Brannigan Limited Edition Blu-Ray Review

Blu-Ray Review- Brannigan

Distributor: Twilight Time

Street Date: July 8th 2014

Technical Specifications: 1080P Video, Color, 2.35:1 Aspect Ratio, DTS-HD Master Audio Mono

Runtime: 111 Minutes

Brannigan (Twilight Time Limited Edition)

Brannigan (Twilight Time Limited Edition)

The Film:

Alright Pilgrim, I’ll admit it: I was much more of a Clint Eastwood fan growing up, but came to appreciate John Wayne’s wonderful filmography after years of my Father desperately trying to get me to watch his films. At 18 years old, he somehow talked me into watching The Searchers one rainy night, and just like that, I was hooked. Soon after we watched The Cowboys, then True Grit and Red River, and wouldn’t you know it we had a month long “Duke Marathon.” There has never been and will likely never be such a presence like John Wayne on the movie screen. Following the success of 1971’s Dirty Harry (a role The Duke turned down), Wayne set out to make his own modern Police dramas as the Western genre’s peak had come and gone. Brannigan was one of his last pictures, and though it’s certainly not all that memorable, it still holds up as a fun action entry, with more than a “dash” of goofball humor.

In this 1975 release, John Wayne plays Jim Brannigan, a “play by my own rules” Chicago Cop who is sent to groovy 70’s London to bring back the notorious gangster Ben Larkin (played by Dirty Harry’s mayor John Vernon). He’s facing extradition, and Brannigan’s the only man for the job. Upon arrival, things become complicated when Larkin is kidnapped, his finger severed and sent to the London police. Commander Swann (Richard Attenborough) insists that Brannigan “adapt” to the British way of handling these things, but Brannigan’s a loose cannon, and starts his own investigation into the kidnapping (which involves a few punches, car chases, and one-liners). With the help of lovely British police officer Jennifer Thatcher (Judy Geeson), Brannigan brings the heat to track down his target and get the job done, no matter what it takes.

Let’s make one thing abundantly clear, Brannigan is the kind of genre film we’ve seen a million times, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun. The one-liners from Wayne still induce the chuckles, the car chases and action (including car “jumping” London Bridge) is swift and well done for the time, and it’s an all-around fun film. Judy Geeson makes for a loveable partner and John Vernon is dastardly as he ever was as the main villain. Would I revisit it again and again like The Searchers or The Cowboys? Not necessarily. It’s more of a one-time experience, but it’s a pleasant one at that. John Wayne was a dominating and unforgettable screen presence that, even in middle-of-the-road fare, remained watchable and likeable as a leading man. I had a good time revisiting Brannigan on this Limited Edition Blu-Ray release from Twilight Time.

Video Quality:

Twilight Time brings Brannigan to Blu-Ray from the MGM library with a precise and authentic looking transfer. Colors are solid and reflect the look of the time period and black levels, while never inky, are stable and consistent. This is a very clean transfer, with minimal (if any) anomalies or artifacts. Fine object detail is sharp and defined in close-up shots, and fluctuates from slightly soft to pristine in wide-angle/sweeps. Any softness is likely inherent to the original print being utilized. This is a fine looking transfer!

Audio Quality:

The DTS-HD Mono track, much like the transfer, works very well for this release. Dialogue is strong and clear, the occasional action sequence is powerful for a mono track, and the score from Dominic Frontiere is balanced and groovy. Background sound effects are weaved throughout the track effortlessly to boot. Well done!

Special Features:

Twilight Time has provided fans of Brannigan with some fun special features for this Limited Edition Blu-Ray release. Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:

  • Audio Commentary- Actress Judy Geeson (Jennifer Thatcher) and Nick Redman from Twilight Time sit down to discuss her experience making Brannigan in 1975 on this feature length audio commentary. From the casting experience itself to her impressions of working with John Wayne, Judy provides some insightful stories and anecdotes on the making of the film. Nick Redman leads the discussion very well with engaging questions and guidance throughout the film’s length.
  • Isolated Score Track- Twilight Time presents the score from Brannigan as an isolated audio track for enthusiasts that want to experience the musical piece all on its own.
  • Judy Geeson’s “Behind the Scenes” Home Movie Footage– Presented in High Definition 4:3, this is Actress Judy Geeson’s actual “home video” footage that she filmed on the set of Brannigan. There is no audio, but the footage features some fun shots of John Wayne, Douglas Hickox, John Vernon, and others discussing an upcoming scene they were filming. Some lovely music from Dominic Frontiere’s score plays throughout.
  • Original Theatrical Trailer- “Knock, knock!”The original theatrical trailer for Brannigan runs nearly 2 ½ minutes and is expectedly cheesy, showcasing some of the fun one-liners and action set pieces from the film. I was surprised to see how incredibly cleaned up this trailer was! Looks very nice in High Definition.
  • MGM 90th Anniversary Trailer- This 2 minute trailer showcases select films from MGM’s wonderful catalog including Rain Man, The Man with No Name Trilogy, The Princess Bride, Dances with Wolves, Skyfall, Platoon, In the Heat of the Night, The Silence of the Lambs, and many more. There is some nice High Definition footage here to showcase how great these titles look on the Blu-Ray format.
  • Twilight Time Catalogue- Not necessarily a bonus feature per se, but I’ve always dug this helpful tool on Twilight’s past releases. This is presented on the main menu of the disc as a chapter selection to peruse their great catalog on Screen Archives, and even indicates which titles are now out of print.

The Packaging:

As you can see from the “Unboxing” pictures below, this Blu-Ray release from Twilight Time features the original theatrical poster art for Brannigan, albeit rotated in the opposite direction of the poster. Do I see John Wayne showcasing the ole knuckle sandwich with beer and glass shattering in the foreground? I’m sold! Twilight Time’s “Limited Edition” series print is at the bottom of the front cover design. On the reverse of the packaging you’ll find a short plot synopsis for the film, a list of special features, some review blurbs, and the technical specifications for the Blu-Ray disc.

Inside of the case you’ll find another superb booklet from the distributor, complete with production stills, behind-the-scenes photos, an alternative poster for the film, and yet another fantastic essay from regular contributor Julie Kirgo. Julie discusses Wayne’s departure from the Western genre after the success of Dirty Harry (a film which he turned down), the mid-seventies London scene, and some iconic locations featured in the film.

Brannigan (reverse)

Brannigan (reverse)

Brannigan (interior)

Brannigan (interior)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Final Report:

Though it’s not one of John Wayne’s most memorable films, Brannigan remains a fun fish-out-of-water action entry from later in the Duke’s career, executed with precision by Director Douglas Hickox. It’s a little bit Dirty Harry, sprinkled with John Wayne’s signature charm and bravado. The Blu-Ray edition from Twilight Time features a solid transfer from MGM’s vaults, with superb color timing and a surprising level of detail. The 2-channel HD Mono track sounds great, showcasing the wonderful score from Dominic Frontiere with ease. Special features are good, if a little light, but the engaging audio commentary with Judy Geeson and Nick Redman easily makes up for it. Brannigan wouldn’t be my first choice when sitting down for a John Wayne movie marathon, but it’s a fun and corny action picture that holds up well enough, and comes recommended.

-Pete Macabre (“Film Fan” Pete)

Visit Doctor Macabre’s Laboratory:  www.doctormacabre.com

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