Overall | Bananas (1971) | Interiors (1978) | Sleeper (1973) | Love and Death (1975) | Annie Hall (1977) | Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex * But Were Afraid to Ask (1972) | Manhattan (1979)

Woody Allen Collection (1971)

Woody Allen Collection (1971)

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Released 10-May-2004

Cover Art

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Overall Package

    This set includes all seven Woody Allen directed films released in the 1970s. Three of these films were previously released (and reviewed here) on DVD in Region 4 and are included here in their previously released incarnations. The packaging has been redone on Manhattan & Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex. Accordingly, there are packaging errors. Manhattan incorrectly lists subtitles in Dutch for the Hard of Hearing. They are actually in German. Everything... incorrectly states that the audio is 5.1. This is untrue, it is mono like all these discs. Other packaging errors are noted in the individual reviews of the newly reviewed discs. The box set contains the movies only. There is no special extras disc or anything else to differentiate it from buying the discs separately.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Daniel Bruce (Do you need a bio break?)
Wednesday, July 28, 2004
Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Manhattan R4 -v- R1 comment - REPLY POSTED

Overall | Bananas (1971) | Interiors (1978) | Sleeper (1973) | Love and Death (1975) | Annie Hall (1977) | Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex * But Were Afraid to Ask (1972) | Manhattan (1979)

Bananas (1971)

Bananas (1971)

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Released 10-May-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1971
Running Time 78:27
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (57:42) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Woody Allen
Studio
Distributor

MGM
Starring Woody Allen
Louise Lasser
Carlos Montalbán
Natividad Abascal
Jacobo Morales
Miguel Ángel Suárez
David Ortiz
René Enríquez
Jack Axelrod
Howard Cosell
Roger Grimsby
Don Dunphy
Charlotte Rae
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI ? Music Marvin Hamlisch


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
German
German for the Hearing Impaired
French
Italian
Spanish
Dutch
Swedish
Finnish
Norwegian
Danish
French Titling
German Titling
Italian Titling
Spanish Titling
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    I should preface this review by pointing out that unlike other reviewers here at Michael D's Region 4 DVD Info Page, I am a fan of Woody Allen and enjoy most of his films (although I will admit that Everything You Wanted To Know About Sex is pretty ordinary). I was very keen to review this DVD and I have not been disappointed. This DVD is one of seven contained in the box set The Woody Allen Collection which includes all of Woody's feature films from the 1970s. This is the earliest film in the box set.

    Bananas was Woody Allen's third feature film as a director after the revoiced Japanese Film, What's Up Tiger Lily and Take The Money And Run. It was released in 1971. The film is very funny and features comedy of many styles including political & social satire, sight gags, slapstick and some absurdist touches. Woody is very funny as Fielding Mellish, a product tester for a major corporation.

    The story follows Fielding as he meets a girl, Nancy (Louise Lasser), who is a political activist, goes out with her for a while, get dumped because 'something is missing' and then decides to take a holiday. He decides to travel to San Marcos, a small South American country because of Nancy's opposition to the dictatorship in power there. Through a bizarre and funny series of events he ends up becoming a rebel fighter against the government and eventually their leader. Eventually, he is charged with treason in the United States which results in a very funny courtroom scene. The film is bookended by a couple of great sequences where both an assassination and sex are covered as if they are sports events including Howard Cosell, the famous American sportcaster appearing as himself.

    Overall, this is a light and very funny film that pokes fun at everything from sports, American foreign policy, relationships, society and the media. Most of the jokes work and even though I had seen the film before, I found myself laughing quite a bit.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video quality is quite good for a film of this age.

    The feature is presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio 16x9 enhanced which is the correct aspect ratio. The film is encoded at a very high bitrate and is thus spread across two layers despite only being a 78 minute film.

    The picture was generally clear and sharp throughout although some scenes were a little soft and the picture generally did not have the sharpness of a more modern film. There was no evidence of low level noise. Shadow detail was reasonable with night scenes showing some details. There was also some occasional grain.

    The colour was good throughout with all colours being well saturated and free from colour bleeding. The skin colouring was natural. The colours were not as vibrant as more modern films but considering the age they come up very well in this transfer. I did notice some minor chroma noise in a wall at 22:20.

    There were quite a few white specks and lines on and off throughout the film, noticeable when you are looking for them but not too bad. Some scenes were worse than others. During the credits I noticed that one the left hand side of the screen small patches of light were visible, I would guess from the sprocket holes in the side of the film source. There were also a couple of instances of minor aliasing at 8:30 on a shirt and at 12:33 on a car grille. There was also a visible curled hair at 6:58.

    There are subtitles in ten European languages including English and two sets for the Hearing Impaired (English & German). The English subtitles were clear and easy to read, but were slightly different to the spoken word.

    This is a dual layered disc and the layer change is well placed at 57:42.
    

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio quality is good, but mono.

    This DVD contains five audio options all in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono encoded at 448 Kb/s. The options are English, German, French, Italian & Spanish.

    Dialogue was clear and easy to understand, although I did use the subtitles to check one word. There were no problems with audio sync.    

    The score of this film written by Marvin Hamlisch is very suited to the film but fairly dated.

    The surround speakers & subwoofer were not used at all.

    

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

    The menu included a scene selection function and had no motion or music.

Theatrical Trailer (3:13)

    This trailer is presented in 1.33:1 and is pretty funny. It includes Woody Allen being interviewed and scenes from the film.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This movie is available on a very similar disc in Region 1 with the exception of  the Region 1 disc having a full screen open matte transfer in addition to the widescreen one. Unless you desperately want a full screen transfer, I would go for the Region 4 due to standard PAL/NTSC differences.

Summary

    This disc contains a very funny early comedy from Woody Allen about a product tester who becomes a terrorist.

    The video quality is quite good considering the age of the film.

    The audio quality is good, but mono.

