Copyright 2005 by C.E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.
Based on a True Story


              Ever wonder when you see the disclaimer "BASED ON A
     TRUE STORY
" on a film exactly how TRUE the story is? Of course,
      a screenwriter will take liberties -- scenes may be condensed, composite
      characters may be created, dialogue may be tweaked -- all in the name
      of dramatic license. Well Dutch filmmaker Walter Stokman had
      questions about the real tale behind the hit 1975 award winning film
      
DOG DAY AFTERNOON, which was, well "based on a true story."
      So Stokman set about investigating the events that occurred in
      Brooklyn in August 1972, and he's come away with an engaging and
      highly entertaining documentary.

              The opening sequence is rather depressing, though, as it
      resembles one of the "Jaywalking" skits from
"The Tonight Show
     with Jay Leno."
 Those are the filmed sequences where Leno stops
      ordinary people on the street and asks what should be fairly easy
      questions. Well, Stokman asks people in New York about the movie
      
DOG DAY AFTERNOON, and most reply that they aren't aware of
      it. I grant you that it has been 30 years since the film was released, but
      it's a classic, one of the best  movies made by director Sidney Lumet
      and featuring Al Pacino in a bravura performance alongside the late
      John Cazale, Chris Sarandon (who was robbed of an Oscar by
      sentiment, he lost the well-deserved prize to George Burns), the late
      James Broderick, and Charles Durning, among others.

              Lumet's film, written by Frank Pierson, was indeed drawn from
      real-life events. In fact, the story was so outrageous and so original
      that if someone had actually concocted it, everyone would have laughed
      and said that it was too preposterous. To wit, in the summer of 1972,
      one John Wojtowicz, along with his partner Sal Naturile entered a
      branch of the Chase Manhattan Bank on Avenue P in the Flatbush
      section of Brooklyn and attempted to rob the bank. But everything
      seemed to go wrong: within minutes, the police and FBI were tipped
      off and surrounded the bank, leading to a 14-hour standoff during
      which several bank employees were held hostage. The corker was
      Wojtowicz's reason for the robbery: to obtain funds to pay for a sex
      change operation of his lover Ernest Aron (whom he had "married" in
      a church wedding).

              Since the Stonewall riots had only occurred a scant three years
      earlier, there was still the curiosity factor for the media, and Stokman
      has found terrific archival footage of local news broadcasts regarding
      the event. He has also tracked down some of the surviving law officers
      and hostages who were willing to be interviewed. Perhaps the most
      intriguing aspect of the film, though, is his dealings with Wojtowicz
      himself. The guy willingly posed for photographs, but demanded
      payment for his story, and his delusional and extortionate demands
      are both amusing and sad.

              While it's doubtful that one can ever really know the "truth" behind
      any event -- each participant has a unique "truth" that may or may not
      match other people's versions -- this terrific documentary probably
      comes as close as possible to what happened that fateful August day.


                                          
 Rating:                A-


                   Viewed at NewFest at the Loews 34th Street Theater.
www.newfest.org