A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy Review

The story:Andrew (Woody Allen) is an inventor whose creations have all wound up being complete failures - his marriage is following the same path with Adrian (Mary Steenburgen), his wife, and him growing more and more distant. Still they’ve decided to have some friends round to their New-England home but tensions are heightened however when Adrian accidentally discovers that Ariel (Mia Farrow) who’s to wed Leopold, an aged university professor (Jose Ferrer) once had a brief fling with Andrew. With the arrival of Maxwell (Tony Roberts), a New York doctor, who takes an instant dislike to Leopold, the peaceful and relaxing weekend Andrew was hoping for is rapidly turning into a neurotic jackpot.

Whilst the studio suits were busily calculating the budget for Zelig, Woody wrote A Midsummer's night Sex Comedy and decided to film them at the same time - a bizarre choice for a director who's averaged a film a year since 1977! The film itself was savaged by some critics one of which declared that A Midsummer's night Sex Comedy contained little sex and even less comedy. Granted Allen has made far better films than this one but whoever goes to a Woody Allen film expecting sexually explicit scenes is evidently barking up the wrong tree! Allen is notoriously prude about showing any sex or nudity on screen. As for comedy, this is quite an amusing piece with some hilarious one-liners (as usual always uttered by Allen) and some fantastic characterisation. Jose Ferrer's performance as the pompous and arrogant university professor is well nigh perfect and Tony Roberts effortlessly reprises his usual role as Allen's more confident close friend. The level of acting in female leads that year must have been phenomenal as Farrow won a Raspberry for this performance - quite why is beyond me!

Despite owing a great deal to both Checkhov and Bergman, the script remains the weakest element of the ensemble - the usual drive of most of Allen's projects seems to be lost here with the film apparently steering off-course for some long periods with the plot becoming little more than a pretext for Allen's one-liners. Of course most of Allen's early films were exactly that but Allen seemed to be aspiring to much more than that here - but this has neither the amateurish charm of Bananas or Love and Death nor the extraordinary dramatic values of his later work. Despite this it’s an enjoyable though not always inspired romp through Allen’s usual catalogue of obsessions.

The DVD:
The image:The image is pretty much in line with most of his MGM back catalogue - nothing wrong with it but nothing to get too excited about either. The print used seems to have been in relatively good nick - but there's the usual array of print damages that appear throughout the film. Added to that the graininess of the film is quite apparent on close inspection. The colours are quite good for the first half-hour or so, but sadly seem to lose their vibrancy when the night arrives with the interior scenes being slightly murky. As usual the framing is in the correct aspect ratio and is anamorphically enhanced. A competent transfer but nothing more.

The sound:The usual glorious mono which is all we'll ever get from Allen as he's never even ventured into stereo. Everything is quite clear from the classical soundtrack to the voices. No complaints at all in this section.

The menus:The usual basic but effective MGM design. The choices appear over a static background made up of stills from the film.

The extras:Allen doesn't do extras so all we get is the US trailer which is quite blurry but anamorphically transferred.

Conclusions:Once again MGM give an adequate but unspectacular release for another Allen film. Despite my reservations over the film, Allen is always worth investigating - it'll beat Saturday night TV at any rate!

6 out of 10
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