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HTF REVIEW: Woody Allen Collection 1982-87


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#1 of 18 Ronald Epstein

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Posted October 04 2001 - 02:55 AM

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The Woody Allen Collection '82-'87


Time to get a bit chatty....

My most favorite film comics include The Marx
Brothers, Jerry Lewis and Woody Allen. I have
always been an immense fan of Woody Allen's early
film comedies from Take The Money And Run to
Sleeper to Bananas. Woody's comedic
charm was that he was able to make people identify
with his neurotic self.

When people think of Woody Allen movies, there are
always the funny ones and the more serious ones.
That change started with Annie Hall (1977).
By 1979, when Manhattan was released, the
critics were hailing Woody Allen as an acclaimed
Director.

Some of his fans, like myself, weren't very happy
that Woody Allen was no longer doing screwball comedy.
It was at that point that I stopped watching all his
future releases. I wanted the screwball comedy that
made me fall in love with his movies so long ago.

Jettison ahead nearly 22 years later....

MGM begins releasing their huge library of Woody
Allen movies. Fortunately, the first collection
consists of his most memorable screwball comedies.
I imagine that MGM did very well selling these films.
After all, this is the period in which we most fondly
remember Woody Allen. Titles included: Sleeper,
Bananas, Annie Hall, Everything you always wanted
to know about sex, Love and Death, Stardust Memories,
Interiors and Manhattan.

Months later, a second collection is released.
That collection includes Alice, Another Woman,
Crimes and Misdemeanors, September, Shadow and Fog.
Although I had received a screener of this set, my
heart was just not into wanting to review many of
these Allen films that were the least known of his
fillm period.

Last week I received a screener of the new 6-disc
Woody Allen Collection covering the years 1982-87.
These films include: Broadway Danny Rose, Hannah
and her Sisters, The Purple Rose of Cairo, Zelig,
Radio Days, A Midsummer Night's sex comedy.

I must be honest. I had just come home from a
10-day HTF National Meet in Los Angeles. I had a
stack of screeners that every studio had sent me.
Watching Woody Allen was the least thing I wanted
to do when I had movies like THE GODFATHER, THE
PHANTOM MENACE waiting for me.

I decided to dedicate my time to THE WOODY ALLEN
COLLECTION because MGM has been kind enough to
send me product, and I felt I wanted to review
something that none of the other websites wanted
to cover. I also knew that HTF has many Woody
Allen fans who had been anticipating this set's
release. I also realized that this set is a
compilation of Woody Allen's most highly acclaimed
award-winning films.

I did not watch the entire collection. There
just was no time. I do pride myself in being
able to watch 4 of the 6 titles in this set in
a matter of 24 hours. I will now talk about the
set and the titles I watched....

The Woody Allen Collection, as with the previous
releases, comes housed in a sturdy box. The box
gives little information more than displaying icons
for each of the individual DVD cover art.

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The Purple Rose of Cairo is an extraordinary
fable about set against the depression area. A lonely
waitress (Mia Farrow) has an abusive life. She finds
escape at the movie theaters, getting lost in romantic
films. She soon becomes addicted to a film called
"The Purple Rose Of Cairo". To her surprise, the main
character of the film steps right off the screen into
her life.

The movie takes many humorous turns at the characters
left on the movie screen become disgruntled, as they
insult the audiance who has paid to watch them. There's
also the real-life actor who portrays the runaway
screen star who must locate his character and get him
back on the screen.


Posted Image

Zelig is perhaps my favorite of all the 4
films I watched. The early comedy of Woody Allen
is captured in this painstakingly hilarious comedy
done in 1920s documentary style. Zelig (Allen) is
a neurotic who's insecurity forces him to mimic
any person or group he is amongst. Through movietone
newsreels and filmed footage that is made to seamlessly
interact with that period, we laugh as Zelig becomes an
irishman, a negro, a rabbi, a greek, or an obese person.
Psychiatrist Dr. Eudora (Mia Farrow) is the only person
that cares about Zelig as a person, as she tries to
cure him.

I enjoyed this film the most because it is a
throwback to Woody's screwball years. There are
some hilarious one-liners in this film that you
just sit and wonder about the kind of mind that
could think them up.