    The disc has the theatrical trailer as its only extra.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Daniel Bruce (Do you need a bio break?)
Wednesday, July 14, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba 1200, using Component output
DisplaySony FD Trinitron Wega KV-AR34M36 80cm. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL)/480i (NTSC).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-511
SpeakersBose 201 Direct Reflecting (Front), Phillips SB680V (Surround), Phillips MX731 (Center), Yamaha YST SW90 (Sub)

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add) NONE
Overall | Bananas (1971) | Interiors (1978) | Sleeper (1973) | Love and Death (1975) | Annie Hall (1977) | Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex * But Were Afraid to Ask (1972) | Manhattan (1979)

Interiors (1978)

Interiors (1978)

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Released 10-May-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1978
Running Time 88:00
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Woody Allen
Studio
Distributor

MGM
Starring Kristin Griffith
Mary Beth Hurt
Richard Jordan
Diane Keaton
E.G. Marshall
Geraldine Page
Maureen Stapleton
Sam Waterston
Missy Hope
Kerry Duffy
Nancy Collins
Penny Gaston
Roger Morden
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI ? Music None Given


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
English Titling
French
Italian
Spanish
Dutch
Portuguese
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    This DVD is one of seven contained in the box set The Woody Allen Collection which includes all of Woody's feature films from the 1970s. Unlike the others in the set and nearly every other film Woody Allen has made, this is not a comedy and has no comedic elements whatsoever. This film is a dark, dense and somewhat depressing drama abut human relationships focussing on family dynamics. This film was made in 1978 and was subsequently nominated for 5 Academy and numerous other awards.

    The plot focuses on one family including the mother, Eve (Geraldine Page), who is cold, manipulative and an attention-seeking drama queen. She is also an interior designer and seems to try to inflict her designs on the whole family. Her husband of many years, Arthur (E.G. Marshall) has finally decided that he has had enough of her and moves out of their home, despite her desperate desire for him to stay. Their three grown daughters approach this issue in different ways and have obviously all been affected by their mother over the years. The oldest, Renata (Diane Keaton), is a successful writer but is also quite emotionally stunted in her relationships. She bears resentment toward her mother but is unable to confront her. The next daughter, Joey (Marybeth Hurt) is completely indecisive and has no idea what to do with herself, jumping from job to job. She tends to be more honest with her mother and gets more respect from the father. The youngest daughter, Flyn (Kristin Griffith), is a budding actress who seems to avoid the problems in the family, leaving their mother to the two older daughters. It should be noted that the blurb on the back cover of this film mixes up Joey & Flynn's characters. The cast is rounded out by Renata's husband, Frederick (Richard Jordan), who is also a writer but less successful and a heavy drinker, Michael (Sam Waterston, now well known for Law & Order), Joey's long-suffering de-facto and Pearl (Maureen Stapleton), the new and very different woman in Arthur's life. The plot examines the way these changes affect the already difficult relationships within this family.

    The film has very much the feel and style of a stage play, with minimal sets & lighting, no score and music only in one short scene. The focus is on the dialogue and the interaction of the characters. Although being well received by the critics it was certainly not a box office success. Visually, this film is quite dark, with most characters (with the exception of Pearl) wearing grey, brown and tan clothing. Pearl's bright clothing and the music are used to highlight how different she is from Eve and her daughters. There is a recurring motif of light in most scenes being provided by lamps rather than normal lighting. The film was Oscar nominated for the art direction. The ensemble cast all do a good job of portraying their mostly very-difficult-to-like characters. Both Geraldine Page and Maureen Stapleton were nominated for Oscars for their acting. Woody Allen wrote and directed the film and was nominated for both.

    Overall, this is quite an artistic and interesting film, however it is lacking in entertainment value.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video quality is reasonable but certainly not anything special. Overall the picture was quite dark.

    The feature is presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio 16x9 enhanced which is the original aspect ratio.

    The picture was reasonably clear and sharp throughout but had a distinct softness about it. There was no evidence of low level noise. Shadow detail was poor with night scenes showing few details, although this may have been a stylistic choice.

    The colour was quite washed out but as mentioned above the film was designed to look cold and sterile with minimal colour.

    The only noticeable artefacts were reasonably regular flecks and specks.

    There are subtitles in six European languages including English and English for the Hearing Impaired. The English subtitles were clear, easy to read and quite close to the spoken word.

    This is a single layered disc.
    

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio quality is fine.

    This DVD contains five audio options, a Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack encoded at 192 Kb/s and the same in English, German, French , Italian & Spanish. As this film includes only a small amount of music and virtually no other sounds besides dialogue, the mono soundtrack suits the film.

    Dialogue was mostly clear and easy to understand, however, the subtitles were required to check what some dialogue actually was.    

    There were no problems with audio sync.    

    There is no score and music plays in only one short scene. The music is old jazz music as you would expect in a Woody Allen film.

    The surround speakers & subwoofer were not used.

    

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

    The menu includes a scene selection function.

Theatrical Trailer (2:37)

    The theatrical trailer is presented in 1.33:1 and consists of critics' quotes and scenes from the film.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 release seems to be identical except for PAL/NTSC differences and the inclusion of a booklet.

Summary

    This disc contains a dark, dense and slightly depressing relationship drama directed by Woody Allen.

    The video quality is reasonable.

    The audio quality is fine for the movie but is mono.

