6.6/10
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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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6 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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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

Country:

Language:

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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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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

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Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Sarah Michelle Gellar was originally cast as Ruby. See more »

Goofs

While Vinny and Richie are sitting in a diner and the two guys in pink shirts are hassling them, the song "Psycho Killer" is heard as if on the diner's jukebox. The album (Talking Heads 77) upon which the song is featured wasn't released until Sept of 1977. See more »

Quotes

Vinny: Come on, get in the car. Please, baby.
Dionna: Baby? Don't you dare "baby" me! I'm gonna wait here! I'm gonna wait here until somebody comes along. You know what? I'm gonna wait here until some soul brother comes along in his big black Cadillac. And you know and I know that he's got a big black dick too.
Vinny: Don't talk like that, just get inside the car.
Dionna: Oh, fuck you!
Vinny: Please, please, don't make me have to beg you. Get in the car. Come on- don't make me have to hurt you.
Dionna: Hurt me? Don't you even fuckin' lay ...
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Crazy Credits

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

Connections

References Dead End (1937) See more »

Soundtracks

Short Shorts
(1958)
Written by Bob Gaudio, Bill Crandall, Bill Dalton and Tom Austin
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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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