One of the final films that Lee Marvin acted in before his death in 1987, Yves Boisset’s Dog Day (aka Canicule) is a dark humor-tinged crime film that has more in common with low budget genre cinema of the 1970s than anything that was being released alongside it at the time. Based on the novel by Jean Herman and directed by French crime mainstay Boisset, neither of whom made much of a splash in the states. Yet, Dog Day feels far more American than European, and with this recent blu-ray from Kino, is ready to be discovered by an American audience.
In the decade prior to Dog Day‘s release, Marvin was starring in rough genre films like Prime Cut and The Klansman. Though they weren’t a far cry from his work in the 60s in films like Point Blank and The Killers, they were arguably meaner and edgier – both in response to relaxed content standards going into the 70s and the real world violence happening outside of the theater screen. And as violent and tough as films like Prime Cut and The Klansman were for their time, they couldn’t really prepare an audience for just how wild Dog Day is.
Dog Day opens with Lee Marvin using a bazooka. And on that alone you probably know if you want to see it or not. Then he takes off with a million bucks and heads for the countryside. Naturally, he ends up at a family farm where the family is even more warped than he is. They proceed to torture him and subject him to all manner of aberrant behavior. The tone here becomes all over the place – moving from straight crime film to dark comedy and melodrama, all with a bold mean streak that is hard to shake. It feels like someone made an unholy mash-up of Prime Cut (this one also features Marvin running in a field) and Sonny Boy and let Curtis Harrington direct it.
I’m still not sure exactly who Dog Day is for, especially in 2020, but it was certainly for me. This is the type of movie where a child is named Lord Jim and finds a bunch of money and promptly spends it on prostitutes and starts smoking. And then there’s the African farmhand who is legitimately named Doodoo and he refers to the money he finds as “doodoo’s dollars”. If this all sounds surreal and hardly fitting in with an opening scene utilizing a bazooka, well, you’re not wrong! Dog Day is one of the least predictable films I’ve seen recently and it’s almost impossible to categorize. And now it’s easily available for everyone in America to see!
Kino brings Dog Day to blu-ray in America with a 1080p transfer and it’s mostly good news. I’m not sure what source was used for this, but there seems to be a lack of detail in certain scenes, especially those outside. The source is damage free and there’s a nice layer of film grain present throughout. This isn’t the most colorful movie – or generally aesthetically pleasing one – so it looks a bit drab, but to no fault of the presentation. Due to this having both English and French speaking actors, we get both English and French tracks, both of which have different dubbing issues. Since Marvin is the star here and he speaks English, my guess is that most will opt for that track and it’s a solid one. All of the effects and music (a great, strange score) come through clear and dialogue does as well, outside of the usual issues associated with dubbing.
The sole major extra here is a commentary with Howard Berger and Steve Mitchell, who cover the history of the film and the cast as well as other films in the genre. It’s a great listen and offers a lot of information for those unfamiliar with the film, which I’d imagine is the majority of people coming to it now. We also get a trailer for Dog Day as well as a few other Kino releases, including the aforementioned Prime Cut.
Dog Day is a hard film to pin down but easy to recommend. It’s not for everyone and its mean streak may be repellent to some, but it has a consistent sense of humor to it that makes some of its harder moments easier to swallow. Kino’s presentation is solid and the commentary track is worth jumping into right after you watch the film for the first time. One of my favorite discoveries from 2019!