    The disc has only a theatrical trailer as an extra.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Daniel Bruce (Do you need a bio break?)
Tuesday, July 13, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba 1200, using Component output
DisplaySony FD Trinitron Wega KV-AR34M36 80cm. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL)/480i (NTSC).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-511
SpeakersBose 201 Direct Reflecting (Front), Phillips SB680V (Surround), Phillips MX731 (Center), Yamaha YST SW90 (Sub)

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Category - REPLY POSTED

Overall | Bananas (1971) | Interiors (1978) | Sleeper (1973) | Love and Death (1975) | Annie Hall (1977) | Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex * But Were Afraid to Ask (1972) | Manhattan (1979)

Sleeper (1973)

Sleeper (1973)

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Released 10-May-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1973
Running Time 83:31 (Case: 88)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (48:22) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Woody Allen
Studio
Distributor

MGM
Starring Woody Allen
Diane Keaton
John Beck
Mary Gregory
Don Keefer
John McLiam
Bartlett Robinson
Chris Forbes
Mews Small
Peter Hobbs
Susan Miller
Lou Picetti
Jessica Rains
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI ? Music Woody Allen


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
German
German for the Hearing Impaired
French
Italian
Spanish
Dutch
Swedish
Finnish
Norwegian
Danish
French Titling
German Titling
Italian Titling
Spanish Titling
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement Yes, but its probably a joke!
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    I should preface this review by pointing out that, unlike other reviewers here at Michael D's, I am a fan of Woody Allen and enjoy most of his films (although I will admit that Everything You Wanted To Know About Sex is pretty ordinary). I should also reveal that when I first saw this film on television many years ago I thought it was the funniest thing I had ever seen. I have not seen it since, more due to the lack of opportunity than anything else. I was very keen to review this DVD and I have not been disappointed. This DVD is one of seven contained in The Woody Allen Collection box set which includes all of Woody's feature films from the 1970s.

    Sleeper is a very funny and quite silly film. Unlike most other Woody Allen films, the focus is on physical comedy rather than acerbic wit. In some scenes it seems more like a silent comedy than a movie from the 1970s. This is due to many of the comedic chases and other scenes being set to a jazz soundtrack with no other sounds. There is also some political satire and great one liners, including one of my favourites from the film:

"My Brain? It's my second favourite organ!"

    The plot that holds the silliness together is that Miles Monroe (Woody Allen), a clarinet player and health food restaurateur from 1973 is frozen after mistakes are made treating him in a hospital. He is thawed 200 years later in 2173 by some rebellious scientists who want him to help them in their struggle against 'Our Leader', a totalitarian ruler. The scientists are breaking the law by unfreezing him and are soon captured by the police. In order to escape, he hides by impersonating a domestic robot servant and hiding in the robot delivery truck. The delivery driver leaves him at the house of Luna Schlosser (Diane Keaton), a bad poet but good citizen who believes that 'Our Leader' provides her with everything she needs, including sex toys like The Orb and the Orgasmatron. Shortly thereafter, Miles & Luna are on the run together trying to get to the Western District to uncover the highly secretive Aries Project. What follows are some truly hilarious comedy set pieces featuring oversized fruit, a hydrovac suit, Jewish tailor robots, A Streetcar Named Desire, and a disembodied nose.

    This is the first feature film of many in which Diane Keaton starred and Woody Allen directed, starred and wrote the screenplay (although in this case, he co-wrote it with Marshall Brickman). They had appeared together before in Play it Again, Sam which Woody wrote but did not direct. Both Woody and Diane play their parts well in this film and show great comedic timing.

    Overall, if you are a fan of Woody Allen, this is one of his greatest films and if you are not, this is the one which may make you think twice.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video quality is very good for a film of this age.

    The feature is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio 16x9 enhanced which is close to the original aspect ratio of 1.85:1.The film is encoded at a very high bit rate (nearly 10 Mbps) and is thus spread across two layers despite only being an 83 minute film.

    The picture was generally clear and sharp throughout although one scene seemed unfocussed and the picture generally did not have the sharpness of a more modern film. There was no evidence of low level noise. Shadow detail was reasonable with night scenes showing some details.

    The colour was good throughout with all colours being well saturated and free from colour bleeding. The skin colouring was natural. The colours were not as vibrant as more modern films but considering the age of the source material, they come up very well in this transfer.

    There were quite a few white specks on and off throughout the film - noticeable when you are looking for them but not too bad. They were more noticeable during the few dark scenes. One scene which lasted a few seconds at 16:54 jumps quite badly. There was some minor edge enhancement and one spot of minor aliasing on an escalator at 70:43.

    There are subtitles in ten European languages including English and two sets for the Hearing Impaired (English & German). The English subtitles were clear and easy to read, but were slightly different to the spoken word.

    This is a dual layered disc and the layer change is well placed at 48:22, although there is a reasonably long pause.
    

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio quality is good, but mono.

    This DVD contains five audio options all in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono encoded at 448 Kb/s. The options are English, German, French, Italian & Spanish.

    Dialogue was clear and easy to understand. There were no problems with audio sync.    

    The score of this film played by Woody Allen and his jazz band is very good traditional jazz and is well suited to the film.

    The surround speakers & subwoofer were not used at all.

    

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

    The menu included a scene selection function and had no motion or music.

Theatrical Trailer (2:16)

    This trailer is presented at 1.33:1 and is pretty good. It includes Woody Allen being interviewed and scenes from the film.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This movie is available on a very similar disc in Region 1 with the exception of  the Region 1 disc having a full screen open matte transfer in addition to the widescreen one. Unless you desperately want a full screen transfer, I would go for the Region 4 disc due to the standard PAL/NTSC differences.

Summary

    This disc contains a classic comedy from Woody Allen.

    The video quality is very good considering the age of the film.

    The audio quality is good, but mono.

    The disc has the theatrical trailer as its only extra.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Daniel Bruce (Do you need a bio break?)
Friday, July 02, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba 1200, using Component output
DisplaySony FD Trinitron Wega KV-AR34M36 80cm. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL)/480i (NTSC).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-511
SpeakersBose 201 Direct Reflecting (Front), Phillips SB680V (Surround), Phillips MX731 (Center), Yamaha YST SW90 (Sub)

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add) NONE
Overall | Bananas (1971) | Interiors (1978) | Sleeper (1973) | Love and Death (1975) | Annie Hall (1977) | Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex * But Were Afraid to Ask (1972) | Manhattan (1979)

Love and Death (1975)

Love and Death (1975)

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Released 10-May-2004

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by
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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1975
Running Time 81:22 (Case: 77)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (48:20) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Woody Allen
Studio
Distributor

MGM
Starring Woody Allen
Diane Keaton
Georges Adet
Frank Adu
Edmond Ardisson
Féodor Atkine
Albert Augier
Yves Barsacq
Lloyd Battista
Jack Berard
Eva Betrand
George Birt
Yves Brainville
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI ? Music Sergei Prokofiev


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
German
German for the Hearing Impaired
French
Italian
Spanish
Dutch
Swedish
Finnish
Norwegian
Danish
French Titling
German Titling
Italian Titling
Spanish Titling
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    This DVD is one of seven contained in the box set The Woody Allen Collection, which includes all of Woody's feature films from the 1970s. This is from 1975 and is one of the lesser known films in this collection. Once again he wrote, directed and starred in this film.

