Jim Brannigan is sent to London to bring back an American mobster who is being held for extradition but when he arrives he has been kidnapped which was set up by his lawyer. Brannigan in his American Irish way brings American law to the people of Scotland Yard in order to recapture this mobster with both a price tag on his head and a stuffy old London cop to contend with.
Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
If one begins studying the history of Hollywood, some films that didn't get made sound just as intriguing as the ones that did. Books detail projects like Billy Wilder coming close to directing the Marx Brothers in 'A Day At The United Nations', and documentaries have been made, such as 'Lost in La Mancha' about Terry Gilliam attempting 'The Man Who Killed Don Quixote' and the recently released 'Jodorowsky's Dune,' possibly the most influential film to never get made because of the talent gathered and work created during pre-production before the project was abandoned when financing couldn’t be obtained.
In a similar vein, there are many stories about actors and actresses who turned down famous roles like Johnny Depp with Ferris Bueller, Michelle Pfieffer with Clarice Starling, and Jack Nicholson, Warren Beatty, Robert Redford, Ryan O'Neal, and Dustin Hoffman all passing on Michael Corleone. Yet, Matthew Broderick, Jodie Foster, and Al Pacino stepped in and each gave what are arguably the best-known performances of their careers.
The same thing happened with 'Dirty Harry'. John Wayne, among other actors, passed on the role, and then Clint Eastwood delivered his iconic performance, which led to a film franchise. Realizing the opportunity he missed (although his portrayal of the character likely wouldn't have been as successful), Wayne made two films where he portrayed modern-day city police detectives. The first was 'McQ' and the second, his antepenultimate film, was 'Brannigan', the latter of which is now available in a limited edition from Twilight Time.
I had only ever seen Wayne in Westerns before so when Dominic Frontiere's sweet-sounding jazz score began to play with images of '70s Chicago in the opening moments, I was very curious about what was in store. Lt. Jim Brannigan (Wayne) makes his presence known quickly, bursting onto the screen as he bursts through a door. It isn't long before the character reveals himself to be a tough, clever, no-nonsense Chicago cop that bends/breaks the rules to bring in the bad guys.
But he's not in the Windy City for long because he is sent to London to extradite gangster Ben Larkin (John Vernon). Before Brannigan lands at Heathrow, Scotland Yard loses Larkin to kidnappers who demand a large ransom. Complicating matters even further, Larkin has hired a hitman to take out Brannigan.
While 'Brannigan' is not a significant work in Wayne's career, the film delivers enough to make it slightly more than a generic action picture. That's mostly due to Wayne, but viewers who don't have a long relationship with the actors' films might not be as taken with the sexterian since the charm comes from his long-standing persona rather than the performance. Thankfully, his age was taken into consideration and they didn’t foist a romance between his character and the young, attractive policewoman (Judy Geeson) that chauffeurs him around. The script also has a couple of good plot twists. The fight scenes, particularly the bar brawl, deliver the best action. Other action scenes are a bit tame, such as the predictable car jump over an opening bridge and what's supposed to be the climax as the elderly Brannigan shoots at an approaching car and could have been easily run over.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Twilight Time has released 3000 copies of 'Brannigan' on a 50GB Region Free Blu-ray disc in a standard blue keepcase. The disc boots up directly to the menu screen without any promotional advertisements. Included is a six-page booklet containing notes by Julie Kirgo.
The video has been given a 1080p/AVC-MPEG-4 encoded transfer displayed at 2.35:1. When the film begins, bright yellow opening credits appear over frozen stills, which look very smooth, but once the story begins, more object detail emerges, especially in close-ups. But that's not to say there's a bit of softness throughout, which is likely a result of the nearly 40-year-old source.
There's a mix of dull and bright hues in the production design. There is a good spectrum of browns seen in the gentleman's club where Brannigan meets Commander Swann (Richard Attenborough). During a scene in Piccadilly Circus, a variety of bright colors are on display in the signs on buildings and the red double-decker busses. Also, in this same scene are the accurate whites in clothes of protestors.
Blacks are strong, although shadows can overwhelm on occasion. There's a bit of flicker in Chapter 9 at about 1:17. The source looks clean and free of dirt, although something gets on the lens during the car chase. I didn't notice any digital artifacts.
The audio is available in DTS-HD Mono and sounds free from age or damage. Dialogue is always clear, even when the ADR is too flat. In fact, in Wayne's first scene it sounded as if someone else had dubbed his lines. The score sounds very full-bodied for mono.
The track has a great dynamic range and many elements are blended well together. A lot of work has been put into it because you are able to hear soft shoes walking in a noisy airport on the soft end. On the loud end, the punches are more robust than the gunfire and cars. When Brannigan is fighting Jimmy the bookie and in the bar brawl, the punches are so loud they end up unintentionally comedic. But the effects also had some misfires. The car jumping over the opening bridge sounded pretty inauthentic to me.
- Isolated Score Track – Dominic Frontiere's jazz score is available in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.
- Audio Commentary with Actress Judy Geeson and Film Historian Nick Redman – Geeson and Redman have a relaxed chat about her experiences working on the film. Anecdotes about the Duke offscreen were the most intriguing.
- Judy Geeson's “Behind The Scenes” Home Movie Footage (SD, 2 min) – Set to Frontiere's score, Geeson's camera captures the Duke, Attenborough, and others standing around between takes. It's not very memorable.
- Original Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2 min)
- MGM 90th Anniversary Trailer (HD, 2 min)
While it wouldn't be my go-to for John Wayne or '70s action, 'Brannigan' offers an enjoyable couple of hours spent in front of the screen. Twilight Time delivers an adequate HD presentation, considering the source, that should make it a satisfying purchase for Duke completists.
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