theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Sidney Lumet|
|Produced by||Dino De Laurentiis
Roger M. Rothstein
|Screenplay by||Waldo Salt
by Peter Maas
|Music by||Mikis Theodorakis
|Cinematography||Arthur J. Ornitz|
|Editing by||Dede Allen
|Studio||Artists Entertainment Complex
De Laurentiis Entertainment Group
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures
Cinema International Corporation
United International Pictures
|Running time||130 minutes|
Serpico is a 1973 American crime film directed by Sidney Lumet and starring Al Pacino. Waldo Salt and Norman Wexler wrote the screenplay, adapting Peter Maas' biography of NYPD officer Frank Serpico (born 1936), who went undercover to expose corruption in the force. Both Maas's book and the film cover 12 years—1960 to June 15, 1972—in the life of Serpico, who was trying to be an honest policeman.
The film and principals were nominated for numerous awards, earning recognition for its score, direction, screenplay and Pacino's performance. The film was also a commercial success.
Working as a uniformed patrolman, Frank Serpico excels at every assignment. He moves on to plainclothes assignments, where he slowly discovers a hidden world of illicit activities among his own colleagues. After witnessing cops use drugs, commit violence, take payoffs and other forms of police corruption, Serpico decides to expose what he has seen, but he is harassed and threatened by his peers. The struggle leads to infighting within the police force, problems in his personal relationships, and life-threatening situations. Finally, after being shot in the face during a drug bust on February 3, 1971, he testifies before the Knapp Commission, a government inquiry into NYPD police corruption between 1970 and 1972. After receiving a New York City Police Department Medal of Honor and a disability pension, Serpico resigns from the force and moves to Switzerland.
Prior to any work on the movie, producer Martin Bregman had lunch with biographical book author Peter Maas to discuss a film adaptation. Waldo Salt, a screenwriter, began to write the script which director Sidney Lumet deemed to be too long. Another screenwriter, Norman Wexler, did the structural work followed by play lines.
Director John G. Avildsen was originally slated to direct the movie, but was removed from production due to differences with producer Bregman. Lumet took the helm as director just before filming. The real-life Frank Serpico wished to be present during the filming of the movie based on his life. Initially he was permitted to stay, but was eventually dismissed from the filming, as director Lumet was worried that his presence would make the actors (particularly lead actor Al Pacino) self-conscious.
The story was filmed in the streets of New York City. A total of 104 different locations in four of the five boroughs of the city (all except Staten Island) were used. An apartment at 5-7 Minetta Street in Manhattan's Greenwich Village was used as Serpico's residence, though according to the Peter Maas book, he lived on Perry Street during the events depicted in the film. Lewisohn Stadium, which was closed at the time of filming, was used for one scene.
As the storyline needed to show the progression of Frank Serpico's beard and hair length, individual scenes were filmed in reverse order, with actor Al Pacino's hair being trimmed for each scene set earlier in the film's timeline.
Woodie King Jr., originally cast as a hoodlum, was replaced after suffering a broken leg while filming a chase scene for this movie. He returned to the set two months later to play Leslie's friend Larry in the party scene.
Playwright Sidney Kingsley loaned his apartment to Sidney Lumet for use to film the party scene. In 1935, Kingsley had hired an 11-year-old Lumet to appear on Broadway in his play, Dead End, and they had remained friends since then. Ironically, Kingsley, after months of research, had written an award-winning stage play about the NYPD, Detective Story, which was adapted into an iconic, award-winning film about the NYPD.
Awards and honors
The original score was composed by Mikis Theodorakis, nominated for both the Grammy Award for Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture and the BAFTA award for Best Film Music. Its Greek name is Dromoi Palioi, or "Old Streets". Sidney Lumet's direction was recognized by both the BAFTAs and the Directors Guild of America. The film was nominated for the Golden Globe award for Best Motion Picture – Drama.
The film also received Academy Awards nominations for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Al Pacino) and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium. The script won the Writers Guild Award for Best Drama Adapted from Another Medium.
Serpico was a major commercial success, given its modest budget, which ranged from $2.5 million to $3 million. It grossed $29.8 million at the domestic box office, making it the 12th highest-grossing film of 1973.
Pacino's role as Frank Serpico is ranked at #40 on the American Film Institute's 100 Years... 100 Heroes and Villains list. The film is also ranked at #84 on the AFI's 100 Years... 100 Cheers, a list of America's Most Inspiring Movies.
Home video releases
Serpico was released on VHS and is available on Region 1 DVD since 2002.
- Behind the Camera on Serpico. Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved May 27, 2013.
- "Serpico, Box Office Information". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 17, 2012.
- "Serpico, Award Wins and Nominations". IMDb. Retrieved January 30, 2012.
- Serpico, AFI's Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute. Retrieved May 27, 2013.
- "AFI's 100 Years... 100 Heroes and Villains List". American Film Institute. Retrieved January 30, 2012.
- "AFI's 100 Years... 100 Cheers List". American Film Institute. Retrieved January 30, 2012.
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