When I heard that MGM was releasing the first set of Woody Allen films on DVD I was thrilled. Allen is one of my personal favorite directors and I consider Annie Hall one of his very best works. Released in 1977, Annie Hall firmly established Allen as a master director and a cultural icon. The film won academy awards for best picture (beating out Star Wars, much the chagrin of fourteen-year-olds across the nation), best actress (Diane Keaton), best director and best screenplay. Annie Hall also touched off a fashion trend known as 'layering,' the effects of which we still experience to this day.
Annie Hall concerns the relationship between Alvey (Allen) and Annie (Keaton.) It presents the couple's interactions in a series of nonlinear vignettes that slowly build a touching, realistic and genuinely funny portrait. The film is finely crafted from beginning to end and Allen's self-deprecating humor hits the mark every step of the way. The more neurotic Allen feels the funnier the movie gets.
This is the only film in MGM's first round of Allen releases that isn't anamorphic. I'm not sure why MGM chose to leave Annie Hall out in the cold but have no fear, the transfer is very well done none the less. The film elements used seem to be in good condition with only the slightest hints of wear. Color saturation is good, showing little bleed and very realistic flesh tones. Black levels are deep and complemented with exemplary shadow detail. The images are crisp without annoying edge enhancement effects and there were no digital artifacts to be seen. The disc contains both full screen and wide screen versions of the movie.
The original mono sound track is in great shape. The dialogue is clean and clear throughout with no significant distortion or hiss. MGM has included an additional French dubbed track that's in fair shape but that exhibits a more limited dynamic range than the English version.
The only extra contained on this release is the theatrical trailer. Rumor has it that Allen wanted it that way and it's hard to argue with his desire to allow the movie to stand on its own. Though I like extras as much as the next guy I have to respect a director who insists that his art should be seen only in the way he intended it.
Annie Hall is a classic that should have a place in any Woody Allen fan's collection. It's a shame that MGM neglected to offer an anamorphic transfer but that fact alone shouldn't cause you to shy away from the disc.