Dog Day Afternoon appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became a strong presentation.
Sharpness appeared surprisingly good. Occasional shots demonstrated minor softness, but those never caused significant distractions. The majority of the movie showed good clarity and delineation. Jagged edges and shimmering seemed non-existent, and edge haloes failed to mar the presentation. Grain remained appropriate, and I noticed no signs of specks, marks or source flaws.
Colors went with a natural palette that came across well. The interior shots were appropriately subdued, but exteriors showed surprisingly vivid tones. Across the board, colors looked clean and concise. Blacks were appropriately dark and dense, while shadows seemed good. Given its age and origins, I didn’t expect much from the transfer, but the film looked solid.
The DTS-HD MA monaural soundtrack of Dog Day Afternoon was perfectly fine. Speech played the most important role. Dialogue showed reasonably natural tones and avoided much edginess or other issues.
Effects came from environmental elements. Some louder bits occurred due to helicopters, planes and other vehicles, but since so much of the flick took place in the bank, we didn’t get much. They were clear and reasonably accurate.
Music popped up only during the opening credits, at which time Elton John’s “Amoreena” played. The song displayed surprisingly good clarity and definition. Ultimately, the audio worked well for this movie.
One footnote about the audio: during his audio commentary, Sidney Lumet makes reference to stereo sound for the film. Maybe I misunderstood, but this gave me the impression the movie originally came with two-channel audio. However, I can find no evidence it ever appeared in stereo, and it looks like all the home video versions have been mono.
How did the 2015 “40th Anniversary” Blu-ray compare to the of the prior Blu-ray from 2007 ? Both appear pretty similar, as the old Blu-ray seemed satisfying. The 2015 version offers lossless audio which means a smidgen more kick, but there’s not a lot that can be done to improve 40-year-old mono material.
Visuals also came across as largely similar. The 2015 Blu-ray offered a tad more detail and clarity, but not enough to make it a clear improvement. While I like the 2015 Blu-ray more, the 2007 release remains very good.
The 2015 Blu-ray duplicates all of the 2007 version’s extras and adds new ones. We open with an audio commentary from director Sidney Lumet, who presents a running, screen-specific piece. Lumet discusses the movie’s lack of score and the inclusion of the Elton John song, cast, characters and improvisation, sets and locations, the movie’s naturalism and verisimilitude, and general thoughts about his work here and elsewhere.
In addition to the basic data, Lumet offers a number of nice insights such as a comparison of LA extras vs. NY extras. I especially like Lumet’s thoughts on working with Pacino and the actor’s tendencies. There’s also less dead air here than during other Lumet commentaries; he still drags at times, but usually he keeps things moving. This commentary provides a very solid look at the film and its connected issues.
Next comes from the four-part The Making of Dog Day Afternoon. Taken together, the four chapters fill 57 minutes and 50 seconds. These offer the usual mix of movie clips, archival materials, and interviews. We find notes from Lumet, producer Martin Bregman, screenwriter Frank Pierson, editor Dede Allen, director of photography Victor J. Kemper, assistant director Burtt Harris, and actors Al Pacino, Charles Durning, Lance Henriksen, and Chris Sarandon.
We start with notes on how the true story was adapted for the screen and related choices, rehearsals and their effect on the script, casting and performances. From there we move through logistics of the locations, realism and photography, specifics of some scenes and characters, editing and pacing, and reactions to the film.
Some documentaries do little more than echo audio commentaries, but happily, this one greatly expands on Lumet’s chat. Inevitably, some repetition occurs, but not enough to become tedious. It covers the facets of the production with candor, especially when we hear from Pierson. He offers terrific insights into his choices for the script, and Pacino also aptly conveys his original doubts and concerns about aspects of the film. The show gives us many fine details and fleshes out our understanding of the film well.
Disc One ends with the movie’s trailer and a vintage featurette called Lumet: Film Maker. This 10-minute and one-second piece shows shots from the set and interviews with Lumet, vehicle supplier George Santana, boom man Bob Rogow, actor Carmine Foresta, and still photographer Muky Muncasi. We get some quick notes about Lumet’s working style and hear from the director himself about various production details. We learn most of this elsewhere, so “Film Maker” is moderately interesting just for some of the archival footage.
A standard-def DVD, Disc Two boasts one major component: a 2009 documentary called I Knew It Was You: Rediscovering John Cazale. In this 39-minute, 57-second piece, we hear from Lumet, director Francis Ford Coppola, producers Brett Ratner and Fred Roos, brother Steve Cazale, friends Marvin Starkman and Robyn Goodman, playwright Israel Horovitz, film historian Mark Harris, and actors Al Pacino, Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Sam Rockwell, Steve Buscemi, Richard Dreyfus, Olympia Dukakis, Robert De Niro, Carol Kane, John Savage and Gene Hackman.
We get notes about Cazale’s life and career as well as an appreciation for his work. Too much of Rediscovering generates praise for the actor, so we don’t get as much insight as I’d like. We still learn a decent amount about Cazale, but the documentary would’ve worked better with more substance and less happy talk.
We can watch the documentary with or without commentary from director Richard Shepard. In this running, occasionally screen-specific chat, Shepard discusses the program’s origins and development as well as the involvement of various interview participants and other aspects of the film’s creation. Shepard delivers a nice examination of different elements involved with the movie and makes this a brisk, informative piece.
Next we find two extended interviews. These come from Al Pacino (19:47) and Israel Horovitz (22:32). Pacino mixes personal and professional thoughts about Cazale, while Horovitz focuses mostly on his non-work-related experiences with Cazale. Both offer nice insights and improve on their appearances in the final documentary.
Disc Two finishes with two short films. We locate 1962’s The American Way (10:07) and 1979’s The Box (9:45). In the perversely comedic Way directed by Marvin Starkman, Cazale plays a beatnik who literally tries to blow up baseball, mom and apple pie. It’s a plot-free oddity.
Box doesn’t feature Cazale as an on-screen presence. Instead, he works as cinematographer in this tale of a man who brings a new TV into his home. Also made by Starkman – and also without dialogue - Box seems more coherent than American Way but remains nothing more than a curiosity that attracts our attention due to Cazale’s involvement.
Gritty and blunt, Dog Day Afternoon offers an unusual bank robbery flick. It goes down unexpected paths and benefits from a frank, restrained tone. The Blu-ray presents pretty good picture and audio along with a strong roster of supplements. This becomes the best version of Dog Day Afternoon on the market, though I don’t think it improves on the prior Blu-ray enough to make it worth a purchase for fans who own the older release.
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