An intimate portrait of the vivacious John Wojtowicz, the inspiration behind Al Pacino's character in Sidney Lumet's Oscar®-Nominated Dog Day Afternoon. In August, 1972, Wojtowicz attempted to rob a Brooklyn bank to finance his lover's sex-reassignment surgery. The attempted heist resulted in a fourteen-hour hostage situation that was broadcast on TV. Three years later, Al Pacino portrayed his unforgettable crime in Dog Day Afternoon. The film had a profound influence on Wojtowicz, and when he emerged from prison six years later, he became known as "The Dog." The film examines John Woktowicz's larger-than-life persona: he is, by turns, soldier, husband, father, lover, chauvinist, mama's boy, catholic, gay rights activist and bank robber.
John Wojtowicz, Carmen Bifulco, Liz Debbie Eden, George Heath, Bob Kappstatter, Eugene Lowenkopf, Jeremiah Newton, Stan Thaler, Richard Wandel, Randolfe Wicker, Theresa Basso Wojtowicz, Tony Wojtowicz
John Wojtowicz is a name best associated with Al Pacino’s character in the film Dog Day Afternoon. The movie was based on a true story, but how much is actually known about John himself. The Dog attempts to shine some light on the subject soon after his death which left behind a mountain of interviews and stories. The John we see in the footage is an obese, elderly man in the twilight of his life, but he doesn’t talk about his life as if he were a poetic historian. This is a gay man who spent many of his years having sex with multiple partners, taking part in gay rights movement, his famous hostage situation at a bank and and doing all kinds of crazy kinky antics. He doesn’t sugar coat or censor himself. This codger is a pervert and doesn’t hide or shame himself for even a second.
John will not go down in history as big an icon as Harvey Milk. He didn’t deliver any rousing speeches for gay rights or make any notable sacrifices for the cause. He mostly remained just another soldier of the movement, highlighted and circled in the background of several photos from the era. Most of his bohemian lifestyle was kept within the secretive back alleys and corners of the cultural revolution. He still tempted fate and danced around danger. His second marriage to a male pre-op transvestite was held at a building right across the street from a police station. The cops didn’t question it much as John’s bride was passable as a woman.
John doesn’t just explain these events entirely through his talking head and archival footage (as intriguing as the footage is). He takes us on trips through New York where he reveals where he’d hang out in the early 70’s and who he’d screw. His language is bold and shocking, but it’s that honest spirit which makes his story so appealing. He leaves all the cards out on the table in plain sight so we can hear all the hills and valleys of one man’s struggle with pursuing happiness. Perhaps he reveals too much information, but there’s just something so admirable about a man so open in his final years.
Of course, the key information most will probably want to know about is the attention-grabbing scene that inspired Dog Day Afternoon. There is hardly any footage shown from the actual film and more telling archival footage as John spills the info on every detail that may have been omitted. He walks us through the entire operation, before and after, including every thought that rushes through his head at every moment. On that angle alone, The Dog is worth a watch, but the most controversial and astonishing/sad moments that follow the incident just make this documentary far more telling.
The Dog is equal parts bark and bite with an eye-catching grip. It offers a shockingly evocative, yet tragically sad tale of John Wojtowicz. We hear and see all the free-will and joys of the sexual revolution in addition to the depressing years that followed. It’s a fascinating journey, vulgarities and all, that works exceptionally well as an emotional companion piece to Dog Day Afternoon.
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Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
Classification is to be confirmed by the British Board of Film Classification
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