Dog Day Afternoon, the larger than life true story about an everyman and his psychotic partner who rob a bank in Brooklyn, an operation which winds up botched and turns into a literal three-ring circus for a few hours afterwards, gripping the city of New York with an anti-heroic proceeding that almost borderlined on sheer, bizarre entertainment, celebrates its 40th anniversary this week.
Full of potent performances from Al Pacino, John Cazale, Charles Durning, Chris Sarandon, and others, a surefooted, ham-fisted naturalistic directorial style by Sidney Lumet, and an Oscar-winning script by Frank Pierson, Dog Day Afternoon remains a benchmark film of the 1970s, and in many ways expertly captures the entire zeitgeist of not only the mid decade feel and energy of New York City but also of America at the time, full of a post-Watergate paranoia and unease, with huge slices of humor and even pathos in the middle.
Today marks the birthday of one of cinema’s most influential actors, the late John Cazale, who, although he passed away almost 35 years ago, is still fondly remembered by his peers and moviegoers alike for having the distinction of appearing in some of the best remembered and well known movies of the 1970s, including The Godfather.
Cazale’s resume, although short, spanning only five films, still remains one of the most well rounded pedigrees of any actor before or since. Each of the films he appeared in either won or was nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award: The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, The Conversation, Dog Day Afternoon, and The Deer Hunter. Cazale played the slow, strangely confident, yet ultimately tragic “runt of the litter” Corleone brother Fredo in the first two Godfather films (also appearing posthumously in more ways than one in the third Godfather installment); he played Gene Hackman’s assistant who helped with the paranoid, sly surveillance company that Hackman ran by the seat of his pants in The Conversation (all three aforementioned films were written or co-written and directed by Francis Ford Coppola); he was the dim-witted yet ruthless bank cohort to Al Pacino’s main protagonist/antagonist in Dog Day Afternoon (directed by Sidney Lumet), and finally, was the third wheel to the group of tight friends in the intense and memorable Vietnam production The Deer Hunter (directed by Michael Cimino). In The Deer Hunter, released shortly after his death from bone cancer in 1978 at the young age of 42, Cazale clearly looks rather emaciated, but still gives the type of performance and characterization he was best remembered for in his brief career.
The Godfather – The Coppola Restoration Blu-ray edition
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola
Starring Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, John Cazale, Diane Keaton, Talia Shire, Andy Garcia, Eli Wallach, Robert De Niro
Paramount Home Entertainment
Release Date: September 23, 2008
Everyone knows the Corleone family and its members on a first name basis. Everyone speaks the family’s language. Some people even try to make their homemade sauce like them and fail miserably in trying. If I were to say the words “˜toll booth,’ “˜cannoli,’ “˜Sicily’, and “˜horse’s head’ you would know what I was talking about. These characteristics are what make Francis Ford Coppola‘s The Godfather arguably the greatest film ever made.
When watching, whether for the first time or the 100th time, it is like we are entering the Corleone’s dinning room. Their setting is dark, but it’s still inviting, the feeling is intimidating but once we become familiar with it it turns into intimacy. It’s a film that is told entirely from the inside. The outside world of the Corleone family bears little consideration. From the film’s opening lines, “I believe in America,” The Godfather paints an exact replica of American capitalism but adds a few more colors that makes this capitalism seem OK in society. It’s a vivid view of a powerful Mafia family, which wakes up one morning to find their enterprise isn’t as powerful as it once was.