• An unorthodox, bungled bank robbery becomes the basis for an unorthodox, well-made movie entitled DOG DAY AFTERNOON. Based on a true incident, the story centers around two inept robbers, who find themselves trapped in a bank with twelve hostages, and surrounded by what looks like half the New York City Police Department. The film combines dramatic suspense with the look and feel of reality, virtues which sustain it through its somewhat excessive length. Director Sidney Lumet and star Al Pacino, originally teamed in Serpico, prove as adept in their study of a harried would-be criminal as in their earlier depiction of an honest cop. Pacino plunges into dramatic outbursts, comedic goofs and sentimental pathos, right on cue and without missing a beat. In planning his escape, he is forced to contend with a slow-witted, paranoid partner, two spaced-out wives (one of whom is a man), a suffocating mother, a tough-talking detective, a coolly menacing F.B.I. agent, and a crowd of onlookers cheering him on. A claustrophobic, oppressive sense of isolation is subtly built up as the hours lengthen, giving the audience a first-hand glimpse of the psychology of siege. Most of the supporting performances are by New York actors, unknown to the majority of filmgoers, and they are uniformly excellent. In a world of formula cops-and-robbers shows, Dog Day Afternoon is a refreshing and much-needed change. Rated "R."
• There is a dual fascination in viewing THE HIDING PLACE, a harrowing true account of a family attempting to hide and protect Jews in Nazi-occupied Holland. At the dramatic level, the story is well-paced and the performances are sensitive and intelligent. At the ideological level, there is a heavy emphasis on Christianity, due to the fact that the movie was produced by evangalist Billy Graham's media group, World Wide Pictures. This emphasis, at least in the theater I attended, was compounded by Billy Graham's minions in the lobby, passing out leaflets and seeking converts. But in the movie itself, the theme is handled skillfully, integrated into the story rather than tacked on. The Hiding Place thus falls well short of being a straight-out propaganda film, though it does at times become cloying to those of us who are outside its wavelength. Jeanette Clift makes an impressive debut as Corrie ten Boom, who with her father and sister aided the escape of dozens of Jews until they were captured and imprisoned by the Nazis. Arthur O'Connell and Julie Harris deliver finely etched performances as the other members of the family, ordinary people facing extraordinary circumstances and rising to the occasion. Eileen Heckart is superb as an assistant medic in a concentration camp, sustained chiefly by her hatred for the Nazis. The movie denotes, but does not exploit, the brutality and violence of the conquerers, while putting its emphasis (and rightly so) on attempts by the prisoners to maintain their humanity in the exhaustion and deprivation of their day-to-day existence. Altogether, The Hiding Place is a remarkable movie, and an instructive example of how a "message" film should be made. Rated "PG."
• The CIA takes some more lumps in THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR, a chilly, effective thriller that finds Robert Redford, for once, in a meaty role that he can handle. Redford plays a CIA employee (but not a spy), assigned to research books and other publications for new ideas that may be useful to the CIA. Shortly after he turns up a piece of seemingly innocuous information, everyone in his section is suddenly wiped out, with Redford himself managing to escape only by sheer accident. He spends the next few days running for his life and trying to discover who is after him and why. His search eventually leads him to the suspicion that there might be a secret group operating within the CIA. The plot contains its share of implausibilities, but it slides around them deftly enough to keep the audience in almost constant suspense. Ideologically the movie is a far cry from the cynicism that runs rampant in the spy genre: Redford's transition is from apolitical to angrily idealistic. Faye Dunaway displays a complex mixture of vulnerability and self-assurance as his unwilling accomplice, who eventually becomes his co-conspirator. Max von Sydow is chilling as a paid assassin, the personification of moral indifference. Cliff Robertson is businesslike as a CIA section chief, willing to sacrifice his own agents to protect the CIA's public image. The story is pure fiction but, judging by the way the CIA operates, not impossible. Rated "R."