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Radio Days is a simple comedy that affectionately
takes a look at the 1940s, before television, where
radio was what the world had their ear to.
Narrated by Woody Allen and seen through the eyes of
his fictional young self, we meet his whacky family.
With each song that is played on the radio, a story is
reminisced. There are also stories about the radio
personalities themselves.

This was another Allen film that surprised me.
It's a very warm, nostalgic comedy.


Posted Image

Hannah And Her Sisters is perhaps the most
complex of Allen's comedies about families. The movie
centers around Hannah (Mia Farrow) and her two
sisters (Barbara Hershey and Dianne Wiest). The
movie takes these 3 sisters and presents a spinning tale
of their seprate lives, their loves and losses, as
well as the sibling rivalry that exists between them.
The film is superbly supported by Michael Caine and
Carrie Fisher.

Another thumbs up for this finely directed film.
One thing I noticed about Woody Allen -- especially
with this film -- is that his stories are character
driven. He does such an excellent job of defining
his characters. Many times, a simple expression
on the face of an actor or actress evokes more
emotion than any dialogue could.



How do these films look?


Unfortunately, there is nothing to brag about
as far as transfer quality. It is obvious that
all these prints came off of older masters. All
the movie prints have some dirt and wear specs
scattered throughout. I am also sorry to announce
that the transfer on Hannah and her Sisters
is pretty bad. The film is full of noticeable grain.
I expect many of you will not be overly pleased
with the transfer. Do realize, however, I can
see why MGM would not put a lot of effort into
restoring these titles.

Menus are plain. Each of these titles contain
an original theatrical trailer, and best of all,
are english subtitled -- something I depend on
when watching a film.


Summation


It took a great deal of effort to watch these
movies with the amount of other screener product
waiting for me. However, I feel very fortunate that
I made the decision to look into this set. All these
titles are terrific films. Even though they aren't
screwball comedies that put Woody in the forefront,
they are instead intelligently directed comedies
that definately have Woody's influence. These are
all warmly entertaining movies, most set against
Woody's favorite backdrop, New York City.

Release Date: November 6th






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#2 of 18 Ken_McAlinden

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Posted October 04 2001 - 03:11 AM

Ron,
How was Purple Rose compared to the rest of the pack in terms of picture quality and sound? This is probably my favorite 80s Woody Allen title. People who don't love movies find the ending depressing. If you do love the movies, you realize that it is bittersweet. No matter how much is lost and how bad things get, you still have Astaire & Rogers to make you feel a little better.

Regards,

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#3 of 18 Rich Malloy

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Posted October 04 2001 - 03:13 AM

Ron, would you say that the transfers are not on-par with the ones in the first Allen box (with the exception of the recycled Annie Hall transfer)?
"Only one is a wanderer;
Two together are always going somewhere."

#4 of 18 ChristopherS

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Posted October 04 2001 - 03:40 AM

Thanks for the review Ron. Because I had heard almost nothing about this collection until your post, I had forgotten about this set. As much as I too am looking forward to Snow White, TPM, Shrek, and the Godfather Collection, I have to admit to enjoying a Woody Allen film over a bottle of red wine with my wife on a cold winters night. Posted Image

Chris



#5 of 18 Jason Whyte

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Posted October 04 2001 - 04:26 AM

Ron,

Thanks for taking a look at the set. This will be the near-end of my complete Woody Allen collection. Now all we have to do is get Columbia to release Husbands and Wives Posted Image

Jason

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#6 of 18 Marc Colella

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Posted October 04 2001 - 04:27 AM

Quote:
I am also sorry to announce
that the transfer on Hannah and her Sisters
is pretty bad. The film is full of noticeable grain.
I expect many of you will not be overly pleased
with the transfer.

The review of Hannah and her Sisters at DVDFile seems to be a little more positive with regards to the transfer for :
http://www.dvdfile.c....ersisters.html



#7 of 18 Doug Schiller

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Posted October 04 2001 - 04:56 AM

Finally!

I've been waiting to own Zelig since I stumbled into a theater showing it by mistake.

One of my favorite films and it has never received decent treatment on laserdisc.

Doug

#8 of 18 Ronald Epstein

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Posted October 04 2001 - 05:12 AM


Honestly, all the transfers look good -- not great.
We aren't talking about any major restorations
here.

There is no doubt that Hannah and her Sisters
suffers from a great deal of graininess. This
shows up especially in dimly lit scenes. I can't
believe another website would be glorifying the
transfer.





