Written by: Michael Den Boer on May 12th, 2016
Theatrical Release Date: USA, 1973
Director: John Milius
Writer: John Milius
Cast: Warren Oates, Ben Johnson, Michelle Phillips, Cloris Leachman, Harry Dean Stanton, Geoffrey Lewis, John P. Ryan, Richard Dreyfuss, Steve Kanaly, John Martino, Roy Jenson, Read Morgan, Frank McRae
BluRay released: April 26th, 2016
Approximate running time: 107 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Sound: LPCM Stereo English
Subtitles: English SDH
BluRay Release: Arrow Video USA
Region Coding: Region A / Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $39.95 (USA)
Dillinger was written and directed by John Milius whose other notable films as a director include, The Wind and the Lion, Big Wednesday and Red Dawn. Key collaborators on Dillinger include, cinematographer Jules Brenner (Johnny Got His Gun, The Return of the Living Dead) and composer Barry De Vorzon (Rolling Thunder, The Warriors).
When it comes to making Biography films, finding that right balance between actually events and keeping things interesting cinematically can be a tricky proposition. With that films that find this rare balance being the ones that are the most successful and engaging to watch. Case in point, John Milius’s Dillinger a film that is not as much as biography as it is retelling about his infamous bank robbing crime spree.
This film’s narrative jumps right into Dillinger’s crime spree and the first moments with this character are spent with him explaining to the camera / bank teller what is about to happen. From there the film hits the ground running and not for second does it let up when it comes to its break neck momentum. Another strength of this film’s narrative is along the way how it introduces other key characters from Dillinger’s gang. This ultimately adds more depth to these characters, who is lesser hands could have relegated to one dimensional secondary characters.
From a production stand point there is not a single area where this film does not deliver and then some. With its most surprising asset being its authenticity in regards to its production design which does a remarkable job recreating the depression era 1930’s. Another area’s where this film excels is its unflinching depiction of carnage and its rock solid visuals which help reinforce the bleakness of the story at hand.
As mentioned before one of the strengths of this film is how well defined its characters are and this translates over to the performances from the cast who are all great in their respective roles. With no performance standing taller than Warren Oates (Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia) in the role of John Dillinger. Other notable cast members include, Ben Johnson (The Last Picture Show) in the role of Melvin Purvis, the FBI agent assigned to capture Dillinger, Michelle Phillips (Valentino) in the role of Billie Frechette, Dillinger’s love interest, Richard Dreyfuss (Close Encounters of the Third Kind) in the role of Baby Face Nelson and Harry Dean Stanton (Wild at Heart) in the role Homer Van Meter, he was part of Dillinger’s gang. Ultimately Dillinger is an extraordinary film about one of America’s most notorious criminals.
Dillinger comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. For this release a brand new 2k restoration was created from original vault elements and overall this is another solid transfer from Arrow Video. Image always looks film like, colors and flesh tones look accurate and black levels fare well. Image clarity during daytime / brighter scenes is crisper then moments that takes place at night or in dimly lit locations. Also the source used is in great shape, grain looks natural and there are no issues with DNR or compression.
This release comes with two audio options, a LPCM Mono mix in English and an Isolated Music and Effects Track. The audio sounds clear, balanced and robust when it needs too. Range wise the ambient aspects of the soundtrack farewell. And this releases second audio track a music and effects track is much welcomed addition. Also included with this release are removable English SDH subtitles.
Extras for this release include, a stills gallery, a trailer for the film (2 minutes 23 seconds), three interviews – the first interview with director of photography Jules Brenner titled Shooting Dillinger (12 minutes 1 seconds), the second interview with producer Lawrence Gordon titled Original Gangster (10 minutes 8 seconds) and the third interview with composer Barry De Vorzon titled Ballads and Bullets (12 minutes) and an audio commentary with Stephen Prince author of Savage Cinema and Screening Violence.
Topics discussed in the interview with Lawrence Gordon include, how he first became involved in making Dillinger and how he got John Milius to rewrite the script and direct the film, casting Warren Oats in the role of John Dillinger, information about the cast & crew and his thoughts on the finished product.
Topics discussed in the interview with Barry De Vorzon include, how he started out his career as a songwriter, why he decided to make the transition towards composing music for films, Dillinger and the music that appears in the film, John Milius, Lawrence Gordon, composing scores for American International Pictures and the importance of placing music at the right moment.
Topics discussed in the interview with Jules Brenner include, his early days working in the film industry, working with John Milius, photographing Dillinger and the look of the film, how he throughout his career has worked with many first time directors and his thoughts on Dillinger.
Topics discussed in the audio commentary track include, the real life events and people that inspired this film, information about the cast & crew and other topics related to this film adaption.
Rounding out the extras is a reversible cover art option and a twenty-four-page booklet with cast & crew information, an essay about the film titled John Dillinger and Melvin Purvis written by Kim Newman, a vintage article titled On the Hollywood Set: Dillinger written by John Astin and information about the restoration / transfer. Also included with this release is a DVD that has the same content included on the Blu-Ray included as part of this combo release. Overall Dillinger gets an exceptional release from Arrow Video USA, highly recommended.