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'The Dog' is about John Wojtowicz who inspired the movie 'Dog Day Afternoon'

'The Dog'

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Directors Allison Berg and Frank Keraudren made a unique film called, “The Dog.” It’s about John Wojtowicz (pronounced “Woto-wits”), a most unusual man who goes by the nickname “The Dog.” Their film is a wonderfully obsessive and passionate labor of love and it made Indiewire’s list of the “The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far.”

John Wojtowicz
John WojtowiczDrafthouse Films

The movie opens this Friday. It's been 42 years since John Wojtowicz set out to rob a Brooklyn Chase Manhattan bank in order to pay for his lover’s sex-change operation. Things did not go as planned and police surrounded the bank. Wojtowicz held hostages inside for 14 hours and this mess of a robbery was broadcast live on television.

The way out there story caught the eye of moviemaker Sidney Lumet and inspired the Oscar winning, “Dog Day Afternoon,” which starred Al Pacino as the fictionalized character Sonny Wortzik. The film was nominated for six Academy Awards and won for Original Screenplay and became an American classic.

“Nobody would ever do what I did,” said Wojtowicz, “rob a bank to give somebody a sex change operation." He remained unapologetic until his death in 2006.

The lover he attempted larceny for was Ernie Aron, who he’d married in a mock Catholic ceremony in 1971. “I wanted to make Ernie an honest woman,” said Wojtowicz.

Wojtowicz was sentenced to 20 years for the robbery and went off to Pennsylvania’s Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary. There he met George Heath in July 16, 1974. The two wed in prison two weeks later. Heath acted as The Dog’s jailhouse lawyer and Wojtowicz was granted an early release. He only served six of the 20 years.

The movie takes you on a wackadoo journey through this one peculiar person’s life. The filmmakers spent 10 years making "The Dog," spending gobs of their own time and money on meticulous research. Lucky for New York City lovers they were able to hunt down rare archival footage from the 1970s. It’s a treat to see the history of Christopher Street, Greenwich Village and New York City's fight for gay liberation.

Wojtowicz is crass, unapologetic, funny, repulsive and everything in between. You want entertainment? Go see this rare gem.

“The Dog” opens in New York City on August 8, 2014. It’s playing in NYC theaters IFC Center and Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center and becomes available On Demand on Aug. 15. 100 min.