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A Day Late and a Dollar Short

Dog Day Afternoon (1975) on IMDb

Plot Overview

“What you are about to see is true - It happened in Brooklyn, New York on August 22, 1972.” Accompanied by Elton John's ‘Amoreena’, the opening credits show us scenes of NYC during one of the sweltering dog days of August: people are trying to stay cool and not necessarily succeeding. Into First Brooklyn Savings Bank waltz three men up to no good. One of them, Stevie, bails, but the other two, Sonny Wortzik (Al Pacino) and Sal Naturile (John Cazale)—both Vietnam vets and loaded for bear—are committed once they've started. The sun has passed its zenith; it's a dog day after­noon, and once the police have hemmed them in along with their hostages, it will be a wonder if cooler heads prevail and a blood­bath is avoided. Sal cannot go back to Attica, so he has nothing to lose. Det. Sgt. Eugene Moretti (Charles Durning) is counting on a display of over­whelming force he's having a hard time holding in check. Sonny is Catholic and doesn't want to kill any­body. FBI Agent Sheldon (James Broderick) will try to finesse the situation. It's a Mexican stand­off and the heat is on.


Everybody is nominally Christian in that bank. A rep. of the tellers tells the men to watch their language (“He said the ‘F’ word”), because she's a Christian and her ears are not garbage cans. Sonny declares, “I'm a Catholic, I don't want to hurt any­body.” Sal campaigning against a teller smoking admonishes her, “Your body is the temple of the Lord.” This last has an alternate application, (1Cor. 6:18-19) “Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that com­mit­teth forni­cation sinneth against his own body. What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you?” A primary remedy is the one woman to one man formula in marriage, (Matt. 19:4-5) “Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?” so (1Cor. 7:2-3) “to avoid forni­cation, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. Let the husband render unto the wife due benevo­lence: and like­wise also the wife unto the husband.” Sonny's over­weight, motor-mouth wife Angie (Susan Peretz) stressed out this Vietnam vet., so he went the route of fornication with a gay lover Leon Shermer (Chris Sarandon.) As Sonny's mom puts it, “You wouldn't need Leon if Angie were treating you right.” Further­more, the two men “were married in a church,” attended by mom, 70 maids of honor, the whole gay community, and officiated by one Father Burke … who was subsequently defrocked. The cops speculated, “Can you imagine marrying another man!” When asked, “Why did you want to get ‘married’?” Sonny replied, “I thought it would help me.” Evidently, it didn't.

Leon a twenty-year-old homosexual says, “A psychiatrist told me I was a woman trapped in a man's body.” To pay for his sex-change, Sonny is robbing the bank for the $2500 needed for the operation. Unfortunately, there was a pickup earlier in the day, so the vault is cleaned out (“That's all there is”) with but $1100 and change. That leaves him a day late and a dollar short, so to speak, the X chromosome sperm having been beat by the Y in conceiving Leon, and there not being enough money in the bank to make him into a woman after the fact.

So Leon is a woman trying to get out of a man's body, and in a hostage situation the police are wanting the women tellers to get out of the over­taken bank. But the bank's male president is in there, too, and so is the male security guard. The former has diabetes and the latter asthma. The male organizing and protecting principles are weak compared to the female occupancy, if we want to get all psycho­logical here. The gay-sympathizing crowd outside chants, in a double entendre, “Out of the closets and into the streets” as that is also the goal of the cops with the hostages. What also comes out is the “marked bills” Sonny showers the crowd with, being the queer currency he took out of the drawer.

Production Values

Dog Day Afternoon” (1975) was directed by Sidney Lumet. Its screen­writer Frank Pierson based his screen­play on a magazine article by P.F. Kluge and Thomas Moore. It was based on Leslie Waller's book, Dog Day Afternoon, as well. It stars Al Pacino, John Cazale, and Penelope Allen. Pacino is mesmerizing as Sonny with his ad-libbed dialogue, nervous body language and big expressive eyes. The other performances were great, also.

This movie was 30% based upon a real-life story that happened in 1972. "Sonny" after time off for good behavior, led guided tours of the crime scene. "Leon" died a few years later of AIDS. The script was modified to include improvisations the actors came up with during rehearsal. There is little to no external music track except for the beginning that didn't sound right with­out it. The actual back­ground sounds contribute to the drama. Sonny is more uptight with the over­medi­cating medical establish­ment than he is with any homo­phobia in the crowds. “Dog Day” is rated R, having some bad language, brief violence, and a perverted relation­ship.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

I found this movie intriguing and watchable in part due to a sprinkling of sporadic humor. But it's black comedy as we know it isn't going to end well for every­body. It worked for me better than most pseudo-documentaries do, attribut­able in part to Pacino's great style. There's nothing to really spoil it if you can go along with its particular material.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Decent action scenes. Suitability For Children: Not Suitable for Children of Any Age. Special effects: Average special effects. Video Occasion: Fit For a Friday Evening. Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Overall product rating: Four stars out of five.