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Summer of Sam (1999)

Spike Lee's take on the "Son of Sam" murders in New York City during the summer of 1977 centering on the residents of an Italian-American Northeast Bronx neighborhood who live in fear and distrust of one another.

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Cast

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Storyline

Spike Lee's take on the "Son of Sam" murders in New York City during the summer of 1977 centering on the residents of an Italian-American Northeast Bronx neighborhood who live in fear and distrust of one another.

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

The summer of '77 was a killer........ See more »


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong graphic violence and sexuality, pervasive strong language and drug use | See all certifications »

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Details

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Release Date:

2 July 1999 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Son of Sam  »

Box Office

Budget:

$22,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$7,991,450 (USA) (2 July 1999)

Gross:

$19,283,782 (USA) (10 September 1999)
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Technical Specs

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Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The word "fuck" is said 326 times in this 142-minute film, an average of 2.29 times per minute. See more »

Goofs

When the guys come to get Vinny to help them with Richie, Vinny picks up the phone to call the police. When the phone is ripped off the wall, you can see that there is no phone line or place to plug in the phone on the wall. See more »

Quotes

The Dog: Kill. Kill. Kill.
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Crazy Credits

The credits are in the form of newspaper headlines. See more »

Connections

References Dracula (1931) See more »

Soundtracks

Don't Leave Me This Way
(1973)
Written by Kenny Gamble (as Kenneth Gamble), Leon Huff and Cary Gilbert
Performed by Thelma Houston
Courtesy of Motown Record Company, L.P.
Under license from Universal Special Markets
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

intriguing disappointment
29 January 2000 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Spike Lee's "Summer of Sam," like most of his films, emerges as an intriguing but, nevertheless, regrettable failure. Using as his background the long, hot summer of 1977, when the serial killer known as the Son of Sam held New York City in the grip of terror, Lee spins a tale of drug abuse, infidelity and violence among a group of Italians living in a Bronx neighborhood. Unfortunately, Lee's meandering take on the subject robs it of much of its potential drama as he searches for a focal point that will make it compelling to the audience. He only occasionally succeeds and that is when he concentrates on the two lead characters: Vinny, whose deep religious convictions and sincere devotion to his wife cannot compel him to resist his womanizing compulsions, and Dionna, his beautiful but longsuffering wife, who suspects his infidelities and desperately struggles to satisfy Vinny's strong sexual needs but who runs up against the roadblock of her husband's strange misapprehension about what exactly constitutes the extent of marital relations. Vinny, in particular, as he struggles against the demons that plague him and the guilt they impose on him, suggests a complexity of character that makes him a compelling center for this otherwise sprawling story.

Unfortunately, many of the subsidiary characters, who surround these two and keep pulling us away from them, emerge as little more than ethnic and sexual stereotypes, from the neighborhood mob boss (Ben Gazarra) to the loving-father drug dealer to the punk rock iconoclast to the local flaming "fairy." Not even strong performances by a game cast can infuse these roles with the depth and humanity necessary to justify their inclusion in the film.

Stylistically, this film is much less visually flashy than previous Lee works with less elaborate camerawork and only the occasional near-subliminal quick cuts (used to convey memories) to distract us. Lee should, also, have avoided at all costs the temptation to cast himself as an on-site news reporter. Even more egregiously, why oh why did Lee feel compelled to visualize literally (through animatronics) the demon dog that Berkowitz reportedly cited as the motivation for his crimes actually barking out instructions to the crazed psychopath?

The risk in these docudramas is that the moviemakers will not be able to match, in their narrative, the compelling nature of the actual events upon which they are based. Lee's film is no exception, for just as the killer is captured, the fictional side of the story resolves itself in a flurry of heavy handed "Ox Bow Incident" melodramatics, scarcely credible even for a cadre of characters as lacking in common sense as these are. "Summer of Sam" is notable for the performances of John Leguizamo and Mira Sorvino in the central roles, its disco-drenched soundtrack and its letter-perfect recreation of a particular moment in recent American history. What a shame, then, that the film never really coheres into a satisfying whole.


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