• Brannigan

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics
    Released on: December 12th, 2017.
    Director: Douglas Hickox
    Cast: John Wayne, John Vernon, Mel Ferrar, Judy Geeson, Richard Attenborough
    Year: 1975
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    The Movie:

    Basically John Wayne’s answer to popular tough cop movies of the seventies like Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry pictures, Brannigan may not be deep but it is fun and while the filmmakers do everything they can to make Wayne edgy and hardboiled in this picture, he’s still very much the hard punching cowboy everyone remembers him as.

    Wayne plays Jim Brannigan, a no-nonsense Chicago cop who finds himself shipped off to London where an American mob boss named Larkin (John Vernon) is waiting to be extradited. What Brannigan, or anyone else for that matter, doesn’t know is that his lawyer has set up a fake kidnapping to spring his client from custody before he can be shipped back to the USA to stand trial.

    Branningan, along with a Scotland Yard Inspector named Swann (Richard Attenborough) team up with a cute but tough lady cop named Jennifer Thatcher (Judy Geeson) to head into the streets of mid-seventies London to bring him back while they still can. Larkin, however, doesn’t intend to go back without a fight.

    While Wayne was no young man when he made this picture he handles himself well in the film. This is a fast paced and efficient cop movie, offering up plenty of action and some good humor too. Snappy banter between Wayne’s character and Attenborough’s character is both clever and genuinely amusing, the two form an interesting and unlikely rapport here but it anchors the picture well. Geeson isn’t given as much to do here but she too handles herself well when the story calls for action and if her character is a little one dimensional, that’s got nothing to do with her delivery and everything to do with the script. Sure, the story does play to clichés now and then but it works and it works well.

    The London setting gives the movie some interesting flavor and allows for Wayne to play up the ‘fish out of water’ scenario that adds novelty to the picture. He remains very much the consummate American here but it’s fun to see him stomping around England messing up the bad guys. Vernon makes for an appreciably sleazy bad guy, he excels in roles like this one and is quite well cast. The movie also benefits from a nice jazz-infused score that comes courtesy of Dominic Frontiere. It, like everything else in the movie, is very much a product of its time but no less effective (or fun to listen to) for it.

    Nobody is reinventing the wheel with Brannigan but for good entertainment, you can’t really go wrong with it. The film never gets as dark as some of the pictures that obviously leads to its genesis but it doesn’t need to. Wayne’s screen presence and penchant for playing likeable, good natured tough guys mixed with strong work from the gifted supporting cast keep this one fun.


    Kino Lorber Studio Classics brings Brannigan to Blu-ray in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 2.35.1 widescreen in a transfer that seems to mirror the one that was used by Twilight Time for their release a few years ago (reviewed here), though the color timing is a bit different.

    Here’s an image from the Twilight Time disc…

    …and one from the Kino disc to compare.

    Detail won’t melt your brain but it is certainly noticeably stronger than what DVD could offer. Color reproduction is quite good, all of the seventies London scenery shines with various bright hues and primary colors coming through quite well. Skin tones look good and there isn’t much in the way of actual print damage to note, just a normal amount of film grain. Some scenes do look softer than others but there are no issues with obvious noise reduction or edge enhancement.

    The English DTS-HD Mono audio sounds better than a lot of older single channel tracks tend to, particularly when the action erupts and it shows some depth and range. Dialogue stays clean, clear and properly balanced and the score has some noticeable power behind it. There are no issues of note with any hiss or distortion. This mix sounds quite good.

    The main extra on the disc is a commentary track with Steve Mitchell and Nathanial Thompson. Aside from that, we get a trailer for the feature, menus and chapter selection. Mitchell cops to being a big Wayne fan and he’s fairly enthusiastic about the film, discussing how it’s a fish out of water story but also comparing it to other cop movies made around the same time. They talk up Wayne’s screen presence and star power, the contributions of the other cast members involved in the production, Douglas Hickox’s directing style, what was shot in Chicago versus what was shot in the United Kingdom and quite a bit more. Mitchell does most of the talking here with Thompson serving more as a moderator than anything else, but the conversation is interesting and well informed which makes this worth listening to.

    Note that the commentary on the Twilight Time release featuring Judy Geeson and Nick Redman has not been ported over, and neither has the ‘home movies’ that Geeson shot during her time on the set.

    The Final Word:

    Brannigan is a fast paced and tough picture with some good doses of humor and a fun performance from Wayne. It’s obvious here that some of the harder edged cop pictures that beat this one to the punch had an influence, but that doesn’t take away from the entertainment value that this one provides. Kino’s Blu-ray looks and sounds pretty good and features a decent commentary as its primary extra. Wayne fans and seventies cop film aficionados should get a kick out of this one.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!