    Love & Death is a fairly broad comedy, however it is more ambitious and pretentious than his previous broad comedies Bananas & Sleeper (both included in the box set). It is set in Russia at the time of the Napoleonic Wars when Napoleon's armies were marching across Europe and threatening Russia. Most of the film is done as a flashback from Woody Allen's prison cell as he waits to be executed. Woody plays Boris Grushenko, the youngest and most cowardly son of a land owner. Boris loves his cousin Sonja (Diane Keaton). When Sonja decides to marry a herring merchant because Boris' older brother, Ivan, won't marry her, Boris decides to enlist for the war. Through various unintentional activities he comes back a hero and eventually gets Sonja to marry him. She convinces him that they need to assassinate Napoleon and the rest of the plot revolves around their scheme to do so.

    Much of the humour in this film is based upon satirising philosophy, classic literature, the art community, death and religion. This makes the tone slightly pretentious and I think annoying in some parts. Despite this there are also some excellent jokes, slapstick and physical comedy to be found as well. The scenes while he is in the army are probably the best in the entire film. I believe many viewers would find this film more bizarre than funny and some of the jokes just don't work. As usual for this set there is a minor packaging problem with the running time being listed as 1:17 minutes (it is actually 81).

    If you like Woody Allen films (as I do) you will find things to enjoy in this film. If you do not (like my wife), you may lose interest quickly. Overall, a patchy effort that is not on the same level as Bananas or Sleeper.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video quality is good but certainly not great for a film of this age.

    The feature is presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio 16x9 enhanced which is the negative aspect ratio. The film is encoded at a very high bit rate and is thus spread across two layers despite only being an 81 minute film.

    The picture was generally clear and sharp throughout although some scenes were a little soft and the picture generally did not have the sharpness of a more modern film. Close-ups were especially fuzzy. There was no evidence of low level noise. Shadow detail was reasonable with night scenes showing some details.

    The colour was good throughout with all colours being well saturated and free from colour bleeding. The skin colouring was natural. The colours were not as vibrant as more modern films but considering the age they come up very well on this transfer.

    There were quite a few white specks and lines on and off throughout the film, some large enough to distract. Some scenes were worse than others. Some thin white vertical lines were also noticeable. There was also a visible curled hair at 16:31.

    There are subtitles in ten European languages including English and two sets for the hearing impaired (English & German). The English subtitles were clear and easy to read, but were slightly different to the spoken word.

    This is a dual layered disc and the layer change is well placed at the end of a scene at 48:20.
    

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio quality is fine, but mono.

    This DVD contains five audio options all in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono encoded at 192 Kb/s. The options are English, German, French, Italian & Spanish.

    Dialogue was generally clear and easy to understand, although the subtitles did come in handy once or twice.    

    There were no problems with audio sync.    

    The score of this film is the music of Sergei Prokofiev which fits the setting of this film well given he is a Russian composer.

    The surround speakers & subwoofer were not used at all.

    

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

    The menu included a scene selection function and had no motion or music.

Theatrical Trailer (2:24)

    This trailer is presented in non 16x9 enhanced widescreen. The video quality here is much worse than the feature and is extremely dark by comparison. Also the black bar is much larger at the top than at the bottom. So, all in all, pretty shoddy.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This movie is available on a very similar disc in Region 1 with the exception of  the Region 1 disc having a full screen open matte transfer in addition to the widescreen one. Unless you desperately want a full screen transfer, I would go for the Region 4 due to the PAL/NTSC differences.

Summary

    This disc contains a mildly amusing and pretentious comedy from Woody Allen set in Russia during the Napoleonic Wars.

    The video quality is good considering the age of the film.

    The audio quality is fine, but mono.

    The disc has a shoddily presented theatrical trailer as its only extra.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Daniel Bruce (Do you need a bio break?)
Friday, July 23, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba 1200, using Component output
DisplaySony FD Trinitron Wega KV-AR34M36 80cm. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL)/480i (NTSC).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-511
SpeakersBose 201 Direct Reflecting (Front), Phillips SB680V (Surround), Phillips MX731 (Center), Yamaha YST SW90 (Sub)

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add) NONE
Overall | Bananas (1971) | Interiors (1978) | Sleeper (1973) | Love and Death (1975) | Annie Hall (1977) | Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex * But Were Afraid to Ask (1972) | Manhattan (1979)

Annie Hall (1977)

Annie Hall (1977)

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Released 26-Jul-2000

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Romantic Comedy Main Menu Animation
Theatrical Trailer-1.33:1, not 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1977
Running Time 89:26 (Case: 93)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (43:44) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Woody Allen
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Woody Allen
Diane Keaton
Tony Roberts
Carol Kane
Paul Simon
Shelley Duvall
Janet Margolin
Christopher Walken
Colleen Dewhurst
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $31.95 Music None Given


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Auto Pan & Scan Encoded English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (256Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (256Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (256Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (256Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (256Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
German
German for the Hearing Impaired
French
Italian
Spanish
Dutch
Swedish
Finnish
Norwegian
Danish
Portuguese
Polish
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    The world population is clearly divided into two parts - those who love Woody Allen films and those who loathe Woody Allen films - and never the twain shall meet. Just to let you know, I fall well and truly in the latter category, and judging by the general review consensus around the world, I am clearly in a very small minority here. So be it. Over the years, I have repeatedly tried to come to grips with Woody Allen films, but have failed so miserably that there is not a single one that I can in all honesty say that I have enjoyed. So why am I reviewing a Woody Allen film? Well, in keeping with my endeavours to come to grips with his films, I sort of figured that perhaps the easiest place to continue the forlorn attempt would be with one of his supposedly more accessible films. Well, having now watched it, I can heartily assure you that the experiment has been a resounding disaster. So much so that the only conclusion that I have come to is that, at least as far as I am concerned, Woody Allen films are overrated pieces of rubbish. His endless infatuation with New York is a serious worry, but even more worrying is the fact that he seems to think that his attempts at thinly disguised autobiographical works are actually of interest to the world. At least as far as I am concerned, they are not the least bit interesting and I will cheerfully avoid this effort in the future.

