McHale's Navy: The Complete Series on DVD No 17Return to Sender on Blu-ray & DVD Sep 29The Phantom of the Opera with Lon Chaney Blu-ray & DVD Oct 13The Civil War 25th Commemorative Edition DVD & Blu-ray Oct 13Aquarius: The Complete First Season DVD & Blu-ray Sep 15Justified: The Complete Series on Blu-ray & DVD Oct 13The Surface on DVD, VOD, and DIGITAL HD Sep 1

follow us on twitter

dOc on facebook

NE News Editor

Brad Pitt Says He's 'Angry' at the Finance Industry Aft...
Adele Speaks Exclusively on New Music:'The Most Poignan...
'The Walking Dead' reveals Glenn's fate ...
Adele Performs on Saturday Night Live: Video ...
Blacklisted: The Inside Story of Dalton Trumbo and the ...
Ryan Seacrest Confirms All American Idol Judges Will Re...
Fargo' Preview: 5 Reasons You Should Be Watching This S...
Bruce Willis makes Broadway debut...
Entertainment industry modifies plans after Paris trage...
Anne Frank's Diary Gains 'Co-Author' in Copyright Move ...

Microsoft Store

Share: email   Print      Technorati.gif   StumbleUpon.gif   MySpace   digg.gif delicious.gif   google.gif   magnolia.gif   facebook.gif
Permalink: Permalink.gif

Buy from Amazon

Buy from Amazon.com

Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
The Front (1976)

"Take care of yourself. The world is full of sharks."
- Hecky Brown (Zero Mostel)

Review By: Jon Danziger   
Published: February 16, 2004

Stars: Woody Allen, Zero Mostel, Herschel Bernardi
Other Stars: Michael Murphy, Remak Ramsey
Director: Martin Ritt

MPAA Rating: PG
Run Time: 01h:34m:38s
Release Date: February 17, 2004
UPC: 043396085701
Genre: black comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ A-B-B D

DVD Review

For those of us who were born long after the fact, the blacklist in Hollywood seems like a relic of an ancient time, the industry equivalent of a Salem witch trial, persecuting those merely because of their beliefs. (Then again, there are decided similarities between the McCarthyites and those in the current administration who would impugn your integrity merely because you have the temerity to disagree with them. Shockingly, and despite his disagreeing, John Ashcroft does not in fact have a monopoly on patriotism.) The Front is an acidic sort of valentine to those times, almost, full of outrage against those who foisted this Fascistic scheme on us, but bursting with affection and admiration by those whose lives were ruined because they were true to their hearts. The end of the Cold War has made Communism seem almost quaint—unless, that is, you're a citizen of the People's Republic of China—but this movie is a reminder of the ways in which power at all levels was mobilized against the slightest suspicion of the Red Menace.

It's always a little unusual and jarring to see Woody Allen in other people's movies, but director Martin Ritt uses him perfectly. Here, Allen plays Howard Prince, the cashier at a New York deli—if you opened the dictionary to the word "schnook," you might find a picture of Howard. Alfred (Michael Murphy), an old buddy, comes to call on him: Alfred is a television writer whose avowed Communism has made him unemployable. But Al has a scheme: would Howard be willing to pass off Alfred's teleplays as his own? For 10%, Howard is in, and he becomes Alfred's front, the public face that the network can put on the scripts by talented but blacklisted writers.

Of course Howard's work is startlingly successful, and soon he starts fronting for two more of Al's blacklisted comrades—the counter guy is the toast of the town, living the high life, passing off all of their work as his own. The film rightly hates the politics of the time, but it loves these early days of live television—in many respects it's similar to My Favorite Year, in which Mark Linn-Baker plays a Woody Allen stand-in. This is also a film full of great supporting work, especially from Zero Mostel as Hecky Brown, a blacklisted actor. In many other film performances (e.g. The Producers), the screen doesn't seem big enough to contain Mostel's astounding energy, and his unrelenting hamminess; but as Hecky, he's at once hilarious and heartbreaking, in a devastating performance that may be the best of his career. (Also very effective are a young Danny Aiello, as a fruit stand owner making bets with Howard, New York's worst bookie; and Remak Ramsey as an investigator, McCarthyism incarnate.)

