DVD Talk
Release List Reviews Shop Newsletter Forum DVD Giveaways Blu-Ray Advertise
Reviews & Columns
Reviews
DVD
TV on DVD
Blu-ray
International DVDs
Theatrical
Adult
Video Games

Features
Collector Series DVDs
Easter Egg Database
Interviews
DVD Talk Radio
Feature Articles

Columns
Anime Talk
XCritic.com
DVD Stalk
DVD Savant
High-Def Revolution
Silent DVD

discussion forum
DVD Talk Forum
Resources
DVD Price Search
Customer Service #'s
RCE Info
Links

DVDTalk Info
Review Staff
About DVD Talk
Advertise
Newsletter Subscribe
Join DVD Talk Forum
DVD Talk Feeds


Special Offer

Search: For:
Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Front
The Front
Columbia/Tri-Star // PG // February 17, 2004
List Price: $24.96 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by John Sinnott | posted February 1, 2004 | E-mail the Author
Buy from Amazon.com
C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Recommended
E - M A I L
this review to a friend
P R I N T
Printer Friendly
The Movie:

In the 1950's the Senator Joseph McCarthy started a witch hunt for communists in the government and other areas of American life to advance his political career.  Soon the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) was looking into the possibility that communists in the film and television industry were using the media as a propaganda tool for their Russian masters.  People who were suspected of having ties with communist groups or having communists sympathies were black listed and could no longer find work.  The Front is a fictionalized account of life in the television industry in during that time.

Howard Prince (Woody Allen) is a small time bookie and a cashier at a small diner.  He's always in debt and can never seem to get a break.  One day an old friend, Alfred Miller (Michael Murphy,) comes by to see him.  Alfred is a writer for network TV, but he can't get a job because of his communist sympathies.  He asks Howard to front for him.  Howard will sell the scripts as his own, and give the money to Alfred, minus a 10% fee for his trouble.  This arrangement works out well.  Alfred is able to make a living, and Howard is getting a little extra money.  Soon Howard wants a little more though.  He has Alfred contact some of his blacklisted friend and soon he is fronting  for three writers.  People are dropping like flies at the network, and the government starts looking into Prince.  But they can't seem to find anything on him, so they send a spy.

The people who created this film know what they speak of.  The director Martin Ritt, writer Walter Bernstein; and actors Zero Mostel, Herschel Bernardi, Lloyd Gough and Joshua Shelley were all blacklisted in the early 1950's.  They were able to put a human face on the damage that McCarthy and his followers did to innocent people.  The movie shows the pain and despair that being thrown out of your profession can do, but also the hysteria that filled the movie and TV world at the time.  Yes, the movie does get a little heavy handed at times, but since the writer lived through it, that can be forgiven.

The only real problem I have with the movie is that it is a drama, except Woody Allen's character is playing in a comedy.  Don't get me wrong, Allen does a great job, but his usual neurotic, awkward persona, which is what he plays in this film, doesn't fit in well with the serious tone of the movie.  I can only assume that his character was written that way to lighten the mood a little, and he does, I just feel that it would have been a stronger movie with fewer silly jokes.  The last line in the movie was priceless, and one of the best in movie history.

The acting was very good across the board, but Zero Mostel stole the show.  His portrayal of a comedian who has climbed to the top only to be pulled down due to one youthful indiscretion was masterful.

The DVD:


Audio:

The two channel mono sound track sounded pretty good.  It suited the film.  The incidental music was clear as was the dialog, and there was no evidence of hiss.  There are a surprising number of subtitles available.  You have your choice between English, French, Japanese, or Korean.

Video:

This DVD gives you the option of viewing the movie in a full frame, pan and scan version, or anamorphic widescreen.  For this review I viewed the movie in widescreen, but spot checked the P&S version, and the image quality seemed similar.  There was a slight red push on the film, ironically enough.  It wasn't very large, just everyone looking slightly more pink than they should.  The film was shot with a narrow field of focus, so even things slightly off from the plane of focus were a little blurry, but that is a personal dislike, and not the fault of the disc.   The things that were in focus were clean and tight.  There did not seem to be any dirt or scratches on the print they used.  A nice looking film.

The Extras:

The only extras on this disc are trailers for Lost in Younkers and Manhattan Murder Mystery.  It is unfortunate that a trailer for The Front wasn't included.  There have been many documentaries made about the blacklisting that was done in the 50's, and it would have been a welcome treat to have included one on this disc.  It's a shame they didn't.

Final Thoughts:

This is not what one usually expects from a Woody Allen movie, even his later films.  If you go into this expecting a lot of laughs, you'll be disappointed.  There are some very funny lines, but this movie is a drama with comic elements rather than the other way around.  The film does get a tad too preachy at times, but only a tad.  Zero Mostel's performance is excellent, and the story is moving.  A very good movie that is well worth watching.  Recommended.

Popular Reviews
1. Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones
2. King Kong Escapes
3. Fargo: Remastered Edition
4. Criminal Minds: The Eighth Season
5. My Mother the Car: The Complete Series
6. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
7. Equus
8. Betty Boop: The Essential Collection, Volume 3
9. Ride Along
10. Little House on the Prairie - Season One & The Pilot Movie


Special Offers
DVD Blowouts
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
Alien [Blu-ray]
Buy: $19.99 $9.99
8.
9.
10.
Special Offers
Release List Reviews Shop Newsletter Forum DVD Giveaways Blu-Ray Advertise
Copyright 2014 DVDTalk.com All Rights Reserved. Legal Info, Privacy Policy, Terms of Use