War Dogs X 2
American moviegoers experiencing the fierce and intelligent screen adaptation of Frederick Forsyth’s 1974 novel The Dogs of War (1980) when it opened stateside 36 years ago today saw a version of the film 15 minutes shorter than the one British cinemagoers saw two months prior. That wasn’t an impediment for admirers like The New York Times’ Vincent Canby, who pronounced it “first-rate,” but several dissenting reviewers of the often gritty and brutal adventure about a mercenary band, led by Christopher Walken (The Deer Hunter) and Tom Berenger (Platoon), that executes a corporately funded coup against the ruthless dictator of a small West African nation considered the results short on character development. Apparently it was decided that the U.S. market liked its action adventures to move with breakneck speed, while Europeans had the patience for more backstory of the Walken character, his intriguing relationship ex-with wife JoBeth Williams and his methodical arms-acquisition preparations for mounting the team’s assault on the fictional country of Zangaro, which material was the bulk of the differing quarter-hour. For 20 years, the shorter U.S. Theatrical Cut was the version of record on TV and home video until MGM Home Entertainment released the International Cut on DVD in November 2001 so that fans of the film could now plumb its added depths.Twilight Time’s September 2014 hi-def Blu-ray release goes one better in presenting both versions in splendidly vibrant 1080p hi-def together on one carefully authored disc, available here: http://screenarchives.com/title_detail.cfm/ID/27853/DOGS-OF-WAR-1980/. Directed by John Irvin, shot by the legendary Jack Cardiff, also starring Colin Blakely, Paul Freeman, Jean-François Stévenin, Hugh Millais, Winston Ntshona and featuring brief early movie appearances by Ed O’Neill, Victoria Tennant and Jim Broadbent, The Dogs of War invites you to cry havoc and let slip two iterations of this well-regarded war and weaponry saga. For a detailed listing of extra scenes that British filmgoers saw before we Yanks got a crack at them, check out Erickson’s original DVD review here: http://www.dvdtalk.com/dvdsavant/s362dogs.html.