No doubt this is due in large measure to the personal resonances of the material for him, and for others on the picture—as the closing credits tell us, Mostel was a blacklist victim himself, as was Ritt, screenwriter Walter Bernstein, and Herschel Bernardi, who is wonderful as a network executive caving to the political pressure. Woody is great as a stupid guy trying to pass himself off as a grand intellect—"I couldn't write a grocery list, I'm practically illiterate"—and he's hilarious trying to school himself, much like you might imagine a deli man would: "Give me two Hemingways and a Faulkner." There are also some great onscreen pairings that no doubt will put you in mind of other Allen projects, like seeing Woody and Murphy teamed up here just before making Manhattan, and seeing Mostel browbeat his screenwriter from Don't Drink the Water.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen1.33:1 - P&S
Original Aspect Ratioyesno

Image Transfer Review: Michael Chapman, one of the great cinematographers, shot this, the same year he also photographed Taxi Driver—together, they're a testament to his range and craft as an artist. His work remains stellar, but the print could have used a healthy cleanup before coming to DVD, as there's a fair amount of debris evident in many scenes. And of course go with the original aspect ratio, not the icky pan-and-scan version that comes with.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: Audio is fairly clean, with good balance and little hiss.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Japanese, French, Korean with remote access
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Lost in Yonkers, Manhattan Murder Mystery
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Only chapter stops, subtitles, and trailers, which is a serious disappointment, given the opportunity this provides to inform 21st-century audiences about the historical circumstances of this story.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

A prettier print and more historical context would have been very welcome, but nonetheless, this is a sharp, funny, heartbreaking movie about one of the ugliest times in the history of popular entertainment in this country, and one to which disturbing parallels with our own time can be all too readily drawn.


Back to top

Search 10,000+ titles:

or Advanced Search


Get FREE Shipping on all orders at TimeLife.com! - 120x90


Microsoft Store


movie, the big short, steve carell, ryan gosling, christian bale, michael lewis, brad pitt, music, adele, hello, 19, 21, 25, television, the walking dead, amc, davod alpert, glen, heads up, saturday night live, 25 album, skyfall, nrj awards, graham norton, herbert biberman, john howard lawson, lester cole, ring lardner jr., samuel ornitz, adrian scott, albert maltz, alvah bessie, edward dmytryk, dalton trumbo, reality, american idol, ryan seacrest, mariah carey, nicki minaj, ellen degeneres, jennifer lopez, harry connick jr., keith urban, simon cowell, paula abdul, randy jackson, steven tyler, kara dioguardi, televison, fargo, fx, kirsten dunst, jesse plemons, jean smart, jeffrey donovan, bokeem woodbine, brad garrett, patrick wilson, celebrity, bruce willis, laurie metcalf, misery, broadway debut, paris tragedy, u2, foo fighters, steven spielberg, natalie portman, book, the diary of anne frank, otto frank, swiss foundation, daytime talk, 2000 shows, justin timberlake, jennifer aniston, sequel, animated, finding nemo, finding dory, disney-pixar, diane keaton, eugene levy, inventor, hedy lamarr, google doodle, ecstasy, samson and delilah, bbc music, angelina jolie pitt, by the sea, troubled marriage, mr. & mrs. smith, gwen stefani blake shelton, country music awards, the voice, miranda lambert, jon stewart, john oliver, hbo, wonder woman, nicole kidman, amazonian warrior, gal gadot, chris pine, nick lachey, 98 degrees, pot grower, ohio, nanette lepore, oscar robertson, frostee rucker, the red bulletin, james bond, daniel craig, naomi harris, bond girl, a. o. scott, 1977, star wars, elvis, beatles, sesame street, j.k. rowling, israel, palestine, culture for coexistence, harry potter and the deathly hallows, ricky gergais, 2016 golden globes, hollywood foreign press association, jessica biel, 2015 fashion group international night of stars gala, flip phone, the power of love, huey lewis, michael j. fox, back to the future, carrie, bipolar disorder, quinn, saul, jonas, comedy, selena gomez, lupus, chemotherapy, estrogen, lupus foundation of america, dancing with the stars, maksim chmerkovskiy, carrie ann inaba, bruno tonioli, julianne hough

On Facebook!
Promote Your Page Too



Original Magic Dress.com

Susti Heaven

Become a Reviewer | Search | Review Vault | Reviewers
Readers | Webmasters | Privacy | Contact
Microsoft Store