From Fake News to Chamber Drama: 3 by Woody Allen

November 16, 2017 | By

The trio of Woody Allen films in today’s review set features two related works, and one illustrative of Allen’s periodic dip into straight drama.

‘Take the herb and recuse yourself’.

Take the Money and Run (1969), new on Blu via KL Studio Classics, marked Allen’s first formal step as star / director / co-writer, and has him playing Virgil Starkwell, an idiot wholly incapable of robbing anything or anyone, but genuinely falling for a pretty girl (Janet Margolin) – for a while.

Take predates Allen’s near-perfect mockumentary Zelig (1983), and contains a similar if cruder use of archival, faux archival, narration, and on-camera interviews.

Allen then carried over the format in a short film for PBS that was reportedly pulled close to its 1972 airing date, and remains commercially unreleased. Men of Crisis: The Harvey Wallinger Story (1971) has him playing a fake Nixon confidant and ridicules the then-President with assorted interpolation of real and fake news segments and interviews, culminating in a lengthy unflattering assessment of the leader’s lack of ‘facial trustworthiness.’ You can see why PBS panicked, but it’s peculiar how the short has never been showcased on home video; at present it remains viewable in that vast grey zone, YouTube, taken from an Italian subtitled print with a serious (deliberate?) scratch running down the middle.

Whereas Crisis is a portent of the magic to follow in Zelig, September (1987) marked Allen’s more successful attempt to wade into Ingmar Bergman terrain with a drama about  fragile woman (Mia Farrow) confronted by unwanted realities the night a power outage freezes a dinner party at her country house.

Twilight Time’s Blu sports a striking transfer of one of Allen’s most beautiful and visually soothing films, as shot by the great Carlo Di Palma (Blow-Up). It’s also an extraordinary production with a potent cast, including veterans Denholm Elliott, Jack Warden, and Elaine Stritch.

Coming next: review of Netflix’s other recent success, the network’s exclusive series GLOW (2017), one of the sharpest, funniest series in recent years.



Mark R. Hasan, Editor

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