Release Date(s)1975 (July 8, 2014)
Studio(s)MGM (Twilight Time)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: C+
Many John Wayne films on DVD have flown under the radar for a lot of us over the years, especially the ones that don’t feature him as what he’s known best as: a rough and ready cowboy. He’s also been a love interest, a firefighter, and an army commander. He also portrayed a police offer a couple of times; once as McQ in 1974, and then again a year latter in Brannigan, a slightly stylish and somewhat softer take on the hard-nosed cop genre as a whole.
Brannigan, for all intents and purposes, is a British attempt at a softer version of Dirty Harry with John Wayne in the lead, at least, that’s how I see it. You can almost picture the film in different hands with Clint Eastwood in the lead entitled Dirty Harry Goes to London, or something along those lines. But John Wayne’s take on the character is about what you would expect, but it’s also a fun marriage of different ideas. In other words, Scotland Yard better be on their toes, because Brannigan is in town!
John Wayne, is of course, John Wayne in nearly everything, but he seems to be having a good time with this role. It’s something different for The Duke and he carries the ‘no bullshit’ cop role quite well. Trading in his cowboy hat and shotgun for a blazer and .38, he travels to London in order to extradite a criminal he’s been after for some time. But when the criminal suddenly goes missing and the evidence points towards a kidnapping, Brannigan wreaks his own brand of bad-ass American cop havoc all over London, always upsetting his superior Richard Attenborough. Attenborough, on the other hand, seems to take his character pretty seriously most of the time, which has the potential of not working against Wayne’s character. It does seem to work though and the two play well off of each other. If it had been a more serious film that didn’t feel like it had much of a sense of humor underneath the surface, then it might not have been as enjoyable. And the film’s attitude toward the material is not much of a surprise, being that it was directed by Douglas Hickcox, who also directed the tongue-in-cheek horror classic Theatre of Blood.
The film also features John Vernon and Mel Ferrer as the crooks in question, as well as Judy Geeson as Brannigan’s assistant. There’s also some small parts for Ralph Meeker, Brian Glover, Lesley-Anne Down, and Tony Robinson, so you have a solid British cast buttressed up against John Wayne’s American counterpart. It’s also nice how Brannigan isn’t out to find romance, especially with Geeson’s character, and vice versa. They’re just a couple of people who become friends during the course of the film. I don’t think it would have been appropriate for the two of them to co-mingle in that way as it would have been horribly awkward. Thankfully, that’s kept in check, and the film spends its time being a fun take on the genre. On top of all of this, you have some pretty good drama, explosions, car chases, and a bar fight so great that they slapped it on the film’s poster. It’s just a fun movie, overall.
Brannigan’s Blu-ray presentation sports a very fine-looking transfer. It’s a film that was never really designed to look very slick, as it’s more akin to a rough-looking cop film. So it’s not the sharpest of films you’re ever likely to see, but its overall softness is inherent in the original photography, so you can’t fault the transfer for that. It’s as sharp as it can be with an excellent grain structure overall. The film’s color palette isn’t all that colorful, but again, it never really was to begin with. Skin tones look pretty good, although a tad on the pink side. Black levels are consistent and both contrast and overall brightness are very acceptable. I didn’t notice any real attempts to boost the video presentation with unnecessary digital tinkery, so no worries there. The audio, which is presented in the original English mono, is about on the same level. The film’s great score, in particular, sounds really robust and terrific. Dialogue is mixed well into the soundtrack and plenty audible, while the film’s sound effects have more boost than I would have expected, but still carrying a vintage feel. The low frequency moments have some mild push to them, but they fare even better during explosions or gun fire. It’s a soundtrack that shows its age, but doesn’t really sound bad at all. Overall, it’s not a perfect presentation visually and aurally, but it’s pretty close. There are also English subtitles for those who might need them.
The supplemental portion of the disc is fairly straightforward, but has interesting stuff to check out nonetheless. There’s an optional isolated score audio track, an audio commentary with actress Judy Geeson and film historian Nick Redman, a set of behind-the-scenes home movie footage shot by actress Judy Geeson, the film’s original theatrical trailer, an MGM 90th Anniversary trailer, a scroll-through of the current Twilight Time catalogue, and finally, a 6-page insert booklet featuring an essay about the film by Julie Kirgo.
Brannigan is one of those MGM titles that went out of print a long time ago on DVD, so it’s nice to not only have it back in print for a while, but also to have it in high definition. If you’re a John Wayne fan or just a fan of the cop genre, then this would be a very enjoyable title for you to pick up.
- Tim Salmons