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Broadway Danny Rose: The Limited Edition Series Blu-ray Review

Broadway Danny Rose (1984) movie poster Broadway Danny Rose

Theatrical Release: January 27, 1984 / Running Time: 85 Minutes / Rating: PG

Writer/Director: Woody Allen

Cast: Woody Allen (Danny Rose), Mia Farrow (Tina Vitale), Nick Apollo Forte (Lou Canova), Sandy Baron (Himself), Corbett Monica (Himself), Jackie Gayle (Himself), Morty Gunty (Himself), Will Jordan (Himself), Howard Storm (Himself), Jack Rollins (Himself), Milton Berle (Himself), Craig Vanderburgh (Ray Webb), Herb Reynolds (Barney Dunn), Paul Greco (Vito Rispoli), Frank Renzulli (Joe Rispoli), Edwin Bordo (Johnny Rispoli), Gina DeAngeles (Johnny's Mother), Peter Castelloti (Hood at Warehouse), Sandy Richman (Teresa), Gerald Schoenfeld (Sid Bacharach), Olga Barbato (Angelina)

Buy Broadway Danny Rose on Blu-ray exclusively at Screen Archives

For as long as most people can remember, Woody Allen has been writing and directing one movie a year.
In 1984, that movie was Broadway Danny Rose. In what was a big year for comedy, with two smash hits -- Ghostbusters and Beverly Hills Cop -- grossing well over $200 million domestically and cracking Hollywood's all-time top ten, Allen made a small film you can't easily identify as a product of the 1980s.

We open at the famous Carnegie Deli in Midtown Manhattan, where a bunch of old comics are gathered and reminiscing. One of the entertainers (Sandy Baron, who you may recognize as recurring "Seinfeld" character Jack Klompus) turns the conversation to Danny Rose, a theatrical manager with whom all of them are familiar. Not all of them, however, have heard the story that Baron (credited as himself) is about to tell (which turns him into narrator).

Mob widow Tina Vitale (Mia Farrow) and theatrical manager Danny Rose (Woody Allen) make for an odd fake couple on the run in "Broadway Danny Rose."

Danny (Allen) is dedicated to his job. He believes in every client he represents and works hard to keep them employed and happy. Nonetheless, he's a stepping stone. The few genuine talents he has discovered have left him when they've made it big. That leaves him with a strange and pitiful clientele of has-beens and never-wills such as a blind xylophonist, a one-armed juggler, and a balloon animal maker. Danny is diligent but not very successful at pursuing work opportunities for all of these gimmicky performers.

The story that comprises the bulk of the movie involves Lou Canova (Nick Apollo Forte), a Louis Prima-esque lounge singer whose success came a quarter-century earlier. Danny is booking him what gigs he can, like nostalgia cruises that give Canova some newfound relevance and demand. Emphasizing that he's a "personal" manager, Danny's services extend to Canova's love life. Lou asks Danny to be the beard of his mistress, Mob widow Tina Vitale (Mia Farrow), and take her to his upcoming gig at the Waldorf Astoria.

To do so, Danny has to crash a big New Jersey Italian-American family gathering (basically the Woody Allen version of The Godfather's opening wedding scene). There, Johnny Rispoli (Edwin Bordo), the jilted and distraught ex of Tina, accuses Danny of stealing her from him while vowing to dramatically swallow iodine. Johnny's two brothers look to settle the score, pursuing the fake couple with baseball bats in hand and the word "vendetta" on their minds. Danny and Tina take flight, aiming to get to Lou's show without a car and without running into the vengeful brothers.

Comic Sandy Baron (playing himself) tells the story of Danny Rose and Lou Canova to friends gathered in Carnegie Deli. The vengeful mobster brothers of a jilted lover pursue Danny and Tina.

Broadway Danny Rose is in black and white, for no obvious reason other than that Allen has eschewed color every once in a while. The film is set in the then present-day and is no more or less timeless than any of Allen's other films, which share a cinematic universe all to themselves. In Allen's films, intelligent characters, typically New Yorkers (one of them more neurotic than the rest), voice philosophies and endure the highs and lows of life, romance, and cosmic, comic situations. That's all on the menu here.

There are some chuckles, but Allen's films, like most comedies after their freshness wears off, do not succeed or fail on their ability to make you laugh. Allen's movies use dialogue, characters, and settings to create an entertaining atmosphere. Broadway does just that. It's not a film to spawn sequels, merchandise, and devout fandom, but one to sweep you up in its charms, wit, and creativity.

While Allen productions are typically renowned for their fine ensembles, this one streamlines, creating a compelling character study from a principal cast of just three distinct parts. Allen is celebrated more for his gifts behind the scenes and at his writing desk than in front of the camera, but he's a much better actor than most filmmakers. Viewers may let out groans at the sight of Shyamalan and Tarantino trying to act, but Allen is the performer by which all of his other male leads are measured. He's an integral part of his brand and though he's managed to maintain a high quality of output while mostly retiring from acting, it's impossible to imagine his earlier films with anyone else playing his parts.

In his only film credit, Nick Apollo Forte lights up the screen as Lou Canova, a has-been lounge singer enjoying a slight nostalgia boost.

Danny Rose is one of his most endearing roles. He's less finicky and sarcastic and more sympathetic than other Allen antiheroes. Here is a guy who gives all of himself to others, only to have them leave at the first sign of greener pastures.
He has no love or family and he's told he's living like a loser by the rare person to see his home.