    This thinly disguised piece of autobiographical rambling is broadly speaking the story of Woody Allen's (Woody Allen) real life break up with Diane Keaton (Diane Keaton). Just to try and keep some semblance of fiction to the film, Woody is actually cast as Alvy Singer, a neurotic Jewish comedian, with a less than stellar love life. Diane is cast as Annie Hall, an aspiring Midwestern night club singer. The two meet, and the film broadly traces the path of their relationship as they fall in love, go through the throes of coming to grips with each other, gradually realize that it is not going to work and gradually pull away from each other. As usual, the backdrop to the film is New York, with the usual NYC vs LA shtick thrown in for good measure. As we experience the ongoing relationship between Woody and Diane, we get flashbacks to some of Woody's/Alvy's earlier relational disasters. Naturally we go down the usual route of Woody/Alvy ending up being the schmuck without the girl.

    Now by all accounts, this really must be some film: it copped four Oscars in 1977 including some of the big ones in Best Picture, Best Actress and Best Director. Sorry to say, I simply cannot see how this could be considered the best picture in that year, and whilst there is a certain charm to Diane Keaton's performance as the slightly whacky singer, I really do not see that it was that great. One can only presume that the competition that year for the Oscars was not great - or else it was another year rife with inexplicable Academy decisions. However, beyond the often incomprehensible decisions of the Academy, this also garnered similar awards from other sources too. The underlying themes are those that Woody Allen pushes with such regularity that they really have become far too tiresome, and certainly not the least bit entertaining. His love affair with New York and hatred of Los Angeles are renowned, so do we really have to keep copping this in his films? We all know relationships are difficult, so does he really need to keep shoving it down our throats? And, we know he has an obsession with death, so do we really need to have that shoved down our throats, too? Really, these central themes of Woody Allen are getting so decidedly passé that he has long since lost any semblance of originality in what he does and as far as I am concerned has well and truly descended past any level at which it is still necessary to take any notice of what he does. Sort of the Jan De Bont of "arty" films really.

    Billed as a comedy, amongst other things, there is nothing here that I find remotely funny. It is always a bad sign when you are checking the "time to end" reading with regularity, which is what I was doing here after the first half an hour or so. Also billed as a romance, it works a little better in that form than any other, but really there is nothing too special here either. Beyond that, I simply have no idea at what level this may work. Woody Allen does a sterling job of playing Woody Allen, but then again he should do - he has only been playing this shtick role all his life. His narrative style of film here has not worn the years well, and loses somewhat in the way of impact because of it. Diane Keaton is the best part of this film, but she simply is unable to drag it above the lead weight that Woody Allen brings to the screen. The rest barely offer more than cameo, token performances, such is the centrality of the two main characters to the film. At least the direction from Woody Allen provides some originality even if the film style is decidedly dated nowadays.

    Sorry, but I simply cannot raise any enthusiasm for this film at all. I find it anything but funny, the style of the film is very dated and Woody Allen is getting more irritating every time I see him in film. That obviously places me in a huge minority though, which I recognize. My apologies if you find this to be a great film - I unfortunately do not find this either to be a great film nor to be great entertainment. I obviously just do not "get" Woody Allen films.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Well, since this is over twenty three years old, we are obviously not expecting anything great in the way of a transfer, surely? We do not get it, believe me. At best this is a decent transfer.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. Additionally, this transfer is auto pan and scan encoded.

    The age of the transfer is amply demonstrated by the decidedly muted sharpness of the transfer. Whilst this is partly the result of the way Woody Allen makes films, as all of his films that I have seen seem to be consistent in this regard, it is also a reflection of the fact that this is not sourced from a pristine print and would seem to be from a third generation print, judging by the reel change markings present in the transfer. It is also evident that this film has not been subjected to any serious restoration work. Detail is nothing to write home about and I suppose that we should be thankful that this really is a character piece, otherwise the lack of detail would have been rather annoying. This is not a particularly clear transfer and suffers a little from grain problems at times: nothing serious but enough to spoil the effect a little. There seemed to be a little low level noise in the transfer at times, but again nothing too serious.

    The general tone here is a little rich, which gives the transfer a reasonably natural feel to it. Skin tones are well handled, and there is a nice change in style of colour between New York and Los Angeles. Just don't be looking for too much in the way of bright colours here. There was nothing really too far wrong with the saturation at all and there was certainly nothing remotely approaching colour bleed.

    There are no apparent MPEG artefacts in the transfer. There are no real problems with film-to-video artefacts in the transfer. Naturally, since this is over twenty three years old, there is something of a problem with film artefacts in the transfer, but nothing that I would consider unduly distracting in a film of this age.

    This is an RSDL formatted disc, with the layer change coming at 43:44: it is not a particularly well-placed change, even though it is at a scene change, as it is just a bit too noticeable and just a bit disruptive to the flow of the film.

Audio

    There are five audio tracks on the DVD, all Dolby Digital 2.0 mono efforts: English, German, French, Italian and Spanish. I listened to the English soundtrack, but did not feel compelled to check out the other soundtracks.

