This was the first movie that made me consciously realize something went on behind the camera. This work effected me on so many levels, it was beyond entertainment. I was 14 years old and told the video store clerk I was 17 so I could rent this R-rated classic. I had heard my Grandma talk about Al Pacino and grabbed the VHS tape for that exact reason. It was my introduction into three fantastic worlds: Al Pacino, Sidney Lumet (the film’s director) and from that day on I had to see every movie I could.
“Dog Day Afternoon” was based on a Life magazine article about a media circus that erupts when two men decide to rob a bank. This film has multiple stories, themes and characters and is woven together perfectly by a wonderful screenplay and a master director, Sidney Lumet (“12 Angry Men”). Sonny (Al Pacino) and his fellow bank robber Sal (John Cazale) decide to rob a bank and lets just say everything goes wrong after the first ten minutes.
It is notable that Pacino and Cazale come back together for this movie one year after they played brothers Michael and Fredo Corleone in “The Godfather 2”. So the chemistry between actors is amazing. The director (Lumet) comes from a theatre background, most of the movie’s dialogue was improvised in rehearsals and then transcribed for shooting. This is very rare in movies and something only the talent of Pacino and Lumet could pull off.
John Cazale is a very notable actor whose talent was over-shadowed by the “Godfather” movies. In fact all of Cazale’s movie in his brief five-film career were nominated for Best Picture (two of his films won Best Picture). So he is a very under-rated and sometimes a forgotten actor past being known as Fredo Corleone (“Godfather”).
Aside from the acting in “Dog Day Afternoon” there is amazing camera work that completely serves the story without drawing attention to itself; complimented by perfectly paced editing, especially for a film that takes place in only one location. The film never gets boring and for two hours we never leave the bank or the curb of the bank.
This film is one of the best films ever made and it is one of the few films that I’ve ever recommended and never had someone tell me they didn’t enjoy it. Pay key attention to the perfect mixture of comedy, drama, action, suspense all wrapped up into a crime/bank robbery movie. In the top ten list check out “Serpico” for more Pacino/Lumet, “Network” for more Lumet and “The Deer Hunter” for John Cazale’s final film performance.
• Paul Booth, of Lihu‘e, is a KCC graduate, film producer and consultant. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.