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#9 of 18 Rich Malloy

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Posted October 04 2001 - 05:26 AM

Ron, do you find the grain excessive, like as the result of dupe prints or process shots, or does it seem more like the grain that's inherent to the film stock?

I know that many companies - Criterion, in particular - take careful efforts to preserve the inherent grain and not allow it to be artificially smoothed out into something that looks more like television/video. Does the graininess you note strike you as being closer to this or to the kind of grain from something like a multi-duped print?
"Only one is a wanderer;
Two together are always going somewhere."

#10 of 18 Mitty

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Posted October 05 2001 - 03:38 PM

Of course, I don't know about the rest of you, but even a slightly disappointing transfer is a moot point for me, this is an instant purchase from me. I've been waiting for this particular batch of movies for a year, and fully expected them this summer when Set #2 came out.

Thanks Ron, I appreciate you giving us the not-so-Sweet and Lowdown (forgive me) about this set.

#11 of 18 Kurt N

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Posted October 06 2001 - 04:46 AM


Zelig, Radio Days, Purple Rose of Cairo all in one set...a must-buy. They may come out better quality in a year or two, but to be able to watch Zelig regularly is worth te prie of the set.

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#12 of 18 Colin Jacobson

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Posted October 06 2001 - 03:58 PM

Quote:
I felt I wanted to review
something that none of the other websites wanted
to cover.

??? What makes you say that? DVD File has reviews of some of the titles, and I plan to cover all six of them; I did the prior two boxed sets and want to complete them, especially since I think this one includes Allen's best work. Just because sites haven't rushed to post reviews doesn't mean that no one's interested; it's still four+ weeks until street, and I don't think there's any huge hurry necessary...

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#13 of 18 Joel C

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Posted October 06 2001 - 06:03 PM

Incidentally, digitallyobsessed is reviewing these too. I am in fact finishing up my Purple Rose review right now!

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#14 of 18 Marc Colella

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Posted October 14 2001 - 03:04 PM

Well DVDFile gave the video score a wopping 1.5 for The Purple Rose of Cairo.

http://www.dvdfile.c....seofcairo.html

I think I'm going to wait for more impressions of the DVDs in this set before plunking down the cash on any of them. So far it doesn't sound like MGM did much work in the video department.

[Edited last by Marc Colella on October 14, 2001 at 10:05 PM]

#15 of 18 Joel C

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Posted October 14 2001 - 05:43 PM

Marc-

I found little to complain about with the video on TPROC. Check out my review on digitallyobsessed.com.

I don't know what the DVDfile reviewer was expecting. I did, however, notice that he is new. When I first started writing reviews, I tended to be really really hard on everything, no matter how good it looked.

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#16 of 18 Colin Jacobson

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Posted October 15 2001 - 03:07 PM

quote:
Well DVDFile gave the video score a wopping 1.5 for The Purple Rose of Cairo.[/quote]

No idea why the DVD got such a low grade. No, it's not a gorgeous image, but I felt it replicated the source material fairly well. The print flaws are a little heavy at times, and some of the colors were somewhat thick on occasion, but the movie never intended to be bright and vivid. Overall, I gave it a "B-" for picture...

Quote:
I don't know what the DVDfile reviewer was expecting. I did, however, notice that he is new.

No, he's not. Josh has been at this for a while now - why did you think he's new to it?

In any case, I thought it was odd - and inappropriate - that DVD File split up the newest Allen collection and had at least three different reviewers do the discs. This means a lack of continuity that makes the reviews less valuable. Not that I'm sure what they're watching, anyway; I thought Hannah and Her Sisters was easily the ugliest of the current bunch - excluding the purposefully-flawed Zelig - but it received the highest marks of the bunch...

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[Edited last by Colin Jacobson on October 15, 2001 at 10:08 PM]
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#17 of 18 Joel C

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Posted October 15 2001 - 05:58 PM

Colin-

I felt likewise, PROC was a fairly good presentation of the original elements.

And I thought Josh was new because I didn't recognize his name. Sorry, my mistake!

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#18 of 18 Joe Bernardi

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Posted October 16 2001 - 05:30 AM

I've been waiting especially for Purple Rose of Cairo and Zelig. I've ordered the collection as well as Play It Again, Sam which is due on 10/23/01.