    Dialogue was generally clear and easy to understand.

    There did not appear to be any problems with audio sync in the transfer.

    The minimal music score is uncredited, probably as there is not an awful lot to it.

    The fact that we have a Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack actually suits the style of the film pretty well, even if it is not an especially dynamic effort. Like a lot of Woody Allen films, at least in my experience, this is not a film that requires much from the soundtrack apart from presenting clear, undistorted sound. The lack of surround channel use and bass channel use are barely noticed here. The mono sound is a little frontal but not too shabby in its own way.

Extras

    This is one of the poorer releases to come from the MGM stable as it even lacks the usually informative booklet.

Menu

    Okay in its own right but having animation without audio is a bit pointless in my view.

Theatrical Trailer (2:02)

    There is nothing especially great about this effort, other than the fact that it is shorter than the main feature. Presented in a Full Frame format, it is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with the same mono Dolby Digital 2.0 sound as the film.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 release misses out on:     The lack of 16x9 enhancement is a powerful inducement in favour of Region 4.

Summary

    Annie Hall is quite possibly a great film, but suffers from the usual problem as far as Woody Allen films and I go: I don't like them. Still, if the film is to your taste, then this is probably as good as it will ever get. The extras package is somewhat disappointing.

    A pretty good video transfer.

    A very average audio transfer.

    A minimal extras package.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Tuesday, August 01, 2000
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-515, using S-Video output
DisplaySony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Bit of a biased review really. - Gavin Bollard (bio - updated 9 Nov 2005)
Annie's voice -

Overall | Bananas (1971) | Interiors (1978) | Sleeper (1973) | Love and Death (1975) | Annie Hall (1977) | Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex * But Were Afraid to Ask (1972) | Manhattan (1979)

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex * But Were Afraid to Ask (1972)

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex * But Were Afraid to Ask (1972)

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Released 26-Jul-2000

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Main Menu Animation
Theatrical Trailer
Booklet
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1972
Running Time 84:13 (Case: 88)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (57:23) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Woody Allen
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Woody Allen
John Carradine
Lou Jacobi
Louise Lasser
Anthony Quayle
Tony Randall
Lynn Redgrave
Burt Reynolds
Gene Wilder
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $34.95 Music Mundell Lowe


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Auto Pan & Scan Encoded English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (256Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (256Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (256Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (256Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (256Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
German
German for the Hearing Impaired
French
Italian
Spanish
Dutch
Swedish
Finnish
Norwegian
Danish
Portuguese
Polish
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, some rabbits during credits

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex**But Were Afraid To Ask is based upon the book by Doctor David Reuben and consists of seven short sketches, each on a different sex-related topic. The first of these sketches is Do Aphrodisiacs Work?, and revolves around Woody Allen as a court jester who wants to get into the pants of the queen, and resorts to using an aphrodisiac to accomplish this aim. The next sketch, entitled What Is Sodomy?, stars Gene Wilder as a doctor who is met by a patient with a rather unusual (or not so unusual, depending on where you're from) way with his sheep. Then there's Why Do Some Women Have Trouble Reaching An Orgasm?, which is almost entirely spoken in Italian. Next, we have Are Transvestites Homosexuals?, What Are Sex Perverts?, Are The Findings Of Doctors And Clinics Who Do Sexual Research And Experiments Accurate?, and finally, What Happens During Ejaculation?, an interesting question in itself.

    I think MAD Magazine said it all when their profile of Woody Allen stated that he claims to be a typical New York citizen, which, as they say, should frighten the daylights out of other New Yorkers. I think little more can be really said for this film, because my interest in the plot itself soon dissolved to an even lower level than the interest I exhibit in a McDonald's cheeseburger.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video transfer is distinctly ordinary, and makes the transfer afforded to A Fistful Of Dollars, which is nearly a decade older than this film, look like the restoration work Lucasfilm conducted upon the Star Wars trilogy. The transfer is presented in the original, accept-no-substitutes theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1, and is 16x9 enhanced. It is encoded with Automatic Pan & Scan information.

    The sharpness of this transfer is distinctly ordinary, betraying all of the twenty-eight years since this film was shown in theatres in spite of the fact that no details are lost. The shadow detail is poor, with the dark portions of any given shot being nothing more than large expanses of black that occasionally have some colour and detail swimming out of their edges. Thankfully, there didn't appear to be any low-level noise in the transfer, although film grain was frequently an issue, especially in the opening credits where the white background helped make it even more noticeable.

    The colour saturation is very ordinary, also betraying the age of the film. It's not that the saturation in itself is particularly bad - it simply appears as if the photographic process simply sucked all the life and vivid detail out of the final image.

    MPEG artefacts went unnoticed, which is a wonder considering that the film is in awful shape, and the abundance of grain must have played havoc upon the compression. Film-to-video artefacts consisted of some occasional mild aliasing. Reel change markings were apparent during the course of this transfer, betraying its release print source.

    This disc is presented in the RSDL format, but I think I must have fallen asleep during the layer change. Attempts to locate it were unsuccessful. (Ed. It's at 57:23, in between segments, so it's very well hidden.)

Audio

    This is a mediocre audio transfer at the best of times, and sounds just as dull and lifeless as the video transfer looks.

    Of course, the lack of life in the audio, much like the lack of life in the video, could probably be blamed fairly and squarely upon the source material rather than any specific transfer problem. Matching a video transfer that was taken from a print source is an audio transfer that has had no real restoration work done to it at all. The audio transfer is presented in a choice of five languages, all of them in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono: the original English dialogue, and dubs in German, French, Italian, and Spanish. I stuck with the original English, which was clear and easy to understand at all times in spite of the limitations of the mix. It is worth noting that during one sketch, most of the dialogue is in Italian, anyway. Audio sync didn't appear to be a problem at any point, although it was rather hard to tell for much of the main feature.

