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Guerrilla - The Taking of Patty Hearst
Guerrilla - The Taking of Patty Hearst
Actors: Russ Little, Timothy Findley, Michael Bortin, Dan Grove, Ludlow Kramer
Director: Robert Stone
Genres: Documentary, Mystery & Suspense, Military & War
NR     2005     1hr 29min

The award-winning and internationally acclaimed film, GUERRILLA: THE TAKING OF PATTY HEARST is a gripping, unparalleled account of the most sensational kidnapping in American history.


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Movie Details

Actors: Russ Little, Timothy Findley, Michael Bortin, Dan Grove, Ludlow Kramer
Director: Robert Stone
Creators: Robert Stone, Don Kleszy, Glenn Fukushima, Greg Shea, Mark Samels, Nick Fraser, Sharon Grimberg
Genres: Documentary, Mystery & Suspense, Military & War
Sub-Genres: Biography, Crime & Conspiracy, Politics, Crime & Conspiracy, Mystery & Suspense, Military & War
Format: DVD - Color - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 09/27/2005
Original Release Date: 01/01/2004
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2004
Release Year: 2005
Run Time: 1hr 29min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 1
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

"The Taking Of Patty Hearst" -- A Documentary Film Not To Be
David Von Pein | Mooresville, Indiana; USA | 10/01/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"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.


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."
SLA revisited
W. Oliver | Alabama | 11/04/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"As a teenager, I was rarely interested in the news or social events but I was riveted by the Patty Hearst kidnapping and faithfully tuned in to the evening news to see what had happened next. It seems odd that no one has made a serious documentary about the sensational events of that time until now. This is a riveting film that traces the development of the SLA (Symbionese Liberation Army), the kidnapping of Patty Hearst, and the group's ultimate demise. The filmmakers make no attempt to analyze whether Hearst was a willing accomplise or victim of brainwashing but instead simply present the facts in chronological order. Interviews with former SLA members Russ Little (an original founder of the group), Mike Bortin and San Francisco Chronicle reporter Tim Findley highlight the film which also features footage from newscasts and the infamous Patty Hearst audio tapes. Extras on the dvd contain the full audio recordings of Patty Hearst as well as the Hibernia Bank robbery tapes and Sacremento Courtroom footage of the recent SLA members who were charged with the death of Myrna Opsahl, who was murdered during a bank robbery. Highly recommended!"
SLA Whitewash
paul walker | 08/17/2009
(2 out of 5 stars)

"The documentary is good enough, but it is FAR TOO SYMPATHETIC to the despicable, violent and evil-to-the-core SLA. The documentary allows the murdering violent thugs to present their B.S. propaganda, completely unchallenged. At no time do we hear from Patty Hearst about what she was forced to endure, nor do we hear from John Opsahl, whose mother was cruelly, savagely murdered in cold blood, so that this evil, rag-tag bunch of scumbags could fullfill their so-called "cause". That aspect of this documentary made me want to puke. Just imagine if someone made a documentary about the KKK or some nazi group and only allowed the members of that fringe group to spread their sick, twisted propaganda, but would not interview any of the victims of those groups. That is basically what this love letter to the SLA does. The EXTRAS section is the only place we really hear from victim John Opsahl and his eloquent testimony is cut short in mid-sentence at the end. I don't care what "cause" someone claims to promote. NOTHING justifies kidnapping a teenage girl, repeatedly raping her, beating her, torturing her and then locking her in a closet. NOTHING! To say that anything excuses that is stomach-turning, sick and utterly perverse."
I was mesmerized
Matthew G. Sherwin | last seen screaming at Amazon customer service | 01/15/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This documentary showcases the incredible and horrific story of just how Patty Hearst was kidnapped by a small group of young terrorists calling themselves The Symbionese Liberation Army, or the SLA; and the degree of education and insight we get is phenomenal. This film really couldn't have been made any better; the story line flows along at a very good pace and as I watched the drama unfold I was mesmerized by the story and wondered to myself what would happen to Patty and the rest next. Amazon notes that the documentary doesn't take sides; but I think this is only partly true. While the film shows what the SLA wanted and could achieve by terrorizing the Hearst family, the filmmakers also show former members of the SLA being killed by police when they commandeered a house as well as other former members being sentenced to years in prison for what they did.

The story line follows the way things went very reliably; and it does an excellent job of piecing together archival footage including countless news video clips; audio clips from Patty and her kidnappers; video of Patty's parents talking to the media very frequently and much, much more. The archival footage of Mr. Hearst talking to the press about his ability and strong desire to get his daughter's release is heartrending. We also see the efforts of the FBI to find and retrieve Patty to safety and some of the footage with the man who was then Patty's fiancé is also memorable. There are interviews with former members of the SLA and even more.

I could tell you so much more of the story but then I'd be spoiling it for you. However, I will say that even if you already know the entire story this will still be a worthwhile film to watch; it's brilliantly done and it leaves little or nothing to be desired.

The DVD also comes with several extra bonus features. There's an optional running commentary by director Robert Stone; "The Patty Hearst Audio Tapes;" "Hibernia Bank Footage;" "Sacramento Footage;" a photo gallery; the theatrical trailer and more!

This film packs quite a punch; and I highly recommend it for people studying crime and the behavior of groups like the SLA. If you like documentaries in general, you may also want this for your collection."