That person is Tina Vitale, the third of Farrow's thirteen performances for Allen during their romantic partnership. It's an uncharacteristic turn for Farrow, who disappears behind large sunglasses, a strong accent, and hairstyle far from her own. Usually saddled with relatively bland parts, Farrow here gets a chance to show off her range and chops. It's an impressive display and one that seems to have directly influenced Michelle Pfeiffer.

The third lead role, that of two-timing boozer Lou Canova, is capably filled by Nick Apollo Forte, who calls himself a pianist, vocalist, composer, and humorist before "actor" on his official website. There isn't much out there about the guy. His five-sentence Wikipedia entry gives the amount of detail you'd expect from a community theater program bio and his filmography consists of only this and an episode of ABC's short-lived 1980s sitcom "The Ellen Burstyn Show." Forte is so at ease on camera that you assume it was his decision rather than Hollywood's not to act anymore.

Like most of Allen's films, Broadway Danny Rose performed unremarkably at the box office. Its $10.6 M gross placed it 77th among 1984 releases. Many of those ahead of it have become forgotten or are remembered for being ridiculous (Supergirl, Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo). Heck, even a slightly higher-grossing film with arguably the two most accomplished actors of the past forty years -- Robert De Niro and Meryl Steep's Falling in Love -- has faded into obscurity. Broadway endures as a piece of Allen's always-growing oeuvre and one of the more highly regarded pieces at that. It's not up there with Allen's most famous works (it's a mere 39th by number of IMDb user votes), but it is definitely a film that those who know tend to appreciate.

Broadway was appreciated upon release by critics and by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science, who nominated Allen for Original Screenplay and Director honors. He lost those awards to Places in the Heart's Robert Benson and Amadeus' Milos Forman at a ceremony needless to say that Allen did not attend. The film recently made its Blu-ray debut from Twilight Time as part of the boutique label's Limited Edition Series with a standard print run of 3,000 units.

Post-script: There are some fun things to keep your eyes open for in the film's appealing Thanksgiving Day Parade scene, including blink and miss appearances by Sammy Davis Jr., Ricky Schroeder, and some E.T. balloons in addition to a float carrying Big Bird and giant parade balloons of Kermit the Frog and Woody Woodpecker.

Broadway Danny Rose: The Limited Edition Series Blu-ray cover art -- click to buy from Screen Archives Blu-ray Disc Details

1.85:1 Widescreen
1.0 DTS-HD Master Audio (English), 1.0 DTS-HD MA (Music and Effects)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: April 8, 2014
Single-sided, single-layered disc (BD-25)
List Price: $29.95
Blue Keepcase
Previously released on DVD (November 6, 2001)
and in The Woody Allen Collection DVD Set 3 (November 6, 2001)

VIDEO and AUDIO

Broadway Danny Rose sports a few minor specks and nicks in the opening and closing credits and in a couple of dark scenes. For the most part, though, this 1.85:1 presentation is a delight, boasting sharpness, clarity and detail well beyond what you expect of a 30-year-old film.

The 1.0 DTS-HD master audio mono soundtrack won't win any awards or rock your home theater, but it cleanly and crisply presents the dialogue that drives the film and the occasional music. English SDH subtitles are kindly included.

The "Broadway Danny Rose" theatrical trailer illustrates that Woody Allen has been using white Windsor text on black for a really long time. Twilight Time recycles simple poster art for the cover and menu of their "Broadway Danny Rose" Blu-ray.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Woody Allen's not much of a bonus features fan, so unsurprisingly Broadway Danny Rose gets little in that regard.

First up is the Twilight Time standard inclusion of an isolated score and effects soundtrack.

The 1.0 DTS-HD master audio track consists mostly of musical performances and scattered score, with a few sound effects and many patches of silence. It's something you may not feel compelled to do more than sample, but I think all can agree we'd rather get this than nothing.

Also included is Broadway's short original theatrical trailer (1:07), presented in worn standard definition, and an HD promo celebrating the 90th anniversary of MGM (2:06), who licensed this and other Allen titles to Twilight Time and get a sticker on the shrinkwrap.

Another standard Twilight Time feature is a navigable gallery of the company's Blu-ray and DVD catalog, informing you of what you missed out on and what you still can get.

Silent save for swiping navigation effects, the Blu-ray's menu is a simple 16:9 rendering of the poster-turned-cover art. The Blu-ray does not support bookmarking, but does resume unfinished playback.

The final extra, found inside the plain blue keepcase, is an 8-page, staple-bound booklet consisting primarily of a short, Criterion-worthy essay from Twilight Time film historian Julie Kirgo that offers a nice analysis of the film.

While walking around the flatlands of New Jersey, Danny (Woody Allen) and Tina (Mia Farrow) encounter actor Ray Webb (Craig Vanderburgh) filming a commercial as a shaving cream superhero.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

You needn't be a Woody Allen aficionado or completist to see and enjoy Broadway Danny Rose, a slight but charming black and white comedy that the writer-director could have made at any point in his career. That he made it in the mid-'80s means that it's he and former partner Mia Farrow effectively bringing his words and characters to life.

Twilight Time's Blu-ray meets one's expectations. The film is treated to high quality picture and sound, but little else beyond that. It's the kind of disc you wouldn't hesitate to pick up for $5, but one you may not feel compelled to own at the over $30 with shipping this will set you back as a Screen Archives-exclusive. As always with this business model, though, if you don't act quickly, you may end up having to wait long or pay even more in second-hand markets to get this in the highest definition available.

Buy Broadway Danny Rose exclusively at screenarchives.com

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Reviewed April 24, 2014.



Text copyright 2014 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1984 Orion Pictures and 2014 Twilight Time, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.
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