    The music by Mundell Lowe reminded me of a really bad silent film, and I was thankful not to have an isolated score on this disc. It reminded me a lot of the piano playing during one part of The Muppet Movie, and didn't exactly help to set anything remotely resembling an atmosphere. Still, you cannot make a powerful score out of a satire that fails to make its audience laugh.

    The surround and subwoofer presence on this disc is non-existent.

Extras

Menu

    The menu contains an animation that is essentially a reproduction of the background shot during the closing credits. It is 16x9 enhanced.

Theatrical Trailer (2:29)

    Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 with 16x9 enhancement and Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound, this theatrical trailer is a perfect encapsulation of why the film just didn't work for me.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The only real difference between our version and Region 1's version of this disc is that we have more language options. Their version is plagued by the same video problems, and thus not worth the cost of importing.

Summary

    I expected Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex, But Were Afraid To Ask to be an amusing film, if only for the reason that there is very little that I am genuinely afraid to ask. I was sorely disappointed both in the film, and in the quality of the DVD.

    The video quality is very ordinary, and looks as if it has been taken from a print element.

    The audio quality is good for a mono mix, but is nothing special.

    The extras are, in keeping with the rest of the package, very ordinary.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Dean McIntosh (Don't talk about my bio. We don't wanna know.)
Wednesday, July 26, 2000
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba SD-2109, using S-Video output
DisplaySamsung CS-823AMF (80cm). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver.
AmplificationSony STR DE-835
SpeakersPanasonic S-J1500D Front Speakers, Philips PH931SSS Rear Speakers, Philips FB206WC Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Subwoofer

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add) NONE
Overall | Bananas (1971) | Interiors (1978) | Sleeper (1973) | Love and Death (1975) | Annie Hall (1977) | Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex * But Were Afraid to Ask (1972) | Manhattan (1979)

Manhattan (1979)

Manhattan (1979)

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Released 26-Jul-2000

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Romantic Comedy Main Menu Animation
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1979
Running Time 92:15 (Case: 96)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Woody Allen
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Woody Allen
Diane Keaton
Michael Murphy
Mariel Hemingway
Meryl Streep
Anne Byrne
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $34.95 Music George Gershwin


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Auto Pan & Scan Encoded English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (256Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (256Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (256Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (256Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
German
German for the Hearing Impaired
French
Italian
Spanish
Dutch
Swedish
Finnish
Norwegian
Danish
Portuguese
Polish
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    You may well ask - why is he back reviewing another Woody Allen film? After all, isn't he the person that openly admitted that he cannot stand Woody Allen films? In fact, did he not go so far as to say that Woody Allen films are overrated pieces of rubbish? Of course, you are absolutely right - so why am I back reviewing another Woody Allen film? Simple. I stuck my hand up to review this DVD predominantly on the basis that Manhattan is rated in the Internet Movie Database Top 250, therefore it must have some merit. Of course, the same applied to Annie Hall, yet that clearly was a film with which I was not at all impressed, so you can appreciate that I was approaching this review session with an even greater degree of trepidation in view of the grand experiment failing miserably with Annie Hall. Well, just to keep you utterly confused, and myself utterly bemused, this one I almost enjoyed! Perhaps it is because here Woody Allen makes no attempt whatsoever to hide two of his famed trio of themes, even to the extent of naming the film after the city he is so passionately in love with. By the way, his death obsession is actually pretty much missing in action here. Mind you, the autobiographical nature of the film has not been diminished, even to the extent of the infatuation of the lead character with a young woman of school age, foretelling his later real life love with Soon Yi Previn.

    The broad story here is based around Isaac Davis (Woody Allen), who happens to be smack in the midst of a mid-life crisis: he is forty two, hates his job and is dating a seventeen year old schoolgirl in Tracy (Mariel Hemingway). To make matters worse, his ex-wife Jill (Meryl Streep) is writing a book about their marriage and its break up, which is just a little annoying to Isaac since Jill happened to run off with another woman, taking his son with them. Isaac is not exactly happy that all sorts of personal details are going to be revealed. Naturally, he would like to do disgusting things to Jill, all of which involve some illegal activity and usually with the intent of terminating Jill's life.

    Isaac's best friend Yale (Michael Murphy) happens to be having an affair with Mary (Diane Keaton), supposedly unbeknownst to Yale's wife, Emily (Anne Byrne). When Mary tires of the illicit relationship with Yale, she decides to break off the affair, which is great news for Isaac who has obviously previously met Mary and been smitten by her. So, Tracy gets the flick and Mary moves into his life (sans a job which by now he has quit), apartment and bed. The trouble is that Yale still is in love with Mary, and Mary slowly comes to realize that she is still in love with Yale, and their relationship is eventually rekindled much to the consternation of Isaac and Emily - most especially when Emily invites Isaac and Mary over for a meal one evening. This unholy mess of a menage a quatre gets a tad too much to handle, and we end up with Yale and Mary getting back together, Emily being devastated (and blaming Isaac for introducing Mary to Yale) and Isaac realizing that he really does love Tracy and setting off to rekindle that relationship - only to discover that she is about to head off to Europe to go to school (which Isaac originally encouraged her to do as a way of breaking off their relationship). So all in all, we end up down the usual route of Woody/Isaac ending up being the schmuck without the girl - again - in what is almost a epitaph to the sexual enlightenment of the seventies.

    Confused? Welcome to the world according to Woody Allen. On the whole, critical acclaim for Manhattan seems to be somewhat less than for Annie Hall, so in some sort of perverted way that would probably account for why I find Manhattan a more palatable film. The story is riddled with the usual clichés that seem to be a recurring theme in Woody Allen's films, and the characters are if anything even more trite than usual, and yet it seems to work a little better than usual. Woody Allen is still not a favourite of mine but I find his performance here to be far less unappetizing than usual. Diane Keaton basically gets to play the same role she always plays in Woody's films, namely the somewhat unlikeable, possibly egocentric object of Woody's infatuations. Accordingly, this is very much acting by numbers as far as she is concerned. Of the rest, Mariel Hemingway is the only one to stand out and that is for all the wrong reasons. I simply find it difficult to believe that she copped an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress for this role: frankly, the one thing that is not on display here is any real acting ability. It does have to be said, though, that the best parts of this film are actually when she and Woody Allen are in scene together: there is something naive and immature in her performance that in some ways conveys the uncertainty inherent in this sort of relationship (at least I guess there would be some sort of uncertainty in such a relationship, not having any personal experience of such a relationship to draw upon!). The rest is pretty much your typical Woody Allen film by the numbers.

