The Woody Allen Collection, Set 3

The Woody Allen Collection, Set 3
Rating: PG
Release Date: November 6, 2001
Running Time: 528 minutes
Ten-second Rundown: The Woodman's output from the early eighties, this makes a surprisingly solid run from a sometimes uneven filmmaker.
Version: Boxed Set

  • Theatrical Trailers

    Choice Scene: The "Hollywood" version of Zelig getting recognized at a Nazi rally.

    Tech Specs: Anamorphic wide-screen ratio 1.85:1; English and French Dolby 2.0 and Mono; English, French and Spanish subtitles.

    This set marks the beginning of what fans call Woody Allen's "Mia" period. When you think of that today, most remember only its scandalous end, one that also pretty much ended Woody Allen's "successful" period.

    But when Woody Allen is on the top of his game, he makes great films. The six included here may not all be remembered as great, but they come very close.

    In alphabetical order:

  • Broadway Danny Rose: A slight story told by a group of New York comics over lunch, Broadway Danny Rose features the most unique performance of Mia Farrow's career. She would echo it again in Radio Days, here she stars as a squeaky-voiced gangster's moll in love with a married lounge singer. Allen matches her as a really bad talent manager who has to pose as her boyfriend to keep his client happy. The comedic high-point comes with a chase scene ending in helium.

  • Hannah And Her Sisters: The film won three Oscars, for best screenplay and supporting actors for Dianne Wiest and Michael Caine. Following a year in the life of three sisters, Allen muses over family relationships, the existence of God, and what it must mean to be truly happy. Yes, he tends to obsess over these things in film after film, but it never worked better than this.

  • A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy: Not just his first film with Mia Farrow, but also the first in which Woody told a true ensemble story. Allen casts himself as an eccentric inventor at the turn of the 20th Century. He and his wife, Mary Steenburgen, intend to host an intimate wedding for her cousin. As bride, groom, and the other two guests arrive, sexual neuroses rise to the surface as the partnerships attempt to re-align. Only Allen would adapt his hero Ingmar Bergman into something so silly.

  • The Purple Rose of Cairo: Allen sat this one out, choosing "just" to write and direct. But there really isn't a place to insert his quintessential nebbish anyway. Jeff Daniels takes a dual role as a burgeoning matinee idol and the movie character who wants a shot at real life. When a lonesome Mia Farrow sits through The Purple Rose of Cairo several times in order to escape the realities of her Depression-era life, fictional Tom Baxter steps off of the silver screen to woo her. Funny at times, the film's real heart lies in its trying to explain why movies matter so much to us. (And if they didn't, you wouldn't be here reading this now, would you?)

  • Radio Days: A very young Seth Green stands in for Allen in this look back at a childhood somewhat like his. Very episodic, this was Allen's project right after The Purple Rose of Cairo, filled with anecdotes expressing his love for both childhood and the so-called Golden Age of Radio, when the family would gather around to listen to voices in the air. Though the story ends up not being much, this one has a lot of solid laughs over a wistful tone.

  • Zelig: Pre-dating both Forrest Gump and This Is Spinal Tap, Zelig uses the mockumentary format to tell the story of a man who could blend in anywhere. Without the benefit of CGI, Allen plays the human chameleon who manages to be a part of way too many historical events, all as a result of his own low self-esteem. What may sound like a one-joke movie plays out pretty well over 80 minutes, and again, seeing the "Hollywood" version of Zelig's life story makes it all worthwhile.

    The film and sound transfers in this MGM release are top-notch. Included with each film is its original theatrical trailer, and of course an easy to follow menu. But that's it. Allen has never liked commenting on his films, and so you won't find his thoughts here. Nor will his collaborators tell tales out of school (especially not Mia Farrow). But for Allen fans it has always been about the movies anyway. For movie fans in general, this collection will give hours of diversion, being a solid run of laughs.

    You can buy the boxed set here for $74.99.

    Derek McCaw


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