On Monday, February 4, 1974, soon-to-be-20-year-old Patricia Campbell Hearst (heiress and daughter of San Francisco newspaper executive Randolph Hearst) was kidnapped at gunpoint from her California apartment and stuffed into the trunk of a car being driven by one of several members of a revolutionary terrorist group calling itself "The Symbionese Liberation Army" (SLA). Thus began one of the most sensational and bizarre news stories of the late 20th century. A story which had America transfixed for more than a year-and-a-half.
"Guerrilla: The Taking Of Patty Hearst" takes the viewer on a spellbinding 89-minute journey deep inside the fabric of this strange odyssey filled with terrorism, kidnapping, murder, bank robbery, shootouts with police, and the unusual "feed the hungry" demands made by the SLA.
This DVD program dissects the Hearst Kidnapping story from Day 1 in February 1974 until Day 592, which was the day Patty Hearst was finally taken into custody in San Francisco on September 18, 1975.
Two months after her abduction, to the amazement of her family (and the rest of America), a startling audio taped message had Patty announcing that she had joined forces with her kidnappers and was now being identified by a new name, "Tania".
Many segments of the original audio tapes sent to authorities by the SLA (with the voices of Patty and other SLA "comrades") are sprinkled throughout this program. The clarity of these audio tapes is quite good, too.
Patty ended up serving 22 months in prison for her part in an April 15, 1974, bank robbery, in which she was seen via the bank's security cameras brandishing an assault rifle while several SLA members robbed the bank of $10,960 in cash (although, according to an April 24th taped message by Patty Hearst herself, the precise amount of loot that was garnered in the heist by the robbers was $10,660.02, which I thought was kind of an odd figure; I guess one of the bandits grabbed a couple of pennies from a cash drawer before departing the bank).
The video of that Hibernia Bank robbery is also featured here, and is presented in a way which makes the skin crawl a little bit more -- complete with "ticking clock" and two "gunshot" sound effects. And it amazes me how clear that security-camera video footage is of that robbery. It looks in excellent condition, quality-wise. Patty's movements (and identity) are clearly defined on the video. It's so good, in fact, that Patty's lips were even able to be read by people who later examined the footage.
Each segment of this peculiar true-life drama unfolds in compelling detail during this polished documentary, which had me glued to the TV screen for its entire hour-and-a-half length. This is one of the finest true-crime documentary programs I've ever seen. It's nicely edited and contains a very good background musical score (which effectively accompanies the video we're watching on screen and is often quite eerie when combined with the on-screen images). A large amount of "as-it-was-happening" television news footage is what comprises the bulk of this documentary; along with interviews (circa 2001) of some former SLA members.
Of particular interest to this writer while viewing this film were the "Live" scenes of the police shootout in Los Angeles on May 17, 1974, which was a confrontation with SLA members in a residential area of L.A., resulting in the deaths of six SLA terrorists. For a brief time, it was thought that Miss Hearst was one of those victims.
This chilling shootout footage is somewhat nerve-racking to watch, for it seems surreal -- like a scene straight out of a Hollywood action movie. It was one of the first events of its kind to be shown around the country on Live television -- a real-life police vs. outlaw shoot-'em-up on Live TV, with hundreds of rounds of gunfire from automatic weapons being heard throughout the standoff. The scene then turned even more dramatic, as the house which was being used as a hideout by the SLA suddenly turned into a huge inferno of flames, killing all who were inside. Remarkable news footage indeed.
The Patty Hearst kidnapping story still continues to fascinate and intrigue even today. Was Patty "brainwashed" by her kidnappers and forced to participate in the Hibernia Bank heist? Or was she a willing participant? These questions still loom in some people's minds even now, decades after the strange events that consumed Miss Hearst, and the nation, in 1974 and '75. In January of 2001, Patricia Hearst was issued a full "pardon" by President Bill Clinton (just prior to Clinton's leaving office in favor of George W. Bush).
