By now we should all know that Sidney Lumet’s classic 1975 film Dog Day Afternoon was based on a real life event from 1972. For the uninitiated: on August 22 of that year, John Wojtowicz along with a couple friends attempted to rob a bank in Brooklyn, New York because his lover – his male “wife” – was in need of a sex-change operation. Here's a copy of the original news story that ran in the New York Times.
To watch the original film now, or at any point since its release, is to find yourself surprised by the matter-of-fact nature of the character’s quest. Here's a 2009 article from O&AN on the freak show elements in the film and the larger point Lumet was making by positioning Wojtowicz as an anti-hero. Now, I have to admit: it’s been a while since I’ve seen Dog Day Afternoon but I don’t recall many characters in this film offset by the same-sex marriage, the way you’d assume, it being the early 70’s remember. Wojtowicz’s accomplices even seem unfazed by the necessity of the job.
So who is John Wojtowicz? A new documentary, called The Dog, attempts to uncover that. See this review/description of the new film.
The New York Times, in fact, has an extensive archive regarding the original film and the real event that sparked it. At the forty year anniversary of the bank robbery, it produced a collection of stories:
The Dog opens Friday for a week at the Belcourt. The original plan was for a double feature with Dog Day Afternoon Friday and Saturday but, due to time constraints, we're left to our own means when it comes to that Lumet/Pacino classic. In the meantime, here's the trailer…
The Dog (official website)
Coming Soon: THE DOG (Belcourt Theater)