Mono)
Subtitles: English SDH
Run Time: 1 Hr. 51 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-raykeep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 07/08/2014
Chicago homicide detective Jim Brannigan (John Wayne) is sent to London to bring back wanted mobster Larkin (John Vernon) who has made his way to Britain attempting to flee U.S. jurisdiction. Before Scotland Yard Commander Swann (Richard Attenborough) can put his hands on the felon, he’s kidnapped by English thugs who ask for an exorbitant ransom for his safe return, all to be handled through Larkin’s lawyer Fields (Mel Ferrer). In London, Brannigan is given a Scotland Yard investigator (Judy Geeson) to act as his Girl Friday, but little does he know that Larkin had put out a contract hit on Brannigan, and that hit man Gorman (Daniel Pilon) is stalking the American cop around London waiting for the perfect time to rub him out.The script has four names attached to it (Christopher Trumbo, Michael Butler, William P. McGivern, and Michael Butler), but none of the men have been able to fill in the film’s too lengthy running time with a consistently suspenseful narrative especially since the plotting is twofold with both the kidnapping and assassination plots running concurrently. There are certainly moments that grip the viewer (a wild, well-staged car chase through London, unique for films shot there; a couple of booby traps set for Brannigan by Gorman), but then the film drags itself out with the underdeveloped kidnapping plot which could have used severe tightening and a completely unnecessary pub brawl that doesn’t really accomplish anything and goes on far too long. Though Wayne’s Brannigan is unaccustomed to English ways, he nevertheless manages to get his own way throughout (retaining his weapon on his person, living where he chooses, driving madly) with the writers thus not making the fish-out-of-water part of the saga as amusing or as memorable as it might have been. Also, after repeated attempts to subtly kill his mark, Gorman at the end of the film behaves in a completely ridiculous manner that seems as if the writers had simply tired of the cat and mouse antics and wanted to bring that aspect of the story to a close as well. It’s a decided letdown to what could have been the most memorable aspect of the film.John Wayne still casts a strong, sturdy shadow as the title character, but his movements are slower, his actions and reactions in the pub fight indicative that the years were certainly passing by for him (though that doesn’t keep the sound effects technicians from applying loud Foley punches for his every little tap). Richard Attenborough’s smug inspector gets taken down a peg or two once his own men bungle the apprehension of the crook Brannigan is there to take custody of, but otherwise he’s a welcome presence in the movie. Judy Geeson isn’t given a lot to do as Brannigan’s tagalong, but the writers have thankfully not infused a love affair sparking between the two of them. Heavys Mel Ferrer and John Vernon do just fine in their roles while Daniel Pilon has charisma to spare as the hit man, and Pauline Delaney is amusing as Brannigan’s landlady who obviously has a crush on him. Look fast to see Ralph Meeker and the very young Lesley Anne Down in small roles.
The Production Rating: 3/5
The film’s 2.35:1 Panavision aspect ratio is faithfully delivered in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Looking much slicker from many widescreen films from the same period, the transfer features overall very good sharpness (close-ups are superb; long shots less so), and color saturation and authenticity seems spot-on. Flesh tones are very believable though they can occasionally vary from shot to shot. Black levels are excellent. The film has been divided into 12 chapters.
Video Rating: 4/5 3D Rating: NA
The DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 sound mix is very much a product of its era where the dialogue, music, and sound effects blended into a seamless whole while one never intruded upon the others. Dominic Frontiere’s very 1970s sounding score has a nice dynamism to it, and there are no age-related problems with the encode that rob it of any period flavor.
Audio Rating: 4/5
Audio Commentary: producer Nick Redman and leading lady Judy Geeson share a chatty commentary track where the two reminisce about the London locations (both are former Londoners) and discuss her memories of working on the movie, her opinions about the actors and director, and comments on other prominent work of hers on stage and screen. It’s a very entertaining track.Isolated Score Track: Dominic Frontiere’s background score is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo.Behind the Scenes Home Movies (2:47, SD): Judy Geeson’s silent home movies were shot behind the scenes during the film’s production.Theatrical Trailer (2:21, HD)MGM 90th Anniversary Trailer (2:06, HD)Six Page Booklet: contains color and black and white stills, original poster art on the back cover, and film historian Julie Kirgo’s judicious analysis of the film.
Special Features Rating: 3.5/5
Not a great crime drama but one worthy of attention in view of its place as one of John Wayne’s final cinematic efforts, Brannigan at least looks and sounds great in this new Blu-ray transfer. There are only 3,000 copies of this Blu-ray available. Those interested should go to www.screenarchives.com to see if product is still in stock. Information about the movie can also be found via Facebook at www.facebook.com/twilighttimemovies.
Overall Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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