Woody Allen’s warm, nostalgic, and very amusing reminiscence of his preadolescent years in Rockaway Beach, Queens, makes Radio Days one of his most affable and engaging feature films. Filmed in burnished tones and outfitted with stupendous production design and an array of period music that takes the viewer on a journey right back to a six-year period before and during World War II when radio in all its various facets (entertainment, breaking news, favorite features for every member of the family) dominated everyone’s lives, Radio Days doesn’t attempt to tell much of a narrative story but rather offers glimpses into the lives of a myriad of characters both in “reel” life and in “real” life.
Distributed By: Twilight Time
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English 1.0 DTS-HDMA (Mono)
Subtitles: English SDH
Run Time: 1 Hr. 28 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-raykeep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 07/08/2014
A narrator (Woody Allen) recalls memorable days of his youth (Seth Green playing Joe, Allen’s alter ego) in a beachside Queens community living with an extended family in the same house. His parents (Michael Tucker, Julie Kavner), aunts and uncle (Dianne Wiest, Renee Lippin, Josh Mostel), first cousin (Joy Newman), and grandparents (William Magerman, Leah Carrey) are all wonderful eccentrics but also a close, loving family and all of whom enjoy the news and entertainment that radio provides them. Along with telling us about his family and their various adventures, the narrator also relates the tale of Sally White (Mia Farrow), a squeaky-voiced cigarette girl who longs to break into radio, either as a singer or an actress. Her slow but steady climb up the show business ladder plays in counterpoint to the various stories of the family as they live, love, and laugh their way through various crises both large (the looming world war) and small (the romantic escapades of Aunt Bea, the burgeoning of puberty for Joe, a new baby for the family).
The Production Rating: 4.5/5
Woody Allen’s script weaves together these treasurable family reminiscences along with inventing a new cast of radio characters who all figure in ways large or small into his family’s saga: not only Sally White but also Irene and Roger (Julie Kurnitz, David Warrilow), a sophisticated couple of Manhattanites whose morning breakfast show recounts their nightly whirls along the Great White Way; the Masked Avenger (Wallace Shawn), crime fighter extraordinaire whose diminutive size in real life is masked by a booming radio voice; and Biff Baxter (Jeff Daniels), space-aged hero to tykes everywhere now fighting the Nazis. All of the escapades are connected by the rousing music of the period, often recordings by the original artists (Carmen Miranda, Bing Crosby, The Andrews Sisters, The Melody Men, Frank Sinatra) or recreations of popular songs of the day (Kitty Carlisle singing the song Bette Davis introduced to the world “They’re Either Too Young or Too Old,” Diane Keaton doing a melting version of “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To”). Additionally, production designer Santo Loquasto has not only made that Rockaway house a model of 1940s domesticity, but he’s given us views of radio studios, the Stork Club, and a nightclub rooftop with the dazzling signs and flashing lights of a Broadway long gone but not forgotten. And in one magnificent moment, Allen takes his camera inside the Radio City Music Hall on Joe’s first visit to that historic picture palace (it’s showing The Philadelphia Story) making it seem like a little slice of heaven and bringing back to mind for those of us lucky to have seen the place a vivid recollection of its gargantuan luxury and class.
Each viewer will find characters that he finds hilarious and unforgettable. Among the film’s best performers are Julie Kavner as the dry-witted mother, Josh Mostel as the fish loving, easily manipulated uncle, Renee Lippin as Aunt Ceil who is a constant comfort to her sister but a nag to her husband, Dianne Wiest as the lovelorn Aunt Bea (pieces of three of her going-nowhere dates all make memorable impressions), and Mia Farrow who walks away with all of her scenes in the astutely written role of Sally White. The film’s funniest moment, in fact, involves Sally who has witnessed a gangland hit and must be taken care of by hitman Rocco (Danny Aiello). He takes the pitiful girl home to ask his mother (Gina DeAngelis) where he should dump the body, and while Sally is served pasta with shrimp and peppers, the two discuss her murder until her charm and innocence gets the best of them, and they not only let her live but Rocco through his mob connections gets her a radio job, her big break into the business. But this is really ensemble playing at its very best, and this is one family that you’ll want to make return visits to enjoy and appreciate.
The film is presented in its theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and in 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. Apart from a few dust specks, this is one beautiful looking transfer with warm, gorgeous color, realistic and appealing skin tones, and sharpness that’s wonderfully detailed. Black levels are quite good, and contrast has been consistently applied to produce an engaging, nostalgic image. The film has been divided into 12 chapters.
Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA
The DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 sound mix is very emblematic of the mono tracks Woody Allen produced during this period of his film career. The dialogue has been masterfully recorded and is never compromised by the constant music or the occasional sound effect. No age-related artifacts in any way distract the viewer from the words and music being presented.
Audio Rating: 4/5
Isolated Score and Effects Track: offered in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0.
Special Features Rating: 2.5/5
Theatrical Trailer (1:28, SD)
MGM 90th Anniversary Trailer (2:06, HD)
Six-Page Booklet: contains color and black and white stills, poster art on the back cover, and film historian Julie Kirgo’s illuminating analysis of the movie.
One of Woody Allen’s most engaging and friendly comedies of the 1980s, Radio Days makes for a beautiful Blu-ray release. There are only 3,000 copies of this Blu-ray available. Those interested should go to www.screenarchives.com to see if product is still in stock. Information about the movie can also be found via Facebook at www.facebook.com/twilighttimemovies.
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
Support HTF when you buy this title: