'Brannigan' *** 031405
DVD Review (1975)
The Work = ***
Big John Wayne plays big Jim Brannigan. Woo’, that must have been a stretch for Wayne. Ok, seriously, The Duke stars in this 1975 crime drama that has him hunting down a crime boss played by the late, underrated, John Vernon. His hunt takes him to Brittan where he has to work with Sir Charles Swann played by Richard Attenborough. I had read that this was a bad film and was curious to see if that was true or if this was simply a misunderstood late Wayne vehicle.
The truth is 'Brannigan' is not bad, just mediocre. I think if it had been trimmed down to a shorter length and had a few more action sequences added in then the film would have been a fun little picture. As it is now, there are some fun scenes with Wayne and some fun moments with John Vernon but the middle drags. When I say drags, I mean draaaaaaaaaaaaaags. There is a slow speed car chase that so should have been cut right out.
While watching this film a quote from director John Carpenter kept coming to mind. To paraphrase, he said in reference to his own films: "They're all just westerns." That is really what most crime dramas are in a way, the shoot outs, the lawmen, they are all staples of both genres. In fact 'Brannigan' even has one of those bar fights, long a staple of Wayne westerns, where everyone goes nuts and there is not any real carnage, just a lot of drunks and flying fists. Hell, even Attenborough gets into it.
This is one of only two forays, that I know of, that John Wayne took into Crime Dramas. It's a shame because it fits him well. Even at his old age here in Brannigan (this would be one of his last films) he has an imposing figure. He could have made say, a great aging detective in another work. It is too bad that he didn't start making waves in the genre earlier in his career.
What I say is this: it is a mediocre film, to be sure, but if you are a John Wayne fan it is probably worth checking out. Be aware that it is going to be very, very slow at times but it does have some fun Wayne moments. You may even get a kick out of it if you have a high tolerance for 70s cinema and/or crime dramas. I've definitely sat through worse Charles Bronson flics.
DVD = ***
Well this is an MGM release and thanks to the work at www.DVDBeaver.com I have become aware that MGM sometimes crops their releases. Yes, it is widescreen, and it is more or less presented in anamorphic 2.35:1 but it does also appear to be missing picture on the left frame. I cannot be certain because I don't have another release to compare it to. Throughout the film, 'Brannigan' has a black bar down the left side of the frame. (Well, actually, it is present up until 1:38:35.) As for the transfer, it is not the worst one around but not all that great either. Some shots appear to have some haloing around the figures and some sequences look to be worse than others. At least they put it in widescreen.
Basic 2.0 Dolby Digital mono tracks available in English, French and Spanish. For what it is worth (I only listened to the English track) the audio quality was not that bad.
We get a trailer, English, French and Spanish audio tracks and subtitles, menus and chapter stops. You know, honestly the man is a legend people! I'll bet at the very least there was a promotional featurette done in the '70s that those cheapskates at MGM could have included. Look, I realize this is not one of The Dukes best films but it is not one of his worst either. There is NO EXCUSE for a barebones release. What about doing brief modern interviews with cast and crew, I'd love to hear Attenborough's input. If MGM doesn't want to include video features then at least how about getting some Wayne biographers/ collaborators to do a commentary track? NO EXCUSE!
All together = ***
Ok, so I'm a sucker for crime dramas and I'm a sucker for Westerns. I'm also a fan of John Wayne. Those factors make me practically predestined to at least mildly enjoy this film. It's not bad, (it's no say, ' Green Berets',) but it is slight. It's got slow stretches and could have been trimmed down. The Duke still gets some moments in and for me that made it worth seeing. I say if you like Wayne or are curious it's probably a good rental.