Blu-ray Review: Brannigan - Twilight Time Limited Edition

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The cover of Twilight Time’s limited Blu-ray edition of Brannigan just about says it all. John Wayne, nearing the close of his storied career with this 1975 cop flick, is kicking ass in Great Britain. Wayne stars as Lt. Jim Brannigan, a tough but good-humored Chicago cop who is sent to London to extradite organized crime honcho Ben Larkin (John Vernon). At times fairly cheesy, it’s an oddly endearing—if ultimately inconsequential—action piece that’s firmly stuck in its mid-‘70s period. Directed in workmanlike fashion by Douglas Hickox, Brannigan feels more like something that should’ve aired on television than a full-fledged cinematic adventure. However, Twilight Time obviously recognizes the drawing power of the truly iconic power of John Wayne. The late star’s legion of fans will definitely find this edition worth picking up.

Brannigan cover (214x280).jpgMuch of Brannigan’s saga in the U.K. centers on rather predictable “fish out of water” elements. Brannigan is cautioned about carrying a sidearm, is forced to adjust to right-hand drive, and doesn’t have a grasp on the local vernacular when it comes to simple things like ordering cocktails and breakfast. When Larkin is kidnapped, Brannigan’s task becomes severely complicated. The fact that Larkin employed a hired killer to take out the cop makes things even worse. In a teasing bit of not-quite-romance, Brannigan is assigned Detective Jennifer Thatcher (Judy Geeson) as his much younger companion and guide through London. Geeson is cute as a button and the chemistry between she and Wayne is agreeably unforced.

The gears of the plot turn on the ransom money demanded by Larkin’s kidnappers. Adding sly wit to the proceedings is Richard Attenborough as Commander Sir Charles Swann. Between the interplay with Geeson and Attenborough, Wayne’s famous persona is given a suitable twist. The Duke seems to be having a relaxed, enjoyable time playing the bull in a china shop. As the bad guys, John Vernon and Mel Ferrer (playing Larkin’s lawyer) are relatively standard issue. Director Hickox doesn’t add a huge amount of flair to the action scenes, but the chases and shootouts are generally exciting. This is pulpy fun for fans of Wayne and/or ‘70s-era police procedurals.

Brannigan John Wayne (380x250).jpgBrannigan arrives on Blu-ray with a 1080p transfer, framed at 2.35:1, which neither stuns nor disappoints. It's an attractive, clean image that retains a naturally grainy, filmic look while displaying an acceptable level of fine detail. It's a bit washed-out looking, never boasting very rich colors, but it’s never particularly off-putting. The DTS-HD MA mono soundtrack is a bit flat, but the fidelity is as good as one would expect from a lossless mix of a film of this vintage.

Brannigan booklet (204x240).jpgAs for special features, the main attraction is a new audio commentary featuring film historian and record producer Nick Redman with Brannigan female lead Judy Geeson. It's a conversational, laid-back chat, with Geeson sharing lots of warm memories of working with John Wayne and Richard Attenborough. As is customary for Twilight Time releases, there's an isolated track featuring Dominic Frontiere's flashy score in DTS-HD MA 2.0. As for video-based features, we get to see a few minutes of Geeson's on-set "behind the scenes" footage. The film's original theatrical trailer is also included. Julie Kirgo contributes another of her analytical essays for the booklet.

As with all titles in Twilight Time's Limited Edition Blu-ray series, only 3,000 copies of Brannigan were issued. John Wayne collectors will surely want to visit Screen Archives to order a copy, while supplies last.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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