Serpico Gets 50th Anniversary 4K Ultra HD

Al Pacino in Serpico. Courtesy of Paramount.

Sidney Lumet’s Oscar-nominated Serpico makes its arrival on 4K Ultra HD ahead of celebrating the 50th anniversary of its 1973 release.

The 4K UHD release comes by way of Kino Lorber Studio Classics. They’re releasing a pair of Sidney Lumet-directed films today in 4K UHD with the other film being 12 Angry Men. The film also includes a number of bonus features on its Blu-ray disc. I’ll have more on the extras here in a few but it includes a Sidney Lumet featurette that complements Maura Spiegel’s biography from a few years ago. It’s an insightful documentary in that it offers viewers a chance to get into Lumet’s headspace while filming. He talks about the things that New York has to offer from everything from mood to architecture.

This film is based on the true story of Frank Serpico (Al Pacino), a police officer who seeks to be honest in how he does his job. Unfortunately for the police officer, he finds himself surrounded by corruption. His colleagues are scornful and mistreat him while he’s doing his job. It’s everywhere he looks. This problem isn’t something that was limited to just New York City at the time. And yet, for a film dealing with the police, Lumet chooses restraint when it comes to depicting violence on screen. But in spite of this decision, there’s no shortage of suspense during its 130-minute run time. When one is making a film about a cop getting shot, there’s bound to be some suspense in wanting to know how it happened!

After Serpico ends up in the hospital, Chief Sidney Green (John Randolph) is of the belief that another cop shot him. The rest of the film is an entire flashback leading up to the moment in which we find out how he ends up in the hospital. This includes turning down bribes, going to oversight agencies, and even joining Bob Blair (Tony Roberts) in taking their story to The New York Times. His superiors retaliated, not surprisingly. It’s how Serpico ended up with the narcotics squad that led to his getting shot. Ultimately, the film ends with his testifying during the Knapp Commission hearings. The filmmakers let us know that he resigned in 1972 before moving overseas to Switzerland. He would go onto become an Italian citizen in case you’re interested.

Lumet doesn’t shoot many panoramic shots in his films but when he does, it’s usually serving as some sort of metaphor for entrapment. As he says in the first featurette, it’s because of how he feels about the characters. His comments come during a moment in which we see Serpico outside while the Twin Towers are on screen.

Interestingly, Serpico is not the only drama dealing with the NYPD in his filmography. Less than a decade later, Lumet would direct Prince of the City. Funny enough, it also dealt with corruption. As much as one wants to think that the police are honest, one doesn’t have to look far to find corruption. In any event, the focus of this film is on the institutionalized corruption of the NYPD while the latter went well beyond the NYC locality. It would certainly be interesting to watch both Serpico and Prince of the City as a double feature. In any event, Serpico is not a documentary as it takes a dramatic license. A documentary would certainly go further in getting at the corruption angle. But still, you see the frustration in Serpico in the fact that nothing is getting done.

Let me say this about the other bonus features. They really add more insight to the film. Looking for Al Pacino is a mixture about Serpico the character and Pacino the actor. Pacino earned an Oscar nomination for his work in the film. The other nomination went to Waldo Salt and Norman Wexler for their adapted screenplay. Anyway, the featurette discusses Pacino’s approach to acting. He’s a method actor, having come from both HB Studio and the Actors Studio. Pacino wouldn’t be the acting legend he is without studying under Charlie Laughton and Lee Strasberg.

It’s hard to believe that there’s a universe where Robert Redford stars as Serpico with Paul Newman portraying Detective David Durk aka Bob Blair in the film. The film would have been directed by Sam Peckinah but it fell apart in the screenwriting stage. Newman and Redford ended up reteaming for The Sting instead. Meanwhile, producer Martin Bregman struggled to find a studio willing to produce the film. It wasn’t until approaching Dino De Laurentiis that the film would finally go forward. John Avildsen was hired to direct but things didn’t work out. Finally, they would hire Sidney Lumet to direct the film in a tight amount of time, filming July-August 1973.

Al Pacino is absolutely phenomenal as a police officer fighting corruption in Serpico.

Bonus Features


  • Brand New HDR Dolby Vision Master – From a 4K Scan of the 35mm Original Camera Negative
  • NEW Audio Commentary by Film Historians Howard S. Berger, Steve Mitchell and Nathaniel Thompson
  • Triple-Layered UHD100 Disc
  • 5.1 Surround & Lossless 2.0 Audio
  • Optional English Subtitles


  • Brand New HD Master – From a 4K Scan of the 35mm Original Camera Negative
  • NEW Audio Commentary by Film Historians Howard S. Berger, Steve Mitchell and Nathaniel Thompson
  • SIDNEY LUMET: CINEASTE NEW YORK – Featurette (28:47)
  • LOOKING FOR AL PACINO – Featurette (29:22)
  • SERPICO: REAL TO REEL – Featurette (9:58)
  • INSIDE SERPICO – Featurette (12:55)
  • SERPICO: FAVORITE MOMENTS – Featurette (2:39)
  • PHOTO GALLERY with Commentary by Director Sidney Lumet (4:24)
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Dual-Layered BD50 Disc
  • 5.1 Surround & Lossless 2.0 Audio
  • Optional English Subtitles

DIRECTOR: Sidney Lumet
SCREENWRITERS: Waldo Salt and Norman Wexler
CAST: Al Pacino, John Randolph, Jack Kehoe, Biff McGuire, Barbara Eda-Young, Cornelia Sharpe, and Tony Roberts

Paramount released Serpico in theaters on December 5, 1973. Grade: 4.5/5

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.