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John Wojtowicz lived a life unlike any other

The Dog is an overwhelming exploration of one man's unconditional love

JamesArthurArmstrong JamesArthurArmstrong The Dog is an intimate portrait of the vivacious John Wojtowicz, the inspiration behind Al Pacino's character in Sidney Lumet's Oscar-nominated Dog Day Afternoon.

Coming of age in the 1960s, John Wojtowicz took pride in being a pervert. His libido was excessive even by the libertine standards of the era, with multiple wives and lovers, both women and men.

In August, 1972, he attempted to rob a Brooklyn bank to finance his lover's sex-reassignment surgery. The attempted heist resulted in a fourteen-hour hostage situation that was broadcast on TV. Three years later, Pacino portrayed his character instigating the unforgettable crime on the big screen. The award-winning film had a profound influence on Wojtowicz, when he emerged from prison six years later, he became known as The Dog.

wojtowicz's bold personality

This documentary was filmed over a 10-year period by directors Allison Berg and Frank Keraudren. Together, they intertwine very intimate archival footage of the robbery with some very personal snap shots of Wojtowicz's experiences during the gay liberation movement. It's in these moments that we gain a true sense of his bold personality yet complicated motives. Wojtowicz makes for compelling viewing, even though his persona may be touched with madness with a heightened assumption of his own significance.

John Wojtowicz the inspiration behind Dog Day Afternoon
John Wojtowicz the inspiration behind Dog Day Afternoon

Unfortunately, Wojtowicz died of cancer in January 2006 in his mother's home. Towards the end of his life he began a slow demise from public life, with reports stating he was living on welfare for the last few years. Berg and Keraudren show a sliver of this portion of his life during the documentaries third act, where we see him grow much closer to his older brother. We see a far more care free Wojtowicz in these intimate moments. He stills carries the notability of his past conviction around his neck like a proud medal of achievement— but what else has his life stood for? He has built his entire existence off that one day in Brooklyn.

an eye-opening exploration

Your overall opinion of this shape shifting character will no doubt change throughout the course of the movie. What will stand firm, no doubt, is your sense that this man captured the spirit of an era. An era of social unrest and desperation for freedom. The 70's was an important decade in American culture, not only for the gay liberation movement but for the civil rights movement, too. It was all change in America and Wojtowicz was at the centre of it.

The Dog is an eye-opening exploration of one man's unconditional love for the women he loved, whilst being an insight into a man's delirious opinions on the world around him and his own desires to grasp onto the fame he'd acquired. Wojtowicz was his own man, and wasn't afraid of exhibiting it.

Archival Footage8

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