The Woody Allen Collection

The Woody Allen Collection (1960)
MGM Home Entertainment
Cast: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton
Extras: Trailers

One of the more intellectual filmmakers of modern times, Woody Allen has always managed to create comedies, satires and parodies that are thought provoking and full of deeper meanings. The subtext in each of these films is enormous and his skills as a writer are undisputed. Apart from that his presentation of characters and his verbal eloquence is also rather unique, giving each of his films a singular signature that is unmistakable.

At long last, MGM Home Entertainment is now paying tribute to this prolific filmmaker and his long career with a dedicated box set aptly titled, "The Woody Allen Collection." The set contains eight of Allen’s films, and most excitingly all, but "Annie Hall" are presented on DVD for the very first time, covering some of the filmmaker’s career highlights from 1971 to 1980.

"Bananas" is the first film in the collection, the director’s second film and a hilarious parody that examines the relationship of a bumbling product tester with his girlfriend. Eventually he is being kidnapped by rebels in the republic of San Marcos where he is then used to replace a crazy dictator.

"Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex But Were Afraid To Ask" is the next in the package. This is an episodical film that takes an irreverent look at the stickiest issues of sex. From the medieval times to modern day New Yorkers, everyone is covered with a good portion of humor in each of those highly enjoyable vignettes.

Then it is on to "Sleeper" a true comic classic. In the grand tradition of silent comedy, "Sleeper" is quite a unique film for Woody Allen, as it replaces his verbal eloquence with some of the most physical comedy he has ever done. Neurosis and lunacy are coupled in a story where a man is awakened 200 years in his future – our today! Starring Diane Keaton next to Allen, "Sleeper" also marked the beginning of a long-lasting work relationship between the two.

And as such, Diane and Woody reappear in the 1975 period piece "Love And Death." A historical satire par excellence, "Love And Death" elaborates on Russian history and philosophy. It is a story told during the Napoleonic War when a man decides to join the army to forget about his heartache. But nothing in his life – and this film – turns out to be what it seems and the film slowly works to a grandiose finale with immeasurable eloquence and finesse.

"Annie Hall" is the only film in the collection that is a re-release, and the disc is without changes or additions exactly the same as the one released two years ago. Teaming up with Diane Keaton once again, Woody Allen brings us one of the most glorious intellectual and sensitive comedies of all times. Honored with four Academy Awards, "Annie Hall" is a romantic film about the relationship of Alvy, one of Manhattan’s most brilliant comedians, and nightclub singer Annie and their seemingly endless quest for true love.

In 1978, "Interiors" was the first serious drama in Woody Allen’s career and a very artfully done one at that. Featuring an incredible cast that once again includes Diane Keaton, as well as Geraldine Page, Marybeth Hurt and E.G Marshall, Woody Allen himself does not appear in this film, although he wrote and directed it. It is the story of a couple that has long lost touch with each other and their three daughters. Tragic, emotional, moving, and very sensitive, "Interiors" is one of Allen’s easily overlooked films.

In 1979, Woody Allen returned to his roots in "Manhattan" – quite literally. An ode to the city he loves, "Manhattan" is a film only Woody Allen could have made. It is beautifully photographed – in black and white – and once again walks the tightrope of intellectual comedy and human shortcomings. It is – coincidentally – the story of a 42-year old man who has a 17-year old girlfriend he doesn’t love, a lesbian ex-wife and eventually falls in love with an intellectual woman his age.

"Stardust Memories" is the last film in the Collection, a satire that takes a look at the glamorous life of fame – and the price tag that comes attached with it. It is the story of a disillusioned filmmaker on the brink of a nervous breakdown who is forced to confront the meaning of his body of work during a retrospective he visits one weekend. His past comes to haunt him and just when he thinks life is worthless, something unexpected happens that gives him a new shot of life.

For this box set, MGM Home Entertainment has created new <$16x9,anamorphic> <$PS,widescreen> transfers for these movies that are complemented with <$PS,fullframe> presentations on all discs – with the exception of "Manhattan" which contains only the <$PS,widescreen> version. Unfortunately, "Annie Hall" has been re-released with the same non-<$16x9,anamorphic> transfer we got to see two years ago, but overall, MGM did a great job presenting these films in their best possible video quality. The colors reproduction is usually very faithful with deep, solid blacks. Slight grain is evident in some of the movies, but it is never distracting and the fact that the DVDs are virtually free of compression artifacts make them all the more pleasing.

All DVDs feature monaural <$DD,Dolby Digital> audio tracks in English – and most in Spanish, too. The tracks are well produced and very clean. Given Allen’s own understatement, his non-glamorous approach to filmmaking and his minimalist pictures, these mono soundtracks are absolutely adequate for this release. The value of Allen’s films lies in their content, meaning and personal note, not really in their presentation.

Subtitles, mostly in English, Spanish and French, and trailers are the only extras you will find on each of these DVDs. Once again this has a lot to do with Woody Allen’s own wishes and non-glorified approach to filmmaking. Take the film for what it means to you is the maxim of these films. If you need someone to interpret them for you or if you need someone to make up your mind for you these films are not for you. Allen’s films work because they are personal, intimate and because on some level they touch everyone. That is their meaning – and no <$commentary,commentary track> or featurette could possibly ever pay justice to that emotional reaction within each individual viewer.

"The Woody Allen Collection" is a great assortment of films that gives fans of his work the chance to revisit the filmmaker’s most important time in his career. Going through the films shows how he has matured as a writer, a filmmaker and as an actor, and how many of his personal feelings have made their way into the stories he told over the years. All these films a snapshots of Woody Allen’s life at one point or another and seeing them together in this Collection is reason enough to celebrate. For every lover of sophisticated comedy, intellectual satire and humanistic parody, Woody Allen is a genius and this box set from MGM Home Entertainment pays tribute to some of his best works, so make sure to go and get it.