While Woody Allen's brand of wit has not always been embraced by the mainstream, he's still widely recognized as one of the great comedic forces of modern film. Now, a collection of his classics is being re-released on home video and DVD. Early Show Entertainment Reporter Mark McEwen has more on the movies and the man who made them.
"Well, he didn't start out as a great director. The interesting thing is that he started out as a great comic," said Glenn Kenny, a senior editor at Premiere magazine. "The pictures in the '70s that he did, starting with the likes of Bananas and so on you get a sense of a progression. He's trying to integrate his comic talents, which he was known for and which made him popular, with his other artistic instincts."
And that's where the Allen collection starts on DVD, with Bananas, which drips with the influence of such old-time "showbizzy" comedians as Bob Hope and Groucho Marx.
Also available on DVD is Everything You Wanted To Know About Sex But Were Afraid To Ask, based on the book by Dr. David Reuben. ("The film is funnier than the book," observed Kenny.)
Annie Hall represented "a huge leap" for Allen, according to Kenny, who noted, "If you look at the chronology of the pictures, everything from Bananas on, he was making one picture a year. But there is actually a longer gap between Love and Death and Annie Hall, and I think that's because Annie Hall took such a long time to develop. It's a love affair that people still look at and get sentimental about."
Speaking of sentiment, Manhattan, said Kenny, is Allen's "love poem or love letter" to the Big Apple.
And Allen never has trouble drawing big names for his films, including Julia Roberts, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Meryl Streep.
"It's a creative atmosphere," explained Kenny. "And, so often the filmmaking process in these days of big budget and incredible logistics and huge action scenes doesn't allow for a real creative process."
In his private life, Allen has faced much criticism for marrying Soon-Yi, the adopted daughter of Mia Farrow, with whom he had a long relationship. So McEwen asked the question: 50 years from now, when they look back on Woody Allen's career, what will they say about him as a director?
"As a director, probably mixed. As a comic creative force, one of the greats," said Kenny. "I mean, him and Mel Brooks -- they're the two comic creators of the post World War II era. It will be (Buster) Keaton, (Charlie) Chaplin, (Harold) Lloyd, the Marx Brothers, Mel Brooks, Woody Allen. It's no contest."
Five of Allen's films made the American Film Institute's list of America's 100 Funniest Movies. They are:
- Annie Hall, (1977), No. 4
- Manhattan, (1979), No. 46
- Take the Money and Run, (1966), No. 66
- Bananas, (1971), No 69
- Sleeper, (1973), No. 80