Blu-Ray Review- Love and Death
Distributor: Twilight Time
Street Date: February 10th 2015
Technical Specifications: 1080P Video, Color, 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio, DTS-HD Master Audio Mono
Runtime: 85 Minutes
For me, there are few sounds in the world as lovely as my Mother’s laughter. It’s simply infectious, and just another character trait she has always possessed that have drawn people to her. Though my Father played the major role in introducing me to films as a youngster, my mother introduced me to Woody Allen. His awkward yet brilliant monologues and situational comedy seen throughout his work engaged her like few performers could. I specifically remember watching Love and Death (1975) with her for the first time, and fondly recall her nearly crying from laughing so hard when Allen attempts to seduce a woman at the opera with a folding fan, jumping eyebrows, and other ridiculous flirtatious antics. It was iconic scenes like this and the nervous date preparation of Allen’s character in Play it again Sam that made her roar with laughter, which in turn, made everyone else in the room crack up. With my mother entering the last few weeks of chemotherapy and radiation treatment, she’s on my mind as I write this review of a film that we both adore.
Woody Allen’s Love and Death stars Allen as Boris Grushenko, a Russian pacifist coward who is desperately in love with Sonja (Diane Keaton), his cousin twice-removed. When Napoleon’s French forces invade Austria, Boris is forced to join the Russian army against his will. He’s a bumbling fool of a soldier, making for a slapstick training montage that would make The Three Stooges proud. When Boris hears the news of Sonja’s engagement to a local herring merchant, he rather accidentally becomes a war hero. Returning to the recently widowed Sonja after sleeping with a Countess (the late Olga Georges-Picot, the aforementioned object of Allen’s opera flirtation), she agrees to marry him only because she believes that he will be killed in an upcoming duel against the Countess’ husband (Harold Gould). Unfortunately for her, Boris survives the duel in rather hilarious fashion. The two settle down together, filling their time with philosophical discussion and longing desperation that would make Ingmar Bergman proud. When Napoleon invades Russia, Boris reluctantly goes along with Sonja’s plan to assassinate Napoleon (James Tolkan).
Relying less on a central plot and more on a series of increasingly hilarious situations set against the Napoleonic era backdrop, Love and Death is flat out one of the most hilarious films ever made. Allen fashioned his film with a fantastic production design, great costumes, and beautiful cinematography…especially impressive for a comedy. The humor also works on nearly every occasion, whether it’s the ridiculous philosophical debates between Boris and Sonja or the slapstick hilarity of Allen’s physical comedy. Love and Death remains a comedy classic, and it was a treat to revisit the film in High Definition from Twilight Time.
Twilight Time, working from a transfer from MGM, has delivered Love and Death onto Blu-Ray with an absolutely gorgeous print of the film. Film grain looks authentic and natural, the color timing is perfection, and there are no obvious anomalies or artifacts to speak of. This is a very clean looking presentation of the film!
The DTS-HD Mono track included herein is simply superb! The wonderful music of Sergei Prokofiev is on full display throughout your surround system, dialogue always comes through crisp and clean, and background effects are never drowned out or lost. Paired with the gorgeous HD video presentation, the audio is a standout on this release.
Twilight Time has provided fans of Love and Death with select bonus features to accompany this Blu-Ray release. Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:
- Isolated Music & Effects Track- Available in the “setup” section of the main menu, those who purchase this Limited Edition release have the option of watching the film with isolated music and background effects. Twilight Time has come to be known for including this great option on their releases, and it always makes for an interesting way to view a film.
- Original Theatrical Trailer- The original theatrical trailer for Love and Death runs 2 ½ minutes and gives viewers a fairly accurate representation of what they’re in for: plenty of laughs, one-liners, and situational comedy.
- MGM 90th Anniversary Trailer– This 2 minute trailer showcases select films from MGM’s wonderful catalog including Rain Man, The Man with No Name Trilogy, The Princess Bride, Dances with Wolves, Skyfall, Platoon, In the Heat of the Night, The Silence of the Lambs, and many more. There is some nice High Definition footage here to showcase how great these titles look on the Blu-Ray format.
- Twilight Time Catalogue– Not necessarily a bonus feature per se, but I’ve always dug this helpful tool on Twilight’s past releases. This is presented on the main menu of the disc as a chapter selection to peruse their great catalog on Screen Archives, and even indicates which titles are now out of print.
As you can see from the “Unboxing” pictures below, this Blu-Ray edition from Twilight Time features some lovely artwork featuring production stills from the film and the typical Allen font. On the reverse of the packaging you’ll find a plot synopsis, a short list of bonus features, as well as technical specifications for this release. On the interior of the packaging is the Blu-Ray disc as well as a wonderfully written essay booklet from regular Julie Kirgo. Julie has a way with words that instantly entrances the reader with her commentary. Here she discusses everything from Allen’s homages in the film to production issues and his maturity as a filmmaker, making for a delightful essay complete with production stills and posters for the film throughout.
Revisiting Woody Allen’s hilarious Love and Death brought back fond memories of watching the Director’s films with my mother as a teenager. The humor works on nearly every occasion; whether it’s the ridiculous philosophical debates between Boris and Sonja or the slapstick hilarity of Allen’s physical comedy. The Blu-Ray picture and audio quality is also superb, making for a wonderful home theater viewing experience. The special features may be a little light, but the isolated score is always a welcome addition. Love and Death remains a comedy classic, and it was a treat to revisit the film in High Definition from Twilight Time.
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