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April 2, 2014

Movie Review: The Front (Blu-ray)

Review By: Mike Heenan

With all the recent media attention and personal attacks on Woody Allen from his crazy ex, it’s hard to remember that at one time he was actually a respectable filmmaker, writer, and in the case of The Front, an actor.  It was the first film that he didn’t have any control over writing or directing and was simply just an actor.  Allen was quoted as trusting director Martin Ritt as Ritt had survived the McCarthy years of the HUAC (House Un-American Activities Committee), as did co star Zero Mostel.

Allen stars as Howard Prince, who works as a cashier in a diner and is a bit of a con artist and gambler. One day one of his old friends Alfred Miller, played by Michael Murphy, stops by to tell Howard that he’s been blacklisted from his industry, of which Howard assumes to mean he has some sickness.   Over a game of chess, Miller comes up with a scheme to present to Howard that apparently has worked in the past, which is a “front”.  The blacklisted writer would write his scripts, but use an unknown person to be the public writer of the script.  Howard easily accepts his cut of 10% of the sales due to his many gambling debts.

 Howard very quickly becomes the wunderkind of the television station and gets a bit of addiction to the benefits of his new career including having a hot script editor fall in love with him.  He then tells Miller he can front for other writers and have the same 10% deal with them which allows him to pay off old debts.  The movie goes between several comic scenes due to Allen's typical neurotic persona and a dark dramatic overtone with Zero Mostel's "Hecky Brown" who is fighting communist charges and wishes to stay employed in the industry.

Allen puts forth a rare dramatic performance and succeeds on all fronts delving between his typical on screen persona and the swagger of a gum chomping Burt Reynolds.  The film could have been a serious drama had it centered on the blacklist and the HUAC drama but the comedic overtones of Allen’s performance of Prince give the film a few chuckles. It's definitely worth a view if you like the pre-Soon Yi era Allen. Look for a small appearance by Daniel Aiello in the film.

Twilight Time has delivered the film with an excellent transfer. The colors are subdued and not saturated which was typical of the era, and there appears to be no edge enhancement as you can see all the freckles on Allen's face. Several scenes are grain heavy but this is likely due to the lighting and not a fault of the transfer.

The Blu-ray comes with the theatrical trailer in high definition and an audio commentary track with star Andrea Marcovicci, Nick Redman and Julie Kirgo as well as an isolated score track. As is typical with Twilight Time's other releases, this one is limited to 3000 copies so be sure to grab your copy as soon as possible over at

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