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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

The Front [Blu-ray]


(Martin Ritt, 1976)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Columbia Pictures Corporation

Video: Twilight Time



Region: FREE (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player) Limited to 3,000 Copies!

Runtime: 1:34:46.722 

Disc Size: 29,313,089,412 bytes

Feature Size: 28,589,205,504 bytes

Video Bitrate: 34.99 Mbps

Chapters: 12

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: February, 2014



Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



DTS-HD Master Audio English 1049 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1049 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 1.0 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 24-bit)
Isolated Score:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 1662 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1662 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)

DTS Audio English 256 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 256 kbps / 24-bit / DN -7dB



English, None



Audio Commentary with Actress Andrea Marcovicci and film historians Julie Kirgo and Nick Redman

Theatrical Trailer (1:53)

Isolated Score

Liner notes by Julie Kirgo





Description: The Front is both a comic delight and perhaps the most graceful act of show business revenge in cinema history. Written by, directed by, and starring various talents blacklisted during the McCarthy-era witch hunts of the 1950s entertainment industry, the film stars Woody Allen as Howard, a cashier and bookie approached by blacklisted television-writer Alfred (Michael Murphy) to act as a "front," i.e., the alleged author of Alfred's works. The scam proves hugely successful. Soon Howard is fronting for several other banned writers, taking a cut from every sale to the networks, and basking in praise (and romantic attentions) for his prolific talent. It all unravels when congressional investigators dig into Howard's past for Communist ties and squeeze him to name others with supposed links to the Red Menace. The Front is charming, tragic, heroic, and briskly intelligent, featuring a heartbreaking performance by Zero Mostel and directed by Martin Ritt (Hud). --Tom Keogh Product Description Woody Allen's dark comic send-up of Hollywood McCarthyism! Allen stars as a cashier posing as a writer who sells a script as his own, when it was actually written by a blacklisted pal.



The Film:

The McCarthy-era "witch hunts" in the entertainment industry set the stage for this comedy drama set in the 1950s. Howard Prince (Woody Allen) is a cashier at a corner bar who works as a small-time bookie on the side, with little success. One day, Howard's old friend Alfred Miller (Michael Murphy), a successful television writer, makes a business proposal to him; Alfred's leftist political views have resulted in him being blacklisted from the major television networks, and he can no longer get work. Alfred asks Howard to act as a "front" -- Howard puts his name on Alfred's scripts, sells them, and takes a cut of the payment for his trouble. Howard's new career as a "writer" is an instant success, and soon Howard is fronting for a handful of blacklisted scribes while earning a healthy income and becoming the toast of the television industry; another fringe benefit is a romance with beautiful network employee Florence Barrett (Andrea Marcovicci). However, comic Hecky Brown (Zero Mostel), who had a brief fling with socialism years before, now finds his past catching up with him, and he's told in order to save his job as host of a weekly television show, he has to get the goods on some suspicious figures, among them Howard Prince, whose background looks a little too clean for comfort. The Front was written by Walter Bernstein, who was himself blacklisted during the 1950s, as were co-stars Zero Mostel, Herschel Bernardi, and Lloyd Gough.

Excerpt from MRQE located HERE

Woody Allen, miscast in his first straight role (as a schnook who lends his name to blacklisted writers for ten percent of the take, eventually coming under scrutiny himself), struggles through a reenactment of the communist witch-hunting of the '50s. Although made by those who suffered blacklisting at first hand, the film pulls all its political punches, settling instead for sentimental narrative. Its suggestion that each individual can buck the brutality of political oppression by standing up against the bullies lies squarely in the great reactionary tradition: 'a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do' replaces political analysis, and turns the film into an empty monument to the senility of American liberalism.

Excerpt from Timeout located HERE


Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

Firstly, this Twilight Time Blu-ray package offers solid video quality. The transfer is dual-layered with a max'ed out bitrate and detail - notable in the many close-ups - is at very high levels. I was surprised at the strong quality of the 1080P. Contrast has some nice layering and the visuals seem fairly tight. There is some pleasing grain visible and even some depth exported. Not much in the way of damage or speckles are present. I noticed a few compression-style artifacts but nothing untoward. The Blu-ray is decent with no major flaws - it gave me a very solid HD presentation in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio.

















Audio :

The DTS-HD mono track at 1049 kbps is authentically flat but sounds clean with a few more impressive moments in pushing the film's modest depth through. Dave Grusin's (The Friends of Eddie Coyle, ...And Justice For All, 3 Days of the Condor) score sounds pleasing and crisp. Twilight Time offer it in an isolated score via a similarly robust lossless track. There are optional English subtitles (sample above) and my Oppo has identified it as being a region FREE.


Extras :

Twilight add an expressive Andrea Marcovicci (The Hand, The Stuff) in an audio commentary along with the label's regular film historians Julie Kirgo and Nick Redman. This was Marcovicci's debut feature film (outside of TV) and she discussed her co-stars - Woody Allen and Zero Mostel as well as memories of the production. There is also a theatrical trailer, the aforementioned Isolated Score and liner notes with photos and words penned by Kirgo.



The Front is a far better film than I remember it from many years ago. It's been so long that I may have been confusing it in my mind with Allen's early 'silly' comedies like Bananas or Take the Money and Run. This has an interesting serious tone under the surface but is still very amusing. The Twilight Time Blu-ray offers excellent value with the commentary. I was impressed with the video quality and it will certainly be revisited. As a very pleasant surprise - this is certainly recommended! 

Gary Tooze

March 6th, 2014


About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze






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