This DVD, distributed by "New Video Group, Inc." under its first-rate "Docurama" label, comes complete with some noteworthy Special Bonus Features too. Let's have a look at them......
>> Feature-Length Audio Commentary Track provided by the film's director, Robert Stone.
>> Audio Exclusive: The Patty Hearst Tapes. .... This is an extremely interesting bonus, lasting a total of 53-plus minutes. Included are six audio clips, each of them "digitally re-mastered for increased clarity", per the DVD's written info.
All of the clips feature the voice of Patty Hearst throughout the early portions of 1974. These are extended, more-complete versions of the audio tapes that are heard throughout the 89-minute "Guerrilla" documentary. These clips provide a fascinating (audio) glimpse into history and into the mind of the kidnap victim herself. (Although, I suppose it's up to each individual listening to the clips to decide whether or not these are the words of Patty's OWN mind or, instead, the words of a woman whose mind has been somehow manipulated and brainwashed to speak the words her captors wanted expressed to the world. When listening to her comments on these tapes, it is, indeed, a tough call to make.)
Here's a rundown of the exact audio footage that can be found here:
Clip 1.) From "Day 9" -- February 12, 1974 (Length: 11:20).
Clip 2.) From "Day 13" -- February 16, 1974 (8:09).
Clip 3.) From "Day 34" -- March 9, 1974 (10:44).
Clip 4.) From "Day 59" -- April 3, 1974 (8:43).
Clip 5.) From "Day 80" -- April 24, 1974 (3:51).
Clip 6.) From "Day 124" -- June 7, 1974 (10:19).
Warning: Some vulgar language is contained within these audio clips.
>> Deleted Scenes: Sacramento Courthouse. .... This 25-minute bonus was filmed on February 14, 2003, during the sentencing of SLA members for the murder of Myrna Opsahl during the 1975 Crocker Bank robbery in Carmichael, California.
>> Exclusive Footage: Hibernia Bank Robbery. .... This silent black-and-white video shows the complete "Security Camera" bank footage that was recorded during the Hibernia Bank robbery in San Francisco on April 15, 1974, at 9:40 A.M. (including slow-motion close-ups of Patty Hearst). .... Length of this bonus is 6:41.
>> Theatrical Trailer for "Guerrilla: The Taking Of Patty Hearst". .... This trailer is shown in its proper Widescreen (1.78:1) ratio. Trailer length is 2:05.
>> Photo Gallery. .... A view-at-your-own-pace Gallery of 11 still photos, including a pic of Patty Hearst's "Wanted" poster.
>> Filmmaker Biography of Robert Stone (text only).
>> A look at the "Docurama" catalog of titles, including some Trailers for several of the films. Some good stuff to browse through here too.
Other Info About This "Docurama" DVD............
DVD Release: September 27, 2005. (The film was released in 2004.)
COLOR / B&W -- Color.
VIDEO -- Widescreen (1.78:1). .... This is a Non-Anamorphic "Letterboxed" DVD. Don't be fooled by the term "16:9 Widescreen" on the box. That's referring to only the physical aspect ratio itself, not "16:9 DVD enhancement". Video quality is very good, though. And the multi-channel audio is excellent, IMO.
AUDIO -- Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound, plus a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track as well. A third audio track, the Director's Commentary, is provided in DD 2.0 Stereo. "On-The-Fly" switching of audio tracks is permitted.
SUBTITLES -- None.
CHAPTER SEARCH? -- Yes. .... There are 12 Chapter Stops included.
MENUS -- No Music; No Animations; Sub-Menus included for "Scene Index" and "Extras".
INSERTS? -- Yes. .... Not a Chapter Index. But there's a nicely-done multi-page (foldout) booklet advertising other "Docurama" DVD titles.
CASE TYPE -- Keep Case Packaging (1 Disc; Single-Sided).
A Parting Thought........
Want to bone up on the almost-unbelievable story of Patricia Hearst (via heaps of 1970s-era news footage and all-new interviews)? If so, "Guerrilla: The Taking Of Patty Hearst" is the DVD to pick up.