HomeReviewsBlu-ray Review: “The Front” (1976)

Blu-ray Review: “The Front” (1976)

Since making his directorial debut in 1969, Woody Allen has been seldom seen in films that he did not have a hand in writing. An exception to this was “The Front” (1976), a comedy-drama produced by his regular collaborators, Jack Rollins and the late Charles H. Joffe.

This project, which focused on real-life victims of the Blacklist, was directed, written, and co-starred by individuals affected by the Blacklist.

The film skillfully balanced incorporating Allen’s familiar screen persona with fact-based and autobiographical elements.

During the film’s release, individuals affected by the Blacklist had only been able to openly work for about a decade, as the House Un-American Activities Committee had been abolished the year before.

Attitudes towards American Communists or communist sympathizers remained divided. For those unfamiliar with the unjust treatment of talented (and predominantly Jewish) artists during this dark period of American history, “The Front” served as an educational portrayal.

Blu-ray Review: “The Front”

The Blu-ray release of “The Front” by Twilight Time, a Columbia production, is notably high-quality. Previous home video versions had grainy visuals, but this new release offers an immaculate presentation and includes valuable extra features.

The film follows Howard Prince, a lowly cashier and small-time bookie, who is approached by his old friend Alfred Miller, a blacklisted television dramatist.

Miller needs a “front” to continue supporting himself, and he offers Prince a percentage of his writing income to present himself as a talented new writer to the network.

Prince’s scripts, submitted under his name, impress the drama anthology producer and script editor. As Prince becomes more sought after, he agrees to front for two more blocked writers, ultimately improving his financial situation.

The Front” (1976)
Blu-ray Review

Also, see DVD Review: “Hollow Triumph” (1948)

In a separate storyline, Hecky Brown, the host of the anthology show, faces repercussions when his past involvement in Communist meetings is exposed by Freedom Information Services, an organization resembling Red Channels.

As a result, the network dismisses Hecky, with the reason given for his firing vehemently denying his past political associations.

Subsequently, the comic is compelled to take on a low-paying job in the Catskills, where the hotel owner exploits Hecky’s inability to find other work by significantly reducing his previously agreed-upon fee.

“The Front” is unique in its fusion of elements from a typical Woody Allen movie, such as the underdog charming a beautiful woman with self-deprecating humor and the constant risk of the comedic ruse falling apart, with a direct portrayal of the operations of the Blacklist and its harrowing impact on its victims.

While Woody Allen’s performance is somewhat awkward, particularly in the serious dramatic scenes, he manages adequately despite playing against his usual type as a three-time loser: a bookie struggling with debts and a supposedly “nearly-illiterate” and apolitical working-class New Yorker.

As an educational tool on the Blacklist, especially in terms of its influence on New York-based network television, “The Front” excels.

The end credits, which list the director, screenwriter, and actors alongside the year they were blacklisted, effectively validate the preceding content and often surprise first-time viewers of the film.

Blu-ray Review: “The Front” (1976)
Blu-ray Review

Walter Bernstein’s screenplay, which received an Oscar nomination, is based on actual events. The three writers, Allen’s character fronts, are inspired by Bernstein, Abraham Polonsky, and Arnold Manoff.

In contrast, Mostel’s character is a blend of Philip Loeb, co-star of the early television comedy-drama “The Goldbergs,” and Mostel himself.

Mostel’s humiliating experience in the Catskills after being blocked mirrors his real-life ordeal, and his portrayal of those scenes seems to reflect a kind of post-traumatic anger.

Numerous other moments in the film, such as Prince’s criticism of a writer’s work and a gas company’s objection to a concentration camp script, are also based on actual occurrences.

“The Front” primarily delves into themes of humiliation: the coercion by sadistic and often anti-Semitic figures in authority to force the vulnerable into unbearable betrayals, surrendering friends and colleagues whose political beliefs are already known.

The film candidly exposes this raw bitterness, shaping a triumphant revenge story.

Twilight Time’s Blu-ray release of this 1.85:1 film is impeccably preserved, showing no signs of age-related deterioration, and on larger screens, it provides an intriguing glimpse into the sometimes out-of-date depiction of early-1950s New York in the ’70s.

The DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 English audio, with optional English subtitles, also performs well within its monophonic constraints.

The disc features an audio commentary with Marcovicci and Twilight Time regulars Nick Redman and Julie Kirgo, with the latter also contributing the disc’s booklet essay.

The original trailer and a limited isolated score track by Dave Grusin are included.

Also, see DVD Review: “The Bigamist” (1953)

Ashish Maharjan
Ashish Maharjan
Ashish, a seasoned editor and author for World Cinema Paradise, intricately weaves creativity with precision in his writing, establishing himself as a prolific content creator. Renowned for clarity and captivating storytelling, Ashish has cultivated a devoted readership, driven by his unwavering passion for words and commitment to excellence.

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