    Billed as a comedy, this actually raised a couple of (minor) laughs out of me, so that immediately makes it a rip-roaring success as far as Woody Allen films and I are concerned. It is of course much more a romance than a comedy and at that level it also works pretty well, and whilst I would not be rushing out to indulge in this effort again too soon, it is actually the first Woody Allen film that I have come across that I would actually contemplate watching again in the future.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Manhattan is slightly younger than the previously reviewed Annie Hall so perhaps I was expecting a little too much of the transfer, based upon my readings of reviews of the Region 1 release. This is the first film that Woody Allen, at least to my knowledge, filmed in black and white and possibly the only one he has filmed in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, so when you start reading reviews that are highly complimentary about the image quality, you start to get some impression of what to expect. What we got was not what I was expecting.

    The transfer is presented in its correct aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is 16x9 enhanced - unusual I would suggest for a black and white DVD (although no doubt several dozens will now be brought to my attention). The transfer is Auto Pan & Scan encoded.

    The disappointment in the DVD transfer is apparent almost from the opening scene, and so pervasive that I am almost tempted to suggest that it is the way the film is supposed to look, despite the fact that it was filmed anamorphically which usually means a sharp, detailed image. However, I found this to be at times a very diffuse image that reminded me of such earlier black and white films of the forties and fifties as Angel And The Badman, but without the annoying film artefacts. I was really expecting something a lot sharper in nature with a greater degree of detail than what we have here, that is for sure. The detail at times is not much better than average and again is far more reminiscent of black and white films of the fifties rather than something from the seventies. Shadow detail is at times decidedly average. This is not an especially clear transfer, but thankfully does not seem to suffer from any significant grain problems to speak of. Just to balance the whole inconsistency of the transfer, there were times that this was as sharp and as clear as I was expecting. There did not appear to be any low level noise problems in the transfer.

    The big let down after the inconsistency in the transfer is the general lack of depth to the black and white tones. Again, this is in sharp contrast to the reviews of the Region 1 release which seem to be high on the solid blacks and bright whites. They are sadly lacking here in my view, and this is really a good example of how black and white should not look. Blacks in general were of a distinctly greyish tone and lacked any sort of depth throughout much of the film. At no time could I honestly say that the whites were really clean and bright (and I will now stop sounding like a detergent advert, I promise).

    There are no apparent MPEG artefacts in the transfer. There are no real problems with film-to-video artefacts in the transfer. Naturally, since this is over twenty one years old, there is something of a problem with film artefacts in the transfer, but again nothing that I would consider unduly distracting in a film of this age.

    This is an RSDL-formatted disc, but I was unable to note where the layer change occurred. That being the case, it is obviously not disruptive to the flow of the film.

Audio

    There are five audio tracks on the DVD, all Dolby Digital 2.0 mono efforts: English, German, French, Italian and Spanish. I listened to the English soundtrack, and again refrained from trying out the other soundtracks.

    Dialogue was generally clear and easy to understand.

    There did not appear to be any problems with audio sync in the transfer.

    The original music score comes from George Gershwin: obviously it was not composed for the film, but rather the film uses some of his great music to complement the film. I am not certain that the choices were totally appropriate to the mood of the film at times, but there is no denying the quality of the music. Some of the very best orchestral music of the twentieth century originates from the United States and George Gershwin is one of the very best of those American composers.

    The final disappointment with the DVD comes from the soundtrack itself, which is an exceedingly unnatural sounding effort. Perhaps this is best illustrated by the scene in Bloomingdales, where Mary and Isaac are talking. As they leave "centre stage" and blend into the passing traffic walking away from the camera, their voices actually become louder and more prominent in the mix. This is not an isolated example, and throughout the film I was always being confronted by what I would consider unnatural and often extremely frontal soundscapes. Whilst appreciating that this is often the case in Woody Allen films, where dialogue clarity seems to rule above all else and mono will do as well for this as anything else, it is nonetheless quite disappointing that this is so marked an example of his quirks as far as audio are concerned. Accordingly, this demonstrates in the extreme that this is not a film that requires much from the soundtrack apart from presenting clear, undistorted dialogue and that is what we actually get here - and nothing else. However, with the setting being New York, you do at times really miss the surround channel and bass channel detail that would really bring in the vibrancy of the city.

Extras

    Two out of two poor releases from the MGM stable, again lacking even the usually informative booklet. A worrying trend indeed. Another trend seems to be the move towards using the American style slip covers for the DVDs - right down to the timing of the film: could we at least get that correct before the next batch of MGM releases is due?

Menu

    Okay in its own right, but having animation without audio is still pointless in my view. Clearly a consistent style is being used for the Woody Allen films that we will be getting on MGM DVDs.

Theatrical Trailer (3:14)

    There is nothing especially great about this effort, nor anything especially bad about it, either. It has a decidedly fifties/sixties look and feel to it, which I am presuming is part of the aura that Woody Allen was trying to create. Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, it is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with the same mono Dolby Digital 2.0 sound as the film.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    There would appear to be no significant difference between the Region 1 and Region 4 releases, and I feel that even the PAL formatting does not swing the favour much here, either.

Summary

    Manhattan is as close to an enjoyable film that I have yet come across from Woody Allen, but I still would not be jumping up to put it into the DVD player on a regular basis. Overall, I find the DVD package quite disappointing.

    An average video transfer at best.

    A below average audio transfer.

    A minimal extras package.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Friday, August 04, 2000
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-515, using S-Video output
DisplaySony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

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